By: Prof. Dr. Mohsen Mohammad Saleh.
The sudden decision taken by President Mahmud ‘Abbas to place the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as organ of the “State of Palestine” affirms that we are dealing with the same mentality in managing the Palestine issue. It is a mentality governed by hegemony, domination and the monopoly of powers, decision-making and even policy implementations that violate constitutional and legal norms and covenants. It is also a mentality which ignores the Palestinian popular will and seeks to make institutional work meaningless.
During the past 15 years, and since ‘Abbas suspended the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) in 2007, ‘Abbas has singly issued around 270 decrees of which more than 200 have legislative status. This is more than double what the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) first PLC achieved in ten years (1996–2006); which can be described as a legal and legislative “massacre.” During that period, the PA and its executive branch expanded after ‘Abbas also rearranged the judiciary under his influence. Moreover, ‘Abbas implements the same policy of exclusivity and domination in the PLO and Fatah, which he both leads. All this come at a time when ‘Abbas, at 86, is facing accumulated health problems.
This mentality has damaged institutional structures and depleted the energies of the Palestinian people, when there is dire need for the potentials of every Palestinian at home and abroad, and of every Arab and Muslim and all the free people of the world. So, is it reasonable for this mentality to run the Palestinian national project, and to confront the Israeli occupation with all its might and global support?
The decision itself was in line with the behavior of the PLO and PA leadership, since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. For this leadership has undermined the PLO, isolated it from the Palestinian people, especially abroad, disrupted its institutions and rendered them ineffective, and placed them in the “recovery room” to be used as “a seal of legitimacy” when needed. Thus, the PLO has practically become, many years ago, an organ of the PA, and the latest decision was to legitimize the dwarfing of the PLO and put it in a “legal” framework. All of this confirm the fears about the process being deliberate and systematic, and that the PA leadership’s talk of genuine PLO reform with the factions was for mere “local consumption.”
The timing of the decision, which was a day following the end of the PLO Central Council (PCC) session, 8/2/2022, indicates that the decision was not just a mere procedure, but rather another concession required from the PLO and PA leadership to make some gains for its self-rule in the West Bank (WB). This indication is supposed by the insistence of this leadership on convening the PCC and completing the membership of the PLO Executive Committee—in which Hussain al-Sheikh became a member, and on making Rawhi Fattouh the Chairman of the Palestinian National Council (PNC). Notably, the PCC meeting took place despite the boycott of large and effective Palestinian forces that actually represent more than half of the Palestinian people, including four factions that are members of the PLO, in addition to Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ).
The decision, which raised a storm of objections and criticism from all Palestinian movements, human rights institutions and legal experts, has not yet been issued in the Official Gazette, and it might have been floated as a trial balloon to prepare the Palestinian public.
Many parties and specialized experts described the decision as “reckless and absurd” and “an insult and a distortion” of the PLO indicating that it is absolutely invalid. For ‘Abbas does not have the authority to issue such decision, and he has blatantly transcended the jurisdiction of the concerned legislative authority, i.e., the PNC. He did not even issue it through the PCC, which was in session one day before its issuance.
The decision came without clarifying its legal foundations, and it contradicted the constitutional principles in terms of jurisdiction and justifications of issuance. Also, making reference to the opinion of the High Judicial Council is a flagrant violation of powers. However, the most important thing is the dangerous transgression of the position of the PLO as an entity of public international law, and the representative of the Palestinian people on the Arab and international levels. Even the UN resolution of 29/11/2012, which recognizes Palestine as a non-member observer state, stipulated that this recognition is “without prejudice to the acquired rights, privileges and role of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the United Nations as representative of the Palestinian people.”
As for the Palestinian state, which ‘Abbas wanted to turn the PLO into one of its organs, this state is still a “project” that has not yet been realized on the ground and it is still under Israeli occupation. Also, it is still represented by a security authority deriving its powers from the Israeli military governor of WB, according to the eminent legal expert Anis Kassim.
The PLO is the party that established the PA, so it is quite unreasonable for it to become one of its organs. If the Organization is the moral home of the Palestinian people at home and abroad, and the largest umbrella for all its institutions, then such a decision lacks the slightest degree of logic, unless it is intended to proceed with eliminating the PLO and responding to Israeli and US demands.
In any case, this decision sends a stark message to the resistance forces, and to all the forces that bet on Palestinian reconciliation and on the position change of PA leadership. It indicates that this leadership is proceeding with its policy even if it destroys the Palestinian national project, and also that the problem lies in the mentality, vision, approach and the construction of major paths rather than being a matter of disparity of views regarding interests and administrative aspects.