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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

The PLO’s Mahmoud Abbas Searches for Legitimacy

Filed under: Palestinians

As expected, the head of the PLO, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) announced his resignation from the PLO leadership, in the expectation that the Palestinian parliament, the Palestinian National Council (PNC), will renew his leadership mandate. The PNC will reconvene in the coming month, at which time Abu Mazen plans to be able to resume his leadership, distance his opposition, and also clear a pathway for his renewed opposition to Israel’s legitimacy in the United Nations. The problem that perhaps Abu Mazen has not considered properly is that the prospect for convening another Parliament session has worsened because of the continuing Arab upheavals and the ongoing schism with Gaza.

Abbas, who sits in Ramallah, estimated that it may not be possible to assemble the required legal quorum for the parliament; so he declared that the Council will indeed convene – just without the necessary quorum. However, there are serious questions about the implications of a “no-quorum” council, including questions about the extent of its power. The question remains over a “no-quorum” council and whether or not the turnout will prove to be enough to renew the legitimacy of Abbas’ leadership.

With respect to Gaza – several facts are clear – one of which is Hamas will not allow the PLO representatives to travel from the PLO offices in Gaza to Ramallah. Among the Palestinian political leadership in Syria this upcoming conference in Ramallah does not interest them at all. Palestinians in Syria are currently fighting for their very lives and are not impressed with the happenings in Ramallah or if anyone in Ramallah cares about them. In Lebanon, there currently is a war between the PLO and Al-Qaeda, and much like in Syria, the Palestinians there don’t care much for Abbas’ leadership issues.

Regarding the massive Palestinian community in Jordan, there are worrying developments that Jordan may rescind Jordanian citizenship from any person participating in the Palestinian conference in Ramallah. In this past year, there has been constant deterioration between the PLO and Jordan, especially over the status of Jerusalem. There is no confirmation of these rumors, however, previously Jordan moved to revoke citizenship from Palestinians, and therefore this rumor has credibility.

Abbas may find himself facing an empty assembly hall – or perhaps not since he will fill the seats – however, there will be many doubts whether this PNC conference will have the moral and constitutional validity to authorize the renewal of leadership of Mahmoud Abbas.