Thursday, February 12, 2009

PLO: Why an Alternative and Why the Panic?

By Ramzy Baroud
Palestine Chronicle

"When Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal declared before a cheering crowd in Doha, Qatar, on January 28, the need for a new leadership, his words generated panic amongst leaders of the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority as well as traditional Palestinian leadership elites stationed in various Arab capitals......

....But Oslo demanded a new political arrangement that expected a non-democratic body to represent Palestinians, for obvious reasons. Thus, the PLO was marginalized, almost entirely. Palestinians in Diaspora, especially those lingering in refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and elsewhere, felt particularly disowned, for the PA didn’t represent them and the PLO was no longer a formidable body that mattered in any truly meaningful way. The PLO however existed, in the minds of some as a symbol of a unifying body that expressed a nation’s political aspirations. For others, it was a useful tool summoned to endorse the PA’s political agenda whenever needed. For example, under pressure from the US and Arafat, PNC members met to nullify clauses of the Palestinian constitution that deny Israel’s “right to exist”, and again, in 1998, under Israeli pressure, and in the presence of former US President Bill Clinton they were summoned once again to stress Israel’s right to exist.

The PNC has not held another meeting since.

The emergence of Hamas as a political power in 2006 was perceived as a great threat to the Old Guard, for inclusion of Hamas carried the risk of canceling all the “achievements” scored by the PA since Oslo. Thus the delay in implementing the Cairo Agreement.

The war on Gaza, which was meant to crush Hamas, emboldened and empowered the movement and its supporters, who now insist that any national unity would have to accommodate post-Gaza realities. In other words, “resistance” would be affirmed as a “strategic choice.” More, a PLO that is revamped based on compromises that satisfy both camps could also mean the end of privilege and domination of the Ramallah-branch over Palestinian affairs. Thus the pandemonium triggered by Mashaal’s declaration.

Many Palestinians are still hoping that the PLO can be revamped without the need for further fragmentation. However, since neither the current PLO nor the PA are truly independent bodies, one has to wonder if national unity under the current circumstances is at all possible."

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