الرئيسية » هاني المصري »   03 أيلول 2015

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هاني المصري

"Events unfolded quickly and it was decided to convene an ‘extraordinary’ PNC session which, after the PNC president's opposition, became a full ‘ordinary’ session that is most likely lack the quorum, thereby turning it back into an extraordinary session," writes Hani al-Masri in the leading Palestinian daily al-Ayyam.

In both cases, according to the compromise between the PA president and the head of the PNC, all the PLO Executive Committee's members will be elected in a stark violation of the organization’s basic laws that state that an extraordinary session can only be held when there is a force majeure, and in that case its writ will only extend to filling vacant posts and electing replacements for members who have resigned.

Whoever decided to convene a regular session in Ramallah on September 15th and 16th is well aware that it will lack a quorum, and that the time left is insufficient to prepare for a conference for a medium-sized civilian organization, let alone the highest PLO authority after it has failed to hold full regular sessions for some twenty years that were rife with events and developments that required holding an ‘ordinary’ PNC session every year, indeed, convening repeated ‘extraordinary’ sessions.

During those twenty years, the deadline set by the [1993] Oslo Accords for reaching a final status agreement came and went, and ended in deepening the occupation, with Israeli forces' reoccupying ‘Area A’ which is supposed to be under the PA's full control, according to the Accords. It was also during these years that President Yasser Arafat was besieged and assassinated, and that [former Israeli PM] Sharon implemented his plan to disengage from the Gaza Strip, thus paving the way for the inter-Palestinian [Fateh/Hamas] political and geographical split and for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip's separation from each other.

In the period that has separated the PNC's two meetings, the Palestinian cause has also been marginalized. Arab interest in it has retreated, while Israeli settlement activities have multiplied many times over. The land has been confiscated and Judaized, while the occupation army and hordes of settlers have intensified their attacks, reaching the point of three attacks per day over the past few years.

This period has also witnessed cold-blooded killings at [Israeli army] checkpoints and during confrontations; the targeting of people, buildings, trees, homes, institutions, cars, mosques and churches; the intensification of the Judaization and Israel-ization of Jerusalem; and the end of the so-called 'peace process.' In addition, Israeli forces have waged three terrible aggressions against the Gaza Strip in which they have committed all kinds of crimes, and thousands of Palestinian martyrs have been killed and many more were wounded, and tens of thousands of homes and institutions destroyed, while the Gaza Strip has been subjected to the worst and longest siege.

During this period as well the Palestinian people have faced growing difficulties in the Diaspora– in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Nahr al-Bared Camp [Lebanon] and elsewhere – as well as the threat of genocide and forced displacement. At the same time, our people inside [1948] Palestine have been subject to the worst racist onslaught whose aim is to consolidate Israel’s Jewish character as a state in which the Palestinians – the native inhabitants of the land – have no place.

All this has occurred and did not call for summoning the Palestinian people's highest authority to convene. Instead, we now find a sudden rush to convene it in order to punish some people and turn the Executive Committee into a totally compliant tool in the president's hand.

Based on the above, I repeat the call issued by a group of national figures to postpone the PNC for a period sufficient to ensure that it will hold a session that is commensurate with the challenges and dangers threatening the Palestinian people, their land, and national cause, and that can make best use of the opportunities available.

This may be no more than a cry in the wilderness, that no one will hear despite the fact that the decision-maker and all those who will take part in this theatrical act must realize that there is a political and popular majority opposed to this step that will deliver a strong blow to what remains of the PLO's standing. This is evident from what is being said in the various media; in articles, reports, interviews, investigations and TV programs – and from the debate on the social media, as well as from the statements issued by the [Palestinian political factions] PFLP, PDFLP, FIDA, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other organizations.

There are those who say: Why object to convening the PNC? After all, this is a step towards regaining and revitalizing the PLO's legitimacy as a prelude to ending the split and bringing the various shades of the political spectrum into the PLO. For the PLO is a paralyzed organization that cannot absorb organizations such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad; in fact, it is unable to bear the weight of those who are already part of it.

The response begins by noting that a book can be read by its cover-- for whoever genuinely wants to reform and revitalize the PLO would not convene a PNC session in this manner. Nor would they restrict its agenda to changing some Executive Committee members, replacing them with loyalist figures. Nor would they appease Fateh by changing its representatives in order to ensure that the road was safe for convening Fatah’s 7th Congress [as scheduled after the PNC]. For Fateh fears for its role in the PLO in light of the fact that its representation in the Executive Committee includes opposition figures such as [former PLO Political Department head and Fateh founding father] Farouq Qaddoumi, or ailing figures whose loyalty is not guaranteed.

In response to those who say that the PNC will witness a political debate with a full agenda, we say: The agenda issued along with the invitation to the session does not include presenting comprehensive political and financial reports whose preparation requires a few months at least. Moreover, the insistence on holding the session in Ramallah and under occupation, deprives many members from the chance of participating, either because they are prevented from doing so by the occupation or because they will boycott the session or because they will be unable to attend. This, for example, is true of PNC members who are members of Hamas or Islamic Jihad. And this, in turn, will make it difficult if not impossible to secure a quorum.

As a result, the session will turn into an ordinary one, but one held without a quorum, and it would not be in its power to alter the PLO’s political program which has failed after ten years of chasing the mirage of Oslo and a Palestinian state that can be achieved by negotiations, as well as failing to demonstrate is ability to build institutions, and prove the presence of good will [to resolve the conflict with Israel].

PNC sessions in the heyday of the PLO used to be held on an almost annual basis. Preparations for them lasted for months. If so, how can the period remaining [till mid-September] before the PNC session be sufficient?

There are those who claim that the reason for the haste is that the president wishes to step aside and hand over the presidency to his successor, resigning from all his posts. He will begin by resigning his post as head of the Executive Committee, then resign as head of Fateh when it holds its conference on November 29th; he will subsequently resign as PA president on the pretext that the PLO has regained its legitimacy and vigor, and is now able to disband the PA – having itself established it – or have its presidency assumed by a person (or a group of people) appointed by the PLO’s Central Committee until new elections are held.

There are many claims concerning the possibility of disbanding the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) because its term in office has expired, and to ensure that the president's resignation does not lead to a conflict over the PA's presidency. This is because the PLO's basic laws state that the PLC speaker will assume the PA's presidency for sixty days until new presidential elections are held. But the PLC is not active and there is no national accord that [Hamas leader] 'Aziz ad-Doweik is still its Speaker.

The president’s safe exit requires putting the Fateh household in order, and putting the PLO in order, as is consistent with the national interest, and in a manner that makes room for all of Fateh and the Palestinian people's currents. Such a safe exit is not secured by tailoring the Fateh and PLO institutions to fit a single person or camp or a limited number of people, at best. This is not conducive to a safe exit, but to either an unsafe one or a comfortable persistence in power.

There is still an opportunity if the PNC's session is postponed and if it is used in order to end the split and regain unity by adding the various shades of the Palestinian spectrum to it, not just the existing factions. If this occurs, there may be a chance to rebuild the PLO's institutions in a manner that allows them to act swiftly and effectively, by arming them with a single strategy that can provide the necessary requirements for the survival of Palestinian cause and for the Palestinian people's steadfastness and presence on their land.

"That would pave the way for marching towards victory," concludes Masri.