Sunday 18 April 2021

AIPAC wants to decide who
can run in Palestinian elections

Mitchell Plitnick

America's Israel lobby has no right to dictate who is or is not eligible and legitimate to run in Palestinian elections. Doing so is profoundly anti-democratic, writes Mitchell Plitnick.


In May, July, and August, Palestinians are scheduled to have their first national elections in 15 years. This is an important event, even though it must be stressed that Palestinians are not actually voting for representatives of the body that governs them.


The American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has voiced their concern that Hamas, one of the two largest parties in the Palestinian political arena, would run in the elections, and called on the United States and international community to ensure that they are barred from the ballot.


In a policy memo on 8 February, AIPAC wrote, "As the Palestinians organise elections, the United States and the international community must make clear that they will not accept the participation of an unreformed Hamas. The world can only accept as legitimate a Palestinian government that renounces violence, accepts Israel, and abides by previous agreements."


AIPAC makes it clear that they want the United States and anyone else who will go along to ensure that a major Palestinian party cannot run for office.


This stands in stark contrast to AIPAC's silence about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently saying that the Otzma Yehudit party - a far-right, racist party and which has been roundly denounced by Israelis and Jews all over the world - would be welcome in his government, although he would not offer its leader, Itamar Ben-Gvir a seat in his cabinet.


It is worth asking by what logic AIPAC, or even the United States government, believes it can dictate who is or is not eligible and legitimate to run in Palestinian elections.

Would AIPAC have voiced similar objections back then? Hardly, no more than they would about the far more criminal and dangerous Republican party in the US today.


They point out in their memo, "In 2006, the US Congress passed the bipartisan Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act, sponsored by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE). The law states that it shall be US policy to refrain from engaging in diplomacy with or providing financial support to a Palestinian government that involves Hamas, until the organisation disarms and abides by the Quartet Principles."

The wording of the bill is a little different, but AIPAC's reading is essentially correct. The fact that Joe Biden and Mitch McConnell were the sponsors, and the bill had a total of 90 co-sponsors in the Senate magnifies the power this point will have with the new US administration.


The Quartet Principles are notoriously one-sided. The call for abandoning violence is made only to the Palestinians and ignores the far greater violence carried out by Israel, including the collective punishment of the siege on Gaza and the daily restrictions of Palestinian life in the West Bank.

The demand for recognition is made only on Palestinians, despite the fact that the PLO has long since recognised Israel and that Israel has never recognised the Palestinians as having equal national rights to themselves. Indeed, Israel's largest party, Likud, denies any such rights to Palestinians and opposes any sort of Palestinian independence or civil rights.


Crucially, however, the bill is directed at a "Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority" and Hamas itself. It does not prescribe any penalties for Hamas standing in an election, nor being a minority member in a Palestinian government.


Still, the bill is an attempt to control Palestinian politics in a way that is anathema to democracy. That law is contrary to professed democratic values, and AIPAC's call to bar Hamas from participation in Palestinian politics takes it one abhorrent step further.


Mitchell Plitnick is a political analyst and writer. He is the former vice president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace and former director of the US Office of B'Tselem.

Source: The New Arab


The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Qods News Agency.

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