الرئيسية » هاني المصري »   20 آب 2015

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هاني المصري

"Informed Palestinian sources have indicated that the president is thinking of resigning in the next few months, and that he will announce this at an expanded meeting to which more than 300 Palestinian figures will be invited," writes Hani al-Masri in the leading Palestinian daily al-Ayyam.

This meeting will most probably be held after the PNC meeting that is likely to be held next month [September], and before the Fateh Conference that is scheduled for the end of November. The president's old age, fatigue and desire to rest will be given as the reason for his resignation.

Yes, the president is tired and feels disillusioned and let down, especially by the Americans and the Israelis despite all the flexibility and concessions he has made. In fact, he has placed all of his eggs in the basket of the so-called 'peace process,' and in return, he has received nothing but settlements, racism, aggression, the Judaization and Israelization of Jerusalem, and successive Israeli governments that have done everything possible to block the path before the establishment of a Palestinian state.

What adds to the president's disillusionment is his total despair at the possibility of resuming the negotiations and reaching a peace agreement, while the Netanyahu government is drawing close to an agreement over a long-term truce with Hamas that would consolidate the inter-Palestinian [Fateh/Hamas] split and weaken the president's authority, while strengthening that of his competitor Hamas.

It is the president's right to think of passing on his mandate because maintaining his position means either sustaining the farce of the so-called 'peace process' and the current situation that is only marginalizing the Palestinian cause further and further, with the erosion of the various legitimate powers and deepening the occupation, the settlements, and the split – which now, after all that has happened, is no mere mistake, but rather a sin. Alternatively, it means surrender and acceptance of Israel’s diktats… or confrontation.

The president does not want to surrender and does not desire confrontation. At the same time, maintaining the current situation has become very costly and threatens dire consequences. Therefore, his withdrawal from office after renewing Palestinian legitimacy via the PNC and the Fateh Conference may be the most appropriate solution.

The problem, however, is that resignation after designing the Palestinian political system to suit certain specifications that preserve the old patterns could be a bridge or lead to the system's survival by renewing allegiance to it.

Confronting the occupation so as to change the balance of power is a matter of necessity, and not just one of many options. It is the only path to national salvation, provided that the confrontation is rational and is based on a new vision, a complete roadmap, and a strategy that is capable of achieving the national goals. But that cannot be achieved without reviewing the previous experience in a comprehensive and deep manner, and without deriving the necessary lessons and morals, building on the positive achievements, gains and points of strength, and eliminating the mistakes, shortcomings, corruption, tyranny, and the Oslo path with its unfair commitments.

And the natural gateway to a confrontation is to achieve national unity on a patriotic and democratic basis, and with genuine political participation, in which all parties’ rights are acknowledged based on an agreement on a social contract (a new national covenant) that safeguards historical rights and narratives, and embodies shared values and denominators, paving a way to the future.

I was the first to disclose what is happening in a previous article. After it was published, it became clear that determined preparations were underway to convene the PNC next month by holding an ‘extraordinary session’ of the current council whose main task would be to change the largest number possible of members of the PNC, the PLO’s Central and Executive Committees, but without drafting a new political program. This is because an ‘extraordinary session’ of the standing PNC is not authorized to endorse such a program; this would require convening a new PNC altogether.

Since one thing leads to another, the president has also insisted on speeding up the preparations for convening the 7th Fateh Conference. In his recent opening speech to the Fateh Consultative Committee, he went so far as to threaten to take a decision that no one expects, should September arrive without completing the preparations to convene the conference, despite the fact that the relationship between the ongoing preparations and the conference are not at all clear; but this is what the president said.

There is nothing strange about the fact that the president is thinking about resignation. He has threatened to do so in the past, and has repeated that he would not run in the next elections. In an interview more than five years ago, he told me that he would not run in the coming elections. He asked for us to wait for a few months to propose our recommendations to his successor.

Convening the PNC in a hasty manner without ensuring the participation of all shades of the political spectrum and the signatories to the [2011] Cairo Agreement – in other words, without a qualitative step that contributes to the revival of the PLO that has been clinically dead since the [1993] Oslo Accords – will transform the PLO into just one of a number of competing camps, and not the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.

The new institutions will be merely recast by the existing old and illegitimate institutions, which would mean that the new institutions would fail to rise to the level of challenges and threats that face the Palestinian cause; they will only exacerbate, fragment and aggravate the divisions in the Palestinian situation instead.

It is not enough to invite Hamas and Islamic Jihad to take part in the upcoming PNC session as a means of absolving oneself of any blame, and without inviting the PLO's ‘Temporary Leadership Framework’ (whose decisions are supposed to be irrevocable when they do not conflict with the PLO's executive powers) to prepare for convening a PNC, as required by the Cairo Agreement.

That agreement stipulates that 'the national interest requires the formation of a new PNC in a manner that ensures the representation of all patriotic and Islamist forces, factions and parties, all groupings of our people everywhere, and all sectors, institutions, and leading figures, by electing them where possible based on the principle of proportional representation, and by accord where elections prove impossible.' Such an invitation would confront Hamas with its responsibilities and block the path to its 'tahdi'a [lull or calming down] agreement' with Israel. If it proceeds with that agreement nonetheless, it would have to bear the consequences.

Instead, however, unilateral preparations are underway to hold an extraordinary session of the old PNC [rather than convene a new one] behind the existing institutions' back. For so far, neither the PLO Executive Committee’s nor Fateh’s Central Committee has endorsed that session. Instead, a tripartite committee headed by Sa'eb 'Ereikat and with 'Azzam al-Ahmad and Ahmad Majdalani as members is in charge.

The extraordinary session will be held on the basis of the old 'quota system'; that of distributing shares between the various political factions. The factions will then choose their representatives to the PNC, despite the fact that most of them no longer exist, and with no serious effort to include Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Moreover, the remaining seats in the extraordinary session will be distributed between the Palestinian ‘Popular Unions’ [Workers, Students, etc.] that have grown old and decrepit and are led by the factions; and the security and military establishment, despite the fact that we are in a different era with different roles where most members of the security forces belong to the factions, especially Fateh; and to independents and supposedly qualified figures chosen by the factions' representatives as they were in the past.

If there was some justification for granting the overwhelming majority of PNC seats to the factions during the era of national renaissance, armed struggle, and underground activity, there is no justification for doing so today after all the setbacks and catastrophes suffered by the Palestinian cause since the Oslo Accords, or in light of the new facts, developments and changes that have changed the region, the world, and the Palestinian political map in a fundamental manner. For certain factions have all but disappeared and there is no longer any reason for them to be represented in the PLO’s Executive Committee; and other factions have been greatly weakened, while new and weighty factions have emerged.

The PNC we need is a new Council that satisfies the Palestinian people's needs, aspirations, and interests. Its members should be selected via elections where possible, and national accord based on objective criteria including the requirement that the next PNC should have more than 300-350 members, it is to be able to act easily and hold regular meetings without incurring a heavy cost.

In addition, each group should be granted its rights by electing or selecting its representatives, while the popular unions should be obliged to hold regular elections so as to renew, change, and reform themselves. For many of their general secretaries and members have kept their seats for decades, even though some of them hold various government, administrative, and diplomatic jobs.

If the president organizes the PLO and Fateh on the basis of unity and paving the way to his successor while keeping Palestinian options open, and if he then announces his resignation, no one would be able to blame him afterwards. This is because his successor (or successors) would be fully known. But if the political system is going to be designed in a manner that conforms with its current shape, and in a manner that maintains the current split, then the response to the president's resignation – if it occurs – will take the shape of demonstrations and petitions demanding that he remains in his post, and renewing the pledge of allegiance to him for fear of the anarchy that would come after him.

"In that case, it would be as if nothing had changed," concludes Masri.