PLO reorganisation key to Palestinian unity
RAMALLAH: The Palestinian Liberation Organisation, which has shaped
Palestinian politics since the 1960s, is set for an overhaul as rivals
Hamas and Fatah look to restart reconciliation.
The organisation is recognised as the “sole legitimate representative
of the Palestinian people” and engages in activity on their behalf on
the international stage, including negotiations and moves at the United
It was this body, with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas as its
head, which successfully obtained upgraded UN status for the
Palestinians this year, but both the Hamas movement and Islamic Jihad
remain outside of the organisation.
Leaders of Abbas’s Fatah movement have said in recent weeks that the
so-called provisional leadership of the PLO, tasked with integrating
Hamas and Islamic Jihad, would meet soon at the invitation of Egypt,
which mediates Palestinian reconciliation.
“There will be a meeting but we don’t know exactly when”, Nabil
Shaath, a Fatah leader involved in the reconciliation efforts, told the
official radio Voice of Palestine last week.
“Egypt is very committed to this but we are considerate of the
internal situation in Egypt,” he said, referring to ongoing political
turmoil in Egypt.
“From our side, the priority is to end the conflict, the priority is
to end the split, not only to bring Hamas into the PLO,” another Fatah
official, Mohammad Shtayyeh, said earlier this month.
“The PLO is is always open for membership of Hamas or whoever, but
the PLO has a political platform. And if that political platform is
acceptable by Hamas and Jihad, they’re both welcome to be members,” he
The PLO’s platform includes recognition of Israel and signing of
peace agreements, stances which have been rejected by Hamas and Islamic
Jihad and could prove stumbling blocks to their membership.
Shtayyeh stressed that the PLO represents Palestinians everywhere,
pointing out that even Hamas’s chief-in-exile Khaled Meshaal offered the
body his support in its bid to achieve upgraded UN status.
“We went to the United Nations not as Palestinian Authority,”
Shtayyeh said, referring to the West Bank government headed by Abbas.
“We went to the United Nations as Palestine Liberation Organisation
which is the representative of all the Palestinian people, the sole
legitimate representative, with even Meshaal speaking about it and he
has confirmed it and he is not challenging it.” Meshaal has made clear
he wants to see the PLO expanded to include Hamas, pledging allegiance
to “our reference, the PLO, which we want united” during his first-ever
trip to Gaza this month.
During that trip, Meshaal also offered fiery rhetoric, pledging that
his movement’s goal remained “liberating all Palestine,” including areas
now considered part of Israel.
But he has also strongly backed reconciliation with Fatah, and in
December 2011, at the end of the PLO provisional leadership’s first
meeting, he hailed “a new departure on the path to joining the PLO of
all Palestinian movements.”