The Palestinian Authority High Judicial Council in Ramallah, amending an earlier ruling, decided on Monday that municipal elections can be held, but only in Judea and Samaria and not in Hamas jihadists-ruled Gaza.
On September 8, the court said the poll, which is the first in a decade and was originally scheduled for October 8, could not go ahead after Hamas disputed party lists drawn up by Western-backed Palestinian chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party.
But in its latest ruling, which Hamas swiftly condemned as politically motivated, the court said it had “decided to implement the cabinet’s decision to hold elections in all local councils except in the Gaza Strip”.
The Central Elections Committee has, under law, up to four weeks to set a new date, which would be announced by the Palestinian Authority cabinet.
The ruling held that the courts in Gaza, which are loyal to Hamas and not to the Palestinian Authority, could provide the necessary “guarantees” to permit elections to be held there.
A vote in Judea and Samaria and in Gaza would have been the first involving Hamas and Fatah since 2006, when Hamas won a surprise victory in legislative polls, an outcome that led to a rupture in Palestinian politics. Hamas seized the Gaza Strip from forces loyal to Abbas in 2007. Repeated reconciliation attempts failed.
“Hamas rejects the court’s decision that divides the Palestinian people and will consult with other factions on how to confront it,” said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri.
While local elections were held in 2012, voting only took place in a fraction of Judea and Samaria’s 350 municipalities, and Hamas did not recognize the outcome.