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The National Council - between the existing and the national target

Image of a Palestinian National council meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah [Issam Rimawi/Apaimages]
The Palestinian National council meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah [Issam Rimawi/Apaimages]

The Palestinian National Council (PNC) is the highest institution of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). The Council has wide-ranging powers, but exercises only a few of them, because the executive body and its presidency have usurped the powers of the Council and made it a weak body. Therefore, few pay attention to it, are keen to stay in it or compete for presidency and membership.

Since Fatah tightened its control over the PLO institutions under the leadership of Yasser Arafat after the defeat of 1967, Fatah seized the presidency of the PNC, and none of the organisations participating in the PLO, such as the PFLP and the DFLP, have had their members as president of the PNC, not even for one term. In every case, Fatah was keen to choose a person from among them who would accept the implementation of the will of the Chairman of the Executive Committee, so we did not witness an independent or distinct role for the PNC.

Those concerned with numbers and statistics are unable to answer the question when asked about the number of council members.  Certainly, it is in the hundreds, but how many hundreds? It is more than 500, but is it 600 or 700? God only knows! When the PNC was convened in Gaza to vote on the Oslo Accords, the day the meeting was attended by US President, Bill Clinton, many men from outside the Council attended the sessions, not as guests, but as voting members.

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Now, after serving as PNC chairman for many years, Salim Al-Zanoun has announced his resignation, which was due ten years ago, due to poor health and his inability to properly manage the Council. Hardly any of the observers can remember any major or important achievements during his presidency.

Fatah, which has become accustomed to presiding over the PNC, nominated a Fatah official figure close to Abbas today, and issued a statement saying that Fatah has unanimously agreed for Rawhi Fattouh to take over the chairman position. This provoked critical voices from the left participating in the PLO, objecting to Fatah's historic monopoly of the position.

The citizens do not care much who is the head of the National Council, but they want an individual with special abilities who can activate and exercise the authority of the PNC. They want a figure able to right the wrongs of the Executive Committee and who is able to hold executives accountable. They want a figure who can force the Executive Committee to strictly implement the Council's decisions. The citizens want a council that has an independent personality, a real democratic performance, and committees capable of reviewing the past and presenting a binding vision for a successful future. The PNC and Central Council decided to stop security coordination with the enemy, but the executive authorities did not implement the Council's decision, and the Council is unable to hold it accountable. We do not want such a Council at all.

This article first appeared in Arabic in the Palestinian Information Centre on 23 January 2022

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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