Palestinian elections can take place only when Israel approves voting in East Jerusalem, President Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday.
Palestinian leaders were set to decide Thursday whether to hold the first parliamentary elections in 15 years next month as scheduled or call a delay that could trigger further frustration in a divided society which last voted in 2006.
"If Israel said it agreed to the elections in Jerusalem, they would take place, we would have campaigned, and whoever won, won," Abbas told a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which was set to decide whether the first Palestinian vote in 15 votes would be postponed.
"We want elections in Jerusalem the same way we want them in Ramallah. With full election propaganda in the Holy City. We made it clear that we would not go to the polls without Jerusalem," said Abbas, adding that East Jerusalem is "the eternal capital" of Palestine.
An official announcement of the postponement of the elections has not yet been published.
As expected, Abbas made Jerusalem the focus of his speech, including the recent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces in the city. He also claimed Israel urged the settlers "to keep calling for the 'death of all Arabs'."
Abbas also criticized the European Union and the United States, and implicitly criticized Arab countries, as he sought to justify his reasons for the delay.
Local media reports quoted Abbas as saying that Israel told by the U.S. and several Arab states that the government could not agree to the elections being held in Jerusalem as it was an interim government and therefore not authorized to make such decisions.
The Palestinian president reportedly dismissed this as "nonsense."
Abbas' opponents, led by Hamas, believe that the issue of voting in East Jerusalem is an excuse to cancel the elections due to Fatah's fear of its multiple lists of candidates losing to the terror group, which is running on a single unified list.
Hamas said Wednesday that it would hold Israel accountable for the decision to delay the elections. "No Palestinian can accept holding elections without Jerusalem," the group said.
According to Haaretz newspaper, deputy Fatah leader Mahmoud al-Alul told Palestinian radio that agreeing to elections without the vote being held in Jerusalem was tantamount to ceding any claim on the city as the capital of a future state.
"It won't be written in history books that we gave up on Jerusalem," the paper quoted al-Alul as saying.