Is Hamas Political Bureau chief Khaled Meshaal being lined up to lead a reformed Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO)? That's the claim being made in a report in the London daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi.
The discussion behind closed doors about the leadership is one of many local and regional efforts to reform the PLO. What concerns the Palestinian factions, members and non-members of the PLO alike, is Meshaal's apparent reluctance to stand for another term as leader of Hamas. At the moment, the Islamic Resistance Movement is not a member of the PLO, which has been dominated by rival group Fatah since 1968. While Meshaal has the support of some Arab states to lead the PLO, the newspaper reported informed sources saying that Fatah is looking to the other factions to back its candidate for the prestigious and influential post.
According to the terms of the reconciliation agreement signed in Egypt by the main Palestinian factions, the PLO has to be reformed by elections using the proportional representation system, with all of the factions taking part. This will not help Fatah in its bid to retain the PLO leadership, it is claimed. Hamas is predicted to win any leadership election on this basis, although that is not guaranteed, by any means. The PLO leader is chosen by the members of the Executive Committee which is itself chosen by the elected members of the Palestinian National Council.
According to Al-Quds Al-Arabi, there is a strong belief among experienced Palestinian politicians that some Arab countries, mainly Jordan and Qatar, are trying to push Hamas towards the PLO leadership, mainly through Khalid Meshaal. The stumbling block is that the PLO recognised the State of Israel in the Oslo Accords which brought into being the Palestinian Authority; Hamas still refuses to express such explicit recognition. Nevertheless, it is claimed that Qatar's ruler has already told PA President Mahmoud Abbas that if he isn't standing for re-election, the Doha government will back Meshaal.
The belief is that if Meshaal is PLO leader he would take Hamas with him into the political arena and negotiations with Israel for a state of Palestine based on the June 1967 borders. The Hamas Charter calls for the liberation of Palestine from the river to the sea. Even so, informed sources claim that Israel is getting ready to sign a peace deal with Hamas citing the 1967 borders. If Hamas holds the PLO leadership, as is hoped, this will be made much easier to achieve.
Meanwhile, the same newspaper reported that the meeting between Jordan's King Abdullah and Khaled Meshaal in Amman earlier this week was in the context of attempts to kick-start the Palestine-Israel peace talks. Land swaps have been mentioned which would ensure that some of the major Israeli settlement blocs would be absorbed by Israel.
Other candidates in the frame for the PLO leader's role include the head of Islamic Jihad, Dr. Ramadan Shallah, as well as a number of independent Palestinian Legislative Council members such as Jamal Al-Khudari and Zeyad Abu-Amer. The various factions and individuals will gather in Cairo in February for the PLO Leadership Convention.