Israeli DM blasted by Olmert for announcing Jerusalem residents would vote in PA election
Following initial reports on Tuesday that Israel would allow Palestinian residents of occupied East Jerusalem to vote in upcoming Palestinian Authority elections, reports surfaced Wednesday that the decision had yet to be officially approved by Israel's acting Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert and by the Israeli government.
The statements, made by Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz on Tuesday, reportedly infuriated Olmert, who was briefed about the comments later. A public correction to Mofaz's remarks was released to the press later in the afternoon.
Mofaz explained that he was expressing his own opinion and that of the Israeli defense establishment, not that of the Israeli government. "I meant to say this was my view and not that of the State of Israel," he said.
One source close to Mofaz added that, "The defense minister believes Israel should do everything so as not to be seen to be disrupting Palestinian elections." He added, however, that such a vote would be contingent on the exclusion of the Hamas faction.
Apparently, a meeting was supposedly scheduled for Tuesday evening to discuss the matter with Olmert and other Israeli leaders.
Meanwhile, members of the ruling Fatah party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas threatened to call off the vote if the stipulation excluding Hamas' participation in the election was not removed from the conditions Israel set for allowing Jerusalem residents to vote.
"We will vote using the same forms that all of the polls will use. Israel can't interfere in such a crude manner and set conditions for partial elections. It's as if (Palestinian) elements would come and decide that Israelis can't vote for Labor in the Israeli elections," Fatah member Hatem Abd Al Qader told medioa sources.
Ahmed Ghanem, Deputy Minister for PA Municipal Affairs and Fatah member added that he believed "Israel was strengthening Hamas with its decisions, and causing them to appear to be the best national candidates. The simple person hears these declarations and is supposed to easily be convinced to vote Hamas. If I were a Hamas candidate I would be sending checks to show my appreciation for the propaganda they (Israel) are doing for me."
© 2006 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)