"My intellectual friend who is obsessed with the [Palestinian] cause said to me: ‘For decades, we have not heard any heartening news; in fact, sad reports have kept following one upon the other’," writes Hani al-Masri in the leading Palestinian daily al-Ayyam.
And a female friend added: ‘There is one item of good news, namely the campaign to boycott Israel’.
The hotel in Jordan where we were staying – the Landmark Hotel – was hosting a meeting for the boycott committee. The previous day, a lecture had been delivered by the Norwegian Doctor Mads Gilbert on his experience in Gaza. The audience filled the hall, while hundreds were unable to attend because of lack of room.
There is another heartening item of news, namely, the Palestinian president’s courageous decision to join the International Criminal Court (ICC). But the satisfaction resulting from this qualitative step has been somewhat diminished because it was taken in the absence of a broader vision, and is largely part of the zealous attempt to salvage the  Oslo Accords and return to the labyrinth of negotiations, rather than pursuing a new course that would open the road to hope and the future before the Palestinians after years of disappointment and frustration.
The formation of a joint Arab list to fight the Israeli Knesset's twentieth elections is a major step that also warrants deep satisfaction. It is a good omen that we hope will represent a new chapter whose effects will not be confined to our people in the 1948 territories, but will extend to reach the various Palestinian factions and currents inside and outside the PLO, paving the way to rebuilding and reunifying the PLO's institutions with the participation of all shades of the political spectrum.
For the first time, a list has been formed in which the patriots, the nationalists, the communists, and the Islamists are represented, and that includes candidates from the Galilee, Negev, and the mixed cities, and that also includes Muslims, Christians, a Jew, a Druze, a Bedouin and three women, two of whom have a secure seat and the third by rotation if the list wins more than 11 seats.
It is true that what made agreement on this list possible was the Israeli decision to raise the threshold for entering parliament in the next elections from 2% to 3.25% of the vote with the aim of reducing the number of Arab seats. This was the intention behind the draft law presented by Yisrael Beiteinu headed by [current FM] Avigdor Lieberman. But 'the magic turned against the magician'; for now, the number of Arab seats is expected to rise from 11 to 15 after agreement on the joint list, while, according to the latest opinion polls, Lieberman's party's number of seats is likely to fall. If it continues to fall, he may be burnt by the fire of the same raised threshold that he had planned to use to exclude the Arab lists.
The main Arab parties overcame their differences and chose to fight the elections on a single list, even though fighting the elections with two lists would have ensured the same number of seats as before. And there is still hope that the efforts of the Accord Committee will succeed in reaching a formula with the Arab Democratic Party that may continue the process of rallying around a single list.
The formation of a joint list is a move of historic proportions. It provides tangible evidence that ideological, political, and factional differences do not preempt the possibility of common action, especially since what unites the Palestinians in the 1948 territories and everywhere else is much more than what divides them. Those Palestinians who used to deny this, suffered successive shocks as a result of Israeli extremism and racial discrimination, both of which have grown greatly as a result of Israel's pursuit of an endless series of racist measures, policies, and laws. These efforts climaxed with the draft law that defines Israel as a 'Jewish state'; a law that starkly legalizes Israel's true nature and threatens the Palestinians in an unprecedented manner, not only inside the so-called 'Green Line,' but wherever they are, and not only politically, but culturally, ethnically, socially, and at every level, in fact.
We should stop falling into the trap of the game that distinguishes between Palestinian and Arab extremists and moderates, or supporters and opponents of any settlement. After all, Israel simply does not want a settlement. It poses many threats to all Palestinians. And just as it has misrepresented and falsified the Palestinians’ past and history, it wants to confiscate their present and their future and impose surrender on them all without exception. This is true also of those Palestinians who may have imagined that they had become Israeli citizens secure in their rights-- or the basic minimum of them at least.
The joint list – especially if it wins 15 or more seats – can help to organize the relationship between the Palestinians of the 1948 territories as a national minority and an inseparable part of the Palestinian people. The attempt of each sector of Palestinians to pull out its thorns by its own hands alone and in isolation from a national project and the Palestinians' collective national institution [the PLO] has ended in the catastrophes that have befallen the Palestinians wherever they are, inside occupied Palestine and in the Diaspora, on the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip, in Galilee, the Triangle, and the Negev.
The joint list is a qualitative step on which it is possible to build further. It comes after decades that witnessed the formation of the ‘Land Defense’ Committee and ended with the ‘Follow-Up’ Committee. It has now reached the National Accord Committee and will have positive effects stemming from the role that the Arab public inside Israel can play in consolidating the patriotic currents’ unity, with all the consequent results that may strengthen the Palestinian struggle against the racist, displacing, settler, colonial project, and help to secure the Palestinian people's immediate and long-term aims, interests, and rights.
Moreover, this step will be of even greater import if it is perceived to be more than a mere electoral matter, and as a step towards organizing and institutionalizing the Palestinians' action as a national minority that realizes that struggle within the Knesset alone is not sufficient, and is in fact counterproductive. This is because it bestows legitimacy upon Israel and its racist policies and laws.
There is no alternative to waging a united popular struggle against the Israel’s very essence, not only its detailed policies, and in order to achieve results that go beyond the limited ceiling set by action within the Knesset. Proof of this is provided by the fact that the struggle outside the Zionist establishment has achieved many things, the most recent of which was foiling the Prawer Bill to alter the Negev's [Arab] demography.
The reaction of the Zionist parties, despite their differences and disparities, provides evidence of the concern that has swept over them as a result of the Palestinian Arabs' moves to organize themselves. That concern was manifest in statements from Israeli leaders, especially by Lieberman who cast doubt on the list and demanded that it be struck out, insisting that it demonstrates that there is no difference between the Arabs, between a nationalist, an Islamist, and a communist.
Only a reconciliation of historic proportions between the various currents on the basis of common lists and a process of addressing differences can pave the path towards unity. This necessity will impose itself sooner or later.
"But the sooner it is achieved, the better; for it will spare the Palestinian people the need to offer more sacrifices, suffer greater costs, and face greater distress," concludes Masri.