Until the last minute Palestinians living in East Jerusalem did not know whether they would be able to vote in Wednesday’s parliamentary elections.
Hostile to the participation of Islamic militant group Hamas, Israel had threatened not to allow it but caved in under US pressure. The city is at the heart of the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. For Menachem Klein, a negotiator of the Geneva accords, Israel has a specific goal. “At the moment the idea is to crack down and demolish and destroy Arab Jerusalem as the metropolitan city of the West Bank in order to ease Israeli way to rule Arab Jerusalem,” he said. In Arab Jerusalem, as elsewhere in the West Bank, Jewish settlements are being built, transfering property and land bit by bit into Israeli hands. Even in the heart of the Palestinian sector, houses are being bought by Israelis, barricaded behind barbed wire and protected by guards 24 hours a day. The more than 200,000 inhabitants of the Arab quarter of the city are scattered among the Jewish settlements that have taken root in Jerusalem. They are cut off from the West Bank by the so-called security barrier, which does not separate Israelis and Palestinians but Palestinians and Palestinians. Those who find themselves on one side of the wall find themselves linked to Jerusalem, the others to the West Bank. For some the only option was to move. Abou Hicham al Amouri said: “All our life is directly linked to Jerusalem. For the papers, the stamps, legal procedures, schools, hospitals, health… everything is in Jerusalem. I just go to the West Bank, to Ramallah, once a year.” Jamal Joumaa of Stop The Wall association is pessimistic: “Jerusalem is becoming lost for the Palestinians. The wall around Jerusalem is nearly finished. It isolates Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank.” Those Palestinians unable to vote in Jerusalem – the vast majority – must travel to special polling stations outside the city boundaries. But the journey around the barrier can be time-consuming and difficult, and the election takes place on a work day.