Mar 24, 2021 - World

Israel warns Palestinian President Abbas against election pact with Hamas

Mahmoud Abbas. Photo: Abbas Momani/AFP via Getty

The director of Israel’s domestic security service, the Shin Bet, warned Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas against running on a joint list with Hamas in the upcoming parliamentary elections or creating a power-sharing government with Hamas after the elections, Israeli and Palestinian sources say.

Why it matters: The Israeli security establishment is very concerned that the elections, planned for May 22, could lead to a Hamas takeover in the West Bank as happened in Gaza after the previous elections, in 2006.

What we know: Shin Bet director Nadav Argaman met Abbas in his office in Ramallah around two weeks ago to discuss the elections.

What they're saying: Palestinian officials claim Argaman asked Abbas to cancel the elections, which Abbas rejected.

  • "He came here and tried to threaten us, but President Abbas told him, 'drink your coffee and Godspeed,'" Jibril Rajoub, a senior official in Abbas' Fatah party, told Palestinian TV.
  • The other side: Israeli officials say Argaman didn't ask Abbas to cancel the vote, but did warn him that certain results — a Hamas victory or a power-sharing government — could create a deep rift with Israel.

Meanwhile, Israeli sources say officials from the Biden administration have been sending supportive messages about the elections.

  • “The Americans didn’t give the Palestinians any negative signals about it," one Israeli source told me.
  • Yes, but: The Biden administration hasn't set any formal policy on the elections and the issue hasn't reached Secretary of State Tony Blinken's level or been discussed at senior levels in the White House, U.S. and Israeli officials say.

The state of play: A poll released on Tuesday by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research showed that overwhelming majorities of Palestinians favor holding the elections and believe they will take place.

  • Fatah leads the poll with 38% to 22% for Hamas, but will weaken significantly if it splinters into different electoral lists, as is highly possible.
  • Abbas is highly unpopular according to the poll, which finds that 57% of Palestinians want him to step aside rather than seek another presidential term later this year.
  • One popular alternative is another Fatah leader, Marwan Barghouti, who is currently in an Israeli prison. 47% of Palestinians would like to see him run, and the poll suggests he could likely beat any Hamas candidate.

According to the poll, the most reliable and comprehensive survey since the elections were announced, 48% of Palestinians think the parliamentary elections will not be free and fair.

  • 69% believe Fatah won't accept the results if Hamas wins, and 60% think Hamas won't accept the results if Fatah wins.
Go deeper