Leaks of Ashrawi Resignation Signal Rift Within Palestinian Leadership
Experts attribute division to Palestinian Authority’s ‘individualistic approach’ to decision-making, ignoring the PLO
Reports are circulating among Palestinians that Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, a veteran member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee, submitted her resignation a few days ago to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who is also chairman of both the PLO and the ruling Fatah movement.
Also, according to the leaks which began on Monday, Abbas has not yet decided whether to accept her resignation.
Experts indicated that if the leaked rumors turn out to be true, Ashrawi, 74, might be acting to protest against the Palestinian Authority’s November 17 decision to restore relations with Israel based on a letter declaring a commitment to past agreements from Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rukun, the head of the Israeli Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories unit, and without consulting with senior Palestinian officials.
The resumption of security coordination with Israel should be a decision of the PLO’s National Council. How was it taken by the president and some of his assistants, away from the organization and the PA itself?
Ashrawi did not respond to requests for comment from The Media Line by press time.
Hani al-Masri, head of the Masarat Center, a Ramallah-based think tank, told The Media Line that the leaks point to a crisis in the PLO’s work, which is expressed from time to time.
“The organization has been frozen since Oslo, and is brought back to life in time of need, not continuously. Therefore, it doesn’t play its main role as a reference for the Palestinian people,” Masri said.
The PLO is no longer participating in a practical way in making decisions, he added. “If you go to the Palestinian street and ask about the PLO, including of college students, many people don’t know about it, or don’t differentiate it from the PA,” he said.
Regardless of whether Ashrawi submitted her resignation or not, there was a crisis related to how political decisions are made, he said.
“The resumption of security coordination with Israel should be a decision of the PLO’s National Council. How was it taken by the president and some of his assistants, away from the organization and the PA itself?” Masri asked.
He explained that the tax funds collected by Israel for the PA belong by right to the Palestinians, but the earlier decision to stop working within the agreements signed with Israel was made by the PLO’s top councils. “The organization is absent, and its role is absent as well,” he said.
The PA decided to resume security cooperation with Israel last month, after halting it in May over Israeli plans, now suspended, to annex parts of the West Bank, land captured by Israel in the 1967 war. PA Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh announced the news on Twitter, stressing that relations were restored “as they were before May 19, after confirming that Israel would abide by signed agreements.”
Moeen al-Taher, a Jordanian political analyst and writer for the Institute for Palestine Studies in Amman, told The Media Line that if the reports of Ashrawi’s resignation are true, the move was a protest against the Palestinian leadership’s “individualistic decision-making approach” where it overturned PLO Central Council and Executive Committee decisions amid an absence of the role of institutions in general.
“I think Ashrawi is protesting the way in which the matter was dealt with, reducing the level of political engagement, as the one who handed the letter to Sheikh was Kamil Abu Rukun, who manages West Bank affairs, not any Israeli on a political level,” Taher said.
He added that Abu Rukun in his letter blamed the PA for its refusal to accept the tax funds, and said that if the PA wanted the money, it could take it, without Israel committing to anything, “no halting settlements, no nothing.”
The PLO Central Council decided in 2018 to dissolve the agreements signed with Israel, including the Oslo Accords and the Paris Protocol, or The Protocol on Economic Relations, he said.
“Suddenly and based on a letter from Kamil Abu Rukun, matters were reversed without achieving anything,” Taher said.