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52 years on, Palestinian factions express disappointment in PLO

May 29, 2016 11:10 P.M. (Updated: May 30, 2016 2:25 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- As the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) marked its 52nd anniversary on Saturday, various Palestinian factions expressed disappointment in the current state of the organization, despite its "promising beginnings."

“There is a big difference between the beginnings and the result of the PLO,” said Hamas-affiliated Palestinian Authority (PA) lawmaker Yahya al-Abadsah.

When it was launched, he told Ma’an Sunday, the Palestinian people “set their hopes on the PLO to achieve the right of return, liberation, and self determination. However, it has become meaningless, worthless, and empty.“

The Hamas official added that “neither Palestinian officials nor regional powers want the PLO to remain the umbrella for nationalistic liberation and uniting the Palestinian people, both in Palestine and the diaspora.”

He said that neither Hamas nor the Islamic Jihad had any preconditions for joining the PLO. In 2005, he said, it was agreed that both movements would join the PLO, but both Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and various “influential countries” prevented their entry.

Similarly, an official from the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) slammed the PA for wrongfully controlling the PLO.

Talal Abu Tharifa explained to Ma’an that “in theory, the PLO should be the higher reference for the PA, but in effect the daily practices have proved that the PLO is being marginalized in order to strengthen the PA.”

According to Abu Tharifa, the institutional distortion has been influenced by various factors, including the fact that Abbas is the PLO chairman as well as the PA president.

“(Abbas) enjoys limitless jurisdictions, which enables him to marginalize all institutions and dominate them single handedly,” Abu Tharifa said. He also pointed out that members of the PLO’s negotiation team served in the PA as ministers and top commanders of security agencies.

For his part, Islamic Jihad in Palestine spokesman Dawood Shihab said that since the PLO was established 52 years ago, it has been burdened by being identified under the banner of the goal to liberate Palestine.

He added that the PLO had fallen into disfavor for seemingly shifting its role as the liberator of Palestine to “sponsoring and running negotiations with the Israeli occupation.”

“Despite the impasse reached in negotiations, the PLO hasn’t changed its policy or its approach” towards the ongoing Israeli occupation, Shihab said.

Shihab echoed Abu Tharifa’s statement that the PA has marginalized PLO institutions, as well as al-Abadsah’s statements that understandings over the Islamic Jihad joining the PLO had been reversed.

Earlier on Sunday, PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat released a statement on the occasion of the anniversary, applauding the PLO and urging Palestinian factions who had not yet joined it to do so.

The Palestinian people, he said, and their nationalistic and Islamist factions would restore unity for the Palestinian homeland through reconciliation. Unity, Erekat stressed, was essential for facing the surrounding challenges.

“The PLO in 1964 united our people in Palestine, in exile, and in refugee camps,” and that is “exactly what Palestinian factions should do today,” Erekat said.

The PLO was founded in 1964 in order to “liberate Palestine” through armed struggle, and was considered by the United States and Israel to be a terrorist organization until 1991. The PLO recognized Israel's right to exist in 2013, rejecting "violence and terrorism,” and in response, Israel officially recognized the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people.

A recent report by the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) warned that the internationally-backed two-state solution was "in danger," in part faulting disunity among Palestinian political factions.

“Palestinian factions have been unable to reach consensus on achieving genuine Palestinian unity on the basis of non-violence, democracy, and the PLO Principles -- a crucial element for reuniting the West Bank and Gaza under a single, democratic, and legitimate Palestinian authority,” UNSCO said.

Tensions among Palestinian factions most recently came to a head with increasing criticism from Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) of Abbas’ Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, saying that the PA has worked with Israeli authorities to quash resistance against the occupation.
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