The status of Jerusalem comes back into focus as the Palestinian Authority conditions holding new elections upon the participation of its Arab residents
Israel decided today to give no answer to the Palestinian demand that Arab residents of Jerusalem be allowed to take part in elections to the Palestinian authority legislative body and its presidency. This is an explosive issue because Israel views all of Jerusalem as its unified and indivisible capital, making its Arab residents Israeli citizens, while Palestinians view the part of Jerusalem that was liberated by Israel from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War as occupied territory. Based on this definition, Palestinians view the Arab citizens of Jerusalem as Palestinian rather than Israeli citizens and demand that they be allowed to participate in the Palestinian elections.
Israel is not inclined to acquiesce to this demand because that would be a tacit agreement on its part that Jerusalem is divided into “West” and “East” parts and is therefore not an indivisible and integral part of the state of Israel.
Last time an election was held in the Palestinian authority was in 2006 with repeated delays being blamed on various factors chief among them Israeli refusal to include Jerusalem Arabs in the Palestinian electorate. Regardless of whether Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas is genuine in his desire to finally hold an election, it appears that he has decided to reignite the issue of the status of Jerusalem as a way of deflecting the well-justified criticism of his rule as dictatorial rather than democratic.
Israeli decision to not bother with rendering to the Palestinian Authority any sort of reply to their demand will likely put an end to any talk of elections in the Palestinian Authority until the next time that raising this issue becomes expedient for the Palestinians.
The issue of the legal status of the Arab residents in Jerusalem is not likely to be resolved any time soon as it touches directly upon the status of Jerusalem and thus upon the most intractable issue in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Palestinians are not likely to agree to hold elections from which Jerusalem Arabs are excluded because that would be a tacit recognition that their claims on any part of that city have been de facto if not de jure relinquished and Israel will never allow such participation because that would negate the law passed by the Knesset that makes all of Jerusalem sovereign Israeli territory.