What the Palestinian leadership can do

Sunday 16/10/2016

There is no doubt that the Palestinian people have been enduring unimagina­ble suffering since 1948 through no fault of their own.
The lion’s share of the blame is laid at the door of the state of Israel. World powers, then and now, have made sure that the balance of power never tilts in favour of Palestinians. Arab and regional leaders, for different reasons, have failed to liberate the Palestinians from occupation or help their refugees return home.
But the Palestinian leadership, namely Fatah and Hamas but also other minor factions, must not be exempt from blame. Today their unity is more needed than ever, yet it appears far from being realised.
Palestinian unity does not necessarily mean forming a national unity government. An end to the in-fighting would do.
An end to division would mean an agreement on having long-overdue parliamentary and presidential elections. It should spell an end to the crackdown on dissent, liberties, freedom of expression in the West Bank and Gaza, as no party would be threatened by its rival.
This spirit of non-anonymity could spread to Palestinian refugees across the globe, many of whom still identify with one faction or another. It could even strengthen the ties with Pales­tinians living in occupied East Jerusalem and inside Israel, as unity would highlight their collective heritage instead of partisan politics.
Independence, unfortunately, is not around the corner. There is no diplomatic breakthrough foreseeable in the near future. Israel does not feel compelled to accept the Arab peace initiative, on the table since 2002. Neither the United States nor Russia will press Israel over the Palestin­ians.
It is unlikely that another Arab-Israeli war will be breaking out any time soon and even then a military victory is not guaran­teed. Arab wars, like their peace treaties, have failed to bring liberty to Palestinians.
There is certainly no hope in the so-called axis of resistance, which is knee-deep in innocent Syrian blood.
For better or for worse, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein will not be com­ing back from the grave. Nor will Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser. Many Palestinians are surely missing the era of Palestine Liberation Organisation leader Yasser Arafat or Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin but those days have long gone, too. Not that any of the four leaders succeeded in liberating the Palestinian territories.
That is the hand that the Palestinian people are dealt. The Palestinian leadership should not add to their misery.
There is always hope for a better tomorrow and the strug­gle for independence would never stop but, during these troubled times, the last thing the Palestinian people need is another layer of oppression, on top of the military occupation of the West Bank and the siege of Gaza.
Harassing singers and street vendors in Gaza or pressuring journalists in the West Bank does not help the cause of independ­ence.
Palestinian leaders in the West Bank and Gaza are being accused of corruption, favouritism, mismanagement and heavy-handed intolerance to criticism or differences of opinion. All the while, people are complaining of deteriorating standards of living that they say could be avoided if only the leadership made better efforts.
The Palestinian leadership is not expected to achieve the miracle of overnight independ­ence, but what it can do is end its in-fighting and allow people to live more freely.
In order to hold a better position vis-à-vis Israel, as well as secure a better standing internationally, the Palestinian leadership must first win over its own people, who will be the real makers of miracles. By then the miracle of independence would be called the natural course of history.