On my social media account “Facebook”, I wrote a post wondering about the cause or central focus that shall have the highest priority and shall be emphasized at the Palestinian level, and raised 11 proposed issue to be chosen from and gave the chance to suggest other issues since some issues were not included within the post, such as the formation of a Government of National Unity, the issue of refugees, the focus on resisting the American-Israeli project to put an end to the Palestinian cause, lifting the blockade of Gaza Strip, the opposition of the racist settler colonial aggression in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, addressing violence or discrimination in 1948 territories, destruction of national identity, or the violation of refugees’ civil rights and leading them towards immigration and other issues.
As expected, the answers varied, whereas 39 persons of the respondents suggested that the issue of ending Palestinian factional division must be prioritized, however, 14 persons voted for the reconstruction of the institutions of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, 13 persons voted for the development of a political and militant comprehensive and strategic vision, 12 persons for the conduct of elections, and 8 persons for resisting occupation, while other issues got 5 votes.
On my part, I’ll participate in answering such complicated question.
Initially, I shall ask a question to simplify the process of answering; is the central focus meant to be for the Palestinian people, or for the West Bank and Gaza Strip or any of them, or for Palestinian people within 1948 lands or for the places of refuge and the diaspora?
I meant the Palestinian people, as I believe that we are one united people and what unites us is much more than what divides us, taking into consideration the diverse characteristics, circumstances and priorities for each community, especially upon the development of plans, strategies and militancy tools and forms.
Since the question intended to determine the central focus for the Palestinian people, then, it is necessary to determine where the Palestinian people and their cause stand at this moment, to where it wishes to reach and what is its national umbrella project?
During one of Masarat Center’s conferences, I requested the participation of the national veteran character “Salman Abu Sitta”, whereas the conference revolved around the national project, thus, he stated an interesting point of view, as he expressed his astonishment at the leadership, powers and many members of the Palestinian elite who are still searching for the nature of the national project though over 70 years have passed since the occurrence of 1948 Palestinian exodus “Nakba”, as if the national project which is based on natural and historical rights can be changed or altered. The national project doesn’t change, nonetheless, the plans, stages and strategies that are necessary for its achievement must be changed.
“Abu Sitta” is quite right, the Palestinian leadership, factions and elites immersed in changing the national project, facing defeats, power imbalances, variations, repeated failure, severe lack of awareness and weak willpower. Whereby, the national project has passed through a series of changes, beginning from the achievement of return and liberation, to the democratic State where Muslims, Christians and Jews live on an equal basis, to the program of the establishment of Palestinian Authority on any liberated area, to the establishment of Palestinian State, self-determination, return and independence, to the establishment of the Palestinian State on 1967 borders through negotiations, determination of trustworthiness and institution building, and finally to the establishment of a Palestinian State on 1967 borders along with land swaps, the thing which implies the legislation of settlements through the approval to the annexation of major settlement blocs, and a just and “agreed-upon” solution to the refugee issue.
The Palestinian people are going through a national liberation phase, as half of them have been displaced, and the other half is living under occupation or governed by a racist colonial regime. Any national project must be based on rights and historical narrative, and must aim at reaching to a radical solution to the conflict that is based on the defeat and dismantle of the racist Zionist and colonial project, and the establishment of a democratic State throughout the entire land of Palestine. In the event such goal was unattainable at this phase, the final goal shall be steady and central goals that are attainable at this phase can be developed, leading eventually to the achievement of the historical solution.
In this context, the answer is not about the determination of central focus through goal setting, but through the development of plans and strategies that ensure its achievement quickly, effectively and with minimum losses and sacrifices.
The central focus is an extremely important, urgent and realistic issue, which can be achieved in a time-bound manner, and its achievement is directly associated with the achievement of other issues.
Elections, for example, are a significant issue, nevertheless, there are some factors that prevent or promote its occurrence. The Israeli occupation is capable of preventing the occurrence of elections in case they didn’t serve its goals and interests. For instance, Israeli occupation approved to the conduct of elections upon the signature of the Oslo Agreement by which Israel achieved major benefits, most importantly the popular legitimacy given to the Palestinian Authority which was established after the Agreement. The Israeli occupation also allowed to conduct the elections of the year 2006 to integrate “Hamas Movement” within the Palestinian Authority, leading it to carry its work under Oslo Agreement, and attempting to domesticate and tame “Hamas Movement” to join the political process and to give up on resistance, particularly, armed resistance.
Since the elections results contradicted with the Israeli occupation’s expectations, it boycotted the government formed by “Hamas Movement” and the Government of National Unity, in addition to that, it arrested over one third of deputies, the thing that contributed heavily to the disablement of the elected Palestinian Legislative Council.
Moreover, the factional division creates a significant obstacle to conducting inclusive, free and fair elections which results are respected and employed to fight against occupation.
The rebuilding of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s institutions cannot be the central focus, as it can’t be achieved without ending the division. The same applies to operationalizing the temporary framework of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, whereas the President Mahmoud Abbas and “Fatah Movement” reject it, arguing that “Hamas Movement” cannot join and be part of the Organization’s leadership when it is governing Gaza Strip solely, which means that the persisting factional division preclude the operationalization of the unified leadership framework.
Regarding the development of a vision and strategy, it will not be effective and priority mustn’t be placed on such issue unless the division is ended, although its existence is necessary for ending factional division. This is equally relevant and applicable to other issues including the formation of Government of National Unity. Likewise, priority cannot be placed on resistance because no inclusive resistance that drain the energies of Palestinian people can be organized in light of factional division.
The idea of relocating the Authority to Gaza Strip and/or establishing the Palestinian State in Gaza is inapplicable, as that would be to fall into the American-Israeli trap that aims to separate between the West Bank and Gaza Strip so as to achieve “Trump’s deal”, furthermore, Gaza Strip is besieged and threatened with continuous aggression, thus, it cannot be the central focus for achieving the Palestinian national revitalization.
The declaration of the State once again, its embodiment in reality, the transformation of the Palestinian Authority into a State raise serious disputes, whereas the purported aim won’t be achieved through a new declaration. The Israeli occupation, power imbalances and factional division are the reasons behind the prevention of the embodiment of the State declared in “The Declaration of Independence 1988”, recognized by the United Nations General Assembly in 2012.
As for the economic, social and life issues, they cannot be the central focus since Palestine is under occupation, and no sustainable development or genuine democracy can be achieved while being under occupation that controls such issues, and the elimination of occupation requires ending factional division.
Despite of the importance of changing the Authority’s functions to serve the national program and to act as a tool in the hands of the Organization, it is not the priority. This is because changing its functions will lead to a confrontation with the Israeli occupation, resulting in the collapse or dissolution of the Authority, the thing which requires to develop and set an alternative which, in turn, requires a vision or ending factional division.
In conclusion, all of the above supports the idea that the central focus is to end factional division and restore national unity on the basis of a comprehensive package that includes the development of an overall vision and strategy, genuine partnership and consensual democracy. This opinion complies with an opinion poll conducted by “Wattan News Agency” in late December. The poll indicated that more than half of voters believe that ending the factional division and achieving national unity are the priorities on which the democratic assembly shall work.