Lebanese gov't recognizes 'state of Palestine'

PLO office in Beirut to be elevated to embassy status; no date set to carry out decision. (The Media Line)

palestinian flag 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
palestinian flag 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
The Lebanese government has approved forming full diplomatic relations with what it calls the "state of Palestine," and is elevating the office of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Beirut to the status of an embassy. No date has been set to carry out the decision, which was announced by Lebanese Information Minister Tariq Mitri. The PLO is regarded by the Arab League as the sole representative of the Palestinian people. The organization is currently headed by Mahmoud Abbas, who is also president of the Palestinian Authority. Hilal Khashan, a professor of political science at the American University of Beirut, said he thought the move showed the government in Beirut was trying to show support for 'Abbas' administration. "He is facing tough times. There is a split in the Fatah movement and there's a running battle between Fatah and the Hamas in Gaza," Khashan told The Media Line. In addition, the Lebanese army is posted outside the 'Ein Al-Hilweh refugee camp and is contemplating military action if Palestinians in the camp do not surrender six members of the Islamist Fatah Al-Islam organization seeking refuge there. "I believe the Lebanese government wants to give the impression that it is not anti-Palestinian and it is welcoming diplomatic relations with the state of Palestine, which has not been declared yet," Khashan said. He added that the implementation of the decision requires a validating cabinet decision, so at the moment it "amounts to nothing." Lebanon accommodates nearly 400,000 Palestinian refugees who say they are discriminated against by the government. Khashan said the decision to upgrade relations with the PLO will not affect this situation, explaining that anti-Palestinian sentiments are deeply rooted in Lebanon. "What is needed is a change in a series of Lebanese laws that bar Palestinians from employment in Lebanon. They are not allowed to work in significant professions beyond manual labor. This is what lies at the heart of the problem," he said. "The Palestinians are treated as non entities in Lebanon and have no rights whatsoever. I believe there is a deliberate effort by the Lebanese government to keep their situation sub-human so they will never contemplate seeking permanent residency in the country." The Media Line website