Election campaign billboards for the predominantly Arab Israeli electoral alliance the Joint List (L) and for Israel's right-wing Likud party, bearing a picture of its leader Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Election campaign billboards for the predominantly Joint List (L) and Likud, bearing a picture of its leader Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Photo: AFP
Election billboards for the predominantly Arab Joint List, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party

East Jerusalem's Palestinians torn between two elections

In recent years, thousands of local residents have taken up Israeli citizenship, which grants them the right to cast a ballot in Tuesday's elections, but not in the Palestinian Authority when it goes to the polls later this year

AFP |
Published: 03.21.21 , 14:54
Many Palestinians in East Jerusalem will not be able to vote in Tuesday's election because they are not citizens, despite paying Israeli taxes. Meanwhile, those who have received citizenship will not be able to vote in the Palestinian Authority elections later this year.
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  • Israel, which annexed East Jerusalem after the 1967 Six-Day War, views an estimated 300,000 Palestinians in the area solely as residents.
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    Election campaign billboards for the predominantly Arab Israeli electoral alliance the Joint List (L) and for Israel's right-wing Likud party, bearing a picture of its leader Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
    Election campaign billboards for the predominantly Arab Israeli electoral alliance the Joint List (L) and for Israel's right-wing Likud party, bearing a picture of its leader Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
    Election billboards for the predominantly Arab Joint List, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party
    (Photo: AFP)
    They have social rights, access to health care and resident cards, but no passports. They can only vote for municipal councilors but not in national elections -- unless they break a taboo and obtain Israeli citizenship. But by doing so they forfeit the right to vote in Palestinian polls.
    With Israel's fourth election in under two years taking place on March 23 and the first Palestinian polls in 15 years planned for later this year, the focus is again on the complex situation faced by these Palestinians.
    Jerusalem's status is one of the thorniest issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with the international community insisting that it must be negotiated by the two sides.
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    East Jerusalem
    East Jerusalem
    A youth waves a Palestinian flag in East Jerusalem
    (Photo: AFP)
    Israel views the whole city as its capital while the Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of their own future state.
    In recent years thousands of East Jerusalem Palestinians, hoping to improve their lives, have taken up Israeli citizenship.
    The trend gathered pace after former U.S. president Donald Trump unilaterally recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December 2017.
    The following year, 1,064 East Jerusalem Palestinians applied for Israeli citizenship.
    Applications rose to 1,633 in 2020, according to Israeli authorities, who say that more than 1,800 were granted Israeli citizenship last year.

    Voting for peace

    Palestinian teacher Nour Dwayyat, who received Israeli citizenship five years ago, voted in Israel's last three elections and plans to cast her ballot again this time.
    "I live in this country, I am part of it. It is my right to vote," said the 34-year-old. "Every vote counts and I vote for candidates who act for the good of the Arab community."
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hopes to clinch a new term after a successful coronavirus vaccination drive and establishing diplomatic ties with several Arab countries.
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    East Jerusalem lawyer Amer Nasser
    East Jerusalem lawyer Amer Nasser
    East Jerusalem lawyer Amer Nasser
    (Photo: AFP)
    East Jerusalem lawyer Amer Nasser -- who also became an Israeli citizen a few years ago but insists he remains Palestinian through and through -- said he had not been swayed by Netanyahu.
    "I will vote for the Arab Joint List," Nasser said of the alliance supported by many Arab Israelis, who make up a fifth of the population.
    "Netanyahu is very interested in foreign relations with Arab countries and is not very interested in making peace with the Palestinians, despite the fact that they are originally the people of this region and live in it," he said.
    Nasser said he hoped his vote could bring "peace" between Palestinians and Israelis.

    No impact

    Dwayyat said that having an Israeli passport helped her travel freely around the world, since Israelis do not need a visa to enter most countries, unlike Palestinians who face mountains of restrictions.
    But on a daily basis nothing has changed, she said, adding that among Israelis, "Arabs are always considered Arabs."
    When it comes to the Palestinian elections this year, she said, she does not mind not being able to vote because "it will not bring me anything".
    The Palestinians expect to hold legislative elections in May and a presidential vote in July, and they have urged the international community to send observers.
    Specifically, they have requested European Union monitors to deploy in East Jerusalem, whose annexation by Israel was never recognized by most of the international community.
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     Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, casts his ballot in the Palestinian Parliamentary elections at his headquarters in the West Bank town of Ramallah
     Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, casts his ballot in the Palestinian Parliamentary elections at his headquarters in the West Bank town of Ramallah
    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas casts his ballot in the 2006 Palestinian Parliamentary elections at his headquarters in the West Bank town of Ramallah
    (Photo: AP)
    Lawyer and political analyst Moein Odeh believes Israel will not allow the Palestinians to organize polls in East Jerusalem, since it bans all activities of the Palestinian Authority in that part of the city.
    "Israel will not allow elections in Jerusalem because it wants to impose its sovereignty," he said.
    "And even if elections were held in east Jerusalem as a result of international pressure on Israel... an elected Palestinian parliament will have limited or no say," he added.
    In fact, said Odeh, "the Palestinians don't care about these elections because they will have no impact on the city."
    East Jerusalem resident Wafa Qawasmi-Bukhari, 54, agreed.
    "Who would I vote for?" she said, recalling how in the last elections in 2006 she had cast her ballot, full of hope for change in her city.
    "They lied to us," she said. "They promised a solution for Jerusalem... but Israel continued to demolish [Palestinian] homes... and the Palestinian Authority failed to act."

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