On Monday, 28 January 2019, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) organized in its head office in Gaza City a panel discussion entitled “What after the the Constitutional Court’s decision to dissolve the PLC?”. The Panel aimed at discussing the ramifications of the Constitutional Court’s decision to dissolve the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) in light of the rift in the political system of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and ongoing for 12 years. The panel also raised fundamental questions such as: What are the requirements to restore the status of the Palestinian political system under the current situation and what is the way to get out of this crisis that affects the Palestinian political system?. The panel discussion was attended by representatives of political factions and civil society organizations, academics, opinion writers and journalists.
Raji Sourani, PCHR’s Director, opened the panel by reviewing the big procedures and obstacles imposed by the Executive Authority to undermine the judiciary, including the latest procedures to discharge the Attorney General, who is the legal conscience of the nation, in vague and ambiguous circumstances. Those procedures were preceded by similar steps when the Chief Justice was forced to sign his own resignation before taking the oath for his appointment.
The Panel was facilitated by Hamdi Shaqoura, Deputy Director for Program Affairs, who indicated the ambiguity in the issuance of the Constitutional Court’s decision to dissolve the PLC. He also wondered how such a major decision would be taken in ambiguous circumstances and behind closed doors and it was declared only 10 days after its issuance. Shaqoura also attributed the collapse of the legislative and judicial authorities and deterioration of the public freedoms in the PA controlled areas to the interference of the executive authority into both authorities.
Mohsen Abu Ramadan, Member of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO’s) Central Council, confirmed in his intervention that the state of division reached a dangerous stage after the Change and Reform Bloc in the PLC submitted a letter to the UN Secretary-General confirming that the Palestinian President no longer represents the Palestinian people. Abu Ramadan also considered that what is going on is turning the division into complete separation between the Gaza Strip and West Bank. He added that the way out of this crisis is to find a road map that ends the action and reaction procedures between the two parties, moving towards the reconciliation and forming a national unity government to prepare for the elections.
Mohammed al-Telbany, a legal researcher, said in an intervention that the constitution is the umbrella of all and the basis to guarantee freedoms, but it is inactive by a common will, adding that selectively dealing with the Basic Law is unacceptable. He added that Hamas headed to the Supreme Court in order to appeal the president’s decision but the question here is who appointed the Chief Justice in Gaza. Al-Telbany stressed the importance of restoring respect to the Basic Law and identifying a legal framework and reference which all parties should comply with before going to the elections.
Nayef al-Farra, a University Professor, pointed out that both parties violated the law and that the Executive Authority in the Gaza Strip and West Bank interfered into the judiciary. He also clarified that since its establishment, the PLC has played a bad role even before the division. Moreover, he stressed that the division is the main reason behind all the problems and obstacles that the Palestinian society faces.
Amjad al-Shawa, Coordinator of Palestinian Non-governmental Organizations Network (PNGO), said that what happened destroyed all efforts to hold elections in the reconciliation framework, emphasizing that the civil society organizations should have an effective role away from factionalism. Al-Shawa also said that the civil society shall provide its own vision in order to end this crisis.
Ghazi Hammad, a leader in Hamas Movement, emphasized the importance of finding a political solution to get out of this crisis. He added that we exterted all efforts to achieve the reconciliation and hold the elections, but unfortunately we failed and could not reach positive outcomes. Moreover, we have a problem that we shall deal with, and it is the dualism in both Fatah and Hamas movements. Thus, a national salvation front should be established to take the responsibility of all national issues, including the elections.
Belal Jadallah, Director of Press House, said that the problem is par excellence political. He added that the current situation in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip is very bad; the West Bank is under occupation and settlement while the Gaza Strip is suffering from deteriorating living conditions with no signs of hope. Jadallah believed that the solution is to hold legislative elections as a prelude to get out of this crisis.
Mazen Zaqout, a leader in Palestinian National Initiative, pointed out that the dilemma is about having 2 different strategies in the Palestinian scene as there are those who want the entire Palestine and those who accept partial solutions. He considered that the division has started since 1987, when Hamas was established, not in 2007, as Hamas had refused to join the Unified National Leadership of the Uprising (UNLU). Zaqout clarified that the solution lies in having a National Unity Government.
Salah Abu Hatab, a Community Activist, said in an intervention that the 2 parties are completely different and the PLO has a political agenda consensually recognized by the Arab league while Hamas, although it amended its Charter in 2017, adopts a completely different agenda.
Khadir Habeeb, a Leader in the Islamic Jihad Movement, called for a national dialogue to end the impasse as the absence of dialogue will lead to the dictatorship of large parties; each of which attracts the matter towards it. Habeeb considered that the basic dilemma lies in mixing stages. He said that we were in the stage of national liberation when Israel and the whole world set the ambush of so-called Oslo in addition to the illusion of the state after 4 years. Unfortunately, the five-year period (the transition period) has ended and we have got nothing, and yet some are still committed to Oslo.
Sulaiman Abu Salama, a university professor, considered that Palestine’s obtaining a non-Member State in the United Nations in 2012 is an achievement and that is what we shall build upon though the PLO does not represented all parties. Abu Salama pointed out that the solution may be in the transitional justice, formation of a national salvation front, or the formation of a ‘council of elders’, considering that the existence of a real will of the parties is the real take off for getting out of this crisis.
‘Atef Abu Saif, Spokesperson of Fatah Movement, said that the 12-year status quo should not continue, and when talking about legitimacy and the termination of the President’s term, what Hamas has done since 2007 is also illegitimate. He pointed out that Hamas did not abide by the 2017 reconciliation agreement, and placed obstacles before it. He stressed that Fatah is moving towards holding elections and will continue to work with Hamas through intermediaries for the elections. He added that elections cannot be held without Jerusalem.