Palestinian factions plan an alternative to the Annapolis conference and it will convene in Damascus
By Khaled Amayreh from Ramallah
".....In addition to Hamas, several Palestinian factions plan to attend the Damascus conference, including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the second most important PLO faction after Fatah. The participation of the PFLP is significant in that it signals an end to the erstwhile PLO unity against Hamas that has prevailed since its takeover of the Gaza Strip in mid-June. Abbas can no longer claim that he enjoys the full backing of PLO factions in his protracted showdown with Hamas.
Participants will also include the Damascus-based PFLP-General Command, led by Ahmed Jibril, as well as the Islamic Jihad organisation, headed by Ramadan Abdullah Shallah. Farouk Al-Qaddumi and Hani Al-Hassan, two senior members of Fatah, have indicated they will attend in protest against what they term "Abbas's line" and "his subservience to America and Israel".
In addition to organised factions, as many as 700 Palestinian and Arab intellectuals could turn up for the conference, lending the meeting even greater credibility as a vehicle for the expression of national concerns.
According to its organisers, the conference will seek to reassert Palestinian national constants and reaffirm opposition to "the attempted liquidation of the Palestinian cause", particularly the right of return of five million Palestinian refugees.....
The Damascus conference, say sources close to the organisers, could well opt to select "alternative and parallel national bodies" should it become clear that the current American-backed PLO in Ramallah intends to continue to disregard "the Palestinian national consensus". The parallel institutions may include a new National Council and a new Executive Committee, offering an alternative to the current PLO executive committee in Ramallah headed by Abbas.....
Khreisha, though, argues that in its current form the Palestinian National Council is far from representative of the Palestinian people and is "unqualified" to decide on issues that will determine their future. "This is a senile council that was appointed, not elected, by Yasser Arafat. It is amorphous, and we don't really know how many members it has. The PNC is little more than a joke." "