Hani al-Masri
As-Safir (Opinion)
September 18, 2012 - 12:00am

Following a recent press conference, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that “reconciliation between [Palestinian] factions means holding elections” and that “there will be no further dialogue with Hamas unless the electoral commission resumes voter registration in the Gaza Strip.”

This comes alongside Hamas’ fierce reaction, which was described by Abbas as the main source of strife. He added that there will be no reconciliation unless Hamas gives up such reactions. Given the aforementioned developments, it is now clearer than ever before that national reconciliation between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas is far from being achieved.

Going from this conclusion, it does not make sense to make additional efforts, initiatives and moves that aim to support and develop the current path to national reconciliation, or to focus on the implementation of existing agreements. It is now necessary to find a distinct, new path.

After long and deep consideration, I firmly believe that the reason why the reconciliation was not achieved is because the focus was on the reconciliation itself. Involved parties did not seek a solution to the stalemate that the Palestinian issue has faced and did not address the way in which the Palestinian people and political movements — whether national or Islamic — have represented it.

Finding a path toward reconciliation has failed, since the only concern of the conflicting parties — along with those who seek to resolve the internal conflict — has focused on distributing power, and whether to work with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). This is one of only five issues that are discussed, issues that are sometimes mentioned and at other times forgotten.

The formation of a government, along with the establishment of electoral and security commissions — and thus, the distribution of power — has become a priority. However, the PA's position, prestige, functions, form and commitments in the political system should be getting the attention.

It is also necessary to discuss whether the PA should remain in its original form, since it has become clear that bilateral negotiations and the Oslo Accords — with their addenda and obligations — will not end the Israeli occupation, nor enable the Palestinian people to exercise their right to self-determination.

Instead, they have only turned the temporary transitional solution — which was supposed to end with a final agreement in May 1999 — into an open-ended solution until further notice.

This is true despite the fact that Israel — not Benjamin Netanyahu’s government or any other specific government, but rather all Israeli governments since the Oslo Accords were signed — has neglected this agreement, despite the fact that it has major advantages.

This occurred because Israel thought that the agreement gave Palestinians more than they deserved, or more than they could get with their own strength and Arabic and international sources of support. This is why — ever since Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated — Israel has reformulated the Oslo Accords in a way to meet its interests and objectives, without taking Palestinian interests into account.

In this context, Israel has given up on the Oslo Accords, while still expecting the Palestinians to uphold their obligations. It has started another process — which intensified after the Camp David Summit failed in 2000 — in which it has consolidated the occupation.

This was achieved through expanding settlements, continued aggression, a blockade and the building of an apartheid wall. It also furthered the separation between Jerusalem and the rest of the territories occupied in 1967 and separated the Gaza Strip from the West Bank and Area A from Areas B and C.

It also did everything that could be done to prevent the creation of a Palestinian state and to keep the PA as an imperfect self-governing authority that served as a security agent for the Israeli authorities. Thus, Palestinians were deprived of any hope that a permanent transition toward a real state would be achieved.

For all of these reasons, it is incumbent upon the Palestinians to get rid of these long-term transitional solutions. Under their many stages, Palestinians are gradually losing the fight for their land and human rights.

This gradual decay has a definite end: The Palestinian cause will no longer be considered a matter of national liberation. It will be transformed into a humanitarian issue that merely involves the provision of aid or resolving the conflict between the self-governing authority and the occupying authorities.

The ultimate goal of the occupying authorities is to expand their powers under a clear and consistent Israeli sovereignty, both under and above ground, and concerning air, land and sea borders.

The failure of these efforts to achieve reconciliation is due to the fact that they have focused on maintaining the status quo, which is characterized by unfair agreements and obligations on the part of the Palestinians. This approach has allowed Israel to have the upper hand in the reconciliation process. Israel has laid the groundwork for the recognition of Hamas, or any government in which Hamas participates.

These conditions — outlined by the Quartet on the Middle East, including the United Nations, the European Union, Russia and the United States — include the recognition of Israel, the renunciation of violence and terrorism and a commitment to agreements signed with Israel, particularly with regard to security coordination. This is not to mention the implementation of the Paris Agreement, which provides for full dependency on the Israeli economy.

On this basis, any reconciliation deal was concluded with the consent of the international community, the US and Israel. On this basis as well, governments were formed. At first it was a government of national unity, involving all factions, but then it changed to become a government of independent factions.

Afterward, the government was required to enjoy the confidence of the legislative council and then the confidence of the president alone, so as to confirm that it is affiliated with him. This government adopts the president's program, which is based on Israeli conditions.

In this context, one must notice that the formation of a government, the holding of elections and the consolidation of security spell doom for the reconciliation process. This is particularly true because Israel controls all of these matters. Should the reconciliation process succeed, this means that Hamas and all the Palestinian factions have been subjected to Israeli "obedience," and have given the green light to the Oslo Accords, despite the fact that Israel has ignored the agreement.

Israel would either allow or prevent the formation of a government, the holding of elections or the unity of security, depending on what best serves its interests and further establishes its occupation.

Based on the above, the key to national salvation is the end of division and the achievement of reconciliation. This must be carried out within the context of the national project and the restructuring of the PLO through elections and actual political participation.

Thus, the PLO would be the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, in word and in action. The PLO would lead the Palestinian people, with all their competencies, strengths and resources, to end the occupation, achieve freedom and independence and preserve the rights of Palestinians all around the world.

There is no doubt that any efforts to boost the PLO would anger Israel, which would take necessary actions against the organization and its leaders. Nevertheless, the PLO must restore its active role no matter the consequences, for it is the only way to secure reconciliation between different Palestinian factions within the framework of the Palestinian "authority," whose president is claiming that is no longer any such thing.

The reconciliation, which means ending the division, is possible only within the framework of the national project. This will only be achieved when all Palestinians are prepared to give up their salaries for the national cause and the future of their children. However, today, Palestinians are not ready to give up their salaries, security or stability for a reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. For them, this is not worth it.

Palestinians have a long way to go before achieving reconciliation. However, this does not necessarily have to be done by officially cancelling the Oslo Accords. They can ignore them, just like Israel has already done, which is important to forge a new path that would link the Palestinians to the changes and revolutions taking place in neighboring countries. This would protect the Palestinian cause and lead it to victory.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017