Palestinian candidates allowed to campaign in E. J’lem

Israel is allowing candidates for Palestinian legislative elections on January 25 to campaign in East Jerusalem as long as they do not belong to militant groups, Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra said on Monday. „All those who want to campaign will submit requests in advance to the Jerusalem police, and only those who don’t represent extremist groups will receive permission,” Ezra told Israel Radio. There was no immediate word, however, on whether Israel would allow voting to take place in the city. On Sunday one of the candidates said police told officials who plan to run in an upcoming Palestinian legislative election that they can campaign in East Jerusalem. „Israeli police told Jerusalem candidates that they can start their election campaign in East Jerusalem in restricted areas,” Hatem Abdel-Qader told Reuters, without saying whether Israel would allow voting in the city in the January 25 election. Earlier this month, police blocked Palestinians from electioneering in East Jerusalem when campaigning for the poll began. Israel says Palestinian political activity in the city is banned under interim accords. Palestinians dispute this. Israel has said it may block voting in East Jerusalem because of the participation in the election of Hamas, a militant group dedicated to the destruction of the Jewish state. However, after expectations of a voting ban in East Jerusalem strengthened calls from some Palestinians for the vote to be postponed, officials said they might allow voting to take place rather than be blamed for causing a delay. Some leaders of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ divided Fatah movement want a delay, but Hamas is riding a surge of popularity and wants them to go ahead on time. The last Palestinian legislative election was in 1996, when voting was allowed in East Jerusalem. Western countries are keen for the vote to take place on time as a way of strengthening Palestinian democracy but are wary of a strong showing by Hamas, which has carried out nearly 60 suicide bombings during the recent Palestinian uprising, begun in 2000. Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem have Israeli identity cards but see themselves as citizens of a future Palestinian state of which Jerusalem is capital.