World Bulletin / News Desk
Palestinians account for 37 percent of Jerusalem's population but have boycotted municipal elections since Israel conquered and annexed the eastern part of the city in 1967. However, one candidate is running to become the city's first Palestinian elected official since the annexation, despite the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) releasing a statement calling on Palestinians to boycott the elections.
Fuad Saliman, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, is running for City Council and is hoping to persuade the estimated 180,000 Palestinian eligible voters to take part in the political game.
Saliman, 52, told Al Jazeera that he one day hopes to see East Jerusalem as the capital of an independent Palestine but in the meantime he feels that the Palestinians need representation in the City Council in order to improve their living conditions.
"Only 10 percent of the city's budget is allocated to development of East Jerusalem, even though 37 percent of the population lives there," he told Al Jazeera.
"Being an Arab and an Israeli who has been living in Jerusalem for a long time, I can feel this population's pain and understand the problems. I will represent them and make sure they get the municipal services they are supposed to receive."
In the previous municipal election, an estimated two percent of Jerusalem's Palestinian residents voted but Saliman said he is confident if that number grows to 10 percent, his odds for winning a City Council seat would be high. Saliman believes that his presence in municipal committees could achieve "little victories" for East Jerusalem's Palestinians.
However, Hannan Ashrawai, a member of the PLO's Executive Committee said "Participating in the process merely gives the Israelis political cover. They want to ...create a reality where the Palestinians would participate in the occupation of their own country...It is not a question of wanting representation to be part of the occupation. We want to get rid of the occupation."
She also pointed to Arab towns and neighbourhoods in Israel that are neglected despite residents' participation in politics both at the municipal and state levels. "They collect taxes but they don't deliver services," she said.
Najwa Darwish, director of Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights also disagreed with Saliman, saying "there is huge rejection among Palestinians in Jerusalem on the participation in the elections...How can Palestinian voters trust any Israeli mechanism to work for their interest?"
Responding to criticisms, Saliman said "we know each one of us is internally conflicted about voting," he said. "But I am working with community leaders to get them to calm activists down. All we ask is that whoever wants to vote will vote, and whoever doesn't want - won't."Last Mod: 21 Ekim 2013, 18:02