A powerful but rarely convened assembly that calls itself the Palestinian "supreme authority" met for the first time in 22 years yesterday, in order to struggle to achieve its stated goal of unity against Israel and the United States.
President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to use the four-day Palestinian National Council (PNC) meeting to renew his legitimacy and to discuss suspending recognition of Israel.
Abbas has billed the meeting of the Palestinian National Council (PNC), the de facto parliament of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, as a chance to establish a united front against Israel and the United States, after President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Abbas, said it was "a strong message to the whole world that the Palestinian people are committed to their right to establish their independent state."
But the location, timing and attendance have been criticized from outside the PLO, and from within. Some groups are boycotting, and question the PLO's claim to be the "sole legitimate representative" of the Palestinian people. It includes Hamas, which defeated Abbas's western-backed Fatah in parliamentary elections in 2006 and has been locked in rivalry with it since. They say that by holding the meeting in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Abbas is excluding Palestinians who risk being arrested or turned back by Israel if they try to attend.
Three PLO factions said they would boycott the 700-member assembly, including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. It sought a postponement to give more time for reconciliation efforts between Fatah and Hamas, to overcome divisions and ensure broader participation.
Mahdi Abdul-Hadi, a Jerusalem-based analyst, said Abbas seemed intent on driving through his own agenda and replacing enemies with loyalists on the PLO's powerful Executive Committee, whose members are appointed by the PNC. "When people look at these names they understand it is a one-man show. It is Abbas's agenda," said Abdul-Hadi.
Pointing out that Abbas's mandate as president expired in 2010, he said the Palestinian leader appeared to be returning to old institutions to fend off criticism. "He needs to re-inject legitimacy and the recognition of his authority," said Abdul-Hadi.