After 50 years of boycott, Palestinians launch party to stand in Jerusalem elections

East Jerusalem Palestinians living in areas occupied by Israel in the Six-Day War have Israeli residency rights, but most have refused full citizenship


A new party is set to break the longstanding Palestinian boycott of municipal elections in Jerusalem.

The East Jerusalem Party, led by Iyad Bibuah, has registered to run in the next election, scheduled for late 2018.

Palestinian citizens of East Jerusalem living in the neighbourhoods occupied by Israel in the Six-Day War were given Israeli residency rights, although the vast majority have chosen not to request full Israeli citizenship.

As residents, they are allowed to travel freely throughout Israel and vote in municipal elections.

For the last 50 years, however, they have almost unanimously chosen to boycott the elections and not recognise Israel's sovereignty over the eastern part of the capital.

Nascent attempts by local residents to take part in the elections for City Hall, which is responsible for supplying services to the entire city, have been discouraged, sometimes violently, by Palestinian nationalists.

In an interview with Haaretz, Mr Bibuah, a teacher living near the Mount of Olives, said the new party was an initiative of his and a group of friends, who had been discussing it for a year. He said Israel's sovereignty was "a diplomatic issue, not a municipal issue. Our party will act in the municipal field and will work so that the Arab residents of Jerusalem have the rights and infrastructure they deserve; along with reducing violence and terror in the city".

Jerusalem's Palestinian residents are thought to make up around 37 per cent of the city's population. If a large proportion of them choose to vote, the political makeup of the city council - currently controlled by a right-wing, strictly-Orthodox coalition - could change. However, as the main Palestinian organisations are unlikely to change their policy against voting, turnout is expected to remain low.



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