Local elections loom: How many will vote? What about Palestinian voters?

5.5M Israelis will go to polls Tuesday to vote in municipal elections – with largest vote expected in Jerusalem. However, Palestinians living in east – 1/3 of population - expected to shun elections

With local elections scheduled to take place tomorrow nationwide, campaigns and preparations are now in full swing. Israel's 5,469,041 eligible voters will head towards 8,771 voting stations in 191 municipalities and regional councils to vote for mayors, council members and regional leaders. Results are expected early Wednesday morning.


The largest municipal election will take place in Jerusalem, where some 576,408 are eligible voters. Despite the fact that one third of Jerusalem's residents are from the disputed eastern part of the city, voter turnout for Palestinian city residents is almost zero – a fact which seems not to bother any of the candidates currently vying for public support.


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"Most of the political factions active in east Jerusalem have called on residents not to participate, and the Palestinian Authority has also published a statement calling on residents not to vote, so as not to create a semblance of acceptance of Israeli sovereignty over the eastern part of the city," said Fouad Suleiman.  


Suleiman is the exception to the rule in Jerusalem, as he is the sole Arab city council member contending for a seat in the capital's municipality. He is placed in the sixth slot of a joint Meretz and Labor ticket and was once a resident of east Jerusalem.


Last elections only 2% of east Jerusalem's residents voted, and even the most optimistic projections estimate Tuesday's percentage will be no higher than 3-4%. The dismal figures stem from both a political reluctance on the part of residents to participate in the process and of hostile environment created by local elements in a bid to deter locals from voting.


Ticket to ride

Earlier this year, rumors began to circulate that an Arab ticket – backed by wealthy Palestinians with the sole goal of improving living conditions in east Jerusalem – is in the works.


A source within the Palestinian Authority told Ynet that during the summer a meeting was held between those behind the idea and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the latter's Ramallah headquarters.


The group hoped to secure Abbas's support and move him to call on Jerusalem's Palestinians to vote for the ticket without fear of molestation or repercussions.


Though he did not reject them out flat, Abbas refused to grant them authority. Instead he opted to convene a special committee formed of senior Fatah members that would work quietly behind the scenes to discuss the mater.


Two of those members were Saeb Erakat and Mohammad Shtayyeh, who are currently representing the Palestinians in peace talks with Israel. Erakat was reportedly vehemently opposed to an Arab ticket and beseeched Abbas to nip any such initiative in the bud.


צילום: AFP

Erakat: No Arab list in Jerusalem (Photo: AFP)


His reasoning was that such a move would hinder the formation of a Palestinian state through peace talks, and hence the initiative was scrapped.


In the meantime, Zohair Hamdan, a resident of the village Zur Bahar, announced in an interview to Channel One his intention to run for city council on an independent Arab list. This is the second time he has announced his intention to run.


In the last election he stepped out of the race after promising to "go all the way," and now history seems to be repeating itself: "I have decided to back down from my idea after receiving instruction from the Jordanian king's office not to run. I cannot help but respect his request," Hamdan said, denying he received any threats.


Yaron Drukman and Omer Benjakob contributed to this report



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פרסום ראשון: 10.21.13, 18:57
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