Palestinian factions to gather in Ramallah to determine response — and possibly new strategy — in wake of Trump’s Jerusalem declaration

Jack Khoury Jan 14, 2018

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to indicate what course the Palestinians will take – a continuation of the diplomatic process or demanding the implementation a one-state solution – during a dramatic meeting slated to take place in Ramallah on Sunday, Palestinian officials told Haaretz.

The meeting of the Palestinian Central Council is convening against the backdrop of U.S. President Donald Trump’s December 6 announcement declaring Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel and the unprecedented rift this caused between the Palestinian Authority and Washington.

Sunday’s meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah — seat of the Palestinian Authority government — will be held with representatives from most Palestinian factions but two important organizations, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, announced that they will not attend, even though they were invited.

Hamas spokesman Fauzi Barhum criticized the decision to convene the gathering in Ramallah, saying that it should have been held in a different country to ensure the participation of senior representatives from all the factions.

Despite Hamas and Islamic Jihad shunning the meeting, Salim Zanoun, chairman of the Fatah Central Committee, said over the weekend that at least 90 of the 114 representatives of the council will attend the meeting, and they are expected to approve recommendations and suggestions that are raised.

Haaretz has learned that in discussions that were held over the weekend both by the Fatah Central Committee and by the PLO’s Executive Committee, a slew of suggestions is being considered; among them is the idea of nixing the Oslo Accords and the security coordination on the grounds that Israel has breached all agreements so the Palestinians are not committed to continue and uphold the accords.

Other elements in Fatah and in the PLO are leaning toward the option of continuing international efforts, especially through the United Nations, the European Union, China and Russia in order to advance international recognition of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders.

According to Fatah officials, the next Palestinian move would be to implement their demand to make the conflict an international issue and demand that the UN set up a team to resolve it. The United States could potentially be a member of such a team, the officials said, but it cannot be the exclusive mediator of the political process.

Haaretz has also learned that over the past several days, European and Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia have been applying pressure on the PA and on Abbas in particular not to take game-changing steps and to enable action on the international and diplomatic fronts.

Abbas is expected to make the opening speech of the meeting on Sunday evening. Palestinian officials who were involved in inside talks over the past several days told Haaretz that Abbas is expected to determine whether the Palestinian leadership will be changing course and strategy on Israel.

They say Abbas is slated to decide whether he will demand the implementation the one-state solution or still adhere to the diplomatic process, but not under the auspices of the White House.

The officials said that at the end of the day, regardless of decisions and recommendations at the meeting, every future move will depend on the will of Abbas and where the PLO’s Executive Committee steers the Palestinians.

Senior officials in the PLO have said that among the recommendations to be introduced at the meeting is the freezing of Palestinian recognition of Israel as long as Israel refuses to acknowledge a Palestinian state along the ‘67 borders.

Another suggestion would be asking the UN Security Council to recognize a Palestinian state along the ‘67 borders as well as define PA lands as a country under occupation. Yet another suggestion was to turn to the International Court of Law in order to start legal proceedings against Israel.

The Palestinian Central Council is an advisory body that meets when it is impossible to convene a parley of the Palestinian National Council (the legislative body of the Palestine Liberation Organization) and is supposed to provide the PLO’s executive committee, which is the highest-ranking Palestinian executive body, with recommendations relating to policy.

The meeting will draw to a close on Monday evening.

A senior member of the PLO’s Executive Committee told Haaretz that despite the dramatic atmosphere Abbas’ associates are trying to create, there is no expectation for game-changing moves.

A senior member of Islamic Jihad, Khader Adnan, said that the participation in the meeting was redundant because its results are known in advance and because he thought Abbas had no intention of breaking entirely with Israel and abandoning the Oslo Accords and their consequences.

Hamas stated that if Abbas really wanted to promote the Palestinian interest he would have to announce the cancellation of the Oslo Accords and the security coordination with Israel as well as change his entire strategy when it comes to the PA’s relationship with the Jewish state.

Haaretz