Monday, May 09, 2005

Eye on the Palestinian Election Results

The Palestinian municipal vote was to be finalized on Sunday but it appears that the Palestinian Authority has decided not to publish or release the official results until a later unspecified date.

I suppose with this kind of dismal results no one wanted to wax poetically over the electoral gains of Hamas. This Times Online article carried the news that the ruling Fatah won 52 of the 84 council seats with 24 going to Hamas’ 24; though Hamas is claiming an additional 10 council seats that were won by allegedly independent candidates. Hamas claims these seats are actually held by Hamas members who chose for security reasons to run independently rather than plant their feet firmly under the Hamas banner.

Hamas won big in urban areas in Gaza and surprisingly carried three West Bank cities (including 6 out of the 7 council seats reserved for Muslims in Bethlehem) as well. It had been thought that Hamas’ would not make any electoral headway outside of Gaza – so much for common wisdom. Furthermore, a Hamas victory in Bethlehem does not bode well for the city’s Christian residents.

A little closer to home The Toronto Star’s lead Middle East story focused on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon refusing to release more Palestinian prisoners currently being held in Israeli prisons.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said today Israel won't release more Palestinian prisoners until the Palestinian Authority takes tougher action against militant groups — the latest sign of trouble for an already strained ceasefire.

Israeli and Palestinian officials met Sunday to discuss the prisoner issue, but the meeting ended in disagreement. Palestinians charged that Israel is breaking terms of a truce that has drastically reduced violence, endangering its continuation and weakening Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

The Israelis repeated Sharon's statement from a cabinet meeting a few hours earlier, where he said he would instruct his negotiators to make it clear to the Palestinians that no more prisoners will be released until the Palestinians rein in militants, meeting participants said. "We won't strengthen Abbas at the expense of Israel lives," Sharon was quoted as saying.

The Toronto Star choose not to make reference to the sectarian violence that has erupted this weekend in Bethlehem between Christian and Muslim residents over the kidnapping of a Christian woman who was only returned to her family due to the direct intervention of US diplomats; nor is there any mention of the violent rioting by Palestinians that broke out in East Jerusalem.

I can only hope that the green flags being carried and the green headbands worn by this mob in East Jerusalem are not worn in solidarity towards Hamas.

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