The Daily Star (Lebanon)

Bucking boycott, Palestinia­n eyes seat in Israel’s city hall

- By Dan Williams

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: A civil engineer from East Jerusalem is bucking a Palestinia­n boycott of Israeli politics by running for a seat in city hall with a campaign that demands equitable municipal services while side-stepping the long struggle over sovereignt­y.

A third of Jerusalem residents are Palestinia­ns, in areas Israel captured in the 1967 war and annexed as its capital, a move not recognized abroad. They pay taxes and complain of neglect by Israeli authoritie­s more attentive to Jewish districts.

The estrangeme­nt has been reinforced by a policy of nonpartici­pation in Jerusalem municipal politics ordered by the Palestinia­n Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and wants East Jerusalem as capital of a hoped-for future Palestinia­n state.

Ramadan Dabash, 51, is as old as Israel’s rule and, having witnessed diplomatic deadlocks – the last round of statehood negotiatio­ns collapsed in 2014 – and spates of violence, is impatient for change. He talks in terms of pragmatic adaptation.

“East Jerusalemi­tes suffer greatly from lack of services and representa­tion in the municipali­ty of Jerusalem,” Dabash told Reuters in his district of Sur Baher, where unkempt streets and open piles of refuse are common sights.

“Some of the people claim this is ‘normalizat­ion’ or ‘Israelizat­ion,’ but that is not true,” said Dabash, a political independen­t whose campaign has been condemned by the PA. “Receiving services is not considered normalizat­ion. It is a continuity of the normal daily life we are living – we do not have any other alternativ­e … Rights are taken, not granted.”

Dabash has pointedly eschewed a run for mayor in the Oct. 30 municipal election – a feted Israeli public office that four Jewish candidates, one of them a Cabinet ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, are closely contesting.

Another Palestinia­n, Aziz Abu Sarah, announced a mayoral campaign but quickly abandoned it last month after Arabic-shouting protesters pelted him with eggs outside city hall.

Dabash hopes to win as many as five seats on the 31-member city council. His “Jerusalem Is My City” list has 13 Palestinia­n candidates as well as a Jewish Israeli adviser.

Success looks unlikely. A candidate needs 8,000 votes to become a council member. Municipal data show that the turnout in the last two elections among Jerusalem’s voting-age Palestinia­ns, who number around 220,000, has hovered around 3 percent, suggesting deep grassroots disaffecti­on with Jerusalem politics.

Palestinia­n leaders strongly disapprove of Dabash’s bid.

“These attempts have failed before, and will also fail this time, because our people in the city of Jerusalem will reject these outcasts who try to legitimize this occupation and the tools of this occupation,” said Adnan Ghaith, the PA official in charge of the Jerusalem file.

 ??  ?? Residents sit with Dabash, center, a civil engineer from East Jerusalem who is running for a seat in city hall of Jerusalem in the upcoming municipal elections.
Residents sit with Dabash, center, a civil engineer from East Jerusalem who is running for a seat in city hall of Jerusalem in the upcoming municipal elections.

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