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memri
June 8, 2009 No.
516

Hamas Challenges PLO's Legitimacy as Sole Representative of Palestinian People

By: C. Jacob*

Introduction

Since the end of the Gaza war, Hamas has renewed its efforts to challenge the PLO's legitimacy as the sole representative of the Palestinians, in an attempt to complete the process that began with its victory in the 2006 parliamentary elections and continued with its violent takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007.

Hamas has long been protesting that the PLO is not a legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, because it excludes some influential forces, predominantly Hamas and Islamic Jihad. It has demanded that the PLO rectify this situation by reorganizing and reforming its institutions so that all factions are represented. Though the PLO has agreed to this demand in principle, the reforms have not been implemented.

The conflict over this issue recently flared up again during the last round of intra-Palestinian talks, which are held in five committees, one of which is dedicated to the PLO reorganization. The argument resurfaced after Hamas political bureau head Khaled Mash'al demanded that a temporary body be established to function as the supreme Palestinian authority in both the Palestinian Authority and abroad, until elections for the PLO's Palestinian National Council (PNC) take place. Fatah, on the other hand, strongly opposed this demand, seeing it as an attempt to form an alternative to the PLO.

This report reviews the PLO's response to Mash'al's proposal, the internal debate about it in Hamas, and the history of the Hamas-PLO dialogue on the issue of reforming the PLO.

Hamas' Attempts to Undermine the PLO's Status

In a January 28, 2009 "Gaza Victory" rally in Qatar, Hamas political bureau head Khaled Mash'al announced that the Palestinian factions were planning a "surprising" move - namely, "the formation of a new supreme national authority, which will represent the Palestinians [both] inside [Palestine] and abroad, and will include all the Palestinian national forces and all the factions among the Palestinian people…" Mash'al added, "The PLO in its present state no longer constitutes the supreme Palestinian authority." [1]

Later, presumably in response to the strong opposition evoked by his statement, Mash'al softened his position, explaining that he did not mean to form a body to replace the PLO, but only a temporary body to operate alongside it until it carries out reforms: "[Hamas], along with the other resistance groups, headed by Islamic Jihad, is working to create an authority [that will operate] in parallel to the PLO until the PLO representatives agree to rebuild it by holding free elections." [2]

Mash'al's statement was accompanied by a further step designed to undermine the PLO's status. The deputy chairman of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Hamas member Ahmad Bahr, asked the Iran-based Islamic Inter-Parliamentary Union to accept the Palestinian Legislative Council - in which Hamas has a majority - as a member of the union, instead of the PLO's Palestinian National Council (PNC). Palestinian diplomatic sources expressed concern over this move, calling it as "an attempt to deepen the internal Palestinian schism and undermine the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinians in the PA and abroad." [3]

PLO Responses to the Hamas Proposal

Mash'al's statements and the recent moves by Hamas evoked angry responses from the PLO, which launched a comprehensive information campaign to expose what it presented as a Hamas attempt to take over the PLO and the PA. Several PNC members, who convened in Jordan, described Mash'al's statements as "a plot [to stage] a coup against the PLO, which is the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people." [4]

At another meeting of PNC members in Ramallah, designated an "emergency meeting," participants condemned Mash'al's statement and clarified that they would oppose any move that might undermine the PLO's legitimacy. The PNC called on the Hamas leadership "to declare unequivocally that the PLO is the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, cease its attempts to undermine the Palestinian legitimacy, and to withdraw its proposal to form a new authoritative [body]." At the same time, the PNC also expressed its willingness "to activate and develop the PLO institutions, and to begin preparations for holding PNC elections within the homeland and every other place where elections can be held on the basis of proportional representation." [5]

PA President Mahmoud 'Abbas declared that no dialogue would be held with anyone who does not recognize the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and that if Hamas wants dialogue, it must recognize the PLO: "Some have come out with a destructive plan that we have heard about before, and which has already been consigned to the dustbins of history. [Hamas] wants to destroy the PLO... It must not be allowed to violate [this organization,] which embodies the very essence of the Palestinian [people]." [6] On another occasion he clarified that he had no objection to reforming the PLO, but that he did object to the calls to destroy or replace it, since these constituted "a crime against the homeland and the rights of the Palestinian people." [7]

'Azzam Al-Ahmad, head of the Fatah faction in the Legislative Council, called Hamas' conduct "unacceptable," stating: "If Hamas wants to be part of the national movement within the PLO, it should submit a request to join the PLO. It has had [plenty of] time to do so since it was established, but it never has - perhaps because it regarded itself as the alternative to the PLO. We are glad that Hamas has withdrawn its call [to form an alternative to the PLO], and hope that [its retraction] was not just a statement for the media, but was real and sincere. Hamas has a right to join the PLO, which is the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. [In fact,] it is our duty to help Hamas and Islamic Jihad join the ranks of this organization - for it does not belong to any faction or group of factions, but to the Palestinian people [as a whole]." [8]

Condemnations of Hamas were also heard in the Palestinian diaspora. Clashes between PLO and Hamas supporters broke out in the Lebanese refugee camps, manifested by the ripping up of posters of leaders and the shouting of slogans; also, a bomb was detonated next to the home of a Fatah officer. [9]

Proposals for Reforms in the PLO's Makeup and Policy

Over the years, the PLO has made several proposals to Hamas, predominantly a suggestion to reorganize and reform the PLO, and to hold elections for its various institutions. Ahmad Qurei' (Abu Ala) recently said, "In order to save the PLO, we must immediately launch reforms, and must incorporate into it all the elements that have left it or were never part of it to begin with." [10] Hamada Fara'na, columnist for the PA daily Al-Ayyam, wrote: "Our people has several tasks [now]. [It must] hold presidential and parliamentary elections based on the principle of proportional representation, convene the PNC, elect a [new PLO] Central Council, Executive Committee and board of directors for the [Palestine] National Fund, and activate the PLO institutions." [11]

Some of the suggestions involved making changes in the PLO's program. PLO official and Al-Ayyam columnist Hani Al-Masri wrote: "The alternative to forming a new, or alternative, authoritative [body] is to carry out reforms in the PLO, to activate it, and to restructure it so that it includes the forces that are still outside it. This necessitates the formulation of a new national covenant focusing on our supreme national interests. [It also requires] the reestablishment of the PLO plan as a program aiming to end the occupation, the realization of the Palestinians' [right of] self-determination, the realization of the right of return, and the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital, in the territories occupied in 1967 - [and all this] without connection to the Oslo and Annapolis agreements, the Road Map, and security coordination [with Israel]." Al-Masri also called for activating the PLO institutions on a democratic basis and for elections: "The PA should be restored to its natural status as one of the arms of the PLO, subordinate to [this organization] and to its national plan. The PLO [itself] must be reorganized to include all the layers and elements in the Palestinian [people]." [12]

A willingness to incorporate Hamas into the PLO was clearly expressed by PLO Executive Committee Secretary Yasser 'Abd Rabbo. On the eve of the March 2009 talks between Fatah and Hamas, he said: "If we cannot agree on [all] the issues at once, we can start with preliminary steps, such as agreeing [to form] a national unity government, to hold elections and to include [all the Palestinian forces] in the PLO institutions until a new PNC is elected." [13]

Hamas' Motivations and Goals, as Seen by the PLO and PA

Responding to Hamas' recent moves, PA spokesmen accused it of promoting foreign agendas, including religious agendas, and of pursuing personal and partisan goals.

Hamas Is Serving Iran by Spreading the Islamic Revolution

'Omar Hilmi Al-Ghul, advisor to PA Prime Minister Salam Fayadh, wrote that Mash'al's proposal reflected the agenda of the rejectionist forces, which convened after the Gaza war. These forces, he said, have come to the conclusion that there is a need to form a new jihad front consisting of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, Hizbullah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Syrian officers. [14] In another article, Al-Ghul wrote: "The Iranian-Arab forces of sabotage are striving to send a series of shocks through some moderate Arab states, in order to achieve their destructive aims and spread chaos - [all] so that [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad's regime will be able to lead the Arab region and subject it to Iranianization and Shi'ization." [15]

Muwaffaq Matar, columnist for the PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, wrote: "Tehran's allies should know that they have a hand in turning the Palestinian liberation movement from a movement with national and pan-Arab principles and goals, struggling for liberty and independence, into a [group] of organizations that form alliances with [certain] regional forces - [forces] that are trying to impose their political approach and religious policy on this region under the [banner] of the Islamic Revolution. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said this loud and clear when he declared that 'the Islamic Revolution transcends the boundaries of Iran.'" [16]

Some stated that the rejectionist axis had exploited Hamas but then abandoned it in its time of need. Ahmad 'Abd Al-Rahman, Fatah spokesman and advisor to Mahmoud 'Abbas, said: "Hamas' leaders regard themselves as part of the rejectionist camp... But the Gaza war has proved that, even when they serve the [rejectionist] camp, they are not [really] an arm [of this camp] but [only] a marginal tool. Had the [members of this camp] respected them as partners, they would not have left them to face the Israeli shelling without support. Hizbullah or Syria would have [helped them by] opening up a front in the north, or Iran [would have come to their aid by] denying oil to Israel's friends." [17]

Hamas Is Promoting Muslim Brotherhood Goals

PA officials accused Hamas of promoting the objectives of the Muslim Brotherhood - that is, of using violent means to replace the PLO and establish an Islamic emirate in Palestine, which is Islamic waqf, with the aim of later exporting the Islamic rule to other parts of the world. Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation director Bassem Abu Sumaya wrote: "Hamas does not hide the fact that it follows the example of the global Muslim Brotherhood [movement], which is deployed throughout the world and in some Arab countries... One of the principles of the Muslim Brotherhood - Hamas' mother organization - is [that of] maligning pan-Arabism and expressing hostility towards it... This movement, whether it was in the government or in the opposition, has [always] been hostile to the [national] liberation forces. In order to [undermine them,] it has used methods of sabotage, of nurturing religious extremism, and of spreading chaos and fear among the public. It has not hesitated to murder [people] without a qualm and to use violence and oppression worse than those of the regimes that it itself has called 'tyrannical'...

"Hamas is an enterprise whose sole objective is to dismantle and overthrow the [PA] regime, and to deport and liquidate [Hamas'] enemies, as is happening today in Gaza. Hamas' proclamation that it is the sole legitimate representative [of the Palestinian people], and a pioneer of resistance, is put into practice in its attempt to stage a coup against the PLO. It is extreme arrogance on its part not to recognize the PLO and [its] legitimacy, and to try and destroy it." [18]

Hamas Aims to Establish an Islamic Emirate

PA Information Ministry official 'Ali Al-Khalili, who is a columnist for Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, wrote: "Hamas' goal is not only to take over the PLO or part of it and establish an Islamic emirate over the ruins of Gaza. [It aims] to transform the PLO from the ground up, and establish a new Islamic authority in [both] Gaza and the West Bank, which will later extend [its authority] over all the Palestinians everywhere." [19]

The Establishment of an Alternative to the PLO Will Harm the Palestinians

PLO members in the PA and in the diaspora also claimed that Hamas had crossed a red line by challenging the PLO's legitimacy, and that the establishment of an alternative to the PLO would undermine the Palestinians' national identity, perpetuate the intra-Palestinian schism, and give Israel an excuse to renege on former agreements with the PLO. Former PA minister Ziad Abu Ziad wrote in his weekly article in the daily Al-Quds: "Perhaps Mash'al's suggestion is meant to put pressure on Fatah prior to the [next stage of the intra-Palestinian] dialogue, and perhaps he really wants to seek an alternative to the PLO. In either case, his suggestion is very grave, because it means destroying the PLO and eradicating the long era in which our people carried out its struggle under its leadership... Moreover, destroying and annihilating the PLO means losing our national identity, which is represented by the PLO - [an organization] that has been recognized by more than 120 states." [20]

Popular Front Deputy Secretary-General 'Abd Al-Rahim Malouh argued that Mash'al's statement played into the hands of Israel by giving it an opportunity to torpedo the Palestinian national dialogue. [21] Dr. Najjat Abu Bakr, member of the Fatah faction in the Legislative Council, said that Mash'al's proposal allowed "Israel and its allies to free themselves of agreements and commitments which the PLO managed to achieve [with the support of] the international community." [22]

Palestinian Information Ministry official and Al-Ayyam columnist Hani Al-Masri wrote: "We are in danger of facing an intense struggle between two forces, [each claiming] legitimacy, one of which will [ultimately] eradicate the other. This will lead to anarchy, [enabling] Israel to offer alternative ways of resolving the Palestinian problem [and eventually bringing about] the loss of the Palestinian cause." [23]

Debate Within Hamas on Mash'al's Proposal

As on many other issues, two positions were heard within Hamas regarding Mash'al's proposal. Some top officials endorsed it, arguing that Hamas' victory in the 2006 parliamentary elections should be mirrored by an equivalent representation in the supreme Palestinian body. [24] They added that the PLO had lost its right to represent the Palestinian people when it refused to fulfill its obligation of carrying out reforms, and also because its institutions were no longer functioning. [25] It was also stated that the PLO was no longer entitled to represent the Palestinians owing to the change in its positions as reflected in its agreements with Israel. [26]

At a rally in support of Mash'al in front of the Legislative Council building in Gaza, Hamas official Khalil Al-Hayya stated, "It's time for the Palestinian people to have a leadership that will take care of the affairs of the nation and the people, [promote] the right of return and lead us to victory." [27]

However, others in Hamas, who are regarded as more moderate, expressed reservations about Mash'al's proposal, arguing that it deepened the disagreement among the Palestinian people. Some took care to explain that it is a maneuver meant to pressure the PA into making reforms, and that Hamas' intention is not to replace the PLO but to join it.

Hamas sources have reported that many movement members, such as Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hamad, have expressed reservations about Mash'al's proposal to the movement leadership. According to the sources, Hamad called the proposal "an unacceptable idea that will not succeed, and that comes at a bad time, perhaps because it is nothing more than a ploy." [28] Emphasizing that he was expressing his own opinion, and not that of the movement, Hamad added: "I object to the deepening of the Palestinian schism. [We] must re-embrace the language of unity, [for] this will be of strategic national benefit for Hamas, Fatah and the Palestinian national enterprise [as a whole]." [29]

Ahmad Yousef, assistant to Hamas leader in Gaza Isma'il Haniya, explained that Mash'al's statements were merely meant to prompt a PLO reform: "We have been demanding reforms in the PLO since 2005, but nobody has responded. That is why we are [now] warning [the PLO] against further delay. It is inconceivable that the PLO should represent [only a part of] the Palestinian people, to the exclusion of Hamas and Islamic Jihad." [30]

Reservations about the proposal were also expressed by the Islamic Jihad organization. One of its top officials strongly objected to the idea of dissolving the PLO or forming an alternative to it, stressing that his movement wanted only reforms in the PLO, according to the Palestinians' needs. [31]

The Conflict between the Palestinian Factions - An Historical Perspective

The PLO was pronounced the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people at the 1974 Arab League summit in Rabat. The advent of Hamas in 1987 ushered in a new era, in which another Palestinian force, external to the PLO, existed to challenge the latter's exclusive status.

In 1990, when the PLO invited Hamas to take part in the preparatory committee for PNC reforms, Hamas presented conditions for its joining the PLO and PNC. In a memo to then-PNC chairman Sheikh 'Abd Al-Hamid Al-Saih, it set out the following demands: The PNC members will be elected rather than appointed, and if elections cannot be held, the makeup of the PNC will reflect the relative weight of the various Palestinian political forces. [32] On this basis, Hamas demanded 40-50 percent of the seats in the PNC. In the 1993 talks between the PLO and Hamas in Sudan, Hamas demanded a 40% representation in the PLO institutions - a demand that was rejected by Yasser Arafat. [33]

The creation of the Palestinian Authority, following the 1993 Oslo Accords, precipitated a decline in the status of PLO, the PNC (which has not convened since then, accept for a special meeting in 1996), and the PLO Central Committee (a body that mediates between the PNC and the PLO Executive Committee, and which convenes infrequently). The only PLO institution that still convenes on a frequent basis is the Executive Committee, but many challenge the legality of this body, since five of its members have died and have not been replaced. The PLO institutions formerly in charge of financial and military matters (namely the Palestine National Fund and the Palestine Liberation Army) were replaced by the PA Finance Ministry and the security forces, respectively, while the PA Foreign Ministry replaced the PLO Political Bureau, headed by Farouq Al-Qadoumi, in handling the affairs of the Palestinian diaspora.

With these developments, the PLO lost its role as an executive body, and many came to see it as a symbolic institution embodying the Palestinians' greatest historic achievements and the fruits of their struggle throughout the generations.

After the death of Yasser Arafat in 2004, Hamas reiterated its demand to reform the PLO institutions, reactivate them, and ensure the representation of all the Palestinian forces within them. This led to the convention of the March 15, 2005 Palestinian dialogue conference in Cairo, attended by PA President Mahmoud 'Abbas and representatives of the Palestinian factions. The conference yielded the Cairo Agreement, which stated: "The [conference] participants have agreed that the PLO will be activated and developed according to agreed-upon principles, so as to incorporate all the Palestinian forces and factions, since it is the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. To this end, it has been decided to establish a committee to formulate these principles, consisting of the PNC chairman, the members of the PLO Executive Committee, the chairmen of all the Palestinian factions, and independent national figures. The committee will be convened by the Executive Committee chairman." [34]

This decision, however, was never implemented. The Hamas-Fatah conflicts continued, resulting in another reconciliation meeting in May 2006, attended by leaders of PLO, Hamas and other Palestinian factions. At this meeting, Mahmoud Abbas endorsed the National Accord Document drafted earlier that year by Palestinian leaders in Israeli jails. This document called "to accelerate the implementation of the March 2005 Cairo Agreement with regards to developing and activating the PLO, and the entry of Hamas and Islamic Jihad into the PLO, which is the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people wherever they are. [This should be done] in accordance with changes in the Palestinian arena and the principles of democracy." [35]

After nine more months without significant developments, the demand for PLO reforms surfaced once again at the Saudi-sponsored Hamas-PLO reconciliation talks in Mecca. The Mecca Agreement, signed February 8, 2007, said: "[It has been agreed] to move ahead in measures to activate and reform the PLO and accelerate the work of the preparatory committee..." [36] Four months later, in June 2007, Hamas carried out its Gaza coup, and the issue of reforming the PLO and incorporating the Hamas into it was dropped from the agenda for a long period of time.

The reconciliation talks were renewed in Cairo in March 2009, and one of the five committees formed was assigned to deal with the PLO issue. It has so far been agreed that PNC elections will be held no later than January 25, 2010. [37] However, one of the points of contention is the election procedure. Fatah demands an election based on proportional representation throughout, while Hamas wants to reproduce its success in the 2006 parliamentary elections by holding proportional-representation elections only in the diaspora. [38] Another point of contention is the timing of Hamas' entry into the PLO: Hamas states that it will join only after the holding of reforms, while Fatah demands that Hamas join before the reforms are carried out. [39]

But the main controversy is over which body will have supreme authority in the period between the signing of a Hamas-Fatah agreement and the holding of the PNC elections. Hamas originally wanted the committee envisioned at the May 2005 talks - consisting of the PNC chairman, the members of the PLO Executive Committee, the chairmen of all the Palestinian factions, and independent national figures - to function as the supreme national authority until a new PNC and PLO Executive Committee are elected. [40] Hamas official Salah Al-Bardawil said, "The PLO is no longer a Palestinian source of authority, since many factions are not represented in it. Hence, Hamas is proposing this new body, not as an alternative to the PLO but as a temporary authority that will make decisions until the PLO completes its reforms." [41] Fatah and the other PLO factions rejected this suggestion since they saw it as an attempt to form an alternative to the PLO. [42] Recently, Hamas has been forced to withdraw its demand that the aforementioned committee be a "supreme authority," and to accept the phrasing of the 2005 Cairo Agreement, which states that Hamas will be incorporated in the PLO, and that the committee will be in charge of preparing the PLO reforms. [43]

It should be noted that despite the renewal of the intra-Palestinian dialogue after the Gaza war, and despite the agreement to hold PNC elections by January 2010, the two sides are still deeply at odds. Therefore, it cannot be precluded that Hamas will continue its attempts to take over the PLO by forming an alternative body in which it has a majority. And, as history has shown, Hamas does not always rely only on democratic measures to achieve it aims.

*C. Jacob is a Research Fellow at MEMRI

Endnotes:

[1] Al-Sharq (Qatar), Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), January 29, 2009.

[2] Al-Ayyam (PA) February 7, 2009.

[3] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), February 10, 2009.

[4] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), February 1, 2009.

[5] Al-Quds (Jerusalem), February 4, 2009.

[6] www.palestine-info.info, February 1, 2009; Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), February 2, 2009.

[7] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), February 8, 2009.

[8] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), February 13, 2009.

[9] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), January 30, 2009.

[10] Al-Ayyam (PA), February 8, 2009.

[11] Al-Ayyam (PA), January 30, 2009.

[12] Al-Ayyam (PA), February 3, 2009.

[13] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), February 13, 2009.

[14] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), February 1, 2009.

[15] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), February 3, 2009.

[16] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), February 4, 2009.

[17] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), February 2, 2009.

[18] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), February 3, 2009.

[19] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), February 2, 2009. Former PA minister Dr. Ibrahim Abrash stated: "The question arises as to whether Hamas is capable of coexisting with national, liberal, left-wing and secular movements and factions, with which it has a [fundamental] ideological disagreement. Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), February 13, 2009.

[20] Al-Quds (Jerusalem), February 1, 2009. Similar statements were published on the same day by columnist Tallal 'Awkal in the PA daily Al-Ayyam.

[21] Al-Quds (Jerusalem), February 1, 2009; Al-Ayyam (PA) January 30, 2009.

[22] Al-Ayyam (PA), February 6, 2009.

[23] Al-Ayyam (PA), February 3, 2009.

[24] Columnist Shaker Al-Jawhari wrote on the Hamas-affiliated website www.palestine-info.info: "Hamas, which won a landslide victory in the 2006 parliamentary elections, is not part of the PLO. The meaning [of the election results] was clear: those who voted for Hamas expressed their opposition to the PLO and to the PLO's representing the Palestinian people." www.palestine-info.info, February 2, 2009.

[25] Muhammad Hussein, who writes regularly on www.palestine-info.info, stated in an article that the PLO Central Committee was bereft of any real content, and convened only to promote its own interests by means of an executive committee, most of whose members are not even alive. The PLO's Palestine National Fund, he added, is wasteful and much of its money has been stolen. As for the PNC, he said that even its chairman did not know who all its members were. www.palestine-info.info, February 5, 2009.

Isma'il Thawabtah, of the Hamas Information Bureau in Gaza, stated: "[The PLO] refuses to reform. What does that mean? [It means] that they want the organization to themselves, and do not want anybody else to join them." www.palestine-info.info, February 1, 2009.

[26] Dr. Ibrahim Hamami, also a columnist on www.palestine-info.info and known for his extremist positions, wrote: "The direct meaning of recognizing the PLO in its present form, [and of recognizing] its officials and its commitments, is recognizing the occupation and its laws, or Israel's so-called 'right to exist.'" Hamami added that Hamas would recognize the PLO only on the following conditions: It must revoke its recognition of the legitimacy of the occupation, manifest in the agreements signed by Yasser Arafat; condemn anyone who recognizes the Jewish state; restore the Palestinian Covenant to its original form by reinstating articles that have been made void; revoke the Oslo Accords; revoke [all] agreements that harm the Palestinian people and the resistance, such as the 2001 Tenet Plan; revoke [all] agreements and announcements that stand in contradiction to the history of the Palestinian people and the sacrifices it has made, such as the 1985 renouncement of terrorism; issue an unequivocal public apology for all the tragedies that the PLO and its leadership have brought upon the Palestinian people, such as the expulsion of the fighters from the Church of the Nativity in 2002; acknowledge that it has surrendered Palestinians to the enemy, such as Popular Front Secretary-General Ahmad Sa'dat; clarify that the PLO supports the right of return and opposes all alternative solutions, such as naturalizing the refugees or allowing them to return only to the PA territories; explain what happened to the billions of dollars amassed by the PLO over the decades, and punish those who embezzled them; hold elections to the PNC among all the Palestinians and have it approve a new covenant; make a complete separation between the PNC and the PLO; prohibit any security coordination with the occupation; and uphold the right to resist the enemy by every means. www.palestine-info.info, February 3, 2009.

[27] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), January 31, 2009.

[28] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), February 1, 2009.

[29] Al-Quds (Jerusalem), February 1, 2009. Similar statements were made by Hamas officials in the West Bank, such as former deputy prime minister Nasser Al-Din Al-Sha'er. Al-Hayat (London), January 31, 2009.

[30] Al-Quds (Jerusalem), February 1, 2009.

[31] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), February 1, 2009.

[32] The memo also stated that all of Palestine, from the Mediterranean to the Jordan, must be regarded as one indivisible unit; that no part of Palestine may be relinquished; that the U.N. resolutions must be rejected; and that emphasis must be placed on the military option.

[33] Al-Tariq (PA), July 2006.

[34] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), March 18, 2005.

[35] Al-Ayyam (PA), May 11, 2006.

[36] Al-Ayyam (PA), February 9, 2007.

[37] www.paltoday.com, March 19, 2009.

[38] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), March 14, 2009.

[39] Al-Hayat (London), Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), March 12, 2009.

[40] Al-Ayyam (PA), March 23, 2009.

[41] Al-Hayat (London), Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), March 28, 2009.

[42] Al-Ayyam (PA), March 23, 2009.

[43] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), May 7, 2009.