By: Dr. Mohsen Mohammad Saleh
I am not optimistic that the Palestinian reconciliation will succeed in its current form. However, I am one of the most willing to achieve true national unity, as well as combining the energies of the Palestinian people into a serious action plan directed against the Israeli occupation, thus stopping the depletion of their energies caused by their internal conflicts.
Mahmud ‘Abbas and the Fatah leadership are managing the reconciliation as a “game,” which ultimately aims at subjugating Hamas under their leadership and within the political and security commitments of the Oslo Accords.
The concept of “managing” rather than “solving” is very similar to Israel’s managing the peace process game with ‘Abbas and Fatah, in order to, eventually subjugate them to their will and views on Palestinian self-rule.
The recent Hamas “reconciliation attack” appears to be an “unrequited love” that will slightly embarrass Fatah’s leadership (which combines the leadership of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and that of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)); nevertheless, it will contain it.
Based on that, the maximum amount of gains on the ground will be achieved after voiding the reconciliation — which is based on national partnership—from its substance. Then they would re-escalate the crisis by cornering Hamas under the pretext of lack of response to new reconciliation demands envisioned by Fatah.
Those who have applauded the success of the reconciliation this time… may have been too hasty, because it seemed as if Hamas had been the obstacle and that its moves would save the problem, and because there was no actual assessment of the core of the Palestinian conflict.
The reconciliation can be compared to a situation where two people have agreed to ride in a car, with one of them reluctantly letting the other sit behind the steering wheel. However, the car never moves because each one has chosen a direction opposite to that of his mate, with both envisaging the destruction of the car and the loss of time and opportunity if he accepted to go in the direction chosen by the other.
They also disagreed over which “manual” to refer to, and they argued over what traffic laws to observe when driving the car and how to interpret road signs; they are divided whether to fill the tank with petrol or diesel; they again differed as to who could ride with them.
When they were about to ride, they had different opinions regarding the car model; whether it should be made by a national, regional, or foreign brand. They also differed as to how to cover its expenses, who would “sponsor” and “maintain” it, and where to get spare parts!!
The most dangerous part is that having different destinations in the first place cancels the principle of riding the same car; likewise, difference in reconciliation directions removes the foundations of a real national project.
This type of “urgency and exigency” partnership is easy to undermine and runs the risk of failure at the point where one of the parties feels that the other is not needed any more, or when it has the opportunity to bully the other party with the support of external forces so as to coerce, subjugate, and marginalize it.
This type of partnership tends to manage common interests, and to tactically deal with simple daily matters rather than fundamental and major issues. If such management is desired, then it should be communicated frankly to Palestinians and the world, so that we lower the expectations and deal with it as a “crisis management” rather than a “partnership management.”
A number of analysts reduce the Palestinian conflict to a “power struggle,” but this is not the crux of the Palestinian problem; although a power struggle is admittedly an aspect of the problem.
If the matter was only confined to a conflict of this kind, it could be settled by agreeing on fair and transparent mechanisms and giving guarantees to the conflicting “reconciling” parties that they would take their legislative and leading executive powers, as dictated by electoral, democratic and consultative rules … and the peaceful transfer of power.
However, the core of the Palestinian conflict is that the parties involved have different fundamentals and references (e.g., no agreed upon National Charter); they also differ as to their national program, priorities, and the management of major national frameworks.
The problem is compounded by Israeli, Arab, regional, and international interference used by some parties to bully the others. Moreover, not everyone is under a unified institutional structure to which they could refer to settle matters. There are also the long crisis of confidence and the geographical dispersion.
There is a difference concerning the fundamentals, primarily the definition of Palestine itself. For Fatah relinquished around four-fifths of historic Palestine, recognized Israel and its legitimacy and built its program on the basis of a two-state solution, whereas Hamas and Jihad leaders refuse to relinquish any part of Palestine and refuse to recognize Israel.
Accordingly, Fatah accepted the Oslo Accords with serious obligations concerning the peace process, non-recourse to armed resistance, renunciation of violence, and the establishment of an autonomous administration (the PA), which is under the hegemony of the Israeli occupation, and is politically, economically and security-wise under Israeli-American-Western conditions.
Fatah had hoped that that would convert this autonomous administration to a fully sovereign Palestinian state in a few years; however, after 24 years, they have found out that they have been managing an authority that serves the purposes of the occupation more than the aspirations of the Palestinian people.
At the same time, Fatah leadership and their supporters have re-oriented their “struggle” lives to comply with the PA ceiling, and over the years, a network of interests and a socio-economic way of life have been established under this ceiling.
Hamas, along with the other ten factions, rejected the Oslo Accords and their entitlements, and continued to pursue armed resistance; and when they were forced to deal with the PA, they attempted to adjust its role to serve the Palestinian people without committing to the Oslo entitlements, However, this is rejected by the Israelis and the Americans and their allies … who are committed to the International Quartet’s four conditions (first and foremost the recognition of Israel, extermination of resistance, and agreeing to what the PLO agreed on with regard to the peace process).
This leads Hamas to a dead end when it comes to the leadership of the Authority or the accomplishment of a real and effective partnership compatible with its resistance program, for measures of siege, termination, and elimination will be taken against it.
This means that the reconciliation or partnership program, must include an approval—albeit implicitly—from Hamas on recognizing that matters related to leadership, executive work, security forces, and political relations are the speciality of Fatah, or those parties which accept what Fatah had accepted. In other words, they wish to keep Hamas on the side-lines, whatever its size and popularity, if it wants to move further with the current course of reconciliation.
Hamas’ management and pursue of the resistance movement will mean a breach of Fatah-led authority’s commitments, and an obstacle to the national political process that aspires a two-state solution. Thus, they will seek to dismantle and destroy this resistance under the guise of “one authority… one decision… one security”; for authority at its core is a monopoly of power.
Fatah’s persistence in pursuing the peace process will be considered by Hamas as a continuation of the “futile” Oslo Accords, which run their course without results, loss of Palestinian rights and fundamentals, and an empowerment of the occupation over Palestine. Therefore, Hamas will not give up its resistance and weapons.
Therefore, it won’t be long before Fatah seeks—after taking over the administration of the Gaza Strip (GS)—to control all security and military aspects and dismantle the resistance. In return, it won’t be long before Hamas seeks to expand, strengthen, and activate resistance in the West Bank (WB), which will sooner or later lead to confrontations and crises that will thwart the reconciliation.
For almost fifty years (since the summer of 1968), Fatah has been the exclusive PLO leader. However, its leadership hasn’t been an encouraging model of transparent democracy or a qualification-based selection.
When the Fatah leadership signed the Oslo Accords, they did not care about the Palestinian factional (the ten factions) and popular broad opposition, and they took exclusive possession of the PA leadership, along with its executive management and security forces since their establishment. When Hamas won the 2006 elections, the Fatah leadership resorted to removing key powers from the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) and the government, as well as disrupting and undermining the Hamas government.
Since their split, when Fatah took control over the WB and Hamas established control over GS in 2007, Fatah’s leadership have been giving legitimacy to the PA presidency and to the government formed by the PA president. On the other hand, and for ten years, they have prevented the assembly of the PLC, which grants legitimacy to the government and holds it accountable, or even brings it down.
This is because they know in advance which government will gain legitimacy, which will fall, and which will be rendered a “black coup” government; which security forces will be held accountable and have their standards set and course adjusted; which managers, officials, and staff will have their appointment criteria set or services terminated. Of course, the Fatah leadership benefits from an Arab and international supportive environment, because of their commitment to the Oslo Accords and their related entitlements.
For the Fatah leadership and the Arab and foreign countries, which take hold of the Palestinian issue, Hamas’ victory in the upcoming elections will only mean a recycle of the crisis with new measures of siege, disruption, and obstruction.
Therefore, it is likely that the elections will only take place if Fatah’s victory is guaranteed, having learned a lesson from the previous elections; the elections are required to delegitimise the popular representation of Hamas and the resistance movement, not to “reproduce the crisis” again. That is why the municipal elections were postponed last year.
Moreover, the ‘Abbas/ Rami Hamdallah government want to take over the GS with full powers, which Hamas have recently agreed to; nevertheless, the ‘Abbas government has not offered anything in the framework of a true partnership. The same mentality governs the administration of the PLO, and Hamas should not expect a real partnership even if they win the next elections.
The Fatah leadership have dealt with Hamas’ concessions in the GS in an indifferent manner, as they believe that these concessions have been the result of their measures (along with their allies) to strangle the GS and bring it to a state of economic collapse. Then after matters settle down and they feel that they have the upper hand, they will seek to control the security forces and dismantle the resistance action.
There will be no real reconciliation as long as such mentalities rule the Palestinian leadership, and as long as these keep benefiting from an Arab, international and Israeli environment that is compatible with its treatment with Hamas and the resistance forces.
Thus, there would be no real reconciliation, if there was no real progress in agreeing on:
– Authority, principles and rules which govern the parties (e.g., a national charter);
– A political platform on which the priorities of the current stage can be built; and according to which clear criteria concerning the peace process and resistance can be developed;
– A real and serious mechanism that accommodates all Palestinian forces, at home and abroad, in the PLO, and that ensures their participation in activating and rebuilding such mechanism on a basis that reflects the real weight of powers and takes advantage of the enormous potential of the Palestinian people.
– Serious willingness on the part of all parties to manage the difference in a civilized manner under one roof, and in a way that preserves the supreme interests of the Palestinian people and prevents external interference, especially the Israeli-Western interference, in the internal Palestinian affairs.
In practical terms, this cannot be accomplished under the Oslo Accords and their related entitlements, and cannot be done without first examining the practices of the PA, then reorienting and re-employing them in a manner that serves the will of the Palestinian people, not the will of the Israeli occupation.
In a meeting between the leader of Hamas in GS and the youth of the Strip; he said—as quoted by Sama News Agency—that he would make major concessions, for the sake of reconciliation, and that each concession would be “more shocking and surprising than the previous one,” and added that he “will break the neck of all those who do not want reconciliation, whether they were Hamas members or from other parties.”
I am not sure if the expressions used reflect accurately Hamas’ institutional decision, but they highlight how serious Hamas is in reaching a reconciliation. What is really feared is that Yahya Sinwar (Hamas leader in GS) would find out—in the end—that the party whose neck needs to be broken (because it is hindering the reconciliation, as he understands it) is the same party to which he is making major concessions!! It is also feared that things would go back to square one, again.