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Thursday, 18 October 2018

What next after PLO decisions?

Palestinian political analysts differ over the decisions and outcome of the Palestine Liberation Organisation Executive Committee meeting that took place earlier this week

Haitham Ahmed , Friday 9 Feb 2018
Palestinian protesters
Palestinian protesters throw stones at Israeli forces during clashes in the occupied West Bank
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Some believe measures declared by the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) are constitutional and moving in the right direction, while others argue they are procrastinating, going in circles, circumventing Central Council resolutions, and heeding the advise of European and Arab countries that urged for patience until the “deal of the century” is tabled.

Palestinian researcher Anas Abu Eresh asserts there is nothing new in the outcome of the Executive Committee meeting. “To understand this, we must realise that the Central Council is the highest legislative authority in the PLO and the Executive Committee is the highest executive authority in the PLO,” explained Abu Eresh. “Therefore, when the Central Council refers decisions or recommendations to the Executive Committee, the latter should directly implement them and not recommend that the cabinet implement these decisions by forming a supreme committee to suspend recognition of Israel. It seems the roles between the Executive Committee and cabinet are bizarrely juxtaposed.”

He continued: “Who takes the decision and who implements it? The decision of the Executive Committee calls on the government to implement these decisions until the former ratifies them. Since the matter is in the hands of the Executive Committee, why are they referring it to the cabinet, especially since the Executive Committee is a higher authority than the government?”

Abu Eresh analyst believes nothing will change on the ground, noting that security coordination, which was supposedly suspended, is crucial to all matters, large and small. The movement of officials or even average citizens requires security coordination; sick people who need medical treatment whether inside or outside Israel requires security coordination; in fact, any official who travels between West Bank towns could face problems or even arrest at any checkpoint if there is no security coordination.

Mohannad Abdel-Hamid, a political analyst, believes the formation of a higher follow-up committee is only a ruse to buy time, “in line with European and Arab positions that advised the Palestinian Authority (PA) not to be hasty in taking rash heroic decisions. Instead, it should wait until the announcement of the ‘deal of the century.’” Abdel-Hamid said that forming a supreme committee to look into suspending recognition of Israel and ending security coordination (the two key issues justifying the existence of the PA) would eliminate the role of the PA.

“The foundation of the Oslo agreement is based on relying on Israeli occupation administratively, economically, security-wise and politically, and it is not easy to disengage from the occupation unless there is broad Arab and international support,” he said. “Even if that were the case, Israel would challenge the Arab and international stance. All this makes it a dubious mission.”

According to Adnan Abu Amer, a Gaza-based expert on Israeli affairs, “It is clear this is just more of the same, similar to previous meetings and decisions that were never implemented. ‘Forming a committee’ in Palestinian political lexicon means ‘if you want to kill an issue, then form a committee on it’ because it will take weeks or months during which political developments would overtake the issue.”

Abu Amer added: “It would have been better if the Executive Committee took immediate decisions such as withdrawing recognition of Israel, ending security coordination, or severing political and economic ties with Israel. These would have been tools to put pressure on Israel and the US administration. Instead, the decisions that were actually taken have no impact or weight on the ground, which gives Israel more time to impose new realities on the ground.”

Abdel-Meguid Sweilam believes the meeting of the Executive Committee took place to implement the main resolutions of the Central Council. Primarily, to disengage with Israel on the economic and political sides, because relations between Israel and Palestine must be reduced to the minimum. Sweilam explained this could not be an outright boycott, “because politically we can only do that to a certain degree, and economically it would be impossible because the Palestinian economy is under the control of Israel. Severing ties with Israel can only be to a certain degree.”

“As for mutual recognition of Israel, everyone knows this should have been part of final talks at the end of the transitional phase, but the Americans and Israelis violated this fundamental clause,” stated Sweilam. “The PA is no longer obligated to recognise Israel and the Central Council made this recommendation to the Executive Committee.” Implementing the decision means that as soon as the US and Israel reverse their decision that violates international law and the agreement of mutual recognition, Palestine would be ready to re-recognise Israel on the condition that Israel recognises the national rights of the Palestinian people.

Sweilam believes it is logical not to continue recognising Israel at a time when Israel defies not only international law but also what it signed in the mutual recognition agreement. “Resorting to the International Criminal Court [ICC] would violate our agreement with the US when we committed not to do that and wait for a political settlement, or the Americans to propose a fair political initiative based on international law,” he said. “However, they broke our deal which means we are no longer obligated either, and therefore will resort to all international bodies which is our right as stated in UN documents.” He added that resorting to the ICC is “a protected democratic political practice for any party that feels their rights or sovereignty are violated”.

Sweilam added that the supreme committee formed by the Executive Committee and asking the cabinet to implement decisions is the responsibility of the government. He noted that forming higher committees is not deferral or buying time, but a common constitutional institutional position that does not waste time.

The Executive Committee asked the government to immediately begin preparing for steps to disengage with the occupation power on political, administrative, economic and security levels, and present this to the Executive Committee for ratification. This begins with defining security relations with Israel and withdrawing from the Paris Economic Agreement for the benefit of the national economy.

It decided to form a supreme committee to implement the decisions of the Central Council, including suspending recognition of Israel until the latter recognises the state of Palestine within the 1967 borders, and reverses the decision to annex East Jerusalem. Also, end settlement building, liberate the population and territories from Israeli control, extend Palestinian judicial powers to cover all those living in territories belonging to the state of Palestine under occupation.

It also decided to request the ICC investigate settlement crimes, racial discrimination and ongoing silent ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem and its suburbs, as well as in Palestinian areas, southern Hebron and elsewhere under occupation. This requires interrogating and prosecuting Israeli political, military and security officials and bringing them to international justice, based on Article 8 of the Rome Statute, which views settlements as a war crime, and the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits occupation powers from relocating their citizens to occupied territories. 

*This story was first published in Al-Ahram Weekly 

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