Senior PLO official Ashrawi to resign, calls for Palestinian political reforms

VETERAN Palestinian negotiator and women’s rights advocate Hanan Ashrawi has announced that she would quit her senior post in the Palestine Liberation Organization at the end of 2020, and called for political reforms.

Ashrawi, 74, did not give a reason for her resignation in a statement announcing the move. But she said that the PLO’s Executive Committee, on which she served, had been marginalised “and from decision-making”.

The 15-member committee, the most senior body of the PLO, is headed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and is not often convened by the 85-year-old leader.

“The Palestinian political system needs renewal and reinvigoration with the inclusion of youth, women and additional qualified professionals,” Ashrawi said in her statement.

“I believe it is time to carry out the required reform and to activate the PLO in a manner that restores its standing and role.”

Ashrawi said she had tendered her resignation to Abbas, who also heads the Palestinian Authority (PA) that administers limited self-rule in the occupied West Bank under interim peace deals with Israel.

Ashrawi said Abbas deferred a decision on whether to accept her resignation to the PLO’s Central Council.

Critics accuse Abbas of allowing Palestinian political institutions to stagnate. There have been no presidential or parliamentary elections for the PA for more than a decade.

Her negotiating days date back to the earliest public, U.S.-mediated talks with Israel in 1991 at the Madrid Conference, where as PLO spokeswoman she articulated the Palestinian quest for statehood to the world.

Following the signing of the Oslo Accords with Israel in 1993, Ashrawi served in the cabinet of the newly-formed Palestinian Authority.

A champion of women’s rights, Ashrawi was the first woman elected to the Executive Committee in 2009. She was re-elected to the group in 2018 and has headed its Department of Public Diplomacy and Policy. – Thomson Reuters Foundation.