After 15 years of a de facto dictatorship, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas announced in January that the P.A. will hold general elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council (the P.A. parliament) in May, followed by elections for P.A. chairman in July.  

The U.S. administration and the European Union pushed Abbas to hold elections with the intention of promoting democracy and lending legitimacy to the Palestinian leadership. The result, however, will not be an endorsement of democracy, but will rather highlight the terrorist nature of the P.A.

According to lists published by the P.A. Central Elections Commission, among the parties set to participate in the upcoming elections, two are designated by both the United States and the European Union as terrorist organizations: Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

The terror groups’ electoral lists include convicted terrorists, some of them murderers and even mass murderers. In some instances, I was personally involved in their prosecution and/or incarceration. 

These are some of the names that stand out on the Hamas list: 

Jamal Abu al-Hija

Abu al-Hija was the head of Hamas’s military wing in Jenin. He was directly involved in multiple terror attacks, including but not limited to a car bombing in Hadera in November 2000 in which two people were murdered and 64 injured, and the Miron Junction bombing in 2002, in which nine were murdered and dozens injured. Al-Hija is serving nine life sentences plus 20 years.

Nael Barghouti

Barghouti was convicted of murdering an Israeli army officer in January 1978 near Ramallah and sentenced to life in prison. He received a conditional release in the Shalit prisoner exchange deal in 2011. He was arrested again in 2014, in a move that I initiated, for violating the terms of his release and was again imprisoned to serve his original sentence.

Naed al-Fakhouri

Al-Fakhouri was convicted of recruiting suicide bombers and sentenced to 22 years in prison. He was released in the Shalit prisoner-exchange deal on the condition that he stay in the Gaza Strip.

Muhammad Abu Tir 

Abu Tir has been a senior member of Hamas for many years. After his arrest in June 2006, I supervised his indictment on charges of membership and holding a senior position in Hamas. After his conviction, he was sentenced to four years in prison.

These are some of the names that stand out on the PFLP list: 

Ahmad Sa’adat

Sa’adat was convicted of heading the PFLP in 2001 when PFLP members murdered Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze’evi. While not convicted for involvement in the murder, the PFLP has honored him publicly as the planner of the assassination. Arrested by Israel in March 2006, Sa’adat is serving a 30-year sentence.

Khalida Jarrar

Jarrar was arrested in April 2015. As part of a plea bargain I negotiated, Jarrar confessed in court to being a member of the PFLP and inciting to kidnap Israeli soldiers to secure the release from prison of Ahmad Sa’adat. She was sentenced to 15 months in prison, fined 10,000 shekels and given a suspended sentence. Most recently, Jarrar was indicted following the August 2019 terror attack carried out by PFLP terrorists in which 17-year-old Rina Schnerb was murdered and her father and brother severely wounded. Jarrar pled guilty to functioning as the de-facto head of the PFLP and is still in prison. 

Ahed Abu Gholmeh

Abu Gholmeh was convicted of planning Ze’evi’s murder and is serving a life sentence.

Walid Hanatsha

Hanatsha has a long history of PFLP-related terror. Most recently, he was arrested and indicted for his part in the terror attack in which 17-year-old Rina Schnerb was murdered. According to the indictment, Hanatsha not only approved the plan to carry out the attack but also drove the planner to the site on the morning of the attack itself. His trial is pending.

Prior to his arrest and indictment for murder, Hanatsha was the financial and administrative director of an E.U.-funded Palestinian NGO, the Health Work Committees.  

Abdullatif Ghaith

Ghaith is a known member of the PFLP who held membership in the organization’s “political bureau” until 2015 (at least). A special report of the Israeli government—“Terrorists in Suits, Blood Money—European-funded Palestinian NGOs & their terror operatives—A case study: Addameer” included Ghaith as a PFLP member.  

While Hamas won the outright majority of votes in the last general elections, the Hamas government was later deposed by Abbas, who replaced it with a so-called “technocrat” government. Abbas later replaced the technocrat government with members from his own Fatah Party. In 2007, Hamas violently seized control of the Gaza Strip, on some occasions throwing members of Fatah to their deaths from the tops of buildings. Since then Abbas’s Fatah has controlled the P.A. areas in Judea and Samaria, while Hamas controls the Gaza Strip.

P.A. law limits the term of the P.A. chairman to four years with the option, subject to election, of a second and final four-year term. Abbas is now in the 16th year of his first four-year term.

A truly democratic Palestinian society is a worthy goal. Elections that allow the participation of convicted terrorists, including mass murderers, are not a demonstration of democracy. Rather, they are an expression of the fundamentally warped, P.A.-created society in which terrorists are heroes and role models. Instead of endorsing, supporting and funding these elections, the European Union and the United States should demand that Abbas exclude E.U.- and U.S.-designated terror groups from participating. Convicted terrorists running for the P.A. parliament is the Palestinian democratic boomerang everyone should have anticipated. 

IDF Lt. Col. (res.) Maurice Hirsch is the director of Legal Strategies for Palestinian Media Watch. He served for 19 years in the IDF Military Advocate General Corps. In his last position, he served as director of the Military Prosecution in Judea and Samaria.  

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