The requirements of intra-Palestinian dialogue
Fatah and Hamas have failed to end divisions in the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) although the rift is more than 12 years old. Divisions fester despite the adverse effects they have on the Palestinian cause, the people and the national movement and despite agreements signed in Cairo, Doha, Mecca, Sana’a, Gaza and Moscow.
Many observations can be made about all these agreements or dialogues that can explain their failure.
First, there is within both Fatah and Hamas a lack of genuine will to turn the page on the division. Rather than being national liberation movements, they have become an authority in their respective territories. They each have their own funding sources and security and administrative apparatuses. It is impossible for either to imagine relinquishing these because they both believe that any concession would serve the interests of the other party.
Second, the divisions are being reproduced in their relationships and balance of power. Each side is busier fighting the other more than it is to stand up to Israel.
Protests against Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas were organised in Gaza under the message “Leave.” Counter-demonstrations in the West Bank cities adopted the slogan “We have chosen you.” Both messages are politically irrelevant and do not help with anything as much as they harm Palestinian activism and exacerbate the schism.
Third, inter-faction dialogue takes place in various world capitals rather than in the Palestinian territories. The dialogues occur outside legitimate Palestinian national frameworks — the National Council, the Central Council or the Legislative Council — or within internal frameworks or bodies that are agreed upon.
Fourth, it is impossible to reach an agreement that would end divisions and dispel differences without certain basic elements. One element is rebuilding the PLO on patriotic, representative, participatory and democratic bases through elections to resolve debates over the size of the Palestinian factions. The problem goes beyond simply resolving the disputes and divisions within the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The other element is to adopt democratic and dialogue-based conflict-resolution mechanisms instead of relying on military power and security apparatuses for the resolution of differences between factions and the policing of dissident popular movements.
Another element is finding consensus on a unifying national vision, especially after the disappointing failures of past choices and approaches, whether those relating to negotiations or to resistance.
Fifth, it is not possible to find a national Palestinian course of action if this or that faction is aligned with certain Arab or regional agendas because foreign manoeuvring benefits different agendas that are not necessarily aligned with Palestinian interests and do not prioritise the needs of the Palestinians and their special circumstances.
Specifically, there is, as an example, Iran’s policy to concentrate its efforts on Gaza and to strengthen the position of its proxy group, the Islamic Jihad Movement. Iran is inciting Hamas to employ all available means to create conditions and contexts in which Tehran can claim to be a major player when it comes to the Palestinian cause.
Iran has used many of its resources in the Syrian conflict and therefore would be more than happy to use the Palestinian cause as a bargaining chip in alleviating the pressures it is under.
Any meeting for the purpose of moving forward with the reconciliation process ending the divisiveness in the Palestinian camp, especially between Fatah and Hamas, will fail, just like the Moscow meeting and previous meetings and agreements have failed. Unless there is consensus on the said principles, reconciliation efforts will continue to fail.
To break the cycle of divisiveness:
1) There should be a functional and administrative separation between the PLO and the Palestinian Authority.
2) The PLO should be restructured on national, institutional and representative bases to become the political entity representing all Palestinians wherever they are. This can be done by adopting elections as the fundamental means to determine the balance of power in the national framework.
3) There should be new presidential and legislative elections for the Palestinian Authority and for the membership of the PLO’s National Council.