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Arafat: no elections in PA until Israel withdraws from territories
Ha'aretz ^ | 5/17/02 | Amira Hass, Ha'aretz Correspondent, Ha'aretz Service and Agencies

Posted on 05/17/2002 7:44:03 AM PDT by kattracks

Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat told reporters Friday that elections would only be held in the West Bank and Gaza Strip once Israeli occupation had ended, but his advisers later clarified that the voting is being linked to a far more modest withdrawal demand. Palestinian sources said that elections would be held within six months, on condition that IDF troops first withdraw to positions they held before the outbreak of the intifada, some 20 months ago.

Asked Friday when elections would be held, Arafat told reporters in English: "As soon as they (the Israelis) finish this occupation from our land, according to the agreement that was supposed to be at the beginning of 1999." In 1999, Israel and the Palestinians were to have reached a final peace deal.

However, Palestinian Planning Minister Nabil Sha'ath said later that the goal remained to have presidential and parliamentary elections within six months. Sha'ath said that work on putting together rosters of 1.6 million eligible voters had already begun. "But these elections need an Israeli withdrawal to the places (troops held) before September 28, 2000," Sha'ath said, referring to the day the fighting began.

Sha'ath said the Palestinians also insisted that residents of traditionally Arab east Jerusalem be permitted to vote, as they were in the last Palestinian election in 1996. "If that happens, then everything will be prepared. We are working on it now," he said.

Raanan Gissin, an adviser to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said Arafat was looking for an excuse for not holding elections. "He knows very well that as long as he doesn't take any action against terrorism, Israeli forces will have to remain there," Gissin said.

The Palestinian Bureau of Statistics said it would take about 60 days to compile the list of voters. The bureau said it expects international monitors will be needed to ensure fair elections.

The Palestinians' Central Elections Committee will convene over the weekend to start preparations, officials said.

Previous reports by Arafat's senior aides, Ahmed Abdel Rahman, said that elections would be held in six months.

Rahaman said Thursday that Arafat's decision to hold elections was made after the Palestinian Legislative Council called earlier in the day for sweeping changes in the corruption-ridden Palestinian Authority, including the formation of a new smaller Cabinet within 45 days and general elections by early 2003.

"President Arafat has set a program for reform and changes," said Abdel Rahman, the secretary general of the Palestinian Cabinet. "The core of the changes will be conducting general elections in a period that
will not exceed four to six months," Abdel Rahman said, adding that Arafat has called for a meeting of the Central Elections Committee within two days.

A senior aide to Arafat, Mohammed Rasheed, who is currently in the United States, said Thursday he had mapped out a timetable for democratic reforms in the Palestinian Authority in meetings with senior U.S. officials this week.

Rashid said that both sides wanted to establish the fundamental changes to the authority's political and security apparatus before an international Middle East conference he said was expected in late June or early July.

Rashid made clear that U.S. officials, including Assistant Secretary of State William Burns, were deeply involved in helping shape the changes, which he said would include cutting Arafat's 32-member cabinet to perhaps 16 to 20 members.

The United States wants the Palestinians to disarm militias and reorganize the 12 official Palestinian forces into one central security operation. Rashid said the Palestinians accepted that.

"We know that the U.S. will not accept the weapons, that political organizations will have a militia. We are committing to Palestinian security being the only armed body," he said.

Rashid said the Palestinians hoped Tenet would advise them on how to rehabilitate and train a new security force. "We hope he will help us build a system capable of protecting our commitments to other parties, including Israel, as well as controlling the security situation in the territories," he said.

The Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), meeting simultaneously in Gaza and Ramallah on Thursday, unanimously voted to hold elections for the chairman of the Palestinian Authority - the post held by Yasser Arafat - in the first quarter of 2003. The council also decided to hold general and local elections within one year.

As part of the package, Arafat is being asked to disband the current Cabinet and present a new 19-member one, down from the current 32, to parliament for approval within 45 days. A minister responsible for the security apparatus will be appointed to the new Cabinet. All the security chiefs will be banned from making political statements, and their tenure will be limited to four years.

Legislators from Arafat's Fatah movement had also demanded that the post of prime minister be created, with the prime minister in charge of day-to-day operations of the Palestinian Authority. However, legislators said there were legal complications in forming the new office, and said they were dropping the demand until they could work out the problems.

The previous - and only - elections thus far were held in 1996. The council and the chairman were elected to serve until May 1999, the end date of the interim agreement with Israel, as set out in the Oslo accords. Since there was no permanent agreement in place by this date, however, the terms of office were extended.

The demand for far-reaching reforms of the Palestinian Authority gathered steam within Palestinian society Thursday, as a special committee set up by the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) met for a second day Thursday over a draft bill that will include reforms of the PA.

TOPICS: Extended News; Foreign Affairs; Israel; News/Current Events
What do the Israeli's positions have to do with Palestinian elections? Nothing, it's a stall.
1 posted on 05/17/2002 7:44:03 AM PDT by kattracks
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To: kattracks
Any excuse will do - blaming the slow pace of reforms on Israel he believes will make the Euroweenies, the UN and USA lean on Israel to make concessions.
2 posted on 05/17/2002 8:18:33 AM PDT by anapikoros
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To: kattracks

3 posted on 05/17/2002 8:31:18 AM PDT by Oldeconomybuyer
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To: anapikoros
Same old song and dance...

The Arabs are the aggressors against Israel

Israel kicks butt and gains territory

Arabs run to the UN and complain against the Jews...

UN issues condemnation of Israel

Israel politically forced to give back what they won in war

4 posted on 05/17/2002 8:35:04 AM PDT by carton253
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To: carton253
Israel politically forced to give back what they won in war

Perhaps not this time. It looks like momentum is on Israels' side now. Any more Pali attacks and the IDF moves deeper into the West Bank and holds their gains. Maybe the Palis start to get the idea that their loss of territory and further terror attacks ARE connected.

5 posted on 05/17/2002 9:28:19 AM PDT by toddst
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To: toddst
In this regard, the Likud vote against a Pali state was a blessing, because it shows Arafat that the Jews are no longer interested in making friends with Kool-Aid.
6 posted on 05/17/2002 10:34:50 AM PDT by mrustow
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Comment #7 Removed by Moderator

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