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25th Jul 2021

Israel risks derailing EU election mission to Palestine

  • Gaza Strip. Palestinians are holding their first legislative elections in 15 years (Photo: Nikolaj Nielsen)

The EU's request to observe upcoming elections in Palestine risks being scuppered by a non-responsive Israel.

"Despite continuous contact with the Israeli authorities, over the past seven weeks, a reply granting access has yet to be received," said a European Commission spokesperson, in an email on Monday (19 April).

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He noted the delay could derail the mission, which aims to oversee Palestinian legislative elections on 22 May.

Those elections were announced by Palestinian president Abbas in January, who then requested the EU send an observer mission.

The EU agreed and on 8 February sent a permission request to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But the Israelis authorities have yet to reply.

The EU says it requires "a long lead-time to prepare", noting for instance that it typically deploys an "exploratory mission" months in advance.

The non-response from the Israelis has since "considerably reduced the EU option to observe the 22 May legislative elections," said the EU spokesperson.

Other options are now being internally discussed, he added.

The Israelis were contacted by EUobserver for a comment, but have yet to respond.

The issue has also irked some MEPs. Among them is Danish Green MEP Margrete Auken and Swedish socialist Even Incir.

Together, they will be sending a letter to Israel's ambassador to the EU, Aharon Leshno-Yaar.

"Preventing the EU from supporting democracy is unacceptable, no matter where it happens," it says, in a copy seen by EUobserver.

Auken had observed the election in Palestine in 2006 and is hoping to return in May. In an emailed statement, she also faulted the European Union for not pushing the Israelis enough.

"Where is Josep Borrell? Remember: inaction also sends a signal," she said, referring to the EU's foreign policy chief.

Borrell had held a meeting with EU foreign ministers, also on Monday. But the issue was not on the agenda, which was instead dominated by Ukraine.

The last time Palestine held elections was in 2006, giving Hamas a parliamentary majority.

The win erupted into violence in the Gaza Strip, pitting Hamas and Palestinian factions against one another.

Abbas wants the 22 May polls to be held "in all governorates of Palestine, including east Jerusalem", which had been occupied by Israel.

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