Hamas will only agree to hold presidential and parliamentary elections next May if voting takes place in East Jerusalem and Hamas is allowed to participate, Haaretz has learned - a condition to which Israel will almost certainly object.
This puts Hamas and Fatah’s agreement to hold elections in the West Bank and Gaza in a different light. A senior Palestinian source told Haaretz that Hamas had set the condition in an effort to torpedo the elections and thus avoid the risk of being forced out of power in the Gaza Strip. Hamas, however, is expected to blame Israel for blocking the democratic process, so that international pressure to allow them to run will be brought to bear, as it was before the parliamentary elections in January 2006. The Palestinian Authority is also expected to press for Hamas participation to embarrass the Israeli government.
The agreement to hold the election was reached two weeks ago in Cairo by Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Meshal and PA President Mahmoud Abbas in a meeting held as part of the two factions’ reconciliation efforts.
Israel is expected to object to any Hamas activity in the eastern part of the capital. The Israeli government will also be subject to public pressure to reject Hamas’ participation in elections altogether, after Hamas won the 2006 elections by a large majority and also came out ahead in the regional elections in East Jerusalem.