A wave of arrests has been reported in Palestinian Authority-controlled areas of Yehudah and Shomron in recent weeks, with most of the arrests by PA police aimed at Hamas activists. The arrests, sources in the PA were quoted by Makor Rishon as saying, surround the upcoming local elections in PA cities, in which Hamas will be participating for the first time in over a decade. The elections are set to take place at the end of October.
Last week, IDF and Shin Bet agents arrested Mahmad Abu Kwik, a top Hamas terrorist and a Hamas representative in the Palestinian Authority’s local authority division. Palestinian Authority sources said that the arrest was an “attempt by Israel to influence the Palestinian municipal elections” which will take place in the coming weeks. Hamas accused Israel of cooperating with Fatah to keep Hamas out of the elections. According to internal PA polls, Hamas is likely to sweep the elections, and Israel was accused of trying to swing the vote away from Hamas to Fatah-backed candidates.
Israeli sources said that allowing Hamas to participate in the elections was very problematic, as if Hamas wins it would almost certainly curtail the cooperation between Israel and the PA in preventing terror attacks. A Hamas source told the paper that Hamas had a right to participate in elections in the PA, and that neither Israel nor PA chief Mahmoud Abbas would be able to stop them. “We do not intend to follow the lead of Israel when we win the elections. Hamas is a part of the Palestinian nation and our participation in elections is legitimate,” the source said.
The PA, controlled by Fatah, is apparently preparing itself for the likelihood that Hamas will sweep the elections. According to one PA report, Hamas and Fatah have worked out a deal for a rotation for the leadership of Shechem, one PA city Hamas is expected to sweep. The deal is based on a four-year term, in which the first two years will see the city controlled by Hamas. The report said that Fatah officials were “confident” that Hamas could be trusted to surrender power when the two years are up.