The Mayor of Bethlehem, a US Citizen under Siege

PNN – Palestine News Network – 17.01.11 – 12:14

Fadi Abu Saada &Ghassan Bannoura – PNN – Dr. Victor Batarseh, mayor of Bethlehem, accused of close ties to the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine  (PFLP) and the Islamic Hamas movement, has been boycotted by visiting American and European officials.


Dr. Victor Batarseh holds his US passport (PNN Images).

A retired physician, Batarseh was elected as the mayor of Bethlehem in 2005 as a candidate of the Bethlehem Brotherhood and Development bloc. By law, the holder of this post must be a Christian. He is a Palestinian Roman Catholic and holds a US passport.

“I ran in an independent list, three Christians and seven Muslims, who have no relation to Hamas,” said Batarseh. “The seven did not win so did the ones on Fatah list. Hamas and Islamic Jihad Muslim members won alone on their list.”

“When it came down to the mayor choice,” he said, “Hamas members gave me their votes instead of the Fatah representative. For me I represent a Christian family form Bethlehem, politically I support the Palestine Liberation Organization as a representative of the Palestinian people.”

According to a US Consulate spokesperson, the United States does not deal with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, as it  is a government-designated foreign terrorist organization (FTO). An FTO is defined as “a foreign organization that engages in, or retains the capability and intent to engage in, terrorist activity or terrorism that threatens the security of US nationals or the national security of the United States.”

On the other hand, the spokesperson explained that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) has been recognized by the government of Israel and the international community as the representative of the Palestinian people for the purpose of negotiating a final resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Batarseh claimed his office it outside of politics altogether, however.

“The municipality is a service provider it has nothing to do with politics,” Batarseh told PNN. “There is no reason to boycott me or the city of Bethlehem, and this is Israeli lead boycott simply because I am not Fatah.”


Batarseh and President Abbas attend the Midnight Mass in the Nativity Church during Christmas 2010 (Fabian Stamm, PNN).

The consular spokesperson explained even though its policy towards groups like PFLP and Hamas may affects its ability to work with certain individuals and municipalities in the West Bank, the US continues to support the Palestinian people through the Palestinian Authority.

“Over the past year,” the anonymous spokesperson added, “the Consulate and the US government have supported numerous programs and events in Bethlehem, including the Palestine Investment Conference, programs targeting development of the tourism industry in Bethlehem and numerous exchange programs, which have benefited all residents of Bethlehem.”


PNN – Palestine News Network – The Mayor of Bethlehem, a US Citizen under Siege.

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