Apr 24 2014

PCC to determine fate of talks

Published by at 9:54 am under Articles,Palestinian politics

Following appeared in the Jordan Times

By Daoud Kuttab

Whenever the PLO’s parliament in exile is called to meet, one expects important decisions. This time, the Palestinian Central Council (PCC) will meet in Ramallah on Saturday to decide two critical issues: The future of talks with Israel and elections for president and parliament of Palestine.

The 120-member Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) is considered an integral feature (but not the main one) of the PLO’s Palestinian National Council (PNC), which is considered the highest body in the organisation.

Planning the meeting of the PCC on April 26 is no coincidence. It will begin deliberations a mere three days before the expiry of the nine-month time frame agreed to by Israelis, Palestinians and the US.

The face-to-face secret talks have not produced any tangible results. A nonbiding bridging framework formula was supposed to be presented by the Americans, but was suddenly withdrawn.

Palestinians rejected an open-ended presence of Israeli troops in the Jordan Valley and demanded a clear reference to East Jerusalem as capital of the Palestinian state.

Israel rejected the American military plan for the Jordan Valley and insisted that Palestinians recognise Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people.

Attempts to get the talks extended were abruptly disrupted when the Israelis unilaterally decided not to release the fourth batch of the 104 long-serving Palestinian prisoners, as well as the Israeli announcement of further settlement expansion in East Jerusalem, which Palestinians hope will be the capital of their independent state.

Unless Israel and the Americans can pull a last-minute rabbit out of the box, the PCC will most likely vote by a strong majority not to extend the talks in the current format.

A more complicated question that the PCC will have to answer is what to do with the now expired terms of the president and PLC.

Since 2010, when their four-year terms came to an end, both have been living on borrowed time.

The last time the same PCC met, it extended the term of the president until elections take place.

The Ramallah-based leadership insists that it wants elections as soon as possible, but agreed to the delay in order to find a way to get the people of Gaza to vote.

The Hamas leadership in Gaza opposes any election until comprehensive reconciliation takes place.

Agreements in Mecca, Doha and Cairo between the PLO’s Fateh faction and Hamas failed to resolve the conflict when it came to implementing them in Gaza.

A last-minute attempt to overcome the Gaza obstacle is now in full gear. A Fateh delegation headed by Azzam Ahmad went to Gaza on Wednesday and Hamas sent its number two man, Musa Abu Marzouk, to Gaza as well, in coordination with Egypt.

News from Gaza talks about Fateh dropping its earlier demand to unify security forces in Gaza under the leadership of the president and, instead, focus the reconciliation process on agreement to allow Gazans to participate in the elections.

If agreement on the latter issue is not reached, it is very likely that the PCC will have no choice but to swallow the bitter pill and vote to allow elections to take place in the West Bank without Gaza.

Plans are already in place for a number of political parties and factions to plan for a possible fall elections.

Fateh is planning its seventh congress this August. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly said that he is not interested in running again for president, a position that has already triggered a succession drive among leading Fateh candidates. Independent personalities are also considering running for president.

PCC will have to bear the burden of taking a unified position on peace talks and elections. Abbas and his Fateh movement still have a majority of supporters in the PCC, as Hamas has not yet agreed to join the PLO and its councils.

While a decision to forego talks is most likely to be taken, a much more difficult question that will need to be answered is what is the alternative strategy. Some are already calling for stepping up the boycott, divestment and sanction movement and nonviolent protests.

Others have been calling for a more radical decision: dissolve the Palestinian government.

Palestinian officials have talked about handing the key of government to the UN, so that Palestinians will not give cover for the continuation of Israeli occupation.

Whatever is decided, Palestinians will most likely still suffer from occupation. The difference could be that Israel will not be able to claim that it is involved in a peace process that for many has run its course.

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