Members of the Palestine National Council (PNC) will hold a full leadership meeting for the first time in 22 years on April 30 in reaction to the US decision to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem and the deepening malaise hanging over the Middle East peace process.
However, Hamas and Islamic Jihad are not expected to attend the summit as their long-running dispute with Fatah rumbles on. This has caused participants and analysts to warn that the gathering may only widen divisions among the feuding Palestinian factions, which have proved unable to weaken Israel’s grip on the occupied West Bank either through armed struggle or political negotiations.
Hamadeh Faraneh, an Amman-based member of the PNC, told Arab News that the summit was unlikely to achieve anything significant. He said the decision to hold the meeting for the first time since 1996, when it convened in Gaza, arose from a collective realization that many members were entering old age and needed to begin planning for a new generation of leaders to succeed them.
Although an extraordinary meeting of the PNC was held in 2009, this is the first time in more than two decades that a full leadership meeting has been convened.
The PNC is made up of 723 Palestinians drawn from all the major political groups and the Palestinian diaspora. It first met in East Jerusalem on April 28, 1964, three years before Israel began its occupation of that half of the city.
This year’s summit — in a location yet to be decided — will be particularly poignant now that Jerusalem’s fate is yet again under the spotlight. Last December the US announced it would move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, overturning decades of diplomatic protocol and provoking condemnation from a majority of UN General Assembly members.
In a recent column for the Palestinian daily newspaper Al-Quds, Hani Al-Masri, a Ramallah-based analyst, wrote that the absence of Hamas and Islamic Jihad at next month’s summit could exacerbate divisions between the various Palestinian factions.