by Ali Abu Shahla
News reports mentioned that a meeting will take place shortly in Cairo of the PLO Executive Committee, as well as of the presidency of the present Palestinian National Council (PNC), which will be attended by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the heads of the Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, to identify the steps required for the election of the National Council members inside Palestine (Gaza and the West Bank), where 150 members will be elected out of the total of 350 members of the PNC, as well as to agree on the method for electing or selecting 200 members representing Palestinians in exile.
Sensitivities in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon
It is important to note that there is no possibility of electing the members of PNC representing the about seven million Palestinians living abroad. This number does not include Palestinians living inside Israel. The total number of Palestinians at home, abroad and in Israel is estimated around 11 million - and the eligible voters represent about 40% of Palestinians, whether living at home or abroad. It is known that the election of PNC members in Jordan is a very sensitive question, where the majority of them ( around two million ) hold Jordanian nationality, Another delicate and sensitive situation exists in Lebanon which prevents the election of PNC members, and it is not possible to hold such elections in Syria as a result of the current situation (there are about half a million Palestinians in both Syria and Lebanon).
About half a million Palestinian live and work in the Arab Gulf states where there is no possibility to hold PNC elections due to the lack of consent from the ruling regimes. This probably applies to Palestinians in Egypt (about 63,000), Iraq and Libya (about 100,000), in addition to the difficulty of conducting such elections in North and South America and in Europe, where some half a million Palestinians are living (according to Mr. Salman Abu Sitta, a member of the current PNC).
The majority will be selected, not elected
Mr. Khaled Mosmar, a member of the current National Council said that the official registration of the elections outside the Occupied Territories, and inside, has not started yet, pending the outcome of the meeting of the Commission to reactivate and develop the PLO to be held shortly in Cairo. Mr. Mosmar also pointed out that the PLO Central Council will hold a meeting after the conclusion of the Cairo meeting, to adopt what is agreed upon and to schedule the elections for the PNC and the PA Legislative Council, as well as the presidency, which means that the majority of the PNC members living abroad will be selected!! And they will participate in everything related to the Palestinian elections, whether presidential or parliamentary, in addition to the election of the PNC members inside the Palestinian territories!!!
About 90% of the Palestinians living abroad will not cast their ballots in the elections for the National Council, and this has forced all of the parties to agree to selections rather than elections. This has produced a need to reach a consensus of all parties and factions, which in turn will cause a major difficulty when choosing representatives for various Palestinian gatherings abroad. This also means that the selection of the majority of the 200 members of the National Council from abroad, in case elections will take place, will require a long period of time, which may take at least two years!!
Waiting for the Cairo meeting
We are waiting for the Cairo meeting to take place, where Palestinian leaders will negotiate and decide what to do about the National Council and the Legislative Council, and will determine the format of the elections for the National Council and the minimum percentage needed to be chosen. The Cairo meeting at the end of this week will be the first step, which if was successful, will form the basic building block towards the success of Palestinian reconciliation and an ending of the division. Otherwise we will return to square one!!!