One of the most well-known members of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Hanan Ashrawi, has resigned her post as a member of the organization’s most senior body, effective as of the end of 2020.
Ashrawi made history by becoming the first woman to be elected to the PLO‘s Executive Committee in 2009. While the 74-year-old did not provide a specific reason in a statement announcing her resignation, she said political reforms were needed in that the Executive Committee had been marginalized “and [excluded] from decision-making.”
Also noting that “The Palestinian political system needs renewal and reinvigoration with the inclusion of youth, women and additional qualified professionals,” Ashrawi said “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.”
The 15-member committee is headed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and is not often convened by the 85-year-old leader. He issued his own brief statement confirming acceptance of Ashrawi’s departure.
Ashrawi was born to an Arab Christian family in Nablus. After working as a student activist for the Palestinian cause, she began her political career in 1988 as a member of the Intifada Political Committee during the first major violent uprising that claimed the lives of 277 Israelis.
Worldwide recognition was gained when Ashrawi was appointed the official spokesperson for the Palestinian delegation during the Middle East peace process that opened with the 1991 Madrid Conference, while also serving as a member of the Leadership/Guidance Committee and executive committee. The veteran negotiator and women’s rights advocate also served in the cabinet of the newly-formed Palestinian Authority (PA) after the Oslo Accords were signed with Israel in 1993. She has authored many publications about Palestinian politics and been the recipient of many international peace and women’s rights awards and honorary doctorates.
Ashrawi was reportedly the second senior Palestinian official to contract coronavirus in October. No details of her condition were released, but she canceled all public engagements during her recovery. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat died of the disease last month, after having been brought from his West Bank home in Jericho to an Israeli hospital in critical condition.
Critics accuse Abbas of allowing Palestinian political institutions under his authority in the West Bank to stagnate. The PLO Chairman and leader of the Fatah faction was elected to a four-year term as PA President in 2005, but the PLO Central Council in 2009 authorized his rule to continue ‘indefinitely.’ The PA has not held new elections in nearly a decade and a half, despite repeated vows to do so.