Munir K. Nasser
A delegation from the Palestinian Legislative Council visiting the United States warned that Palestinians might end up with a “police state” rather than a “democratic system.”
Speaking at the Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine in Washington this week, members of the delegation criticized President Arafat for concentrating power in his own hands and ignoring the role of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC).
According to PLC representative Abdul Jawad Hamayel (Independent), the concern of the Council is the limited diversity among the different Palestinian institutions. Referring to the power of Yasser Arafat, Hamayel asserted, "there is no Palestinian National Council; there is really only Arafat. There is no Executive Committee; there is just Arafat." In fact, he said, only an illusion of institutional variation exists with Arafat running "the whole thing."
Hamayel said he worries that this controlled atmosphere hinders attempts at restructuring the current system, and creates problems in the peace negotiations.
PLC member Jamal Younis Hindi (Fateh) expressed concern about the way the Palestinians negotiate with the Israelis in the peace process. Hindi said that the PLC itself has "no . . . effective role" in the Oslo process. "Whether we are talking about the Palestine National Council (PNC), the PLC, or the Executive Committee of the PLO, we find that these institutions are [in reality] absent,” he said. To him, this raises concerns for Palestinian negotiators. “Where does the authority to make decisions lie?" asked Hindi. Is it with the institutions? If so, how does one represent the people on the street if they disagree with resolutions passed by the institutions,” he asked?
Delegate Husam Khader (Fateh) stressed that all agreements made between Israel and the PLO "were never presented to the PLC." He said members of the PLC attempted to find out about the details of the Hebron agreement, which in his view "was particularly flawed.” He noted that the speaker of the council, who is part of the executive branch, blocked the council’s attempts in this regard.
Despite the ongoing efforts of the PLC, Hamayel fears that the Palestinians may end up with a "police state" rather than a "democratic system." He argued, “Not even the delegates are immune to repression.” Both Hamayel and Hindi, as well as several other PLC members, have been beaten up by Palestinian security forces.
A number of the delegates argued that their hope for change rests with the Palestinian people as a whole. According to Hindi, what is needed is a "national awakening" created by "the Palestinian people at large, represented by the political forces and social institutions, such as the trade unions and other similar groups. These organizations can "bring about a political engagement on the ground" that can lead to such an awakening – Albawaba.com
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