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The First Council
On November 29, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly issued the resolution No. (181) calling for the partition of Palestine into two States; Arab State and Jewish State. The resolution states that the Jewish state obtains 56.47% of the Palestinian Lands, while the Arabic State obtains 43.53%.. The resolution also states that the city of Jerusalem will be under International Supervision.
The Palestinians rejected the resolution as they felt it is unfair while the Zionist extremist Organizations committed massacres of ethnic cleansing aiming at the displacement of Palestinians from their towns and villages, such as Deir Yassin which was committed on April 9, 1948 in which more than three hundred innocent Palestinian civilians were murdered. It is worth mentioning that violence has started decades ago following Belfour declaration of 1917 in which Great Britain promised the Jews to establish their national home in Palestine.
As a result of this scheme, the Palestinian national movement was formed and developed into different forms of resistance.
The most critical events during this era were (AL Nakbah) of the Palestinian People in 1948, and the outbreak of the first Arab- Israeli war which caused displacement of more than 800 thousand Palestinians.
Following the war, the armed Zionists organizations seized 78% of the Palestinian land including West Jerusalem. The remaining parts of Palestine represented by the west Bank and Gaza Strip were annexed to the neighbor Arab countries Jordan and Egypt respectively.
The Palestinian people have become refugees in the neighboring Arab countries.
In June, 1967, Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, including East Jerusalem as well as Syrian Golan Heights and the Egyptian Sinai peninsula.

The Current Palestinian Revolution:

Despite these serious events after 1948, the Palestinian people maintained their commitment to their national identity, and the dream of returning to Palestine. In 1964, The Palestine Liberation Organization was established based on a decision made by the Arab summit that was held in Cairo in the same year.
At the dawn of the first of January 1965, the Palestinian revolution was declared led by the late Palestinian leader Yaser Arafat aimed at liberating the Palestinian land and achieving the right of return.
In 1969 Arafat was elected as a PLO President which later became the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian People. The Palestinian Diplomacy was developed in parallel with armed resistance
( Fateh Movement) and other Palestinian national had emerged were formed and functioned under the mandate of PLO.
In 1974, the United Nations recognized the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and granted it the observer status at the UN and its various institutions. In the same year, Arab states recognized PLO followed by international recognition by most of states.
In 1987, the first Intifada broke out in response to the repressive practices of the Israeli occupation seeking freedom and national independence. The Intifada increased awareness and drew more attention towards the Palestinian cause by the international community.

The PLO took the historical decision through the Palestinian National Council, (parliament in exile) to adopt the United Nation’s resolution on the Palestinian issue, and the Arab - Israeli conflict, especially resolutions No. (242,338), in addition to all General Assembly resolutions, including resolutions No. (181, 194) which became the base for any political settlement with Israel. This meant that PLO had accepted the approach of negotiation, and declared Palestine is an independent state in the exile, “on the borders of June 1967”, with East Jerusalem as its capital..
On 13 September 1993, the PLO leadership signed the Declaration of Principles (Oslo Agreement) in the White House, which gave Palestinian people the first opportunity to establish a national authority on their land. As part of the series agreements, the Gaza- Jericho agreement was declared on the 14th of May 1994, which allowed the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza Strip and Jericho. The Next agreement was the interim agreement which was signed on the 28th of September, 1995 to expand Palestinian control over the rest of Palestinian cities and towns.
Among the most important issues stipulated in the interim agreement, were the establishment of the Palestinian Legislative Council, which consists of 88 members, representing all Palestinian areas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, including occupied East Jerusalem. By this step the Palestinian people formed their three billers of the state, legislative, executive and judicial reflecting a democratic political system.
Establishment of the Palestinian Legislative Council:
Palestinian people in West Bank and Gaza Strip including East Jerusalem went to the polls, to cast their ballots in order in order to elect their president and PLC members for the first time since the establishment of the Palestinian National Authority.
The General elections took place on January 20, 1996, under international observation where more than
two thousand observers monitored the electoral process. These observers represent 40 states, 10 international organizations, 40 non-governmental organizations, local observers, and a number of journalists and media institutions.
The reports of the observation missions stated that the elections were free, fair, and democratic.
The electoral process has reflected the Palestinian democratic choice. It was a transition from the revolution to state building. It was the a step towards building democratic civil society, in which people can participate in policy and decision-making, rule of law and institution building.
88 members were elected out of 672 candidates .Voter turnout percentage was high, was as follows:
Voter Turnout Percentage :
-73.34% in West Bank.
- 86.34% in Gaza Strip.
- Total: 79.9%.
The distribution of seats in the sixteen Palestinian governorates reflected population density of each; 51 seats were allocated to the West occupied, 37 for the Gaza Strip as follows:
No.
Name of Constituency
No. of Seats
1
Jerusalem
7
2
Gaza
12
3
Bethlehem
4
4
Jenin
6
5
Hebron
10
6
Jabalia
7
7
Selphit
1
8
Tulkarem
4
9
Tubas
1
10
Qalqilia
2
11
Nablus
8
12
Ramallah
7
13
Khanyounes
8
14
Dir Albalah
5
15
Rafah
5
16
Jericho
1
Total
88
Sixteen political factions had participated in these elections, in addition to a number of independents. Male won 83 seats representing (94.3%), while females won
5 seats representing (5.7%) out of 25 women candidates.
On March 7, 1996, late President Yasser Arafat (the President of the Palestinian National Authority) inaugurated the first session of the Legislative Council attended by representatives of more than 60 states.

The Composition of the PLC Bureau:

Based on the Standing Orders of the Palestinian Legislative Council, the Council members (the 88 members) shall join one of the two main bodies, the Speaker’s Bureau, and or the Parliamentary Standing Committees.
Speaker’s Bureau:
Speaker’s Bureau consists of the a speaker and two deputies (the first and second deputies) as well as a secretary general. Bureau members are elected individually by secret ballot at the beginning of each parliamentary period which takes place in the first week of March yearly.
The MP Ahmed Qurie( Abu Ala) was elected as a speaker of the Council for seven successive parliamentary periods, and after holding the position of prime minister, MP Rafik Natsheh was elected as a speaker of the Council on November 3,2003.
At the beginning of the ninth period ,on December 3,2004 Rouhi Fattouh was elected as a speaker , and re-elected in the tenth period as well.

Duties of the Speaker and Bureau Members:

The speaker represents the Council in all forums. His duties are:
* Enforcing the provisions of the Basic Law as well as PLC standing orders.
* keeping security and order.
* Calling and Opening the sessions and managing the debates.
* building relations with parliaments and other organizations.
In the absence of the speaker, the First deputy assumes his/her responsibilities, while in the absence of the first deputy, the Second deputy assumes them. In the absence of the Speaker and the two deputies, the oldest member assumes the same responsibilities.
On February 23,2006, the position of the Secretary General amended from being assumed by a PLC member to be assumed by an administrative staff. The Secretary General is responsible for all administrative Affairs, including managing the PLC sessions.

Parliamentary Standing Committees:

The Parliamentary standing committees represent the legislative and oversight tool of the council. Usually the recommendations provided by these committees are adopted by the council in a form of decisions.
In accordance with the internal Standing Orders, there are ten parliamentary standing committees as follows:
- Al-Quds Committee.
- Land and settlement resistance Committee.
- Refugees Committee (refugees; displaced, and expatriate).
- Political Committee.
- Legal committee
- Budget and Finance Committee.
- Economic Committee (industry, trade and investment, housing, supply, tourism, planning, natural resources, water, environment, energy, agriculture).
- Education committee.
- Health Committee.
- Labor and workers Committee.
- Prisoners, martyrs, wounded fighters and veterans committee.
- Interior and Security Committee.
- Local Government Committee.
- Oversight, human rights, and public freedoms Committee.
- Social Affairs Committee.
-Council Affairs Committee : It is a special committee which is composed of speaker’s Bureau and a number of members. It assists the Bureau in management and
decision-making .
Members of Standing committee are selected at the beginning of each parliamentary period, while the chairperson of the Committee and its rapportour are selected by a secret ballot within
each committee separately.

Ad hoc Parliamentary Committees:

In accordance with the PLC Standing Orders, the following Ad hoc committees have been formed for particular purposes during the ten periods.
-Fact Finding committees were formed on a variety of issues such as:
-(Health and environment (sewage systems leak).
-economic (monopolies).
- Freedom and human rights (the report of the General Oversight Bureau.)
the attacks on citizens and PLC members, security chaos).
-Political issues: (political prisoners file , the national dialogue, implementation of the Council’s
decisions, the reform process, draft basic Law, General elections draft law, political factions draft law)
- Negotiations (Border crossings file, withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, Gaza port).
- Other organizational committees (setting mechanism of committees’ work , live broadcast,
of the Council’s sessions, reform and development of PLC work mechanism).

The number of ad-hoc committees formed by the first legislative Council during the ten periods are:

periods
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
Total
No. of committees
17
2
2
1
2
3
2
--
6
6
41
Central Administratiion:
PLC has established a central administration temporary headquarters based in Ramallah and Gaza to create a supportive climate for PLC members in basic issues falling within their mandate. The following departments and units were created:
General Raportour Department for the council and committees.
Finance Department
Administrative affairs Department
InformationDepartment
Legal Affairs Department
Public Relations and Protocol Department
Technical Department
Foreign Aids Unit.
woman and child unit.
Parliamentary Research unit.
Parliamentary library Department
Branch Offices Department.
The PLC had created constituency based offices in the sixteen Palestinian Governorates. These offices aim at :
- Developing effective communication channels between the voter and the PLC members.
- Receiving citizens’ complaints.
- Disseminating printed information and PLC publications.
- Conducting seminars and workshops to raise the people’s awareness of the PLC role.
- listening to public opinion, and organizing productive meetings to foster
effective exchange of knowledge between public and PLC members.
On February 13,2006, certain changes were made to separate between Administrative
and political Parliamentary levels. Based on recommendations provided by the Reform Committee, the central administration became Secretariat General, and the constituency Offices were also replaced by private offices for PLC members.

PLC Work Mechanisms:

In accordance with the PLC Standing Orders, a parliamentary annual session is conducted divided into two different periods, the term of which is four months starting early March, and early September respectively.
PLC ordinary sessions are held every two weeks, while extraordinary sessions are held upon the request of the Palestinian National Authority President or the speaker of the Council, with the consent of one- third of the PLC members.
Parliamentary Standing Committees hold their meetings every two weeks, in the weeks where no ordinary sessions are held. Committee Meetings are held upon the request of the PLC speaker, or the secretary general, or chairpersons of the committees, or the majority of the committee members.
During the period from 1996-till March/2006, The PLC has passed 10 terms in which , 274 sessions were held ( 200 ordinary sessions, and 74 extraordinary sessions.
Committees also held more than 1935 meetings including hearing sessions and outreach visits. 1005 decisions were made on various political, economic, social, legislative, security, and human rights affairs.

Functions of the Council:

-Enact legislations.f the
-Oversight over the executive authority performance.
-Enhance democracy and parliamentary life.
- Respect Rule of law, and PLC political duties concerning peace
process and negotiations, resistance to Israeli occupation practices.
-Parliamentary Diplomacy.
- Strengthen multilateral relations with International and Arab Parliaments.
- Continue the reform process in Palestinian National Authority Institutions.

Accomplishments of The First Council:

Despite the lack of experience, and obstacles faced the PLC members in fulfilling their tasks and duties due to repressive measures of the Israeli occupation, they managed to hold 274 sessions during the period 1996-2006 . The sessions were distributed in ten terms as follows:
The terms
first
second
Third
Fourth
Fifth
Sixth
seventh
Eighth
Ninth
Tenth
Total
The Ordinary sessions
39
28
21
16
18
12
7
15
21
23
200
extraordinary sessions
4
4
11
9
6
2
5
12
10
11
74
So what did the council accomplish, and what are the aspects that the council concentrated efforts on?

First: The legislative field:

Palestine was under the laws of five different regimes: The Ottoman law, The British Mandate law, The Jordan law in the West Bank, The Egyptian law in Gaza Strip, in addition to the military orders issued by the Israeli occupation. Thus; the basic mission faced PLC members was to undertake responsibility for the unification of laws and to create a Palestinian legal system that reflects the needs and aspirations of the Palestinian people. As a result, the first council has passed 93 laws that were ratified by the President of the Palestinian National Authority, and published in the Palestinian official Gazette. 8 laws out of the 93 were on PA public budget of, while the rest were about different social, economic, security, administrative, judicial, freedom and human rights affairs. The amended basic law was on the top of these laws. The following are the laws that were discussed by the council:
No.
The status of law or the draft law
No. of laws
1
Passed Laws,( issued)
93
2
Passed Laws, (not issued)
7
3
Draft Laws passed by the third reading
2
4
Draft Laws passed by the second reading
2
5
Draft Laws passed by the first reading
7
6
Draft laws passed by the general discussion
37
7
Draft Laws ( pending for committees to express an opinion).
31
8
Draft laws that have been returned to the Council of Ministers
7
9
Draft laws that were not discussed (stopped)
4
10
Draft laws that were suspended ( not discussed)
4
11
Draft laws that have been Withdrawn by the Cabinet
3
12
Draft laws that were rejected
4
13
Other Draft laws
8
Total
220
Among the most important laws that were passed by the Council and published in the Palestinian Official Gazette, and came into force are :
-The Basic Law (the Constitution of the state) .
-The Civil Service Law.
- The Labor Law
- The General Elections Law
- The local authorities Election Law.
-The Budget law.
- The Military Service Law.
-- The Agriculture Law .
- The Traffic Law,
- The Child Law .
- The Charitable Societies Law (NGOs).
-The Social security Law.
- The Public Health Law.
- The Disabled Law.
- The Prisoners Law (in Israeli jails)
-The Palestinian Monetary Authority Law.
-The Income tax law.
-The Water Law.
More than one thousand decisions were made during the term of the First Council. PLC members concentrated on various political, economic, financial, legislative, and social aspects of human life. Special attention was paid to the internal political situation and the balance of powers among Legislative and executive branch, as well as decisions that are relevant to the Council itself.

Second: Oversight Field:

Stressing on the importance of separation between the three powers, respect the rule of law, and applying the system of checks and balances were the basic issues that the second council concentrated on. To this end, the PLC has developed strict oversight mechanisms including: Vote of confidence/no (recalling that the Council has forced the government to resign in its session dated 10 November,.2002).
The Council has approved the PNA public budget and development plan after intensive debate with the executive power for the years 1997, 1998, 1999.2000, 2001.2002, 2003.2004, 2005. It also discussed the reports of “State, Audit and Administrative Control Bureau” and made the necessary decisions regarding them.
The second council has practiced its right in question time tool of ministers for actions taken under their mandate.
434 questions have been forwarded to the government or ministers during the ten sessions. It tackled several issues; civil affairs, justice, health, finance, telecommunications and information technology, social affairs, foreign affairs, planning, public Works and housing, labor, Interior, local Government, , Education and Higher Education, Tourism and Antiquities, agriculture, national economy, youth and Sports, prisoners, endowments, culture and media. These questions were distributed during the council’s sessions as follows:
The session
The first
The second
The Third
The fourth
The Fifth
The sixth
The seventh
The eighth
The ninth
The tenth
Total
The No.
2
69
44
82
15
--
21
60
79
61
434
The ad-hoc committees of the Council and its General speaker’s bureau had monitored the Israeli practices in order to advise the executive power on efforts to address Israeli attacks and violations.
The Council had issued 80 decisions addressing the issues related to overseeing the performance of the security forces and the independence of judiciary. PLC members worked hard to achieve balance of power, and interaction between the legislative and executive power on the one hand, and civil society organizations on the other.
The PLC focused on citizen’s complaints and issued numerous decisions regarding several human rights, freedom of expression, prohibition of political arrests, and confirmation of political pluralism issues. The relation between the first council and the executive power was rocky, even with the late President Yasser Arafat, because of the advanced oversight role that the first council had played to establish and apply the rule of law.

Third: The political Field :
The council has formed 3 committees that do not exist in other parliaments due to the local political situation which has affected the work mechanism of the council .These committees are: Jerusalem committee, Land and settlement resistance committee, refugee committee besides its different committees that are similar to other parliaments.
PLC members concentrated efforts to enact a special law regarding Jerusalem, the capital; they stand against Israeli practices and continuous violations in east Jerusalem in terms of Judaization, and settlement building.
The PLC issued the decision No. 275 / 7-3 that calls for moving PLC sessions to Jerusalem ( “Al Laqlaq” Tower Square), inside the old city.
39 decisions were issued calling the executive power to set an organized plan to face the presence and ongoing expansion of existing settlements, as well as the construction of settlement outposts. Furthermore; the decisions stressed on supporting the resilience of the Palestinian citizens.
In reference to refugees: the Council has issued 13 decisions( through ad-hoc sessions) affirming the right of return in accordance with the UN Resolution (194), as well as improving life conditions inside and outside the refugee camps.
Many PLC sessions also addressed the prisoners’ issue, calling for the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli Jails, and the implementation of the agreements concluded over the peace process.
The PLC has consulted with various International Parliaments explaining the serious impacts of the apartheid wall on the peace process and the two- state solution. These efforts have resulted in the advisory opinion of International Court of Justice calling Israel to cease forthwith the works of construction being built in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including in and around East Jerusalem, and to dismantle forthwith the structure therein situated, and to repeal or render ineffective forthwith all legislative and regulatory acts relating thereto, in accordance with paragraph 151 of this Opinion. Furthermore; it calls to make reparation for all damage caused by the construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem.
Fourth: Decisions:

More than 1005 decisions were made since the PLC inauguration ( March /1996) until the end of the tenth period (final)). The decisions covered various political, economic, financial, social areas, local government, local regulations and legislative issues. Noteworthy that most of these decisions came across the recommendations made by the Standing and ad- hoc Committees of the Council. These decisions have been distributed to the areas that are dedicated to as follows:
The Political Affairs
Economic Legislative Affairs
Financial Affair
Social Affair
The Internal Situation and Human Rights
The Reform
Regulatory Decisions
Jerusalem
Resisting settlement
Refugees
Detainees
General Policy
81419
99
94
112
12
The Council Affairs
The relation between the council and the executive power
35
46
21
31
68
68
90
Fifth: Human Rights and Democracy Aspect:
PLC members adopted the seventh of March (the PLC inauguration anniversary) as the Day of Democracy in Palestine with the purpose of promoting democracy, reinforcing the parliamentary principles and activating involvement of public opinion in decision making process. Besides that, the Council had organized popular and wide campaigns, including: media, cultural, political, and social activities. These campaigns aimed at ensuring the rule of law, human rights, and freedom of opinion and expression.
Sixth: The Diplomatic Field:

During the first council, the PLC members have made contacts and solid relationships with several Arab and foreign delegations and personalities. More than 650 delegations have visited the PLC. Such delegations included presidents, speakers of parliaments, and prime ministers. These visits have exposed the Israeli practices, racism policies, and suppressive measures used against the Palestinian people and land.
More than twenty two parliamentary friendship committees were formed which was an added value to the Palestinian cause. This diplomatic effort has resulted in strong and solid relationship between the PLC and many International parliaments.
Legislative Council and the Reform Process:
PLC members have noticed in early stages the defects of the Palestinian political system, poor performance and mismanagement; so they paid attention to the report issued by State Audit and Administrative Control Bureau 1997, where the Council had formed an ad-hoc committee to study and discuss this report. The committee has set its recommendations and the Council has adopted most of them as follows:
1. The absence of the role of the Council of Ministers as an independent institution and their role in the preparation process of draft laws, and adopt regulations governing the work of ministries and public institutions, in addition to the absence of a clear plan of action that has to be applied by the Council of Ministers.
2. Overlapping and repetition of powers between the ministries, and the lack of clarity in the administrative and organizational structures of ministers’ duties.
3. The Committee has recommended separating meetings of the Council of Ministers from the Palestinian leadership meetings.
At the level of public spending, and across sessions, the Council's decisions called for the need to unify the Palestinian National Authority accounts in the general treasury account, also called for the need to develop the Ministry of Finance, specifically the Departments of the general budget, control and audit, and to establish a department that will be concerned with the preparation and implementation of regulations in particular the principles and standards of the budget and the mechanisms of spending.
The Legislative Council was deeply concerned in determining the constitutional framework of Palestinian National Authority, through the early adoption of the Basic Law, and the continuous insistence to ratify it, as well as through the adoption of the Judiciary Law to ensure the independence of the judiciary sector.
The decisions adopted by the Council were a clear reflection of a comprehensive plan of reform in various fields, especially in the areas of: financial, administrative, judicial and security. For example, the decision No. (195/16/2) called the executive branch to abide by the law and comply with the s of the approved budget and rules or regulations thereunder. The decision No.(217/23/2) called the executive branch to open one bank account for each ministry, while the decision No(134 / 3-1) called the Ministry of Finance to prepare the functional structures of all ministries and institutions as soon as possible, and to cal all ministries and institutions to abide by rules and regulations thereunder.
The Council exerted its efforts in issuing a historical document in the framework of the reform process on May 16,2002, which included three sections as follows:
1.Constitutional part: the need for the legislative and municipal elections as soon as possible. The date of the elections must not exceed the first quarter of the year 2003.
2. Another part was devoted to the executive power, addressing the Council of Ministers and the finance of the PNA, the security services and the general oversight Board, senior jobs, Governorates, and the Palestinian General Personnel Bureau.
3. A part about the Judiciary power and the need to maintain its independence. The council called for the ratification of the Judicial power Act.
PLC members stressed on the principle of separation of powers, especially when approving the amendments on the Basic Law, which allow for the creation of “prime minister” post. The amendments states that the Cabinet operates independently and has obvious tasks and responsibilities, and it is subject to accountability and full parliamentary control, also the amendments identified prime minister's powers and functions.
The Legislative Council was deeply concerned to determine the constitutional framework of Palestinian National Authority, through the early adoption of the Basic Law with constant insistence to ratify it, as well as the adoption of the Judiciary Law besides ensuring the independence of the judiciary sector.
The decisions that were adopted by the Council at this level had formed a comprehensive plan of reform in various financial, administrative, judicial and security fields. For example, the decision No.(195/16/2) called the executive branch for the need to adhere to the approved budget and abide to it by law, and the decision No.(217/23/2) called for the executive branch need to open one account for each ministry, while the decision No. (134 / 3-1) called the Ministry of Finance submit the functional structures of all ministries and institutions of power as soon as possible, and to comply to approved structures as well as many other decisions.

Difficulties and Obstacles:

PLC is the legislature body that was democratically elected by Palestinian citizens. The difficulties and obstacles that the council has faced are represented in the very complex and unique situation that Palestine is living under, besides the modernity of experiment. On the one hand the Palestinian people were building their own state and political entity while Palestine is under Israeli occupation, on the other Palestine is unable to extend its sovereignty over its whole lands. Furthermore; the Palestinian people were undergoing from the case of the revolution to the state of State, and building a democratic civil society within a complex political situation especially when dealing with the principle of separation of powers, and respect for the rule of law.
The surrounding circumstances required to work within a complicated atmosphere, and to work from scratch, both in terms of lack of parliamentary experience and administrative institution that has the needed experience for parliamentary work, in addition to the absence of a special room or building of the Council to hold its meetings or manage its affairs. The PLC members themselves also have to practice parliamentary role and gain experience by a series of true-false trials, and to develop the tools and mechanisms of action that will help them in their parliamentary tasks.
The Impacts of Siege and Aggression on the PLC Fuctioning:
The Israeli siege and aggression which took place on 28September, 2000 have left negative and destructive impact on overall social, political and economic situation, besides its impact on the work of PNA institutions. PLC sessions have been suspended and the PLC elected members were deprived from their free movement. The council managed to hold 42 sessions during the period 2000 - 2004 in comparison to the period 1996 -1997 in which 44 sessions were held. The Israeli authorities controlled and restricted the movement of people and goods through a system of more than 600 military barriers and checkpoints.
As a result to the aforementioned situation, the council continued its work and activities by holding its sessions in Ramallah and Gaza through the video conference system to be the first parliament in the world that holds its sessions by this way. The Reform Document that the council had issued on 16 May,2002 is considered one of the most important achievements of the council. The council also voted for no-confidence of the government and managed to amend the Basic Law. The modifications aimed at the separation between the three powers, and the removal of the articles that caused overlapping of authorities among PNA institutions as well as issuing several laws and approving the PNA public budgets.

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