Palestinian National Council (PNC)

The Palestinian National Council (PNC) is the legislative authority within the PLO, and is responsible for formulating the organisation’s policies. It acts as a parliament that represents all Palestinians, except for Palestinian citizens of Israel. The PNC currently comprises 747 members representing Palestinians in Palestine and the diaspora. Despite not being members of the PLO, Hamas and Islamic Jihad (PIJ) representatives are invited to attend PNC meetings as observers (although they usually refuse).

According to its bylaws, the PNC must meet annually and can hold special meetings (without a full quorum) as needed.

A full quorum of the PNC convened between 30 April-3 May 2018 in Ramallah to elect a new Palestinian Central Council (PCC) and PLO’s Executive Committee (EC). This was the first meeting of the full PNC since 1996. This meeting was boycotted by the PFLP, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad, and was seen by analysts as an effort by Mahmoud Abbas to consolidate his hold on power by promoting supporters, while marginalising his political rivals. During the meeting, the PNC reportedly transferred its legislative powers to the PCC. The PNC’s closing declaration and decisions can be found here (in Arabic) urging the suspension of the PLO’s recognition of Israel, of security coordination, and of the Paris Protocol.

In January 2021, Abbas issued a presidential decree announcing that a new PNC (formally including Hamas) would be formed by 31 August.

The scattering of the Palestinian people and Israel’s occupation has made it difficult to organise direct elections for the PNC. Instead, a quota system was put in place whereby factions appoint members to the body in proportion to the size of their support base. This makes Fatah the most dominant faction, followed by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Unions and groups also appoint their own representatives to the PNC.

The PNC adopted the Palestinian National Charter in 1964 and another new charter in 1968. It was amended again in 1996 to comply with the PLO’s acceptance of the Oslo peace process formally launched in 1993. This initiated internal strife within the PLO due to many members’ opposition to the agreements (Edward Said, the famous scholar and activist, left the PNC because he believed the Oslo Accords undermined Palestinian refugees’ right to return to their homes in pre-1967 Israel). In 1998, the PNC convened in Gaza to amend articles within the Charter in accordance with new requirements under the Oslo Accords, including recognition of Israel; the meeting, which was boycotted by many members, was addressed by then-US president Bill Clinton.

Many Palestinians see the PNC as the most important democratic institution through which the Palestinian national movement can be revived. Recent efforts to reactivate the PNC, such as the PNC Register Campaign, are widely supported by Palestinians both inside and outside the OPT. The revival of the PNC is also a central subject in the current Palestinian national reconciliation efforts.