Millions of Israeli voters flocked to the polls today to vote for a new Palestinian leader. Israel has taken the unusual step of giving its voters a say in who will lead the Palestinians, after years of Israeli ministers trying to make the decision themselves.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell (L) and Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom (R) explain the process by which Israel will elect the new Palestinian leader.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell ensuring the ballots of the two Palestinians who managed to make it to the polling stations contained votes for the correct Israeli candidate.
Israel’s Interior Minister, Tommy Lapid explained, “After the death of the terrorist leader Yasir Arafat, there is unique opportunity for Israel to pick a new, moderate Palestinian leadership.” He added, “since Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, our people are the only ones qualified to make this choice.”
Sharon casts his vote in the Palestinian elections.
The candidates in the election, all hand-picked by Israel, are actually Israeli actors playing Palestinians, who trained with Israel’s notorious “Mista’aravim” death squads who disguise themselves as Palestinians when carrying out assassinations. The candidates are Ahmad Abu Karsh of the PFLP (Palestinians for Likud Party), Mohammad Abu ShibShib of Fatah (Falafil, Tabouleh and Hummus Party) and Mahmoud Abu Dishdasheh representing the DFLP (Definitely for the Labor Party).
Ronit Sharoni, a 23-year-old social work student at Tel Aviv University, cast her vote on her way to class. She declined to say who she voted for but explained, “it is very important who leads the Palestinians, since we have one day to negotiate with them, and we should know in advance it will not be someone who will reject our generous offers. Otherwise the peace process will fail.”
Arieh Zahavi, a 36-year-old tank commander from the Jerusalem suburb of Har Ganuv said picking a Palestinian leader is one of the toughest decisions Israelis had to make: “on the one hand, it is someone we can do business with, on the other, he should look enough like a terrorist that we can turn the world against him when we need to.” Zahavi said that none of the current candidates could fill the shoes of the late Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat.
Israeli tank commander Arieh Zahavi: The new Palestinian leader “should look enough like a terrorist that we can turn the world against him when we need to.”
Still, many observers remain hopeful that the election could be a fresh start for the region. “Maybe it will not bring peace ever,” said EU Special Representative for the Middle East Marc Van Nauseam, “but it will revive the peace process, and that is the important thing because we have seen a sharp deterioration in the economic situation as a result of the escalating conflict. Many Middle East envoys, including those from the US, EU, and the UN have faced severe unemployment and others have seen a terrible deterioration in their travel allowances and frequent flyer miles.”
“A revived peace process may be just what they need to get themselves back on track,” added Van Nauseam, “Having a Palestinian leader the Israelis and Americans will let us visit is an important first step.” Election results are expected shortly after polls close at 7PM Israel time.