Yossi Melman writes in Middle East Eye:
From the perspective of the Israeli security establishment, it would have been better if the scheduled Palestinian elections would not take place at all. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has ordered general elections to be held on 22 May, a presidential one on 31 July and Palestinian National Council polls on 31 August.
Hamas, the main opposition to Abbas’ Fatah movement currently running a parallel administration in Gaza, welcomed the announcement.
About two million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem and besieged Gaza Strip are eligible to vote. Israel, which annexed East Jerusalem in 1967 in a move never recognised by the international community, most likely will not allow Jerusalemites to vote.
But Israel also remembers how it was shocked to realise that Hamas had won the last elections for the Palestinian legislature in 2006. Judged to be free and fair by international observers, Hamas defeated Fatah, which had been established by its founding father Yasser Arafat and led since his death by Abbas.
“The elections pose for Israel more risks than opportunities,” says Colonel Michael Milshtein, who headed the Palestinian branch in the research department of Israeli Military Intelligence, known by its Hebrew acronym as Aman.
A year after the elections, Hamas took power in Gaza in a coup following violent clashes with Fatah – and has controlled the coastal enclave ever since.
The general elections are a promising development to enhance the democratic process, increase public trust, create international support for the Palestinian predicament and refresh the stagnated Palestinian politics and its ageing politicians.
Fatah suffers from internal tensions, factional rifts and a deteriorating public image. Meanwhile, Hamas shows determination, a high degree of unity and organisational skills. These traits were already present in the turbulent years of 2006-2007, which resulted in Hamas’s election victory and domination of Gaza.
“They can be repeated today in the forthcoming elections,” observes Milshtein, who is a fellow at the Institute for Policy and Strategy (IPS) at the Inter-Disciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya, north of Tel Aviv. Thus, Israeli security officials from Military Intelligence and the Shin Bet, who monitor and analyse developments in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, are worried.