The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the
second largest faction of the PLO, will boycott the upcoming meeting of
the Palestinian National Council to protest Fatah's refusal to hold the
gathering in a neutral location where all factions can attend.
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The Popular Front for
the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the second-largest faction of the
Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), has decided to boycott the
upcoming meeting of the Palestinian National Council (PNC), scheduled to be held April 30 in Ramallah.
Sawirjo, a PFLP leader, told Al-Monitor, “Our position is clear.
The PNC should convene outside the country so that all factions can
attend the meeting. Holding a PNC session in Ramallah under the Israeli
occupation prevents many faction leaders from attending such a meeting.
We will boycott the PNC but remain part of the PLO, which serves as a
reference for the Palestinian people.”
Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders in Gaza or outside Palestine cannot
travel to Ramallah because Israel will not allow them to enter the West
Bank. The PFLP's decision to boycott came after two days of talks,
April 17-18, between representatives from that group and the Fatah
movement in Cairo, during which the PFLP called for the postponement of
the PNC meeting until a consensus formula could be reached that
would allow members of Hamas to attend. The two parties failed to reach
such a consensus, and Fatah refused to postpone the meeting.
Sawirjo further remarked, “Fatah did not abide by the outcome of the PNC Preparatory Committee meeting,
which was held in Beirut on Jan. 10, 2017, between the PLO factions,
Hamas and the Islamic Jihad movement. They agreed on the need for the
PNC meetings to include all the Palestinian forces in a bid to restore
the stature of the divided Palestinian political system. Fatah, however,
insisted on holding the meeting in Ramallah.”
The PFLP said April 19 in a statement on its official website, “As the two delegations failed to reach
an agreement regarding the postponement of the PNC session, the PFLP
decided not to take part in the session and confirmed its position on
the PLO and highlighted the importance of its role, stature and
representative character. [The PFLP] also stressed its ongoing sincere
efforts to have a unifying PNC.”
The PNC, established in 1948, has met only 23 times, the last being
in August 2009 in Ramallah. In accordance with Article 18 of the
council's bylaws, the council is supposed to meet once a year,
but the political situation has made it difficult to convene all its
members, some of whom reside inside the Palestinian territories and
others who live elsewhere. The PNC, the highest authority in the PLO, is in charge of policy and planning, and it also tracks the performance of the PLO Executive Committee.
Azzam al-Ahmad, the Fatah Central Committee member responsible for
the Palestinian reconciliation dossier, said April 19 on Al-Ghad TV that
Fatah insists on convening the PNC
in a timely manner despite the PFLP’s decision to boycott. “The PNC
will convene at 6:30 p.m. April 30, regardless of who agrees or
disagrees,” Ahmad said.
Fatah, led by Palestinian Authority President and PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, dominates the PNC, so
it ultimately has the final say in PLO decisions in general, including
those related to convening the PNC. The PNC consists of representatives
from 14 factions; Fatah is represented by 49 PNC members, while the PFLP has 21, out
of 691 total. Despite its seemingly low membership total, Fatah
nevertheless has overall control of the PNC and of the funds granted to
the organization's factions.
Reaching a quorum requires two-thirds of PNC members to be in
attendance. Mohammed Ashtayeh, a member of Fatah's Central Committee,
told the newspaper Donia al-Watan newspaper April 19, “The PFLP’s
boycott will not affect
the quorum, but it will certainly have political resonance.” He also
said, “We deeply regret the PFLP’s decision not to participate in the
PNC session. In 1984, the PFLP decided not to take part in a PNC
session, but it eventually backed down from its decision.”
Taking further issue with Fatah, the PFLP's Sawirjo complained that Fatah had appointed new PNC members in violation of council rules.
Fatah had apparently taken the initiative to appoint new
representatives to replace 82 deceased members without consulting the
council and has called on them to attend the Ramallah meeting.
Hassan Abu Shemalah, a legal expert at the Centre for Regional
Studies – Palestine, told Al-Monitor, “It was difficult to get
two-thirds of the PNC members to attend the meeting in Ramallah and
obtain a quorum. This is why the PLO leadership sought to appoint new members in a way that was contrary to the mechanism of appointment of members stipulated in Article 32 of
the PLO’s bylaws. This article stipulates that appointments should be
made for the purpose of deepening national unity and as required by the
battle of liberation.”
According to the PFLP, Fatah's actions surrounding the PNC do not
serve to deepen unity but to deepen the current Palestinian political
division, represented by the estrangement between Hamas and Fatah. With
the PFLP's stance on the PNC meeting, it will now likely suffer at the
hands of Fatah, because of the latter's dominance of the PLO and the
Sawirjo said, “In light of the decision to boycott the PNC, the
Palestinian presidency will work on imposing political restrictions and
maintaining the existing financial restrictions, and it is expected to
prevent the movement of some of our members in several countries. But
financial and political extortion will not lead us to back down from the
unified national position that we took.”
Abbas withheld financial allocations for the PFLP in December 2010, April 2016, April 2017 and January 2018 as
a result of the PFLP's adoption of positions contrary to those of
Abbas. The PLO factions receive monthly installments from the Palestinian National Fund according to their size, based on the number of members.
In a statement released April 19, Hamas voiced its support
for the PFLP’s refusal to attend the PNC session in the absence of a
consensus. It opposed the “hegemony of the Palestinian decision” and
called on the various factions as well as civil institutions to take a
similar position and refuse to participate in the PNC session.
Akram Atallah, a writer and political analyst with the
newspaper Al-Ayyam, told Al-Monitor, “The PLO was founded based on
consensus between several factions. In other words, holding a session
without the PFLP, which is the second-largest faction in the PLO, and
failing to meet its conditions will affect the national character of the PLO and would not be reflective of the Palestinian will.”
Along with Hamas, the PFLP and Islamic Jihad, three independent PNC members
have announced that they will not attend the Ramallah meeting because
of the lack of consensus to bring all the factions together and because
Israel's occupation prohibits it.
At the meeting, Abbas is expected to put forward proposals allowing the PLO Central Council to take legislative and legal decisions
in lieu of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), which has not met
in full since the Fatah-Hamas split in 2007. In this regard, PLO
Executive Committee member Hanna Omair told the official Voice of
Palestine on April 17, “The most prominent issue is how to strengthen the role of the PLO in the Palestinian political and legislative arena.”
is a Palestinian writer who has been working as a journalist for eight
years, specializing in public issues. He holds a master's degree from
the Islamic University and has worked for several Palestinian and
foreign media outlets. He helped conduct research for the book “The
Palestinian Prisoners,” which has been published in several languages.