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Wednesday, January 4, 2006
PA:Israel Defies Bush, Blocks Palestinian Campaigning in Jerusalem -US backtracks on ban on participation of armed groups in elections

Israel Defies Bush, Blocks Palestinian Campaigning in Jerusalem
US: Elections Should Be for all Palestinians within Parameters Defined by

Palestine Media Center - PMC [Official PA website]

A day ahead of the arrival of two US senior envoys for talks aimed at
keeping Palestinian elections, President George W. Bush said Tuesday he
wants these elections to go forward as scheduled on January 25 and called
for Palestinians to be allowed to vote in east Jerusalem, a call that was
defied by the Jewish state when its occupation forces blocked Palestinian
campaigning in the Holy City.

Campaigning began on Tuesday for the second Palestinian parliamentary
election since 1996, but Israel's indecision yet to allow Palestinian voting
in Jerusalem again casts doubt on weather the polls will be held on time.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Monday that he would delay the
legislative election if Israel bars voting in eastern Jerusalem.

Israel's final decision on whether east Jerusalem Palestinians will be
allowed to vote is unlikely until after it is discussed with US Assistant
Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch and Director of the
National Security Council Elliott Abrams, who are expected in the
Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and Israel on Thursday, a senior
diplomatic source told AFP on Monday.

Bush is hoping the Palestinian January 25 vote will mark a step forward in
his vision of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in

"It's our desire to see the elections go forward as scheduled," said a White
House spokesman, according to Reuters.

Israel has blocked Palestinian candidates from campaigning and has yet to
allow them voting in east Jerusalem.

"We believe that people must have access to the ballot," the White House
spokesman said, adding: "Arrangements have been made in the past to ensure
that those persons can vote and we believe some arrangements should be
possible at this time."

US State Department: Elections for All Palestinians

Similarly, The US State Department said it sees no reason why Palestinian
voting should not proceed as planned later this month, with eastern
Jerusalem inclusive.

The Abrams-Welch mission was announced by State Department spokesman Sean
McCormack, who said they would discuss both the election issue and the Gaza
checkpoints agreement, which was brokered by Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice on November 15, but has fallen behind schedule.

McCormack said while the timing of elections is a decision for the
Palestinians to make, arrangements for voting in east Jerusalem have been
agreed upon by the parties in the past, and there is no reason why an
agreement cannot be reached this time as well.

"We see no reason why those elections should not proceed on Jan. 25,"
McCormack said in Washington on Tuesday.

In an indication that the US Administration has backtracked from its veto on
the participation of Palestinian armed anti-occupation groups like Hamas in
the elections, McCormack said: "We believe that these elections should be
for all the Palestinian people within the parameters as defined by the
Palestinian Authority."

"We believe that the Palestinian Authority should be concentrating on
preparations for those elections, so that the Palestinian people can vote in
an atmosphere that is free from violence or coercion or intimidation.

"We believe that these elections should reflect the will of the Palestinian
people, and that in the past that has included voting by the people who are
from or live in east Jerusalem," he said. "And the Israelis and Palestinians
have been able to reach accommodation on that issue. We think they should be
able to again," he added.

"We see no reason why the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government
shouldn't be able to come to some similar kind of accommodation for this
round of voting, and we are going to be working with [them]," he said.

McCormack was referring to the first Palestinian legislative election in
1996 and the presidential election in January 2005.

Separately US Army Major-General, Keith Dayton, will also be returning to
the region later this week to address the Gaza crossings issue.

General Dayton was appointed in November to replace Army Lieutenant-General
William Ward in the Gaza troubleshooting post.

The official said General Dayton, who has already made one trip to the area,
met President Bush at the White House Tuesday and had a meeting at the State
Department later with Secretary Rice.

Israeli Defiance

Meanwhile, Israel on Tuesday blocked Palestinian campaigning and said that
it will not allow the Palestinians to set up polling stations in east
Jerusalem, rejecting a condition imposed by the Palestinian leadership for
holding the elections on time and defying US indirect calls.

"We don't need voting in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the sovereign capital of
the state of Israel," Ra'anan Gissin, a senior aide to Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

Referring to a demand in Ramallah on Tuesday by the former PNA deputy
premier Nabil Saath that polling stations be opened in east Jerusalem main
commercial road of Salah a-Din, Gissin said: "In Salah a-Din in his dreams.
That's part of the sovereign state of Israel and no political activity will
be allowed in these areas."

However Gissin left the door open for a deal: "We'll find a way to do it
without violating the sovereignty of Jerusalem," he said.

The Palestinian National Authority (PNA)'s Prime Minister Ahmad Qurei on
Tuesday reiterated President Mahmoud Abbas' insistence that the January 25
parliamentary elections be postponed unless Israel allows Palestinians of
East Jerusalem to vote.

"We insist that elections be held on time," but, "There will be no elections
without Jerusalem," he said at the opening of the weekly cabinet meeting in
the West Bank town of Ramallah, held on the same day as the official start
of campaigning for the polls.

Some 414 candidates are competing for the 66 district seats, while 314
candidates represent 11 lists contesting the proportional elections.

Candidates Stopped, Detained in Jerusalem

The controversy over voting in Jerusalem erupted the moment the campaign
started Tuesday morning, when Israeli police scuffled with Palestinian
candidates seeking votes in the plaza outside the Damascus Gate leading into
Jerusalem's walled Old City.

Campaigning by Hanan Ashrawi, from the Third Way list, and Mustafa
Barghouti, of the Independence list, were interrupted and stopped. Eight
Fatah candidates were detained.

Police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said those detained had been questioned for
"illegal activity by the Palestinian Authority in Jerusalem" before being
freed on bail.

Ashrawi told the BBC she was carrying election posters when Israeli
occupation police officers arrived and told her it was illegal for her to
campaign in the area. She was allowed to leave but one of her assistants was

Ashrawi carried a sign reading "the third way," which the police later
requested her to lower. When she refused, police confiscated the placard and
dispersed the meeting.

Asharawi announced on Monday she would launch her campaign in Jerusalem in
protest of Israel's decision.

Israeli police also briefly detained Mustafa Barghouti during a campaign
rally at the Damascus gate.

Israeli police beat some Palestinian campaigners with clubs.

"We will have elections in Jerusalem and you will not be able to stop us,"
shouted Fatah candidate Ahmad Ghneim.

On Monday, Israeli occupation authorities broke up a political gathering of
Fatah supporters in Jerusalem but made no arrests, Shmuel Ben-Ruby said.
Ahmad Ghneim, called the raid "the beginning of the battle for the elections
in Jerusalem."

According to the election law, the campaign for all candidates that are
running in the elections started as of midnight January 3 and will continue
till January 24, one day ahead of the polls.

Palestine is divided into 16 electoral districts (11 in the West Bank,
including Jerusalem and 5 in the Gaza Strip). Each district is allocated a
number of seats in the parliament according to population numbers. In the
system of proportional representation, Palestine is considered as one
electoral district.

In accordance with the law, each electoral list must include a minimum of 7
candidates and a maximum of 66 candidates. Each list must include at least
one woman in the first three names, at least one woman in the next four
names and at least one woman in each of the five names that follow in the

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