"It is very important to note that the PNC session has been postponed," writes Hani al-Masri in the leading Palestinian daily al-Ayyam.
But this step will be pointless if not followed up with a decision to form a preparatory committee that includes the various shades of the political and social spectrum and in which all patriotic and Islamist factions take part, as well as independent national figures, and representatives of the youth, women, and the Diaspora, in a manner that accords with their weight and role.
That committee would be tasked with convening a PNC meeting outside Palestine with the aim of ensuring that it would offer a gateway for ending the inter-Palestinian [Fateh/Hamas] split, regaining unity and lifting the Palestinian situation out of the catastrophic conditions it has sunk to in terms of Palestinian challenges, hopes, and aspirations.
The PLO is not a faction, camp, or party. It is an all-inclusive national entity. It has been and must remain, the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people wherever they are present. But after the  Oslo Accords and the establishment of the PA, the PLO has been marginalized and put on ice. It did not change and renew itself or make room for the new ideas, facts, and forces. Such a renewal has been possible, especially after Hamas abandoned its attempts to found a new or parallel 'PLO,' having taken part in the 2005 Cairo Declaration that laid out a roadmap. Part of that roadmap has been implemented, while other parts have been ignored, especially as regards PLO reform and the inclusion of forces that are now outside it.
It is not enough for Hamas to announce its readiness to join the PLO. It must also agree on the bases of common action and abandon any attempt to dominate, exclude or monopolize. It must also give precedence to the fact that it is part of the Palestinian national movement, over the fact that it is a Palestinian extension of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Despite the fact that the Cairo Declaration, the  Prisoners' Document (the National Accord Document) the  Mecca Agreement, the  national unity government, the  Reconciliation Agreement, the  Doha Declaration and the  Ash-Shati' Camp's Statement, all call for the revival of the PLO's institutions, this has not been achieved. There are many local and external reasons for this, but the most important by far is the fact that the PA president and Fateh have given priority to regaining the Gaza Strip from Hamas's control. This is despite the fact that the maximum they have offered Hamas in return is acceptance of it as a minority in the PA and the PLO – provided that it agrees to the PLO's program and Fateh's leadership of the PLO.
On the other hand, Hamas wants to maintain its control of Gaza and to take part in the PLO, but only via the revival of the system whereby shares are distributed to the factions according to their size, thus giving it a share that accords with its size. In other words, Hamas is repeating what we witnessed in Lebanon during the [1975/89] civil war when the logic of the Lebanese 'isolationist' [right-wing Maronite] forces' was that 'what we have is ours, and what you have is ours and yours.'
The key to ending the split and regaining national unity lies with the president and Fateh taking a step back by being open to participation, and by ending their hegemony, exclusion and monopoly, and by dropping their wager on the so-called 'peace process' and bilateral negotiations [with Israel]. It also lies in Hamas taking a step back by being willing to abandon its exclusive control of the Gaza Strip, and ending its wager on Arab, regional and international alliances and developments, in return for becoming a full partner in the PLO and the PA on the basis of an agreement on the foundations of political partnership, and the formulation of a new political program that embodies the common denominators.
If the two parties to the split do not stop clinging to factional and individual interests and programs despite the clarity of the predicament in which the Palestinian cause finds itself – one from which all parties are suffering without exception – there will be no alternative but to form a patriotic, democratic, popular, political current that believes in genuine political partnership. This current should grow exponentially and attract members from all factions. It should include all elements and groups that are concerned for the national interest, based on the unshakable conviction that unity is an inevitable necessity and not just one of many options.
There is no point to unity on the basis of preserving the old system or merely patching it up and improving it. For that system has become so rotten that any ‘improvement’ could lead to its total collapse. There is no alternative to changing it totally on patriotic and democratic bases. This is especially true since it is that system that has brought us to the catastrophe we now are in the midst of. And this catastrophe cannot be ameliorated via some important achievements, the most recent of which was raising the Palestinian flag at the UN and international recognition of the Palestinian state. For al-Aqsa and Palestine – the land, the people, the cause and the institutions – are all eroding. They are gradually being lost under pressure of Israeli aggression, settlements and racism which have lost all restraint and whose appetite has been whetted thanks to the Palestinians’ weakness, divisions and loss of direction, and thanks to the change in priorities, the partition of [Arab] countries, and the rise of terrorism and ethnic identities in the Arab region.
In light of all the above, it is important to formulate a comprehensive vision on whose basis a roadmap can be drawn. A step here or there – such as forming a national unity government or holding elections, or activating the Temporary Leadership Framework or other such steps – are insufficient if we do not answer the following questions: Where do we stand? What do we want? And how do we achieve what we want?
After answering all these questions, the call to convene a PNC session may be a very important development because that would be a turning point towards ending the split and reuniting the nation – the entire nation, not just the factions – with all its forces, talents and creativity in a single course that leads us to secure our national rights. These consist of the right to self-determination, independence, the right of return, and the right to equal citizenship for our people in the 1948 territories, as a strategic temporary solution on the way to achieving a radical historic solution for the Palestinian problem.
The next PNC should include new members in a manner consistent with the new political and social map by including the factions that are still outside the PLO, and by urging all factions, to choose their new representatives from the youth, women, and the various areas where the Palestinian people are located. They must also be urged to choose people with qualifications and expertise, those who are committed and who have a sense of belonging to the nation. In addition, the popular organizations and unions must also renew their representatives in the PNC and commit themselves to holding regular elections. The deceased members – of whom there are many – should be replaced with new members who represent the various sectors and groupings.
The next PNC must take a number of decisions, the most important of which are the following:
- First, changing the shape, tasks, and commitments of the PA in a manner that reflects international recognition of the Palestinian state, and takes into consideration the fact that Israel has violated all its commitments in the Oslo Accords and their annexes. This requires determining the PA's exact status and relationship to the PLO. The PA must be one of the PLO's tools, instead of being 'the daughter that consumed her mother.' An implementable plan (rather than decisions that remain mere ink on paper) must be drafted that secures the ability to cancel Oslo and its political, economic and security commitments.
- Second, a united national strategy must be formulated that goes beyond all previous strategies, none of which have achieved Palestinian aims. This requires abandoning the wager on the U.S., bilateral negotiations and the so-called 'peace process,' concentrating instead on changing the balance of power, essentially on Palestinian land, by putting the Palestinian household in order. All local, Arab, regional and international cards must be gathered together and employed in the national struggle to achieve Palestinian rights.
- Third, the PNC should discuss whether the PLO Executive Committee should be the Palestinian state's government, or should recommend the formation of a national unity government that will be an inseparable part of an entire package that ensures genuine partnership in everything.
- Fourth, the PLO Executive Committee that emerges from the next PNC should wherever possible, distribute its headquarters, members and activities among the various areas where the Palestinian people are present. Nothing should be left to the [Israeli] occupation's mercy, as the case is today.
- Fifth, revitalization of the PNC and the various PLO departments to enable them to play an effective role and overcome the paralysis from which they have been suffering ever since signing the Oslo Accords up till today.
- Sixth, electing the PLO’s Central Council and Executive Committee in a manner that ensures the participation of the factions that are still outside the PLO, and expanding the independents’ membership in them as selected by the various sectors and groupings they represent and not by the factions.
- Seventh, the introduction of new clauses to the PLO's basic laws, as well as working towards introducing new elements into the PA's basic law so that a deputy is elected for the head of the PLO Executive Committee, and a vice-president for the PA (the Palestinian state). In this manner, transition from the old regime to the new one may be ensured without anarchy, infighting or disorder.
- Eighth, forming a preparatory committee by the next PNC, with the task of preparing for holding a new PNC, one of whose tasks would be to ratify a new National Convent, a political program and the foundations of political partnership. It should also abide by whatever is ratified by the Palestinian committee formed in accordance with the Cairo Agreement for national reconciliation, in such a manner that the number of PNC members should not exceed 350.
At the same time, the bases on which members are chosen should be reconsidered, provided that the representatives of the various groupings are chosen by the groupings themselves, whether by election or accord. The professional and popular unions should also be bound to hold regular elections, and the representatives of the various factions should be subject to election to the membership of the PNC.
"At the same time, committees for political and financial supervision should be formed, especially over the Palestinian National Fund and the Investment Fund," concludes Masri.