Monday, January 23, 2006

Palestine Campaigns

My day today has mainly been spent in Ramallah - the city just north of Jerusalem which serves as the administrative and economic centre of the West Bank - going through all of the details for the election to the Palestine Legislative Council on Wednesday.

So far everything seems to be running smoothly. There are posters everywhere, and the media is filled with the messages of the different candidates.

Israeli checkpoints are a nuisance, and one can only hope that they will follow the model from last year and easy restrictions on polling day.

The big subject of speculation is of course how well Hamas - campaign under the slogan of Reform and Change - will do, and which will be the consequences if they were to win or join the government.

They have been sweeping to power in the local elections during last year, and are now running even a city like Betlehem with its significant Christian population. So far, however, there are no indications that this has presented any problems.

The international position remains that they are a terrorist organisation committed to the destruction of Israel.

People close to them that one can talk to reiterate that they are ready for a very long-term cease-fire based on acceptance of Israel within the 1967 borders, but confirm that they don't believe that anyone has a mandate to give away holy land that is theirs. The similarity between these views and some of the very religious voices on the Israeli side are obvious.

So far they have been running a good campaign, significantly assisted by the perception that both Israel and the US wants Fatah to win.

In discussions today, representatives or interpreters for both sides said that they were confident of winning the vote on Wednesday.

It will be the most important vote ever in Palestine. Top Worldwide