Mustafa Barghouti: Getting the Palestinian Legislative Council out of the freezer

Here is the full text of an interview I did yesterday in the Ramallah offices of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society, headed by Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, who is a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council for the Mubadara – Independent Palestine list, and who was Palestinian Authority Minister of Information under the short-lived National Unity Government that was disbanded just about a year ago after Hamas routed Fatah security forces in Gaza.

In this interview, Dr. Barghouti answers questions about the revival — at least in a limited role, at first — of the Palestine Legislative Council, and possible moves towards healing of the split between the West Bank and Gaza by national reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas:

Question: Dr. Barghouti, I wanted to ask you first of all about the Palestinian Legislative Council. It reportedly met for the first time in a long time on the 5th of June, last Thursday and welcomed the initiative of President Abbas…

Answer (interrupting the question): Not exactly, no. We did not have a meeting of the Legislative Council. And that was not the purpose of the meeting. The meeting took place as a follow-up of a previous meeting which we had had between heads of different groups in the parliament, because we are very worried about the fact that there is a concentration of all the powers in Palestine in the hands of the government – whether in Gaza or in the West Bank, and both governments practically have eliminated the role of the Legislative Council. And what we are seeing is the government practicing legislative authority in addition to executive authority, although its status, legally, is questionable. We gathered to find a way, in a situation where one-third of the members of parliament are in Israeli jails, obstructing the possibility of reconvening the Council, and with the situation of division between the West Bank and Gaza, where both people cannot reach each other. In the situation of this paralysis caused by these factors, we have to find a way to bring back the role of the Legislative Council. And what we decided was to act although informally but effectively: we had a meeting with the participation of a good number of people from different factions, and we decided to create a committee that represents all the groups, including Fatah, Hamas, Mubadara, DFLP, all the people who are in the Council, to regain the supervisory as well as legislative role of the Council.

What we are doing is that, according to the law, each member of the Legislative Council is entitled to practice his duties, even if the Council is not meeting. So what we are doing is, collectively, translating this individual right into action – which means, we will have three major committees and they will start acting next week.

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