"Is it possible to reach a historical partnership between the Islamist movements and the Palestinian national movement?" asks Hani al-Masri in the leading Palestinian daily al-Ayyam.Endless differences over the PA, the PLO- and domestic and ideological issues as well as external links and influences distinguish the Islamists from the nationalist movement.All Palestinian parties have varied alliance links with Arab, regional, and international parties, and it is impossible to get a clear view of the Palestinian situation without heeding their clear influences. Moreover, the inter-Palestinian [Fateh/Hamas] split seriously aggravates the effect of these external factors.It is only natural to note that a partnership with all the Islamist movements is not possible. There are groups, such as Hizb al Tahrir and similar organizations and groups that are extensions of al-Qa'ida and its ilk with whom is it impossible to have a partnership because they believe that they have an absolute monopoly over the truth and that their point of view is unquestionably correct, dismissing all other movements, including Islamist ones, as apostates or traitors.Despite the difficulty of forging a partnership, the main factor in favor of it stems from its necessity as a means of liberation and defeating the racist, colonial, Zionist project, which is still ongoing and is pursuing its expansionist and aggressive aims, seeing no fundamental difference between the Islamist and the nationalist movements. It targets everyone without exception.The prevailing ruling current in Israel, and which is set to last for a long time to come, believes that Hamas and Islamic Jihad engage in violent terrorism, while President 'Abbas, Fateh, and the other PLO factions are engaged in political and diplomatic terrorism. This is why the negotiations have not produced any settlement, and will never reach one in light of the current balance of power, the U.S. bias in Israel's favor, and the international community’s impotence. This means that the only road open to the Palestinians, regardless of their points of view, and affiliations is to find unity over a common program.The other factor in favor of unity stems from the fact that both nationalist and Islamist movements have tried to go it alone, but have only reached a dead-end. The road of bilateral negotiations as the sole or main path has brought the Palestinians no closer to achieving the minimum of their rights. On the contrary, it has brought them to catastrophe. But the road of armed resistance as the sole or the main path brought them no closer to liberation either. Instead, the attempt to combine a ruling authority with resistance has proven to be impossible; it has transformed resistance into a tool for holding onto power rather than a strategy for liberation.The solution does not lie in a forced combination between negotiations and the armed resistance, or in some distribution of roles between the two camps. It lies in reaching a common national program that embodies Palestinian rights and expresses the will of the majority of the Palestinian people wherever they may be, embodying a genuine pluralism and partnership.In light of the above, the Palestinians' march since 2005 in particular [when Mahmoud Abbas became PA president], has been based on the notion of achieving national unity between Fateh and the PLO on the one hand, and Hamas and Islamic Jihad, on the other. This is evident from the fact that date marked the beginning of the dialogue that produced a number of national documents – from the Cairo Declaration of 2005, to the National Accord Document [of 2007], to the reconciliation agreement of 2011. And this demonstrates that what unites the two is greater than what divides them, and that despite their significance, their differences over a political program for the current phase is no longer the most important issue. The conflict over leadership, power, representation, and recognition has come to take precedence over everything else.National reconciliation will be achieved as part of a long historical process that moves forwards or backwards, depending on stormy developments and how the Palestinian and foreign parties respond. This process may include some form of management of the split parallel with the beginning of an official and unofficial dialogue over strategic issues.The problem with the dialogue, so far, stems from the fact that until recently, it has postponed a number of the most important issues, and that the will to implement what has been agreed upon has not been strong enough. And this means has it has become absolutely necessary to exert greater popular and political pressures on the conflicting parties in favor of implementing the Palestinian people's will.One sign that achieving unity is possible is the fact that a group of Palestinian figures reached a document in 2008 under the title of 'The Bases of the Supreme National Interest.' Six years on, these are still acceptable as the foundation for a new national covenant that bases itself, in turn, on the Palestinians' natural and historical rights and their national struggle that has been continuing for over a hundred years, as well as on the national documents agreed so far – a covenant that embraces the new realities and builds on the experience gained.Fateh wanted to continue to lead the Palestinian people on its own and to annex the Islamist movements to the PLO, just as it has done with other factions in the past; but it has failed. This has led it to consider opening up the road to unity, but only under its leadership, not realizing that Fateh today is not what it was when it began, and that the PLO has been in a state of paralysis since Oslo . Moreover, the Arab, regional, and international situations is not what they were during the days of Arab solidarity and the Cold War.For its part, Hamas sought to establish a new or alternative PLO; but it failed. It then decided to join the PLO and take control of it on its own, but failed as well. And this means that the road to salvation based on its readiness to join the PLO's umbrella, especially in light of the dangers that it has been exposed to after the recent regional developments after the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.After Hamas and Islamic Jihad joined the national struggle, the Islamist movements have acquired a significant weight that cannot be ignored. Consequently, these movements cannot be mere annexes to any other movement; they can only be full partners, which is their right. But this requires them to prove their respect for the bases of partnership – for example, by keeping a distance between them and their regional extensions (i.e. the Muslim Brotherhood) and showing respect for the values of pluralism and equality.Moreover, the PLO must change and steer clear of the competing Arab and regional axes. It must become broad enough for genuine participation on part of the factions that belong to it, as well as the Islamist movements and the other popular forces and active elements, including women and the youth.Even in the days of national renaissance, the PLO suffered from domination, monopoly over its leadership, and pre-determined share distribution; but the harmful effects of these ailments was alleviated by the fact that Fateh enjoyed a fixed and largely stable majority.The specific nature of the Palestinian cause and the fact that it unites the Arabs, Muslims, and all free people around the world requires the Palestinians to keep their distance from Arab and regional polarizations and conflicts."After all, their cause needs and can secure universal support if the Palestinian forces can come together in one national institution that unites them all on the basis of a single national covenant and a political program that embodies their common denominators and manages their conflicts," concludes Masri.