JERUSALEM (AP) – Palestinian officials acknowledged yesterday that it was increasingly unlikely general elections would be held as scheduled Jan. 20, as Israel’s Likud Party prepared for a leadership primary this week ahead of a national election also set for January.
Both developments could influence international peace efforts. In Israel, political parties that oppose concessions to the Palestinians are leading in the polls, while Palestinian elections are a vital part of reforms that Israel and the U.S. government believe are a condition for progress toward peace.
Palestinian officials are hesitant to announce a postponement of the January election for president and parliament, but the Election Commission has not managed to meet even once to begin organizational work that is expected to take four to five months.
Palestinian Cabinet Minister Saeb Erekat said he was “not hopeful” the elections would be held as scheduled and blamed Israel, whose troops have controlled most West Bank cities since mid-June in response to Palestinian suicide bombings against civilians.
“The Israeli government has done nothing but obstruct our efforts,” Erekat said. “We haven’t been able to register voters or train people for this huge process.”
In the West Bank town of Tulkarem, 11 Palestinians were wounded yesterday in clashes with Israeli forces enforcing a curfew. Israel arrested 25 suspected Palestinian militants, officials said.
In the Gaza Strip, Israeli troops destroyed the houses of the families of two suspected militants in a late-night raid. For several months, Israel destroys homes as a deterrent – drawing condemnation from Palestinians and human rights groups.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his challenger, Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, sought last-minute support at rallies and meetings.