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25th Feb 2024

Palestinian PM demands EU pressure Israel on elections

Palestinian prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh has demanded EU support in the upcoming elections.

Speaking via video conference on Thursday (22 April), Shtayyeh told MEPs in the foreign affairs committee that Israel is actively sabotaging the first Palestinian election to be held in 15 years.

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"Israel is unfortunately sabotaging the process, trying to stop and trying to spoil it," he said.

The legislative elections are taking place on 22 May. A presidential election is then also set for 31 July.

The European Union in February asked the Israeli government for permission to send an election observer mission to both.

But they have yet to receive a response from Israel, derailing any chance of sending a fully-fledged mission for the 22 May polls.

Shtayyeh said all the Palestinian political factions have agreed to hold the election, noting there are some 1,400 listed candidates.

Of those, 67 are based in the politically-charged Jerusalem.

"These people tried to have a meeting, one single meeting, in one of the hotels in Jerusalem, The Ambassador Hotel - Israeli authorities did not allow the meeting to take place," said Shtayyeh.

He accused the Israeli authorities of blocking all attempts to set up voter-registration stations in the occupied parts of the city.

"This is totally and contrary to the agreements we had signed with Israel," he said, noting that Palestinians were able to vote in East Jerusalem in elections held in 1996, 2005 and 2006.

"It is going to put us in a very awkward situation because 'damned if we do and damned if we don't'," he added.

He also accused Israel of committing crimes and human-rights violations.

Those remarks solicited a rebuke from Spanish centre-right MEP Antonio López-Istúriz White, who chairs the delegation to Israel.

"This is not a TV reality show," he said to Shtayyeh.

Shtayyeh countered by labelling López-Istúriz White "a pro-Israel lobby", noting that the crimes have been documented by international organisations.

Israel snipers have shot out the legs of thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, also documented by an EUobserver visit in 2019.

Israeli forces have also targeted children, medics and journalists, according to an UN investigation.

Other pro-Israeli MEPs also chimed in.

French liberal MEP Bernard Guetta proposed turning Jordan into Palestine, given the large number of refugees.

Swedish conservative MEP Charlie Weimers cited Bible verses, accusing Palestinians of hypocrisy.

Both were rebuked by Shtayyeh.

"This is really a shocking statement by you, sir," he said of Guetta.

Meanwhile, some 57 MEPs are piling on the pressure for Israel to grant the EU permission to launch its election observer mission.

All signed a letter demanding Aharon Leshno-Yaar, Israel's ambassador to the EU, green light the observer mission.

"I hope that we will get a response to it, especially since it was representative of the five biggest parties in the parliament," said Swedish socialist MEP Evin Incirs, who helped draft the letter.

Incirs said a number of MEPs have also demanded "an urgent meeting" with EU Parliament president, David Sassoli.

The chair of the European parliament's delegation to Palestine, Manu Pineda, made similar statements.

He pointed out that the Oslo Accords gave the European Union the obligation to coordinate observer delegations.

But one EU official, who asked not to be named, said it is no longer possible to send a full EU monitoring mission to observe the 22 May elections.

The monitoring requires advance preparation, including security checks.

Instead, a much smaller mission would go, if granted permission.

But it will not be an official EU mission, meaning it cannot make public its reports.

Others fear that some MEPs may also go on their own, and then make statements in the name of the European Parliament.

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