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Analysis: The PLO and Jordan

Feb. 7, 2013 6:00 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 9, 2013 8:05 P.M.)
By: Daoud Kuttab
If the agreed timetable for Palestinian reconciliation is adhered to, we are promised to witness the reemergence of the Palestine Liberation Organization as the embodiment of the aspirations of Palestinians.

The new PLO, in which Hamas and other Islamic movements are to participate as well, will no doubt help revive the Palestinian national movement, especially in the diaspora.

Ever since the creation of the Palestinian Authority, in the aftermath of the Oslo Accords, the role of the PLO has been diminishing.

It is unclear if the diminishing of the role of the PLO was intentional, but the reality is that Palestinians in the diaspora have been feeling the absence of a robust movement that is focused on galvanizing the world for the Palestinian cause.

It is not known yet where the renewed PLO will be headquartered and who will lead it. Some recent press reports talk about the possibility of the new PLO being headed by the current Hamas leader, Khaled Mashaal, who publicly declared that he will no longer run for the head of the politburo.

Mashaal, who was born in the southern Jordanian city of Karak and whose family is living in Jordan, was recently invited to the Royal Palace for a private meeting with the King, as well as meetings with senior officials, including the prime minister and the head of the intelligence service.

Jordan is perfectly placed, both geographically and politically, to become the headquarters of the new PLO. The Palestine National Council, the Palestinian parliament in exile and the most important body in the PLO, is based in Amman.

Jordan is also home to the largest population of Palestinian diaspora, hosting more than two million registered Palestinian refugees.

Politically, the relationship between the Palestinian and Jordanian leaderships is at its best, with King Abdullah and President Mahmoud Abbas enjoying a special and warm personal relationship.

The renewed PLO will have a number of prerequisites to see the light.

Its success is conditional on the success of the national reconciliation, and it will not emerge without the long-awaited parliamentary elections in the West Bank and Gaza.

According to PLO’s internal regulations, the elected members of the Palestinian Legislative Council automatically become members of the Palestine National Council which, in turn, elects the PLO executive committee.

Once elections take place in the area of the state of Palestine, elections for the remaining delegates are expected to take place in other locations where Palestinians live. This diaspora election process is expected to take place at the same time or shortly thereafter.

The exception to the diaspora elections is Jordan, where all PLO factions agreed that the 65 delegates assigned to Jordanian diaspora Palestinians will be agreed to by consensus rather than through elections.

Some press reports indicated that delegates from Syria and even Lebanon might also be agreed to through consensus, because of difficulty in organizing elections there.

In addition to the procedural issues and the need to address the status of Palestinians in the diaspora, the new PLO will most certainly have to deal with a major movement that is widespread among Palestinians and their supporters.

The Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement has been gaining ground throughout the world and has had impressive success stories, although it has a long way to go to reach the success the anti-apartheid movement accomplished.

In recent years, the Palestinian leadership took a much more active public role in adopting nonviolent resistance as the main mode of supporting the negotiating process. However, support for BDS has not been adopted officially and practically by the PLO and its various organs.

A renewed PLO will certainly have to deal directly with this issue, which will most probably put the leadership in a difficult position in regard to its foreign relations and its interaction with the Israeli government and occupation forces.

If the renewed PLO will be based in Jordan, as predicted, the issue of BDS and other anti-Israel activities might put Jordan in a difficult position. While it is publicly unhappy with the Israeli actions in Palestine, the Kingdom has a peace agreement with Israel and its borders witness an ever-increasing movement of people and goods.

Jordan will most likely be under pressure to tame the new PLO. How it will deal with such issues will most certainly have to be agreed on with Mashaal, Abbas and whoever else will be running the PLO.

Daoud Kuttab is a Palestinian journalist and former professor of journalism at Princeton University.
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