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Palestinian Reconciliation - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Many are pushing for a Palestinian reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas or between Ramallah and Gaza. However, this pressure produces almost nothing, so much so that a legitimate question arises: Will the situation lead to further inter-Palestinian division? Will this division be a mere split or will it produce something new and unknown?

This question may seem insignificant or normal, but it is a serious question. Inter-Palestinian division is not caused by only internal developments, but is also closely linked to the occupation authorities that use this division in their favor. Accordingly, the situation is extremely complex. More than just one party is responsible for the division about which we are talking.

Those who stand on both sides are responsible, where the rule of action and reaction prevails. If we begin with the PA’s stand, we find a practical stand that rejects reconciliation at the PA level between Ramallah and Gaza and between the Fatah and Hamas movements and refuses to deal with any Palestinian popular stand, which is not sanctioned or sponsored by the PA. The effort to activate PLO institutions in their current form means rejection of a call for elections to form a new national council. It also means a move to exclude Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, and most of the Damascus-based fedayeen [commando] factions from the upcoming meeting of the Palestine National Council [parliament in exile]. To justify this stand, the PA theorists in Ramallah say reconciliation between the PA presidency and the deposed Gaza government will result in recognizing that government, albeit as a caretaker government, and that this will prompt the international community (the United States and Europe) to impose a comprehensive blockade on both sides. This is what the PA has been trying to avoid.

With regard to reconciliation between the Fatah and Hamas movements, however, it will lead to the resumption of the Legislative Council’s function. In such a case, the Legislative Council will be able to annul all resolutions and decrees that were passed in the past months. Based on the rejection of these two results, there is a proposal to immediately hold elections. The conclusion from all of this is that the idea of political participation that will result from any possible reconciliation is rejected. On the other side, there is a stand that was expressed by the popular conference, which was held in Damascus late last month. The aim behind this conference was to push for reconciliation and national unity and to assert, and adhere to the Palestinian constants. The people who called this conference said their call was positive and aimed at reconciliation, while the PA in Ramallah considered it as divisive and rebellious. The PA expressed this view in official statements that used an unfamiliar language in the history of inter-Palestinian tension.

The situation developed further to a point where the parties concerned announced that further steps would be on their way to increase the division. Khalid Abdul Majid, secretary of the follow-up committee that was set up by the Damascus conference, went to Amman last week and met there with Palestine National Council Speaker Salim al-Zanun. Al-Zanun said that President Mahmud Abbas is considering the possibility of convening the Palestine National Council, with only 350 of its 750 members attending. He noted that these 350members would represent all the Damascus-based factions and all figures who attended the Damascus conference in order to get rid of the political burden that they cause. In response, Khalid Abdul -Majid said: Such a step will mean cancellation of the PLO, as a higher authority that includes all parties. In this case, the follow-up committee will act as a higher point of reference for all those who will be excluded. With this “theoretical” confrontation, the situation will have reached a key decisive point that might lead to yet another division, deeper than the current one. Such a division might spread and go beyond the Fatah- Hamas circle. As a final result, it might mean an end to the PLO as a higher Palestinian point of reference.

If this happens, the PLO will become a higher reference point for the PA alone. Moreover, there is a third Palestinian view held in Palestinian popular circles, outside the framework of the PA and the Damascus conference. This view focuses on an essential point that this inter-Palestinian division affects another principled issue relating to the Palestinian refugees’ right to return particularly to their homeland. The people who hold this view say at their meetings and discussions, which are intensively held in several Arab capitals, that they held in the past years meetings and conferences focusing on the right of return and adoption of an election procedure to form a new national council, but these attempts produced no results. They add that the current moves herald an effort to completely ignore these issues and work in an opposite direction.

They conclude that there is a need to find new and more effective means of pressure, such as the holding of a large and collective popular conference to declare and assert the same demands and form a higher popular authority for this purpose, without excluding the PLO and its authority, on the condition that it comply with the Palestinian popular demands. On the other hand, there is another popular trend that considers the possibility of [re-]establishing Al-Awdah [return to the homeland] party. If this party is set up, it will be a qualified one because it will consist of thousands of members, if not more. Afterward, this party will demand an official representation in the Palestine National Council, commensurate with its size, to ensure that the right of return will be at the top of the agenda of Palestinian negotiators. This is especially true in light of the fact that some voices emerged within the circles of Palestinian negotiators, saying that the right of return must not be used as an obstacle to the possibility of Israel and the United States agreeing to set up a Palestinian state, because the Israeli and US sides reject the right of return. What do the details of this Palestinian portrait mean?

They mean that the Palestinians are liable to a new division that is deeper and more serious than everything that has happened to date. Such a division will go beyond the Fatah and Hamas movements and affect the entire sections of the Palestinian people. If the PA does not take a step toward unity at the level of the PA and PLO, larger divisions will definitely be on their way. If such divisions become a reality, the PA and Palestinian presidency will be isolated from the Palestinian people. At best, they will represent our kinsfolk in the1967-occupied territories or only part of them. This is what we do not want to happen to the PA and President Abu-Mazin [Mahmud Abbas], because all parties want a single Palestinian authority and a single Palestinian president. In any case, to reach a political stand that will unite all parties, there has to be an intense confrontation with the occupying enemy, and a price must be paid for this confrontation. All parties must be ready for such an eventuality in order to preserve the people’s unity, which is more precious than any temporary political stand.

Bilal Al-Hassan

Bilal Al-Hassan

Bilal Al-Hassan is a distinguished journalist and political analysts specializing in Arab–Israeli affairs. He is based in Paris.

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