Abdullah Iskandar
Dar Al-Hayat
February 2, 2009 - 1:00am

The voices that were raised in Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, and other Palestinian factions, in support of the PLO as an authority for Palestinians, indicate that Khalid Meshaal's proposal is nothing at best but a political escalation pending the Egyptian-brokered dialogue. Perhaps it is a trial balloon to test renewed old attempts to ruin the organization's credibility and restore the Palestinians' authority and independent national project to their previous state some decades ago, before the PLO gained Arab, then international, recognition as the sole legitimate representative of Palestinians. In this case, the fate of the Palestinians will once again form part of the compromises and calculations of the capitals that support the alternative authority project - with what this entails in terms of silencing the required Palestinian voice in the next phase of intense focus on the Arab-Israeli conflict.
No one is opposed to an organization or party choosing its authority; Hamas has chosen its well-known authority. Also, no one is opposed to Hamas promoting this authority. However, the problem lies in its attempt to turn it into an authority for all the Palestinians, whether domestically or abroad. This new authority will then be turned into a representative entity, then an alternative to the PLO. All this despite the clarifications and interpretations related to the necessary dialogue and the PLO reform and rectification of its administrative and political performance - particularly after the Gaza catastrophe and the new international and Arab enthusiasm to rebuild the Strip and re-launch the settlement process.
It is evident that the Palestinian condition is unable to effectively deal with any of the pending issues in light of the current divisions, and will be even more powerless when a body other than the PLO is formed, claiming to represent Palestinians and to carry an independent national Palestinian project. The PLO is the sole reference to all the parties involved in the Palestinian cause, whether friends or fiends.
Holding on to the PLO constitutes a priority as much as the rebuilding of the Strip, the provision of homes, schools, hospitals, and other living conditions. This won't be an easy matter as long as the internal Palestinian dialogue is not restored and any potential reconciliation does not take into consideration the bad management of Palestinian issues, the fruitless negotiations with Israel, and the catastrophic consequences of the offensive on the Strip. In other words, the PLO needs a new political program after amending its structure to attract powerful entities, parties, and organizations. As for technical matters, such as controlling checkpoints or reconstruction, and their being considered the main focus of the coming phase and of political actions, this creates more divisions than accord. Hence, this will only lead to failure, just like all previous dialogues that ended in unheeded agreements.
What's more, stressing on these issues in such circumstances can be considered as a prior refusal of dialogue, which corresponds to the calls for an alternate authority.
Dialogue is supposed to lead to a transition phase followed by presidential and legislative elections. Hence, it is evident for political projects to compete and reflect the competition among the parties represented inside and outside of the PLO. However, what is new in the coming elections is that the political program of Hamas, which was ignored or ambiguous in the previous legislative elections, has become clear to everyone. With Hamas voters aware of this program and its effects, their vote will not be linked to the mismanagement of Fateh.


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