March 7, 2018 / 4:14 PM / in 15 days

Palestinian parliament to convene for rare session next month, PLO official says

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - The Palestinian parliament will convene next month for a rare session and discuss U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a U.S. policy change that outraged Palestinians, an official said on Wednesday.

The 700-member body last met in 2009, in what was termed an emergency session, to replace six of the 18 members of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the largest party in the parliament.

“The Palestinian National Council (PNC) will convene on April 30th, to discuss challenges to the Palestinian cause, especially after the U.S. decision against Jerusalem,” PLO official Wasel Abu Youssef told Reuters, using parliament’s formal name.

He said the decision to hold what he called a “regular session” of parliament in Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, was taken at a PLO Executive Committee meeting chaired by President Mahmoud Abbas.

Palestinian leaders said after Trump’s Dec. 6 declaration on Jerusalem that Washington could no longer take the lead in Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts. U.S.-brokered talks collapsed in 2014.

Trump’s announcement and the planned move in May of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem - home to sites holy to Muslims, Jews and Christians - reversed decades of U.S. policy on the city. Its status is one of the biggest obstacles to reaching a peace agreement.

Abu Youssef said members of parliament from the Palestinian territories and in exile would also elect members to the Executive Committee and the PLO’s Central Council to replace several who have died and others, whom political sources said Abbas wants replaced.

The PNC last held a regular session in 1996, in the presence of then-U.S. President Bill Clinton. At that meeting, the parliament voted in favor of amending clauses in the PLO’s charter that advocated Israel’s destruction.

A Palestinian general election has not been held since 2006, a national ballot won by the Hamas Islamist movement. Hamas seized the Gaza Strip in 2007 from forces loyal to Abbas after a unity government collapsed.

Abu Youssef said invitations for the upcoming meeting would be distributed to members of parliament in Gaza, the West Bank and in exile in the next two weeks. Delegates from outside the West Bank would need Israeli clearance to reach Ramallah, where the session will be held.

Reporting by Ali Sawafta; Writing by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Matthew Mpoke Bigg

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