Rajab Abu Sariya
Al-Monitor (Opinion)
January 14, 2013 - 1:00am


Once again, the meeting between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas Political Bureau Chief Khaled Meshaal raises concerns. It revives our dreams of ending intractable internal divisions, and will prolong a false hope.

The situation of the people of Gaza is not good, nor is that of the people in the West Bank. The former remain under siege, while the latter remain under occupation. Youth in both territories suffer from serious unemployment, and citizens of the West Bank can barely sustain themselves. Many people are waiting for salaries which have been withheld for two consecutive months.

The situation of Palestinians abroad is not any better. Palestinians in Syria face displacement or death. Palestinians in Lebanon continue to live in miserable camps as they have for over 60 years. Palestinians living in their homeland aren't living as they should be, nor are those living abroad.

I will never forget the day I was with the late President Yasser Arafat, who said that the Palestinian people will always be greater than their leadership. I will not forget this saying, because reality confirms it every day.

Although the meeting between Abbas and Meshaal in Cairo has political significance, some fear that it could prove just like the scores of meetings that preceded it. This fear is justified, since the meeting might prolong illusions of ending the division, so that people don't lose faith in their current leadership, rise up against it, and themselves put an end to this shameful division.

First, it should be noted that the Egyptian involvement in the Palestinian issue has failed. For five years, under both the former and current regimes, Egypt has not achieved its goal of ending the divisions.

We believe that it is no longer useful to go to Cairo. Cairo faces internal problems that limit its effectiveness. At the same time, it has domestic and regional considerations that prevent it from ending the division.

Today, we Palestinians don't need anyone's sponsorship to succeed; we can do it by ourselves. Withdrawing the problem from Cairo doesn't require searching for an alternative mediator, since the source of a resolution is the Palestinian people themselves. They are eager to end the divisiveness and are keen on preserving national unity.

How can reconciliation be achieved? We believe that Abbas and Meshaal should head directly to Gaza from Cairo and call for a popular conference to bring together all factions and forces. Abbas should call for a session of the Legislative Council in Gaza, with all deputies who can attend, even by video conference. During the session, Gaza would recognize Abbas as president, and the Legislative Council could be reactivated in order to achieve the demand of both sides.

Continuing with Cairo's initiative will only waste more time before Israeli elections are held.

The Palestinian side lacks initiative. The results of the meeting in Cairo so far have been that the two Palestinian sides are only discussing how to implement previous agreements — in other words by initiating the elections committee in Gaza and holding consultations on forming a government.

A dramatic declaration of an end to divisiveness will not be made. Such a declaration is not even probable in the foreseeable future. An agreement on implementation, spearheaded by Meshaal on the part of Hamas, wouldn't guarantee anything; Meshaal may not be in charge of Hamas in a few days or weeks from now.

What is preventing an announcement by the two men? They were even slow to announce the revival of reconciliation efforts in the wake of the second war on Gaza and the political battle in the United Nations.

What considerations by both parties prevent them from resolving the divisions? Several calculations and facts on the ground prevent them from doing so, including the obstacles and considerations we have mentioned earlier.

Clearly, a balance of power is still in place. Each side believes that time is on their side. They have also become become comfortable with being divided, having managed it successfully after failing to work as partners.

Does this mean that talking about ending internal Palestinian division is like talking about Arab unity, which the Arabs have talked and dreamed about for over 50 years? The answer may be a bitter "yes." But even given such a possibility, we have to discuss ways to develop a "fraternal relationship" between both Palestinian sides.

If achieving unity by the Yemeni way is out of the question in the foreseeable future, we should at least search for policies that would unite the communities in Gaza and the West Bank. These policies are obligatory and necessary.

In spite of geographic obstacles and the Israeli occupation, which stand in the way of unity, a strategic discussion must be conducted. Even if a miracle happens, and an announcement is made unifying both components of the state, there must be guarantees to prevent a repeat of what happened five years ago.


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