Saida, South Lebanon, Asharq Al-Awsat – Palestinian plans to unite all groups and factions under one umbrella organization to represent the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have been scrapped after facing a series of obstacles, with essential differences remaining between the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and its main member, Fatah, and the opposition, headed by Hamas.
Sources told Asharq al Awsat a recent meeting was held in Damascus between representatives from the Palestinian factions and Faruq Qaddumi, the PLO Political Bureau Chief where it was agreed to form a committee to oversee Palestinian affairs in Lebanon and elsewhere in exile.
This agreement was based, the sources added, on an understanding that the Palestinian Authority represents the population of the Occupied Territories as it has been democratically elected, while the PLO represents Palestinian refugees in neighboring countries, without denying the presence of other political organizations outside of the PLO structure.
Meanwhile, the Cairo agreement of March 2005, which aimed at uniting Palestinian groups and including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, has yet to be implemented.
Given the continuing disagreements, the sources predicted inter-Palestinian dialogue will be frozen in the coming months with the only political developments likely to touch on the security situation in the Palestinian camps around Lebanon.
For their part, sources close to Hamas blamed the delay in the re-structuring of the PLO and rendering it more inclusive on deliberate attempts by some parties to exclude them from the political process.
A number of Palestinian observers in Lebanon believe inter-Palestinian relations are headed for conflict in the wake of the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, especially as Hamas is increasing its efforts to regain an foothold amongst the Palestinian refugees living in exile, especially those in Lebanon .
Palestinian leaders believe the latest meeting in the Syrian capital carried a number of messages, from, Qaddumi to the Palestinian factions, stressing his position within the leadership, from Hamas to Palestinian Authority reminding it of the need to include it in the decision-making process, and, finally, from Syria to “whom it may concern” indicating it remained an important player on the Palestinian political scene.