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.


Libya’s Tripoli government seizes last LNA stronghold near capital

Updated 8 min 10 sec ago

Libya’s Tripoli government seizes last LNA stronghold near capital

  • Military sources in Haftar’s Libyan National Army said their forces had withdrawn from the town of Tarhouna
  • The advance extends the control of the Government of National Accord

TRIPOLI: Forces loyal to Libya’s internationally recognized government captured the last major stronghold of eastern commander Khalifa Haftar near Tripoli on Friday, capping the sudden collapse of his 14-month offensive on the capital.
Military sources in Haftar’s Libyan National Army, LNA, said their forces had withdrawn from the town of Tarhouna. They headed toward Sirte, far along the coast, and the air base of Al-Jufra in central Libya. The LNA made no immediate official comment.
The advance extends the control of the Government of National Accord, GNA, and allied forces across most of northwest Libya, reversing many of Haftar’s gains from last year when he raced toward Tripoli.
The United Nations has started holding talks with both sides for a cease-fire deal in recent days, though previous truces have not stuck. The GNA gains could entrench the de facto partition of Libya into zones controlled by rival eastern and western governments whose foreign backers compete for regional sway.
Turkish military support for the GNA, with drone strikes, air defenses and a supply of allied Syrian fighters, was key to its recent successes. Ankara regards Libya as crucial to defending its interests in the eastern Mediterranean.
However, the LNA still retains its foreign support. Washington said last week Moscow had sent warplanes to LNA-held Jufra, though Russia and the LNA denied this.
The United Nations says weapons and fighters have flooded into the country in defiance of an arms embargo, risking a deadlier escalation. Meanwhile, a blockade of oil ports by eastern-based forces has almost entirely cut off energy revenue and both administrations face a looming financial crisis.
Stronghold

Located in the hills southeast of Tripoli, Tarhouna had functioned as a forward base for Haftar’s assault on the capital. Its swift fall suggests Haftar’s foreign supporters were less willing to sustain his bid to take over the entire country once Turkey intervened decisively to stop him.
The GNA operations room said in a statement that its forces had captured Tarhouna after entering from four sides. Abdelsalam Ahmed, a resident, said GNA forces had entered the town.
Videos and photographs posted online appeared to show GNA forces inside Tarhouna cheering and hugging each other and firing into the air.
“The Libyan government forces are rapidly moving in an organized manner and with armed drones. There could be a solution at the table, but Haftar’s forces are losing ground in every sense,” said a Turkish official.