Who is the current President of Palestine

It's the occupation, stupid!

President Mahmoud Abbas' cancellation of the parliamentary elections came as no great surprise. Many in Palestinian society had expected it. Even so, it was a blow to their positive expectations from those first elections since 2006.

The latest developments in Jerusalem and the confrontation in the Middle East in general have pushed the question of elections into the background or simply made it obsolete. The decisive factor was and is the Israeli occupation with its unrestrained use of force, in conjunction with the inexorably advancing colonization of East Jerusalem and large parts of the West Bank.

Two central aspects have dominated the development of the past few days: In the district of Sheikh Jarrah, not far from the gates of the old city of Jerusalem, extremist Israeli settlers are trying to evict Palestinian families from their homes. They argue that the land on which the houses were built was bought by Jews at the end of the 19th century, so it is Jewish property. The Palestinian residents were expelled from their villages west of Jerusalem in 1948 and received the land in Sheikh Jarrah on which they were building from Jordan in cooperation with the refugee organization UNRWA. European diplomats, including the German representative in Ramallah, visited the Palestinian families threatened with displacement in Sheikh Jarrah on Tuesday, expressed their solidarity and promised political and diplomatic help.

Since the beginning of the fasting month of Ramadan, the Israeli police in East Jerusalem have escalated the situation in front of and in the old city. First of all, the stairs in front of the Damascus Gate were blocked off, where the young people traditionally gather on the evenings of Ramadan. Only after massive clashes did the police give in and dismantle the barricades at the Damascus Gate. The next step consisted of extremely violent intervention by the Israeli police in the area of ​​the Al-Aqsa Mosque, that is, in the Haram Al-Sharif, and in the mosque itself. Several hundred Palestinian believers were injured, and it looked like in and around the mosque a battlefield. The police used rubber bullets almost unchecked and sometimes at close range. After all, it was the preparations for the march of extremist settlers through the Muslim quarters of the old city of Jerusalem that almost exploded the situation. At the last minute the march was diverted ... too late, however.

Palestinian organizations led by Hamas issued an ultimatum from Gaza demanding the complete withdrawal of the Israeli police from the Al-Aqsa mosque. As soon as the ultimatum had expired, they fired their small rockets from Gaza on an area west of Jerusalem and on the settlements around the Gaza Strip and on the city of Asqalan (Ashkelon), the original homeland of the people of Gaza, from which they came in 1948 were evicted.

Violence now dominates. Israel is massively bombing the Gaza Strip with its superior air force. The number of deaths is increasing every hour. The Palestinian organizations, above all Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, have been firing their rockets into Israeli territory for days and are forcing the population there into the bomb shelters. After all, there are ever new excesses of violence between Palestinian and Jewish Israelis, and it is above all an extremist right-wing Jewish mob that attacks Palestinians in Jaffa, Haifa, Akka and especially in Lydda (Lod). Many fear a full-blown civil war.

Now diplomacy is needed, decisive external intervention, coupled with the willingness to go to the cause of the evil, i.e. to end the occupation that has been suppressing the Palestinians for over 50 years and robbing them of their freedom.

In view of the escalation, nobody is talking about elections anymore. Many Palestinians had hoped to finally use their voice to actively intervene in an intolerable situation. First and foremost was the Palestinian division between the West Bank and Gaza and the seemingly insoluble conflict between the two largest Palestinian parties, Fatah and Hamas. Directly linked to this was the intention of many Palestinians to oppose the authoritarian rule of Fatah in Ramallah and Hamas in Gaza. After all, it was all about a new Palestinian policy, a new political program against the Israeli occupation, against the brutal system of settler colonialism. Central to this was the situation in East Jerusalem with the expansion of Israeli settlements right into the middle of Arab city quarters, as most recently in Sheikh Jarrah.

All Palestinian parties had insisted from the start that the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem should vote, as guaranteed in the Oslo Accords. No elections were wanted without the participation of the East Jerusalemites.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas - he was elected in January 2005 and presidential elections are planned for July this year - used precisely this problem to postpone the elections indefinitely. However, it was probably less the question of freedom to vote for the East Jerusalemites than the concern about a bad election failure that motivated him. After all, there had been discussions in society as well as in political circles how elections could be held in East Jerusalem without Israeli "approval".

Nonetheless, in his speech on April 29, when Abbas canceled the elections, the Israeli response to the Palestinian request to hold elections in East Jerusalem was cited as the reason for his decision. Israel, Abbas said, had argued that the current transitional government was unable to make a decision. There were a lot of protests, especially from a majority of the parties and lists who ran for the elections, but they did not lead to any result.

The biggest problem for Abbas was the conflicts within Fatah that had led to the drawing up of three Fatah lists. The decisive factor was certainly the decision of Marwan Barghuti, who has been in Israeli custody since 2002, to run for the presidential elections and to support Nasser Al-Qudwa, a nephew of Yasser Arafat, with his electoral list for the parliamentary elections. Fadwa Barghuti, Marwan's wife, was number two on that list. Abbas reacted promptly and expelled Nasser Al-Qudwa from Fatah. Only the massive demonstrations across the country prevented Marwan Barghuti from being expelled. The second list, alongside the official Fatah list, was organized by supporters of Mohammad Dahlan. Abbas expelled Dahlan from Fatah years ago. Since then he has been operating from exile in the United Arab Emirates and tries to win support for himself with massive financial aid, especially in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem; he himself comes from Gaza and has many followers there.

On the other hand, there was the fear that Hamas, like in 2006, could win the parliamentary elections, regardless of what the polls predicted. The attempt by Nasser Al-Qudwa to intervene in Palestinian politics with a program that focuses on change seems interesting. The slogan of the “Palestinian Democratic List” is short and memorable: “We want change, we want liberation, we want reconstruction”. Marwan Barghuti is to take the place of Abbas. Symbolic of the Palestinians' struggle against occupation and settler colonialism is supposed to be the simple fact that Barghouti is in Israeli custody, so if Palestine wins the elections, Palestine will be represented in prison by a president.

In addition to the three Fatah lists and the Hamas list, one looks in vain for a promising list of the Palestinian left - from the PFLP to the Democratic Front, Fida, the People's Party (formerly Communist Party) to Mustafa Barghuti's »The Alternative«. Even Palestine does not seem to be spared the historical problem of the left that one can never agree on a common list, on a common program, or even on a common leadership. The Palestinian left has thus completely sidelined and irrelevant.

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