Hamas renews pledge to heal Palestinian division through elections

The decision not to violate political freedoms in the West Bank should remain in place before and after elections.

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Hamas deputy chief Saleh al-Arouri said on Wednesday evening that winners in the Palestinian elections would be tasked with addressing the effects of the Palestinian division.

In an interview broadcast on Al-Aqsa TV channel, al-Arouri added that the talks held in Cairo did not address the disputed matters after elections.

Al-Arouri described the rounds of talks held in Cairo as “one of the most successful dialogues held in Egypt.”

But he continued: “The situation of freedoms in the West Bank is unsatisfactory, bad, and unacceptable,” pointing to political arrest campaigns by the Palestinian Authority security forces.  

The Palestinian factions agreed that the elections cannot be held without giving more space for freedoms, al-Arouri explained, citing an article in the agreement reached on Cairo calling on PA President Mahmoud Abbas to issue a binding decision for everyone to guarantee freedom of expression and campaigning for elections.

Al-Arouri noted that the decision not to violate political freedoms in the West Bank should remain in place before and after elections.

A national committee will be formed in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip at the request of Egypt and Qatar to handle any violation of freedom of campaigning, al-Arouri continued. 

He added that Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh, who is now in Qatar, had phoned Abbas and would contact several regional leaders to brief them on the agreement reached between the Palestinian factions in Cairo. 

Egypt to ease travel restrictions

Al-Arouri said that Egyptian Intelligence Minster Abbas Kamel delivered the agreement to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who, in return, welcomed this move and vowed to provide assurances to enforce it.

As for the Rafah crossing, al-Arouri stressed that Egypt has promised to relax travel restrictions, especially at checkpoints, and build new facilities for Palestinian travellers.

Egypt also pledged to facilitate the entry of goods and aid into the besieged Gaza Strip, he added.

 Describing the Palestinian-Egyptian relationship as “excellent”, al-Arouri said that the Palestinian factions met Wednesday with Egyptian intelligence officials to discuss the easing of restrictions on the Gaza Strip.      

Palestinian National Council

Al-Arouri confirmed that next meeting due to be held in March in Cairo would address the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and how to form a new National Council.

As part of the National Council, the elected legislative council will be in charge of governance in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

“When activated, the legislative council will reflect the voice of the people and work on monitoring the performance of the executive authority,” al-Arouri affirmed. 

Hamas’ participation in elections

In light of Israeli threating not to facilitate the election process in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, al-Arouri said that his movement is considering other forms of participation in the elections.

He added that the PA and PLO asked a number of countries to guarantee that the Israeli occupation would not interfere or impede the election process.

The senior Hamas official demonstrated that his movement has agreed to run a joint list of candidates for the Palestinian legislative elections.

As for presidential election, al-Arouri said that Hamas is still discussing how it would take part in it, stressing: “All options are on the table.” 

Palestinian Islamic Jihad, PFLP

The Hamas deputy chief said that Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) are an “inseparable part of the Palestinian people” and their opposition to some points would not exclude them from the national dialogue. 

Commenting on Islamic Jihad’s decision not to take part in the forthcoming elections, al-Arouri said: “We respect the decision of our brothers in Islamic Jihad and any faction has the right to take the decision that fits its policy.”

Time for change

“This time is not for scoring gains,” al-Arouri confirmed, adding: “Critical and negative opinions about this attempt which aims to salvage our Palestinian people is an irresponsible act.”

“We are confident that this track will change the status quo for the better, particularly in our struggle against the Israeli occupation,” he continued. 

The senior Hamas official called on all Palestinians to register to vote in the upcoming Palestinian elections.

Source : Hamas