Senior PLO Official Ashrawi Resigns, Calling to 'Reinvigorate' Palestinian Politics

In her resignation letter, Hanan Ashrawi emphasizes need for reforms, but makes no reference to reports that her decision follows disagreements over renewed ties with Israel

Jack Khoury
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Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi speaks during a press conference in Ramallah, February 24, 2015.
Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi speaks during a press conference in Ramallah, February 24, 2015. Credit: Abbas MOMANI / AFP
Jack Khoury

Senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi confirmed on Wednesday that she has formally resigned from her role as member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization Executive Committee.

Ashrawi's official statement follows a Monday report by Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, which said she had tendered her resignation to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in protest of the Palestinian leadership’s decision last month to resume coordination with Israel.

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However, in her statement she cited different reasons for her departure. "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, including by respecting the mandate of the Executive Committee rather than its marginalization and exclusion from decision-making," wrote the 74-year-old, seen as a trailblazer for women in Palestinian politics. 

She emphasized that the "Palestinian political system needs renewal and reinvigoration with the inclusion of youth, women, and additional qualified professional" and that it "is incumbent upon us all to assume our individual responsibilities and to carry out our duties with honesty and integrity, including by facilitating this needed change."

Ashrawi reiterated her commitment to serving the Palestinian people, "albeit outside public office."

She said she had informed President Abbas of her decision to resign – effective as of the end of the year – on November 24, but that they had agreed that this "not be publicly disclosed until all necessary arrangements [were] concluded."

She criticized "senior sources" for leaking the news of her resignation, "regrettably" made in a "misleading and irresponsible manner that lead to conjecture and rumors."

In her letter, Ashrawi also confirmed what senior officials had told Haaretz on Monday – that Abbas did not intend to accept her resignation, and would defer the decision to the Palestinian National Council, which appoints PLO Executive Committee members. She added that while she "appreciates and respects" Abbas' decision, she reaffirms her resignation and "consider[s] it to be in effect."

Sources close to Ashrawi told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed's that she "was angry" with the decision to resume ties with Israel, and senior officials said she had asked Abbas to leave also due to personal reasons, after having contracted coronavirus in October. However, in Wednesday's letter, Ashrawi neither explicitly referred to the resumption of ties with Israel, nor alluded to her personal health.

Ashrawi, rose to international recognition at the Madrid Conference of 1991, where she served as the spokesperson of the Palestinian delegation. Her resignation comes nearly a month after the death of PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat. President Abbas has yet to name a successor.

Hanan Ashrawi in her West Bank home of Ramallah, December 16, 1993.Credit: Jerome Delay / AP

In May, President Abbas announced the Palestinian Authority would suspend all agreements and understandings signed with Israel and the United States, affecting both security and civilian issues, after Israel's proposal to annex the Jordan Valley and settlements in the West Bank.

A deal establishing formal relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates in August led to an Israeli suspension of any such moves, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying that the United States had asked for the suspension and claiming that it was temporary. 

Palestinian Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh said last month while announcing the restoration of coordination that the Palestinian Authority had been given assurances that Israel would respect its existing agreements with the Palestinians. Israeli defense officials meanwhile said that Joe Biden's victory in the U.S. presidential election made it easier for the Palestinians to agree to resume relations.

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