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Will Palestinian municipal elections increase tension with Israel?

Israel might be confronted in October with a new reality, where Hamas takes over some West Bank municipalities.
Palestinian women votes in the West Bank village of Bani Naim May 5, 2005. Palestinians voted on Thursday in municipal elections likely to strengthen Islamist faction Hamas against President Mahmoud Abbas's troubled Fatah movement and hint at the outcome of a planned parliamentary ballot. REUTERS/Ammar Awad  AWA/GOT - RTRA7PE
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Municipal elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are slated for Oct. 8. On the face of it, this is a local matter that should not be of much concern to Israel’s decision-makers or the public at large. However, the Hamas-Fatah agreement for holding municipal elections that was reached in the setting of their reconciliation efforts and following their endless talks since the May 2011 Cairo Agreement is not only an internal-local issue. It is also liable to further complicate the already complex relationships between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA).

For the first time in over a decade, the elections will take place in some 300 municipalities, villages and regional councils across the West Bank and Gaza. The last time PA President Mahmoud Abbas agreed to hold elections — or more precisely was forced to hold them by former US President George W. Bush — was in 2006. Back then, Hamas took everyone by surprise, winning the seats to the Palestinian parliament by a landslide. And even though the upcoming elections are neither for the presidency nor for the parliament, senior Fatah officials, as well as Hamas officials, are nevertheless convinced that they will see Hamas win over a large number of local authorities in the West Bank, thus indicating that it is poised to take over power centers outside Gaza.

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