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Recently, Algeria sponsored a meeting for the 14 Palestinian factions to end the Palestinian political division. The meeting sought to reclaim national unity and revive collective entities, such as the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority (PA). Also, the Algeria meeting aimed to end the Palestinian division and animosity between Fatah and Hamas, which have grown to become the authorities in the West Bank and Gaza, respectively.
Fifteen similar meetings have been held previously, as Hamas, Fatah, and the other factions have held numerous meetings over the past 17 years. Egypt hosted six faction meetings between 2005 and 2017. Qatar hosted two meetings in 2012 and 2014. The Palestinian factions held three meetings in 2018 and 2020 in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Also, three meetings were held in Lebanon, Turkey, and Russia in 2018 and 2021 for the same reason. In addition to these meetings, Palestinian prisoners in Israel issued a document in 2006, attempting to help mend the Palestinian national divide.
All agreements reached in these meetings remain ink on paper or were repealed before implementation. The Palestinian leadership, for instance, has resumed its coordination with Israel after a suspension of several months in 2020. Another example is Mahmoud Abbas ’ decision to postpone the Palestinian elections in April 2021.
A number of essential issues require decisiveness in order to reach reconciliation.
First, Fatah and Hamas must address political partnership. Fatah presents itself as the Palestinians’ only guardian: unilaterally, it dominates the national decision-making process and manages the Palestinians’ affairs. In line with this approach, Fatah treats the Palestinians as if they have not suffered as a result of its failures over the past 50 years. Its failures include choosing to continue on the path of reconciliation and negotiation, poorly managing the authority, and marginalising the PLO and its affiliated entities.
The same applies to Hamas, which still has not realised that it failed to be an alternative to Fatah. Additionally, Hamas attends reconciliation meetings without pondering the Palestinian division resulting from its choices or its exclusionary management of the Gaza Strip. Moreover, Hamas, too, has failed in terms of resistance and authority.
In other words, both organisations must acknowledge that changing the Palestinian situation requires more than reconciliation and power sharing. Both should move towards rebuilding Palestinian entities on collective, institutional, national, democratic and resistant foundations.
Second, the PLO needs to be rebuilt and reactivated, not just reshuffled, as its structure has aged and eroded. Therefore, the PLO needs new and young cadres. In short, it is necessary to renew the legitimacy of the PLO’s affiliated entities. It is also necessary to rewrite the possible national options based on experience and reality alongside new developments.
Third, the leaderships of Fatah and Hamas must realise that only elections can be the start to solving the issues related to the Palestinian division. This includes future options that should correct previous political failures, such as the Oslo Accords and the impossibility of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.
Pursuing the fruitless and unattainable Oslo option is illogical. Israel has already spread its settlements and dominated the Palestinian people in their entirety in all economic, security, and administrative aspects.
It goes without mentioning that the elections must include the Palestinian Legislative Council, the Palestinian National Council and the presidency. It would be most desirable to hold the Legislative and the National Councils’ elections with full proportional representation on the national level, since this is the only course that avoids factional, regional and tribal influences.
Fourth, reaching a deal is impossible unless Hamas and Fatah forfeit their desire to be an authority equipped with a security apparatus and financial resources. Perhaps both parties’ return to being national liberation movements is the way out. In other words, both movements should favour liberation over authority and conflict with Israel over conflict among themselves. In conclusion, the Palestinian crisis will remain unless there is a change in Palestinians’ awareness and culture.
Any Palestinian dialogue should address these issues decisively because the fait accompli will render such talks useless. Indecisiveness is why all similar prior events have failed, which hopefully will not hold true in Algeria this time.
Amid the battle between the two movements over leadership and authority, the concerned leaders should realise that there is another option: to continue the convenient and profitable occupation, in other words, continuing with the settlement process, Judaization of Jerusalem, and land confiscation. It also means that the separation barrier will continue, and Palestinian cities will be mere besieged gatherings. It also means security coordination, economic dependency and administrative dominance.
The point is that, realistically, the options available to the Palestinians are no longer exclusively Fatah and Hamas. An Israeli option is making its way through a systematic and gradual but deep and solid approach. All of these options are based on preserving a situation in which the Palestinians have no independent state and no autonomy under Israeli sovereignty, be it explicit or implicit.
Finally, those gatherings in Algeria may neglect that there is a fourth option; rebuilding the Palestinian entities, including the PLO, the PA, the factions and popular institutions. A mere alternative is not what is sought in this case. This is impossible given current circumstances and because having alternatives depends on future internal and international developments.
The fourth option must lead to rebuilding Palestinian entities on national liberation foundations rather than authoritarian interests. These entities need to have a resistant, representative, electoral and institutional basis to rebalance the Palestinian arena and form new political visions incompatible with the independent state option. Nevertheless, these visions may open the horizons for a renewed compatibility of liberation and freedom. Also, they will harmonise the people with the land and the cause and the historical narrative that has been dismantled.
After the first and second options failed and the third option prevailed, we may only have the fourth option. So why does everyone not work on this option, which may be for the good of the entire Palestinian people?
The opinions expressed in this publication are those of our bloggers. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Fanack or its Board of Editors.