The Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki visited London to make a direct plea to the Foreign Secretary and the Middle East minister to press the Israeli authorities to allow Palestinians in East Jerusalem to vote in the Palestinian elections due to be held on May 22nd.
The Palestinian Authority needs an agreement with the Israel authorities before the election campaign starts on Saturday April 29th. The EU foreign policy head Josep Borrell has approached the Israeli government three times, but has received no reply. Al-Maliki has had his VIP pass revoked by the Israeli authorities as a punishment for visiting the International Criminal Court.
At Foreign Office questions in the House of Commons Conservative MP Andrew Selous asked the Government to put pressure on the Israeli government to allow Palestinians living in East Jerusalem to have the right to vote in elections to the Palestinian parliament on May 22.
Middle East minister James Cleverly replied that “we have called for elections in East Jerusalem; the Foreign Secretary has done so, and I did so with the Israeli ambassador in a meeting that we had just yesterday”.
At the moment the Israelis are saying that Jerusalem Palestinians – who do not have the vote in Israel – will not be allowed to vote in Jerusalem and Palestinian parties will not be allowed to campaign or hold meetings, thus jeopardising the election.
In the 2006 Palestinian election the US President George Bush put pressure on the Israelis to allow at least some Palestinian Jerusalemites to vote and Israel finally agreed, although after the election they expelled some of the MPs that they had elected.
Palestinians in East Jerusalem number about a third of a million out of a total Palestinian population of just over 5 million. East Jerusalem has been annexed to Israel, but the great majority of Palestinians in Jereusalem have the status of residents, not citizens, so they can vote in municipal but not in national elections.
In the last national election in 2006 some of them were able to vote in the main post office and others voted in polling stations outside the city. But Palestinian fear that the Israeli police could close the checkpoints and block Palestinians from accessing polling stations in Al Aqsa mosque or other public buildings.