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Israel Pulls Plug on Jerusalem Polls

Israel has decided to disallow Palestinian voting in East Jerusalem in the upcoming January elections, stating that it will not allow Hamas to participate in the elections in the city.

“There is no reason whatsoever we should assist a terrorist organization on the ballot to gain victory. This would be like letting a Trojan horse into our city,” spokesman Raanan Gissin said.

The reference to Hamas as a Trojan horse lacks some merit, as Hamas is doing little to disguise itself or hide its intentions.

It may be, by design or otherwise, an assist to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has sought to delay the January elections after seeing his Fatah party fracture with internal dissent, disagreement and power struggles. The Palestinians are decrying the move by Israel as an affront to their emerging democracy, saying that a vote without Jerusalem participation will never take place.

“We cannot hold elections anywhere if the Palestinians in Jerusalem are not allowed to vote,” said senior Palestinian official Nabil Shaath.

Abbas denounced Israel’s decision saying “this is a very dangerous situation,” adding that he would “study” the issue.

With Hamas sure to win majority power with or without Jerusalem, their spokesmen are demanding that the election be held on time. It is not in Hamas’ interests to allow Fatah any time to regroup and recover.

But Israel is not alone in its view, as the United States and the EU have threatened to suspend the Palestinian Authority itself if Hamas were to make significant gains in the elections.

Press reports also suggest that head of Egyptian intelligence, General Omar Suleiman, who met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday, is attempting to persuade Mr Abbas to postpone the vote.

Gen Suleiman has reportedly passed on a warning from the US and the EU that aid to the Palestinian Authority would be suspended if Hamas were to make big gains and become part of the future Palestinian government.

Amid the political turmoil, the IDF continued to press its operations seeking to find and capture or kill terrorists who have attacked or seek to attack Israel following the suicide bombing at a mall in Netanya and continued Qassam rocket attacks from Gaza. In Jenin, one of the commanders of the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, Zayid Khalil Moussa, was shot and killed in an operation launched there.

The Israeli move is both easy to understand and easy to criticize. Yet, half of polled Israelis in favor of talks with Hamas, Israel would be wise to eventually allow the voting in Jerusalem to take place. Further, circumventing democratic elections in an attempt to pull the plug on the rise of Hamas in the Palestinian Territories will achieve little to that end. In fact, it would likely serve to bolster their popularity even further, giving them another reason to publicly claim the status of victims of Israeli oppression. With or without the elections and regardless of their outcome, Israel will still be at war with Hamas and Hamas will still seek the destruction of Israel.

With freedom and democracy comes responsibility, both collectively and with the individual vote. If the Palestinians collectively elect Hamas, through the tally individually cast votes, they will have collectively and individually chosen the open warfare with Israel that Hamas prosecutes.

The Palestinians have a choice, though not necessarily a good one. By choosing the more radical among them to be their voice, they must be prepared to accept the consequences they will have freely chosen.