A crucial” meeting of the Palestinian leadership that was scheduled to take place in Ramallah on Saturday night, to discuss a series of measures in response to Israel’s plan to apply sovereignty to parts of the West Bank, has been postponed until further notice, Palestinian officials said.
The indefinite postponement of the meeting sparked a wave of speculation among Palestinians as to the reason behind the decision.
It also drew criticism from some Palestinians, who argued that the decision to call off the meeting was yet another sign that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was not serious about his threat to renounce all agreements with Israel if the Israeli government proceeds with its plan to apply sovereignty to some areas of the West Bank.
The decision to delay the meeting was first announced by Monir al-Jaghoub, a senior official with the ruling Fatah faction. “The meeting of the Palestinian leadership, scheduled for Saturday, has been postponed until further notice,” he said, without elaborating.
Last week, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad announced that they would boycott the meeting, while the PLO’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) said its representatives would attend the gathering.
The three groups, which are staunchly opposed to the Oslo Accords or any peace negotiations with Israel, have demanded that Abbas walk away from all agreements with Israel, revoke PLO recognition of Israel and immediately halt security coordination between the PA security forces and the IDF in the West Bank in response to the policies and decisions of the Israeli government and the US administration.
A number of Palestinian officials said the decision to delay the meeting was taken due to the political developments surrounding the formation of a new coalition government in Israel.
Wasel Abu Yusef, member of the PLO Executive Committee, said that the Palestinian leadership’s decision was taken after the Israeli government delayed the announcement of its formal platform until Sunday. “There was no need to hold a meeting of the Palestinian leadership before seeing the Israeli coalition’s platform,” he added.
Another senior PLO official, Ahmed Majdalani, confirmed that the postponement of the planned Ramallah meeting was linked to the delay in the announcement of the Israeli coalition’s platform.
Majdalani told the Palestinian radio station Ajyal that Abbas was scheduled to announce a series of measures on Saturday in response to the Israeli “annexation” plan. The meeting, he disclosed, has been postponed until Monday, one day after the formation of the new Israeli government and the publication of its platform.
“The delay was necessary because our position is based on the formation of the new government and its platform, although we know in advance its stance regarding the issue of annexation,” Majdalani explained. “We want to take a position based on an international consensus that backs any decision taken by the Palestinian leadership.”
Asked why the Palestinians have to wait until the formation of a new Israeli government before taking any decision, Majdalani replied: “Political positions are not taken on the basis of intentions. Rather, political decisions are taken on the basis of actions. Until this moment, there is no Israeli government.”
Referring to Abbas’s repeated threats in the past five years to nix all agreements with Israel, the PLO official pointed out that PLO and Fatah institutions have already voted in favor of cutting all ties with Israel.
“We are not threatening,” Majdalani said. “There’s a difference between threatening and implementing a decision. The decision has already been taken, but any decision requires favorable circumstances to be carried out. We believe that the annexation constitutes a decisive phase in ending all the agreements with the Israeli occupation.”
Two Fatah officials, meanwhile, told The Jerusalem Post yesterday that the decision to delay the Palestinian leadership meeting was apparently taken at the request of some European Union and Arab states.
“The Palestinian leadership is facing pressure not to take draconic decisions that would have serious repercussions on stability and security in the region,” one official told the Post. “President Abbas has been advised to wait until the political situation in Israel is clear.”
The other Fatah official claimed that the Palestinian leadership last week received indications from various international parties that the US administration has “instructed Israel not to take any unilateral move that could trigger another wave of violence” between Israelis and Palestinians and jeopardize Israel’s relations with Jordan and other Arab countries.
Some Palestinians said they believe Jordan’s vehement opposition to the Israeli plan was also behind the decision to delay the meeting in Ramallah, which was announced shortly after Jordan’s King Abdullah warned that “if Israel really annexes the West Bank in July, it would lead to a massive conflict with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.”
In an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel, King Abdullah said in response to a question whether he would suspend the peace treaty with Israel: “I don’t want to make threats and create a loggerheads atmosphere, but we are considering all options. We agree with many countries in Europe and the international community that the law of the strongest should not apply in the Middle East.”
Several Palestinian officials and groups welcomed the Jordanian monarch’s statement and expressed hope it would deter Israel from carrying out its plan.
Hussein al-Sheikh, member of the Fatah Central Committee, said that the king’s “position on Israel’s intention to annex parts of the West Bank is the true illustration of Jordan’s commitment to Palestinians’ rights and an embodiment of the original Arab stance.”
Criticizing the postponement of the Palestinian leadership meeting, Hamas said it was further proof that the PA was not serious about “confronting the current challenges and dangers facing the Palestinian cause.” Hamas spokesperson Abdel Latif Qanou repeated his movement’s appeal to Abbas to end all agreements with Israel.