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PLO To Elect New Executive Committee Members; Hamas Shut Out Of Process

By Dima Abumaria | The Media Line

March 11, 2018

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas (Photo: Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images)
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Amid ongoing intra-Palestinian dispute, Gaza’s rulers not invited to rare meeting of Palestinian National Council

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will convene the legislative body of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the umbrella organization recognized by the international community as the official voice of the Palestinian people. The Palestinian National Council is slated to hold a rare meeting on April 30 in order to elect new members to the PLO’s Executive Committee, which has been dominated by Abbas and his allies since 2004.

“The National Council will take a place in Ramallah and will review the previous political direction as well as draw a new one through the development of an organized working mechanism,” Ahmad Majdalani, a member of the PLO Executive Committee told The Media Line. He revealed that a preparatory commission has already been set up to plan for the event, to which neither Hamas nor the Islamic Jihad have been invited.

“They are not participating,” Majdalani asserted, adding that this position would be upheld so long as attempts to forge Palestinian unity remain unsuccessful. He did, however, express a willingness on the PLO’s behalf to hold a subsequent National Council meeting that would include all Palestinian factions should the decade-long bitter divide between the Abbas-ruled West Bank and Hamas-dominated Gaza Strip be bridged.

Mahmoud Al-Aloul, Vice President of the PLO, stressed to The Media Line the importance of the elections that will take place next month, as most Palestinian political parties are dwindling in representation because many of their members are old, sick or have passed away.

When asked about the participation of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, Aloul suggested that both are “supposed to participate” as they are represented in the PLO.  However, he conceded, “there has been always an obstacle to organizing the council, mainly because the reconciliation has never worked.”

For its part, Hamas released a statement rejecting the decision to convene the body “in its current form and composition.” The Islamic group added that it views the move as a blatant example of breaking with the national consensus and also as a violation of agreements and understandings forged between Hamas and Abbas’ ruling Fatah faction.

Hamas instead called for the internal political crisis to be alleviated by rebuilding PLO institutions “based on democratic foundations,” before noting that many of its members would anyways not be able to attend the Ramallah meeting because of the occupation by the “Zionist enemy” that “seeks to impose its vision on [Palestinians] all the time.”

In response, the PLO’s Executive Committee contended in its own press release that it continues to work towards the implementation of the latest reconciliation agreement signed in October in Cairo. It noted that the PLO has, since the beginning of the year, on multiple occasions urged a united Palestinian voice against U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital; the rumored rejection by the White House of Palestinian refugees’ right to return to Israel as part of any future peace deal; and the cut-off of American aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

Late last year Hamas agreed, in principle, to dissolve its Administrative Committee in Gaza and transfer control over the Strip to the PA. However, Hamas has refused to disarm, a precondition for the implementation of the accord, whereas Abbas has not fulfilled his promise to remove punitive measures previously placed on the Palestinian enclave.

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