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Chronicle of the Middle East and North Africa

On the Necessity of Renewing the Palestinian National Project

Palestinian National Project
Palestinians check the damage caused by an Israeli air strike at the Islamic National Bank of the Palestinian Hamas movement in Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 13, 2021. SAID KHATIB/ AFP

Majed Kayali

Despite the transformations, developments, successes and failures, the Palestinian national movement is still afraid to propose any new questions or adopt alternative political options and visions. It looks as if this movement stopped developing after adopting the Ten Point Program in the mid-1970s. Likewise, the Palestinian national movement has been idle since signing the Oslo Accords at the White House in Washington in 1993.

There are other subjective reasons for this too. The list includes the fear of the new, the state of intellectual stagnation, the weakness of the democratic content in the movement’s internal relations, and the domination of a specific political class for decades. That also explains why the movement relied on a particular political option and stuck to it for several decades, despite knowing its harm and futility.

There are other subjective reasons for this too, which are the fear of the new, the state of intellectual stagnation, the weakness of the democratic content in the Palestinian national movement’s internal relations, and the domination of a specific political class for decades. That also explains why the movement relied on a particular political option and stuck to it for several decades, despite knowing its harm and futility.

The movement that emerged to liberate Palestine in the mid-1960s remained in this state for only about eight years, while it relied on the option of the two-state solution for nearly four decades, including approximately two decades since signing the Oslo Agreement.

The intent here is not to lament the past that has been lost nor to hold a political or moral trial for one option. Instead, it is to stress that the political stagnation and being a captive of one prospect is harmful to movements that seek change and the best for their people. It contradicts the basics of political action, which assumes better management and optimal investment of information, interactions, and available and possible resources.

The only change that the Palestinian national movement witnessed since its establishment in the mid-1960s occurred after the Oslo Accords and its political repercussions. The agreement marginalized the PLO in favour of the authority and changed its character from a liberation movement to an authority that seeks independence for a portion of the people on one part of the land rather than the whole homeland. That affected its representative significance for the refugees. Also, the movement shifted from depending on armed struggle as the only way to liberation to relying on negotiations as the only way to obtain independence and restore rights.

Of course, there is a difference between the two moments of the Ten Point Program and the signing of the Oslo Agreement. At first glance, the changes were limited to the theoretical aspect and focused programs and slogans. However, a thorough look may let us see that the changes included both theoretical and practical aspects. The changes were reflected in restructuring all political entities and rearranging them to accommodate the new reality, including transforming the military resistance into security apparatus or dissolving them.

Regardless of accepting or rejecting the Oslo Accord, signing it represented a massive setback to the Palestinian national movement. Signing that accord came under the pressure of international and Arab transitions that took place in the early 1990s that benefited Israel and weakened the Palestinians, like the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US dominating over the international system, the second Gulf War, and the disintegration of the Arab system. Although there is a part of the responsibility for this that the official leadership bears.

For many years, the Palestinian arena has been living in a new pivotal moment. All horizons have been blocked due to the Oslo Accords. The same applies to the deadlock that the Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza have reached. All of this because Israel eluded the obligations of the Oslo Accord and refused to let the Palestinians build an independent state for themselves in the West Bank and Gaza. The Palestinian president expressed this predicament, and his despair over the possibility of achieving this option, by giving Israel one year to manage the settlement process and enable the Palestinians to establish a state for them, and that if this is not possible, the rules of the game will change.

Of course, Israel does not care for the Palestinian president’s words, knowing of his helplessness, but the question is for the Palestinian president about the cards he possesses, and options he can resort to after a year, and what will he discover during this year that he did not during 28 years since the Oslo Accords.

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Dima Elayache
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