By: Prof. Dr. Mohsen Mohammad Saleh.
On 19/9/2019, eight Palestinian factions announced a new initiative to end the schism, especially between Fatah and Hamas. These factions represent the main Palestinian factions operating in the Palestinian arena-excluding the two major ones-and they are of either leftist, nationalistic, national or Islamic affiliation, united by the Palestinian issue and the overcoming of what prevents the progress of the Palestinian national project.
These factions are: Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine (PIJ), Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), Palestinian People’s Party (PPP), Palestinian National Initiative (PNI), Palestinian Democratic Union (Fida), PPP-General Command (GC) and al-Sa‘iqah.
The initiative is entitled “A national vision to achieve unity and end the division,” and includes a timetable for the implementation. The factions consider this initiative confirming and complementing to the Egyptian effort in this regard.
It can be summarized in four articles:
First, considering all reconciliation agreements since 2005 references for the implementation of the reconciliation. Second, a meeting of the “Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) development and activation committee” (aka General Secretaries) would be held in October 2019 in Cairo, in the presence of President Mahmud ‘Abbas, to overlook the implementation of most reconciliation measures. Third, the initiative considers the period October 2019–July 2020 “a transitional phase to achieve national unity and end the division,” in which escalatory media statements would stop, and the Palestinian government would cancel its measures that affected the lives of citizens in Gaza Strip (GS). Finally, the fourth article in the timetable states that a transitional national unity government would be formed before the end of 2019, which will remain until all elections are conducted (legislative, presidential and the Palestinian national Council (PNC)) in mid-2020.
Within few days, Hamas announced unconditional approval of the eight-faction initiative, and without any addition or modification. The Chief of Hamas Political Bureau Isma‘il Haniyyah asserted that Hamas agreed on the initiative “Out of its responsibility and keenness to achieve national unity… And having sensed the risks and challenges that threaten the [Palestine] issue and its fundamentals.”
As for the Fatah Movement, President ‘Abbas ignored the initiative during his speech at the United Nations (UN), called for general elections, and focused on implementing the 12/10/2017 agreement between Fatah and Hamas, to the exclusion of other agreements. ‘Azzam al-Ahmad, the head of Fatah’s reconciliation dossier and member of Fatah’s Central Committee, he accused the Palestinian factions of “sabotaging” the Egyptian efforts, and that they take their orders from Hamas, adding that the initiative is futile. Fatah Deputy Chairman Mahmud al-‘Aloul stated that there is no point in any new initiatives to end the division. He added that the position of Fatah Central Committee is fixed and there is no room to discuss the initiative of the eight factions, for two reasons: First, so not to give more vain hope to the Palestinian people, and second, Fatah’s insistence on implementing what was agreed on in October 2017. Hussein al-Sheikh, the member of Fatah Central Committee considered the initiative a “waste of time”; while Fayez Abu Aitah, the secretary of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council described it as “a paper of empty compliments, and that it is not decisive,” adding that it does not serve as a prelude to reconciliation, for there is nothing new in it, and that it does not hold one of the parties (Hamas) the responsibility (of reconciliation failure).
By carefully reading the initiative, the position of the eight factions, and the reactions of Fatah and Hamas, we note the following:
First Note: The Palestinians have a near consensus on the initiative, while Fatah found itself isolated from the national majority, in spite of the fact that it leads the PLO and the Palestinian Authority (PA), or what is known as the Palestinian “legitimacy.” However, and unfortunately, this is not far from Fatah’s conduct lately. For it convened the PNC in Ramallah, in April 2018, away from the Palestinian consensus and contrary to the Beirut agreement, which Fatah itself adopted along with other factions, in January 2017. Fatah has also convened the PLO Central Council, despite the boycott of the PLO member factions; dissolved the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), in January 2018, contrary to the reconciliation agreement and the Palestinian consensus; formed the PA government and led it, despite the boycott of most active factions and contrary to the reconciliation agreement. Perhaps swimming against the tide has become lately one of the features of Fatah’s conduct.
The question now is, if Fatah ignores the state of the Palestinian consensus and doesn’t care about it, on which “legitimacy” it based its leading the PLO and PA, monopolizing the Palestinian political decision, and speaking in the name of the Palestinian people?!
Second Note: Fatah leaders have focused on implementing the agreement of 12/10/2017 concerning the GS management, and interpreted it as they wish (One authority, one weapon, controlling both above and under the ground, applying the Oslo standards and Israel’s conditions that are implemented in the West Bank (WB) on GS). As if these leaders want to subdue the resistance, at a time when Israel failed to do so in 12 years and three destructive wars.
Fatah knows quite clearly well that the initiative of the eight factions did not ignore the October 2017 agreement, but it has placed it within previous agreements that must be enforced, especially the main reconciliation agreement that was agreed on by all parties in May 2011, which covered all issues and set clear procedures and a roadmap to overcome the division. As for the agreements that followed (Doha, Shati’, Beirut, and Cairo 2017…), they are procedural subsidiary agreements that resolve some partial issues, while the 2011 agreement remains the only comprehensive agreement that Fatah insists on ignoring.
Third Note: ‘Abbas, as well as Fatah leaders, have mentioned holding elections. However, by following up on their statements, it is clear that the elections are intended only for the PLC. The initiative of the eight factions mentions also the elections, but as agreed on in the reconciliation agreement; i.e., simultaneous presidential, legislative and PNC elections. In other words, Fatah wants to impose a new agenda when implementing the reconciliation agreement, which would protect its interests and prepare for the right circumstances to win this round to its advantage. As a result, Fatah sought to postpone the presidential and PLC elections (where it dominates); while demanding the PLC elections to be held, where Hamas dominates and which Fatah “the Palestinian presidency” has suspended since 2007. Fatah wants the elections to be unrelated to the reconciliation agreement of 2011 and the road map suggested by the eight factions; and after it had triggered the “Constitutional Court” to dissolve the PLC and form a PA government headed by Fatah (Contrary to the reconciliation and the national consensus). All of this happened while sanctions were imposed on GS, and Hamas and resistance cadres were chased in WB; which made up an unhealthy and nontransparent environment for any real “democratic” practice.
Fourth Note: If according to Fatah leadership the roadmap presented by the eight factions, to be implemented in nine months, is a “waste of time,” a “sabotaging” process, “futile,” and “useless”!! Did Fatah’s management of the reconciliation file for the last eight years make better use of time, and was more useful?! Or did it take us back in time?! Did Fatah find in imposing a fait accompli, taking advantage of its position as head of the PA and the PLO, and being supported by the Arab and international environment which is against “political Islam” and resistance, a more effective method and a better protector of the Palestinian national unity; Or it did nothing but increase the schism and consolidate the dominance of a Palestinian faction in the face of the Palestinian mainstream.
Fifth Note: Why doesn’t Fatah review its position towards the reconciliation, especially that it can see that the Palestinian realm is full of rejection of the actions and positions it takes?
Fatah has threatened to stop implementing the Oslo Accords, but it didn’t do it, and threatened to halt the security coordination with Israel, but it didn’t do it. It stopped negotiating with the occupation, however, according to the latest circulated statements, it is willing to go back to the negotiations table. It refused to receive tax revenues from Israel, then it resumed lately to do so…
Why all this leniency with the Israeli occupation, whereas in return there is all this insistence and intransigence in the Palestinian internal file.
Isn’t it high time for Fatah for a review?!
This article was originally published in Arabic on “Arabi 21” on 13/10/2019.
Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations, 16/10/2019