PA President Mahmoud Abbas (C) at a meeting for the Central Council of the PLO, in Ramallah, March 4, 2015.
Factions of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad met in Beirut on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of holding the first meeting of the Palestinian National Council (PNC) in seven years.
The PNC, which is tantamount to the PLO’s parliament, is responsible for electing the PLO’s two most authoritative bodies, the Executive Committee and the Central Council, and setting a strategy for the PLO.
Tuesday’s meeting, which took place at the Palestinian embassy in the Lebanese capital, was the first of multiple meetings which will take place over the next two days.
Mustafa Barghouti, a PLO Executive Committee member, told the Palestinian website Watan News Network that the meeting “was positive and constructive,” and “discussions focused on one point, the ways to hold a meeting of the PNC that includes everyone.”
The last meeting of the PNC, which took place in Ramallah in 2009 when a new Executive Committee was elected and PLO strategy was discussed, did not include Hamas and Islamic Jihad, who are not members of the PLO.
Ezzat al-Rishq, a member of the Hamas Politburo who attended the meeting in Beirut, told reporters that he hopes the meetings in Beirut “will be fruitful in reforming the PNC to include all national factions and forces so that it will represent our people and its visions.”
Hamas Politburo chairman Khaled Mishaal said in November that his party would like to seek membership in the PNC and more generally the PLO, calling on the leadership to agree with Hamas on a national strategy including “armed struggle.”
A top Palestinian official, who spoke to The Jerusalem Post on condition of anonymity, said that he would like to see Hamas and Islamic Jihad participate in the next meeting of the PNC, but thinks such a scenario is highly unlikely.
“Hamas almost certainly will not participate because it is not ready to accept the positions of the PLO on a number of issues,” the official said.
The PLO recognizes Israel, is a party to the Oslo Accords, and supports the establishment of a Palestinian state along the 1967 lines.
The meeting Tuesday comes days before another meeting of the Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, set to take place in Moscow.
The Moscow meeting is expected to discuss efforts to reconcile Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, and Fatah, which dominates the West Bank.
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