The PLO Renounces All Agreements with Israel — and No One Cares
Speaking after the recent meeting of the Palestinian National Council (PNC), its Deputy Chairman clarified that there is a binding Palestinian decision to “renounce … all agreements with Israel.”
He added that from the point of view of the Palestinian leadership, the Palestinians “have entered a path of resistance in all its forms” — a term that clearly includes the use of violence and terror.
Palestinian National Council Deputy Chairman Ali Faisal: “The decision of the [Palestinian] National Council was a recommendation to the [PLO] Central Council to renounce all the commitments of the Oslo Accords and stop the security coordination [with Israel]. Now there is a binding decision. The Central Council decided to renounce the commitments of all the agreements with the State of Israel, whether by the PLO or the PA. Currently we are outside the path of Oslo, the security coordination, and the economic Paris Agreement, and we have entered a path of resistance in all its forms and a realization of sovereignty.” [emphasis added]
[Official PA TV, “From Beirut,” Feb. 18, 2022]
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To understand the ostensible importance of this statement, it is necessary to explain what the PNC is and what authority it carries.
Constitutionally, the PNC is the highest authority in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and is responsible for formulating its policies and programs.
The PLO Central Council was established by the 11th PNC meeting, in January 1973, as a legislative organ to function when the PNC is not in session and to follow up on and implement its resolutions. Its members are drawn from the PNC (including the entire PLO Executive Committee) and it is chaired by the PNC president.
The Executive Committee is the PLO’s primary executive organ — its “cabinet” — and represents the organization internationally. The Executive Committee answers to the PNC.
In other words, the PNC is the primary and most senior organ of the PLO. Its decisions are binding on the entire organization.
And what impact do decisions of the PNC have on the Palestinian Authority (PA)?
According to the PLO, the PA — created by the Oslo Accords — is merely an interim governing body that functions within, and subjected to, the authority of the PLO. Since the signing of the Oslo Accords, the head of the PLO has also held the position of PA Chairman. Accordingly, to this day, the PLO governing bodies appear to make all the major decisions on behalf of the Palestinians.
When the PLO makes an internal decision to “renounce … all agreements with Israel,” with impact on both the security coordination and economic relations (referred to by Faisal as the “economic Paris Agreement”) between Israel and the PA, that decision should have a binding effect. A decision of that nature, taken by the highest Palestinian source of authority, should not only bind the PLO and the PA, but should also have ramifications vis-à-vis Israel.
Despite the ostensible severity of the PNC decision, nothing on the ground has changed. Neither the PLO nor the PA has announced severing the security coordination, and they certainly did not decide to stop taking the hundreds of millions of dollars of taxes Israel collects every month and gives to the PA.
In stark contrast, in May 2020, Mahmoud Abbas decided alone and then announced the renunciation of all agreements with Israel, including the severing of the security coordination and the refusal to accept the tax income. That decision held for six months, after which the coordination was renewed, and the PA agreed to accept the billions of shekels (over a billion dollars) in tax revenue that had accrued.
PLO declarations aside, the reality is that everyone — including the Palestinians themselves — knows that the PLO is a defunct institution that lacks any real legitimacy. Both the PLO and the PA are run as a de facto dictatorship, in which decisions are made by one person. The PLO only continues to exist thanks to the hundreds of millions of dollars given annually from the PA budget to the “PLO institutions.” No one truly puts any stock in the decisions made by the PLO, and the organization itself is incapable of enforcing the decisions that it and its institutions make.
In a recent report, Palestinian Media Watch concluded that the PLO decision to revoke its recognition of Israel’s right to exist was devoid of any real meaning or influence. That conclusion was based on the fact that the PLO recognition of Israel’s right to exist was always empty. The most dominant organization in the PLO is Fatah. To date, the head of Fatah — first Yasser Arafat, and then Mahmoud Abbas — has been the head of the PLO. The head of the PLO has always been the chairman of the PA. Similar to other PLO members, Fatah never recognized Israel’s right to exist.
For many years, the PLO enjoyed the title of the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.” That historic role brought Israel to sign peace agreements with the PLO. However, with the passage of time, the reality is that the PLO has lost its unique status. Surveys conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research show declining Palestinian support for the PLO as the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.” The March 2019 survey showed that only 54% of those surveyed still viewed the PLO as the “sole legitimate representative” of the Palestinians, down from 69% in 2006.
While the PLO may have renounced all agreements with Israel, the reality is that the PLO is simply irrelevant.
Lt. Col. (res.) Maurice Hirsch, Adv. is the Head of Legal Strategies for Palestinian Media Watch, where a version of this article first appeared.