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"Jerusalem" and the Fragility of the Palestinian Political System
By: Moatasem Hamadeh
December 29, 2017

Can we separate between the fragility of the political system and the fragility of Palestinian politics towards the national cause?

The positions of the Trump administration on Jerusalem and the Wall of Al-Buraq, revealed many facts and the issues that were before us, but we did not read them in depth, as it has become a phenomenon, including a lot of what has coexisted with the Palestinian political situation. From the "new" in the American strategy on the Palestinian issue, or on the political conflict in the region, on more than one direction, to the "new" at the regional level, the balance of powers, the progress of some regional parties and the decline of others, and the others' concern with their internal affairs, which has made them far from being busy with the major regional issues. Perhaps the most important thing that Trump’s administration revealed, is the fragility of the Palestinian political system, its lack to the "institution" in its general sense, and its being held hostage, either to the influence of individuals, who combine all political and financial powers, or to the influence of alternative structures, that do not have legal or official character, but nevertheless, they monopolize the power of decision in Palestinian politics, as an alternative to the official bodies, which are the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and responsible for making decisions, related to their national issues of various kinds.

Also, perhaps one of the consequences of these confusing conditions, is Trump’s decision on Jerusalem on 6/12/2017 and that the Executive Committee of PLO did not meet immediately, to discuss the matter, as it considered as the "daily, collective and coalition leadership" of the Palestinian people, on the top of PLO, the “United National Front”, which unites the people and its national rights and unifies its political forces in the field, and in various political, executive, legislative and unionist frameworks and structures.

What happened on 18/12/2017 (12 days after Trump's decision) was just a meeting for the "leadership", that included members of the Executive Committee, members of the Fatah Central Committee, some ministers, some heads of the security services and some non- official figures, without any result after discussion, or decisions, because it is a collective framework, that does not have the power to decide, also, without a final statement, because it is a political mixture has not drawn a line or a political orientation to produce a statement, and it does not have the official aspect to be binding. So, the meeting ended without any result but the public introduction, by the president of the PA to the media, carrying promises or intentions, without any practical dates and steps to implement these promises and achieve these intentions.

It is well remembered that when President Mahmoud Abbas took office after the departure of President Yasser Arafat, he announced that everything were destructed. As there were no political or serving institutions, and even the security services need to be rebuilt. It is also, well remembered that Mahmoud Abbas, before he became president, and at the first meeting of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization after the withdrawal of the Israeli army from Ramallah, in the wake of Operation Defensive Wall (2002), spoke - as the secretary of the Executive Committee of the PLO - angrily and criticized the exclusivity of President Arafat (then) of the political decision, calling for the respect for the «collective work in the Executive Committee».

Now, fifteen years later, on this meeting, and thirteen years after the departure of President Arafat, we find ourselves in a pitiful institutional situation.

• As the Executive Committee is not holding its meeting periodically, but by the call of its chairman, it not setting itself an agenda, or making decisions, but merely deliberations. Even when the decision is taken, it remains a dead letter, which cannot be implemented because it requires the approval of the chairman of the committee, especially if it is a decision that affects the political aspect of the work of the Palestinian Authority. For example, in the light of the Jerusalem uprising in defense of Al-Aqsa in July, it adopted a series of resolutions in its meetings on July 21 and August 12, in particular the cessation of security coordination. Among these decisions, what has remained a dead letter and has not been implemented so far.

Although Trump's decision has triggered a huge political uproar throughout the world, which required an emergency meeting for the Arab foreign ministers, a summit for the Islamic leaders in Istanbul, a meeting for the UN Security Council (followed by the UN General Assembly), Arab and Muslim parliamentary meetings, and even a meeting for the European Commission... the Executive Committee remained the largest absentee. Many do not expect it to meet in the near future. As President Abbas is on an external tour, after that there are the Christmas, the New Year, and the start of the Fatah movement, which means that the «Executive Committee» will remain on compulsory leave until next year.

• As for the Central Council, the intermediate body between the Executive Committee and the National Council, which has the powers of the National Council itself, it has been disabled since the last session, on 5/3/2015, in which the cause has undergone many dramatic developments and the Council has remained stalled. In addition, it is known that the mechanism for convening a meeting requires convening a meeting for the Executive Committee, in which it decides the date of its meeting, and requests the President of the National Council to ask it to convene, according to an agreed agenda.

The meeting, which was held in Ramallah (18/12/2017) under the name of the "leadership’s meeting" did not take a decision to call on the Central Council to convene, as it is not authorized to do so, and until the Executive Committee meets and agrees on a date for the Central Council's call, the expectations refer to the second half of January 2018, i.e. more than a month and a half after Trump's decision, noting that the Central Council adopted on 5/3/2015 a series of pending resolutions, including the cessation of security coordination with the occupation, the boycott of the Israeli economy, the withdrawal of Palestinian labor from Israeli settlements’ construction projects, and the resumption of the popular uprising and its protection and internationalization, but the result was that the security services continued the arrest of activists of the “Youth Intifada" and the encirclement of institutes and universities. And that the bet was based on Trump's promises and the "bargain of the century", under increasingly humiliating American conditions, until President Abbas admitted in his speech at the meeting of 18/12/2017 that the Americans have "deceived him."

We will not talk a lot about the role of Palestinian diplomatic corps through their embassies around the world in carrying the national cause and its concerns to the international public opinion. Also, we will not ask about the role of PLO bodies in the various fields. The political, cultural, educational and other departments, except what the Department of Expatriates Affairs with its successful experiences provides in cooperation with the Palestinian communities. Moreover, we will not ask about the role of the popular federations, with their different titles, why are they still paralyzed? Mere structures without any role, not political, unionist, social or other, just titles of structures that are called upon when needed by an exploitative and humiliating policy for their employees. But we will ask: who is making the political and security decision, and drawing the strategies, in the absence and ignorance of the official institutions with powers?

Specifically: Who has drawn the Palestinian policy, with its multiple titles to face Trump's decision? What is this policy? How will the relationship with the United States and Israel be? What after going to the General Assembly, and what after joining to 22 international organizations (it still secretly)? What is the plan to preserve the steadfastness of Jerusalem and support its inhabitants? What is the plan to support the uprising in the street and what are the steps aimed to closing the file of division? Last but not least:

Is it possible for the Palestinian ship to make its way through this regional rough sea, in the midst of the political chaos which is sweeping its institutions, and under a policy of gathering all powers with one man?

Moatasem Hamadeh is a member of the Political Bureau of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Translated by: Rasha Abo Allan and Manal Mansour
Revised by: Ibrahim Motlaq

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