New York – The ZOA has criticized Israels decision to permit Palestinian Arab residents in eastern Jerusalem to vote in Palestinian Authority (PA) legislative elections on January 25. Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra, reversing a previous ban on PA political activity in Jerusalem, signed a government directive yesterday allowing those running in the elections to campaign in the capital. Ezra said, however, that Hamas and other extremist groups would not be allowed to campaign.
The decision came following a meeting of senior Israeli government officials to discuss Israels policy toward Hamas participation in the PA elections, amid signs that Israel had softened its opposition to their being held in Jerusalem. On Monday, PA chief Mahmoud Abbas announced during a press conference in Gaza City that, Today, for the first time, we received from the Americans assurances that the elections will be held in Jerusalem, he said during a press conference in Gaza City (Jerusalem Post, January 9).
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, The ZOA takes issue with Israels decision to reverse its opposition to permitting the participation of Palestinians in eastern Jerusalem in the forthcoming Palestinian elections. It should be remembered that, unlike Judea and Samaria, eastern Jerusalem is sovereign Israeli territory, having been formally annexed by Israel. This weakens Israels long-standing policy that Jerusalem is the eternal and indivisible capital of Israel. In this context, it is very worrying that, despite Ezras statement that terrorist groups would not be allowed to campaign in Jerusalem , the Prime Ministers Office declined to clarify if this meant that Hamas representatives will not appear on the printed ballots that will be provided at some Jerusalem post offices.
The fact that Abbas publicly stated that he received American assurances that the elections would be held in Jerusalem implies that there was US pressure on Israel to make this decision. We surely hope that the Bush Administration had no part in Israel changing its decision on this important subject. If the Bush Administration pressured Israel to make this concession, it would be flying in the face of the declared will of the Congress, which has passed legislation enacted into law in 1995 stating that Jerusalem is recognized as the capital of Israel and calls for the transfer of the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It would also be in opposition to American public opinion which, according to a McLaughlin and Associates opinion poll last June, found that an overwhelming majority of Americans 67% to 5% supports Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem.