EU efforts to observe the Palestinian election fall flat

File photo. Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas speaks at a press conference after the extraordinary summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul, Turkey, 13 December 2017. [Seadt Suna/EPA/EFE]

Israel has so far failed to respond to the European Union’s request to monitor the first Palestinian elections in 15 years, EURACTIV has learned, significantly reducing the chances of ensuring an adequate observer presence at this key milestone.

Palestinians are set to go to the polls for legislative elections on 22 May, followed by a presidential election on 31 July. Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas said elections would be held as part of a warming of ties between his Fatah party and its Islamist rival Hamas. The EU has welcomed the development.

EU urges Israel to facilitate Palestinian vote

The European Union on Saturday (16 January) welcomed a promise by Palestinian leaders to hold their first elections in 15 years, urging Israel to facilitate the ballots.

Asked on Wednesday (31 March) to comment on the lack of response to the request by the EU to monitor the elections from the Israeli side, Commission spokesperson Nabila Massrali confirmed the setback.

The initiative had been prompted by a request from the Palestinian authority for the EU to observe the votes, she said, adding that the bloc was committed to ensuring adequate observer presence. One of the prerequisites of such an effort would be to deploy an EU exploratory mission to assess the situation several months before the elections, she added.

The EU External Action Service formally requested permission for such an exploratory mission on 8 February in light of pandemic-era travel restrictions, but despite being in continuous contact with Israeli authorities since then had not yet been granted access, she said.

“The delay has considerably reduced the EU option to observe the 22 May legislative elections”, Massrali said, adding that other options had been discussed internally. She explained that the EU had in the past years supported and funded the central elections commission and stood ready to support the election process.

The spokeswoman would not be drawn on whether the EU had complained to the Israeli authorities, but EURACTIV understands that it has not.

EURACTIV asked the Embassy of Israel to the EU why the bloc had not yet received a response, but no reply was received by the time of publication.

[Edited by Josie Le Blond]

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