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As the Israeli regime continues its genocidal campaign against Palestinians in Gaza, many have begun to weigh in on the future of Hamas and of Palestinian leadership more broadly once the bombardment ends. One of the dominant proposals circulating amongst analysts, Palestinian and otherwise, is the revival of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), with Hamas as a member party.

Indeed, senior Hamas officials have signaled renewed interest in joining the coalition in recent weeks, and former Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Salam Fayyad recently argued that the PLO must expand its membership to include both Hamas and Islamic Jihad in order to secure popular legitimacy. Current PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh has likewise indicated a willingness to consider Hamas as a member, provided the movement accepts the PLO’s standing mandate.

But revival of the PLO requires more than bringing Hamas, and possibly Islamic Jihad, into the fold. For the past 20 years, the Fatah-controlled PA has effectively whittled down the PLO to a barren institution, serving primarily its own interests rather than those of the Palestinian people as a whole, as was originally intended. What then, beyond inclusion, is needed in order to resuscitate the viability of the PLO? What resources exist to carry out this effort, and who may champion such a project to ensure a self-determined result?

In an effort to strengthen the generative thinking around these questions, Al-Shabaka revisits a collection of its past works that sought to confront this very topic. Together, these pieces lay bare the reality that the questions many are grappling with today are not new, but rather the continuation of a years-old discussion among the Palestinian community.

Reclaiming The PLO, Re-Engaging Youth

by Nijmeh Ali, Marwa Fatafta, Dana El Kurd, Fadi Quran, Belal Shobaki (August 2020)

In this collection of papers, Al-Shabaka analysts bring a multilayered response to the calls to reclaim the PLO. Belal Shobaki revisits the political evolution of both Hamas and Islamic Jihad, arguing that, after over 30 years of exclusion, the time is ripe to integrate both parties into the umbrella organization. Nijmeh Ali contends with the PLO’s seemingly contradictory nature as both a liberation movement and governing body, arguing that this must first be clarified before an effective form of representation can take shape. Fadi Quran confronts the obstacles in the way of developing authentic leadership, particularly among the youth, and examines the role of resistance as a way out of the morass. Dana El Kurd draws on the diaspora for inspiration, focusing on the Palestinian Youth Movement as a model for how Palestinian umbrella institutions may evolve in an effective and responsive manner. Finally, Marwa Fatafta centers the issue of accountability in the struggle to reclaim the PLO and discusses how to ensure it forms part of the future national movement.

Reviving a Palestinian Power: The Diaspora and the Diplomatic Corps

by Inès Abdel Razek, Zaha Hassan, Nadia Hijab, Mona N. Younis (May 2021)

This study–the first of its kind–zeroes in on the PLO diplomatic corps and its engagement with the Palestinian diaspora. Together, the four authors unpack the assumption that increased engagement between the diaspora and the PLO diplomatic missions may serve to strengthen the PLO and its representative character. Using a detailed methodology that included interviews with a selection of civil society actors as well as current and former PLO diplomats, the study seeks to assess the potentiality of the diplomatic corps in serving as a key tool to revive both the PLO and collective national aspirations.

Scenario Matrix: Possibilities for the West Bank and Gaza

by Mohammed Al-Rozzi, Yara Asi, Jamil Hilal, Tahani Mustafa, Tareq Sadeq, and Belal Shobaki (May 2023)

The Al-Shabaka Scenario Matrix is a Palestinian-led scenarios assessment exercise that seeks to outline the potential implications and consequences of future political scenarios for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. The matrix presents and analyzes various scenarios that Palestinians are likely to encounter in the near future–including, among others, the revival of the PLO. The matrix utilizes a sectoral approach analyzing the repercussions of these scenarios across specific sectors. To date, the following five sectors are examined: health; governance, security, and the rule of law; the economy; education; and the social sector. Political analysis is likewise provided for each scenario. We invite you to engage with this interactive tool to understand further how a PLO revival may impact various Palestinian sectors.

Palestinian Leadership: What a New Model Might Look Like 

by Inès Abdel Razek, Ali Abdel-Wahab, Tareq Baconi, Marwa Fatafta, Dana El Kurd (June 2018)

In this piece, analysts were asked to respond to three central questions: Which governance model can ensure the full democratic representation and popular participation of the Palestinian people within and outside of the West Bank and Gaza? How can we ensure that a new leadership and institutions are accountable to and meet the needs of the Palestinian people? How can we overcome the geographical and political fragmentation of Palestinians? 

In response, Dana El Kurd advocates for a return to the original PLO structure, whereby the Palestinian diaspora would play a key role in refocusing the direction of the Palestinian people. Marwa Fatafta and Inès Abdel Razek propose broader changes, calling for the decentralization of the PLO and PA to give more authority at the local level and break up the current leadership’s power monopoly. Tareq Baconi and Ali Abdel-Wahab recommend the formation of a committee or body outside the current leadership to bring about a new representative model.

The Unity Intifada: Any Role for the PLO?

with Zaha Hassan, Nadia Hijab, and Nadim Bawalsa (July 2021) 

The PLO remains visibly absent from popular Palestinian organizing and action, from the Unity Intifada of 2021 to present efforts to resist Israeli settler colonization. This has led many Palestinians to question the organization’s legitimacy and relevance. Do Palestinians still need the PLO? If so, why? Nadia Hijab and Zaha Hassan join host Nadim Bawalsa as they engage with these questions and more in this Al-Shabaka policy lab. Note: This policy lab is only available in English.

The Palestinians and the Necessity of Restoring the PLO

with Nijmeh Ali, Belal Shobaki, and Alaa Tartir (September 2020)

The Israeli regime’s continued annexation of Palestinian land, alongside expanding normalization with Arab governments, makes it imperative for the Palestinians to revive the PLO and reclaim its role as the sole legitimate representative of all Palestinians. Doing so is essential to restoring the Palestinian national project and collective vision, particularly given the failure of the PA and its two-state model. In this policy lab, Belal Shobaki and Nijmeh Ali join host Alaa Tartir to discuss the importance of activating the PLO in the current context and ways to revive the institution as the sole legitimate and democratic representative of the Palestinian people worldwide. Note: This policy lab is only available in Arabic.

2020 and the Palestinian Leadership with Tareq Baconi

with Tareq Baconi and Yara Hawari (December 2020)

In this episode of Rethinking Palestine, Tareq Baconi and host Yara Hawari reflect on the failure of the Palestinian leadership to provide a challenge to the Israeli regime on the ground and to unite an increasingly socially, geographically, and politically fragmented people. Together, they weigh in on the impact of fragmentation on the liberation struggle, the role of Gaza, and possibilities for political reconciliation among the dominant Palestinian factions. Note: This podcast episode is only available in English. 

For further analysis on Palestinian leadership and the PLO, we encourage you to review our previous compilation, Focus On: PLO and Palestinian Representation (2017).

Marwa is a Palestinian writer, researcher and policy analyst based in Berlin. She leads Access Now’s work on digital rights in the Middle East and...
Al-Shabaka Policy Member Zaha Hassan is a human rights lawyer and visiting fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Her research focuses on Palestine-Israel...
Yara Hawari is Al-Shabaka's co-director. She previously served as the Palestine policy fellow and senior analyst. Yara completed her PhD in Middle East Politics at...
Dr. Yara M. Asi is an Assistant Professor at the University of Central Florida in the School of Global Health Management and Informatics. Her research...
Al-Shabaka Policy Member Tareq Sadeq is a Palestinian refugee from the village of Majdal Sadeq near Jaffa and currently lives in Ramallah. Tareq holds a...
Tareq Baconi serves as the president of the board of Al-Shabaka. He was Al-Shabaka's US Policy Fellow from 2016 - 2017. Tareq is the former...
Tahani Mustafa is the Palestine analyst at the International Crisis Group, where she works on issues including security, and socio-political and legal governance in the...
Dr. Nijmeh Ali is a Fellow at the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (NCPCS), University of Otago and a lecturer in the GDCR...
Nadim Bawalsa is Associate Editor with the Journal of Palestine Studies. From 2020-2023, Nadim served as Al-Shabaka’s commissioning editor. He is a historian of modern...
Nadia Hijab is co-founder and honorary president of Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network. She served as Board President from 2010-2021 and as Executive Director between...
Al-Shabaka Policy Advisor Mona N. Younis is an independent strategic planning and organizational development consultant who specializes in human rights. She has extensive experience in...
Mohammed Alruzzi is a Lecturer in Childhood Studies at the University of Bristol, the UK. He earned his PhD in Social Anthropology from the University...
Jamil Hilal is an independent Palestinian sociologist and writer, and has published many books and numerous articles on Palestinian society, the Arab-Israeli Conflict, and Middle...
Al-Shabaka Policy Member Fadi Quran is a Senior Campaigner at Avaaz and a Popular Struggle community organizer. He previously served as UN Advocacy Officer with...
Al-Shabaka Member Dana El Kurd received her PhD in Government from The University of Texas at Austin. She specializes in Comparative Politics and International Relations....
Belal Shobaki is the Head of the Department of Political Science at Hebron University, Palestine. He is a Policy Member at the Palestinian Policy Network....
Alaa Tartir is Al-Shabaka's program and policy advisor. He is a senior researcher and director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Stockholm International...
Ali Abunimah is the author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli Palestinian Impasse (2006), and co-founder and director of the widely...
Ali Abdel-Wahab works as a data analyst and evaluation and follow-up assistant at the Tamer Institute for Community Education in Gaza. He holds a Bachelor's...

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