By: Prof. Dr. Mohsen Mohammad Saleh.
The meeting of the secretary-generals of the Palestinian factions on 3/9/2020, has opened the opportunity to put the Palestinian political house in order, and unify the Palestinian ranks against the occupation. However, betting on reforming the Palestinian Authority (PA) or considering it a tug for national change is no longer possible.
Furthermore, the hopes of having a real Palestinian legitimacy and building transparent legislative, presidential and executive institutions, after having free elections under occupation are far-fetched dreams; in light of Israel’s entrenchment, imposing of facts on the ground, and its certain and early thwarting of a national authority that confronts and challenges it.
Putting the Palestinian Political House in Order:
Putting the Palestinian political house in order is mainly related to three determinants:
– A national program based on the fundamentals.
– The ability to produce a national decision apart from the occupation and external pressures.
– An official umbrella that consists of all Palestinians at home and abroad, not subject to the occupation and its requirements (the Palestine Liberation Organization—PLO).
After 27 of the Oslo Accords, the PA project has reached a dead end, as there is no prospect for a true Palestinian state. The PA faces the choices of entrenching its role as an authority serving the occupation and doing its dirty work; dissolving itself and holding the occupation responsible; or separating the political role from the service and civil one, keeping the latter and returning the political to the PLO, while cancelling its security cooperation with the occupation. In any case, the PA no longer carries a national project that the Palestinians can build on. For the PA in WB has become a worn out tool in the hands of the occupation, failed politically, collapsed economically, and has become a security toll to silence the Palestinian people and prevent their Intifadah and explosion in Israel’s face.
Whatever the PA chooses, it doesn’t change the fact that it has expired and been overtaken by events, and will no longer be considered a prelude to the two-state solution or to the phased liberation of Palestine. The Israelis and the US overlooked the PA, and so did the Arab normalizers. The Palestinians have no choice—especially the official PLO leadership of the PLO, the PA and the Fatah movement—but to look for another leverage to their national and liberation projects; otherwise, history will overtake them as well.
An Authority Without a Horizon:
Based on the above, there is no prospect for transparent and comprehensive elections of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), that would include the West Bank (WB), including Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip (GS).
There is no prospect for a national unity government in which the resistance forces participate and operate in WB.
There is no prospect for Hamas to form or participate in a government, assuming, for the sake of argument, that it will win the elections.
There is no prospect for Hamas itself to combine power and resistance in WB.
There is no prospect for the resistance forces to lift the GS siege, even if a national government was formed by a Fatah-Hamas consensus.
What we are excluding is the bet on building the Palestinian national representative institution under occupation, whereas the joint programs between the factions, and the coordination of various forms of resistance against the occupation, must be activated and strengthened.
Fatah at a Crossroads:
We hope that the actions of Fatah that we witnessed this summer—activating national unity and confronting Trump’s deal and the annexation projects—are a step towards a qualitative change in the Palestinian arena. For Fatah stands at a historic crossroads; either it makes a substantial revision that would take it out of the Oslo Accords track, the peace settlement, and the service of the occupation, and return it to the resistance camp, while pushing it to really put the Palestinian political house in order; or it would be at the risk of decay and disintegration, as has happened to the Oslo Accords, and as the peace process has collapsed.
It is time for Fatah to acknowledge the failed track of the Oslo experience, and the state of “wandering” to which it led the Palestinian people It is time for Fatah and the PA leadership to order its cadres and officers in the security forces to stop pursuing the resistance cadres and suppressing anti-Oslo movements…For there is nothing in the PA that deserves sacrifice or suffering… As the end of this path is clear… There is no state nor anything else.
The Oslo Accords have obligated the PA to use peaceful means only, but did not demand the same of the occupation. However, adopting “peaceful” resistance as a basis for obtaining Palestinian rights only stirs the mockery of the occupation, and may arouse the pity of some international community members, which would leave the occupation continue with its cruelty and Judaization of the land and the people. What new will the “peaceful” resistance offer after decades of continuous failure of such methods? And if there is a benefit to this resistance, let it be a minimal tool and not the essence of the Palestinian struggle strategy that requires a language understood by the occupation and the international community…the language of force.
Furthermore, the continuation of the peaceful struggle at the international level, and adopting the vision of transition from an “authority” under occupation to a “state” under occupation, will not make a qualitative difference that changes the course of events. For the Palestinians had previously declared their independent state on 1/10/1948, and declared their independence again on 15/11/1988; and in both cases, they were overridden. To date, about 135 countries recognize Palestine as an occupied state, without this preventing a single Jew from settling in the lands of this “state,” which is being systematically and actively nibbled.
The Independent Palestinian Decision:
The argument that Ramallah is an independent national decision-making center has become a kind of stubbornness and evasiveness. For if this decision, by nature, is an expression of the free will of the people, then the occupation is in its essence the smashing and distortion of this will.
Moreover, if the occupation is able to control the inputs and outputs of the PA, disrupt and thwart them, then it is not possible to talk about national decision-making. One cannot bet on an authority to implement large national agendas, if it has been dwarfed to serve the occupation. An authority whose owners seek to cross the red lines of the occupation will be suspended, and in both cases, there is no prospect for an environment of free political action that can make an independent decision.
What is more important is that the Palestinian decision is not only dependent on WB or the Palestinian interior, rather it is a decision that is shared by Palestinians inside Palestine and abroad, where more than half of the Palestinian people live.
More than ten years ago, we stated that the most appropriate approach to reform the Palestinian house is to rebuild the PLO, and to let the Palestinian institutional decision made be far from the occupying power. However, since the PA has lost all reasons to play an effective national role, and Ramallah has completely lost its ability to provide an umbrella to free institutional practice (PLC, the Palestinian National Council and the Palestinian Central Council) with a comprehensive and transparent Palestinian representation; the ball has now returned either abroad or to GS to do such an arrangement.
Resumption of the PLO:
Consequently, the authority has no choice but to redefine itself as one of the tools of struggle of a national project that is broader than the PA. This project would define the latter’s roles, and not the other way around where the PA would dictate its features or paths. The PLO must take the initiative according to the stated determinants.
The resumption of the PLO and its institutions action abroad is not expected to be easy; many countries shy away from embracing any of the PLO institutions or its representative councils meetings. The main and active countries concerned with the Palestinian question are mired in the peace process and normalization. Most (if not all) of them have a veto on the participation of Hamas, the resistance forces, and the “political Islam” movements that may lead to an effective contribution to Palestinian leadership and decision-making, or a PLO exit from the peace camp to the resistance one, even if that is an expression of the free will of the Palestinian people.
Nevertheless, it’s worthwhile for the Palestinian people to struggle to have a free will to choose their leadership and make their decisions, and they don’t need anyone’s permission to correct the PLO’s political course and activate its institutions. In addition, to ensure the continuity of the institutional environment and the persistence of resistance, creative formulas must be sought, which are not bureaucratic and burdened with formal costs/duties and formalities; rather, it must be highly dynamic of the same nature of revolutions and liberation movements.
Frankly, the writer of these lines is not optimistic about the behavior of the PLO leadership, however, duty requires pushing any effort to get out of the Palestinian predicament and confront the occupation.