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Is the Palestinian Popular Conference an alternative to the PLO?

Palestinians lift placards as they protest the meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization's (PLO) Central Committee, in Ramallah, in the Israel-occupied West Bank, on 6 February 2022 [ ABBAS MOMANI/AFP via Getty Images]

Last Saturday, the Palestinian Popular Conference (14 million) was held in Occupied Palestine (the West Bank, Gaza, and the Palestinian Territories occupied in 1948), as well as all the places where Palestinians are present in the diaspora, by participating through the available means of communication. Perhaps the most important matter that the Conference called for was to reinstate the PLO as the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, as well as a trustworthy base for the Palestinian national project, based on the Palestinian National Charter of 1968. It also called for working to build, develop and activate the PLO on national foundations and to create a pressuring popular bloc that can push for a change in the reality of the Palestinian leadership in terms of its approach and form, for it to be a leader of the national struggle. The Popular Conference also called for the elected members of the PNC in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to act as a council that undertakes the task of supervision and legislation, and to hand over the political functions to the PLO.

The Palestinian Popular Conference did not say anything new, as all its recommendations do not go beyond the ceiling of the demands of the general Palestinian public, beginning with reforming the PLO, which has been stripped of all its powers and emptied of its basic content for which it was established. This has been the case since the establishment of the PA after being forced by the PLO's Executive Committee to sign the infamous Oslo Accords agreement in 1993, and the PA became its alternative after it seized the Palestinian decision and imposed its exclusive power over the government, with the aim of weakening, marginalising and thwarting the PLO, so that it would become a void organisation.

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This Conference, which the PA fought against and arrested its founder, is not a substitute for the PLO, although it was accused of being so. It came to be in order to express the Palestinian people's anger at the deteriorating state of the PLO and the rest of the country's institutions. While the Conference's closing statement was a repetition of the Palestinian demands at every conference, dialogue and negotiations, the latest of which was Algeria's recent declaration of Palestinian reconciliation, which focused on the need to reform the PLO and activate its role, the essence of the conference expressed the questions that are in the minds of every Palestinian, namely: What has the PA achieved over the past 3 decades of its life, through its negotiations, coordination, and security cooperation? Has the PA brought the Palestinian people closer to achieving their rights of return and a State, ending the Occupation, stopping settlement construction and expansion, displacement and lifting the siege? Does the PA operate in accordance with the Palestinian Constitution with regard to the separation of the three powers, or is the executive authority dominant over the PLC, PNC, PLO, and the government? Does the PA hold elections on the correct date and has it achieved national unity and ended the division on the domestic Palestinian level?

PLO delegation - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

PLO delegation – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

In terms of importance, convening this Popular Conference came at this time because the Palestinian people are facing continuous escalation these days by the Occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It is also being compelled to confront the difficult tasks facing them in the form of re-imagining their future, drawing their path towards unity and ending the division, believing in the principle of sharing, not quotas, and reforming the institutions on a democratic basis and with inclusive representation in the PLO and PNC in order to rescue the national liberation project. This can only be achieved through the unification of Palestinian national forces and activities, and the involvement of all political forces and active national and Islamic action through holding PNC elections. This will, in turn, elect the PLO Central Committee and Executive Committee and will set a strategy that can preserve the Palestinian cause and the national struggle project until it achieves its goals of liberation and return.

This article first appeared in Arabic in the Palestinian Information Centre on 7 October 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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