Part the Political Sea: Expand Post Offices for Polling Stations

The Palestinian National Authority and Israel (through U.S. intervention) agreed to follow the 1996 election procedures for next week’s Palestinian Legislative Council Elections. Through their mutual agreement Israel allowed approximately 5,676 Jerusalemite citizens to vote in Jerusalem post offices for the past, two elections.

On Sunday Israel’s Cabinet decided to allow the same number of Jerusalemite citizens to vote by casting absentee ballots in Jerusalem’s five, post offices. They make up 4.7 per cent of the Palestinians eligible to vote in Jerusalem. Next Wednesday where will the remaining 114,324 eligible Palestinian voters in Jerusalem go? With regards to Israeli leadership who will part the political sea and expand the post offices to create polling stations?

The Jerusalem Committee of the Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations (JCPNGO) asked Israeli authorities to expand the Israeli-managed post offices to accommodate the 120,000 eligible Palestinian voters in Jerusalem. In 2005 Israeli forces closed the voter registration centers. At this point in time the JCPNGO has not received a response from Israeli authorities about increasing the area of the post offices to accommodate voting for all Jerusalemite citizens.

Whoever is willing to step up to the leadership plate within the Israeli authorities and propose the expansion of post offices to meet voter capacity may be dubbed an Israeli leader for peace in history books. The PLC elections have future ramifications for the peace process and the Israeli leaders who help Jerusalemite citizens vote may create an electoral stepping stone for his political party in Israel’s upcoming elections.

In the past, two elections approximately 95.3 per cent of the eligible Jerusalemite-citizen voters that remained “…were obliged to travel great distances to reach the Palestinian-managed polling stations in the districts of Jerusalem,” according to a JCPNGO spokesperson.

Initially the committee requested that churches, schools and mosques be designated polling centers on Election Day. Since the PNA and Israel reached an agreement the JCPNGO maintains its position that the 1996 election procedures do not guarantee free, transparent and democratic elections; but the expansion of post offices could meet voters’ needs thereby increasing voter turnout. Ideally there should be polling stations but Israel closed the voter registration centers. Are they willing to reopen them?

Also, the committee asked that Israeli authorities shut off the cameras in post offices for Election Day. People should not feel intimidated and monitoring them while they wait in long, crowded lines creates an oppressive atmosphere.

By accommodating voters and removing movement restrictions people would vote in a timely, efficient fashion. The nonuse of cameras will encourage voter participation.

The PLC elections will not only be a crucial day in Palestinian modern history but the Israeli-Palestinian peace process also. Since the last PLC elections ten years have passed and the geopolitical landscape has a multitude of walls. It includes one made of concrete that is roughly 500 km long. The occupation has caused overwhelming bloodshed and tears, so the people need positive changes on the ground. Both Israeli and Palestinian can make these positive changes a permanent reality for their peoples.

Next Wednesday Palestinians will make important electoral decisions. Their votes determine who will be their legislative representatives. While the people struggle under desperate, living conditions they are more determined than ever to achieve freedom. The legislative representatives who take office must facilitate the international community into diplomatic intervention. If the people are free of the occupation then they will achieve self-determination through self-government. Which party will help bring the keys back to life?

First the people need the means to vote. An election arrangement must be implemented that meets the needs of all voters within the Jerusalem electoral districts.

The new, legislative leaders will play an integral role in the peoples’ future. Their political engagement requires energy, ideas and strategies so they can facilitate a breakthrough.