Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Democracy takes a holiday in West Bank political mess

Maybe the biggest casualty in the relentlessly intractable Palestinian-Israeli conflict is democracy in the new country planned for the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The latest from the West Bank is that the Palestinian Liberation Organization has extended the term of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas because it is expiring and the rebellious Hamas group that controls Gaza refuses to participate in elections scheduled for Jan. 24, 2010, according to the New York Times. That means, assuming Abbas agrees to stay in office -- not an entirely assured prospect, given recent public statements -- that the Palestinian people will no longer have elected representatives in a matter of weeks. Not that this would be the first time -- the PA deactivated its parliament after Hamas candidates won a clear majority in the 2007 elections and Western nations threatened to withdraw financial support if Hamas refused to change a charter provision calling for the destruction of Israel. But, then again, it's probably not entirely Hamas' fault; Middle East nations are well known for their lack of enthusiasm for democracy except westernized Israel, their avowed enemy. That is probably not a mere coincidence. The PLO Central Council reached its decision to extend Abbas' term at its meeting yesterday and today in Ramallah, the West Bank city where the PA has its headquarters. Hamas, which was unable to resolve its differences with the PA despite high-profile mediation by Egypt earlier this year, has rejected the PLO plan as "illegal," the Times said. Abbas has indicated he will not be a candidate for re-election no matter when the elections are held out of frustration with the peace process with Israel, which has stalled, but officials from the Palestinian, Israeli and United States governments have been trying to convince him to reconsider.

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