Palestine Central Council meeting faces tough choices

A Palestinian man holds a bunch of keys during a protest against the US’ decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on Tuesday north of Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. (AFP)
Updated 13 January 2018

Palestine Central Council meeting faces tough choices

AMMAN: Eighty members of the Palestine Central Council (PCC) will meet on Sunday in the temporary Palestinian political capital of Ramallah to review and recommend the direction of the Palestinian struggle.
The PCC, a medium body between the Palestine National Council (PNC, Palestine’s Parliament in exile) and the PLO Executive Committee, last met in March 2015.
Its meeting is taking place five weeks after the US president, according to his own words, “took Jerusalem off the negotiating table.” Trump declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel and began steps to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Arab News sources have indicated that the PCC will take some tough decisions, including declaring Palestine a state under occupation, suing Israel in the International Criminal Court, suspending the recognition of Israel, escalating peaceful resistance and calling on Europe and other countries to recognize the state of Palestine (see recommendations to the PCC in separate story).
Anees Sweidan, director of external relations for the PLO, told Arab News that the PCC meeting will be facing some difficult choices. “Tough decisions are needed to be taken as a result of the US pronouncement on Jerusalem.” Sweidan also noted that a total review of the Oslo Accords is needed, especially concerning relations with Israel.
“It has become clear that what is needed is a total review of Oslo. There is no Israel partner for peace at the present time and we can’t keep hiding our heads in the sand. This means we need to revisit both security and economic agreements with Israel,” he said.
Najeeb Qaddoumi, a member of the PNC and PCC, told Arab News that the US could not continue to monopolize the peace process. “They have disqualified themselves as an honest broker when they sided with one part on the crucial issue of Jerusalem,” he said.
Qaddoumi believes that the time has come for genuine national unity. “We can’t really do any serious restructuring and reinvigoration of the PLO unless we are totally and honestly united.”
For PLO executive committee member Tayseer Khaled, the point of departure for the meeting on Sunday must be in honoring previous resolutions. In the 2015 meeting, Khaled told Arab News on Dec. 26: “It was decided to end our connection with the Oslo Accords and the security coordination with Israel but this has not happened.”
Ziad Khalil Abu Zayyad, Fatah spokesman for international affairs, told Al-Monitor: “In the beginning of the PCC meeting, it is expected that members will discuss the matter of withdrawing recognition of Israel as a reaction to the US decision on Jerusalem.”
In 1993, the PLO and Israel agreed to mutual recognition. The move gave Israel legitimacy, but members of PLO factions remained in jail for membership of a “terrorist organization,” and in March this year Israel declared the Amman-based Palestinian National Fund, essentially the PLO’s treasury, a terrorist organization.
While suspending security coordination and the recognition of Israel might be among the toughest decisions that will be discussed in Ramallah, it is clear that some are worried about the potential Israeli reaction.
Nabil Amer, a respected Fatah leader, believes that such escalation is a mistake. Speaking to the Raya FM radio in Ramallah, Amer said that any escalation will be painful to the Palestinian people. “I don’t add my voice to the calls for escalation. Any such escalation will be costly. We have boycotted meetings with the US; that was a good decision and that is enough.”
Even the left-wing Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) was critical of the voices of escalation. Iyad Joudeh, writing in the DFLP’s flagship publication al-Houria on Jan. 3, rejected the idea of dissolving the Palestinian Authority.
“It is illogical to dissolve the Palestinian Authority because Israel has been doing its utmost to weaken the Palestinian Authority because it knows that the PA is the nucleus of the Palestinian state,” he said. “We should think logically and retain our national accomplishments.”
Palestinian leaders are caught in a bind. On the one hand they needs to show unity and resilience, yet at the same time they must be careful not to burn all their bridges.
Because the choices that the council members make are likely to have a major effect on the trajectory of the Palestinian struggle, it is likely that the most radical decisions will be postponed for the consideration of the highest PLO body, the Palestine National Council.

Syria flare-up kills 35 fighters, including 26 pro-regime forces

Updated 16 June 2019

Syria flare-up kills 35 fighters, including 26 pro-regime forces

  • Russian-backed regime forces try to retake villages seized by opposition forces and allied fighters
  • The clashes also left 26 pro-regime forces dead in the north of Hama province


BEIRUT: At least 10 civilians and 35 combatants, mostly pro-regime forces, were killed on Saturday in clashes and airstrikes that erupted at dawn in northwestern Syria, a war monitor said.

The flare-up came as Russian-backed regime forces tried to retake two villages seized by opposition forces and allied fighters earlier this month, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“Since this morning, the Syrian regime and allied fighters have launched five failed attempts to regain control of Jibine and Tal Maleh in northwestern Hama province,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

Syrian regime airstrikes killed nine opposition fighters, the war monitor said.

Ensuing clashes in the north of Hama province left 26 pro-regime forces dead, including eight who were killed in a mine explosion, the Observatory said.

In neighboring Idlib, regime airstrikes killed 10 civilians, including three children, the Observatory said.

The strikes hit the towns of Maaret Al-Numan and Al-Bara as well as the village of Al-Ftira, according to the war monitor.

The Idlib region of some 3 million people is supposed to be protected from a massive regime offensive by a buffer zone deal that Russia and Turkey signed in September.

But it was never fully implemented, as opposition refused to withdraw from a planned demilitarized zone.

In January, the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham alliance led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate extended its administrative control over the region, which includes most of Idlib province as well as adjacent slivers of Latakia, Hama and Aleppo provinces.

The Syrian regime and Russia have upped their bombardment of the region since late April, killing nearly 400 civilians, according to the Observatory.

Turkey said on Friday that it did not accept Russia’s “excuse” that it had no ability to stop the Syrian regime’s continued bombardments in the last opposition bastion of Idlib.

“In Syria, who are the regime’s guarantors? Russia and Iran,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told state news agency Anadolu in a televised interview.

“Thus we do not accept the excuse that ‘We cannot make the regime listen to us’,” he said.

His comments came as Turkey disagreed with Russia earlier this week after Moscow claimed a new cease-fire had been secured in the province following weeks of regime bombardments — a claim that was denied by Ankara.

Syria’s war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with the repression of anti-regime protests.

Russia launched a military intervention in support of the regime in 2015, helping its forces reclaim large parts of the country from opposition fighters and militants.