On January 25th, Palestinians will go to the polls to elect one-hundred-thirty-two members of the Palestinian Legislative Council. Council members will choose a cabinet to serve with Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas. Mr. Abbas was chosen in an election held in January 2005.
Among those commenting on the upcoming Palestinian Legislative Council elections is the diplomatic Quartet, consisting of representatives from the United States, Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations. The Quartet was formed in 2002 in support of a roadmap for Israeli-Palestinian peace and Palestinian statehood. The Quartet issued a statement welcoming the elections "as a positive step toward consolidation of Palestinian democracy and the goal of a two-party state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
The quartet "calls on the Palestinian Authority and the Central Elections Commission to ensure a free, fair, and open process in accordance with Palestinian law." The quartet says the Palestinian Authority "must also assure the security of polling stations and of Central Election Commission personnel, enforce existing law, regulations, and decrees, particularly those prohibiting the public display of weapons, external financing of campaigns, and the use of religious facilities for campaign purposes."
The quartet members say that the new Palestinian cabinet should not include members who are not committed to Israel’s right to exist in peace and security, and who are not in favor of an end to violence and terrorism. Their statement also urges Israel to work with the Palestinian National Assembly to ensure that Palestinians living in East Jerusalem can vote in the January legislative elections, and notes it is essential that Israel and the Palestinians start immediately coordinating election preparations.
U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli says the quartet's statement was prepared in the interest of promoting free, fair, and safe elections:
"It's really up to the Palestinian actors themselves and the Palestinian culture, frankly, to reject violence, reject the antiquated notion that Israel doesn't have the right to exist, and recognize that if you're going to participate in politics, you have to do so peacefully."
President George W. Bush says, "This is a time of great possibility in the Middle East. And the people of the region are counting on their leaders to seize the opportunities for peace and progress. This work isn't going to be easy," says Mr. Bush, "but the path forward is clear."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.