By: Prof. Dr. Mohsen Mohammad Saleh.
Two disasters are found in the Palestinian national action; the first is having an influential political leadership, who places its decision and the process of putting the Palestinian political house in order at the mercy of its enemies and opponents, particularly Israel. The second is a Palestinian opposition, who places its conduct and political path at the mercy of this helpless leadership.
The decision taken by President ‘Abbas, in the evening of 29/4/2021, during the meeting of what is falsely called the Palestinian leadership, was—to say the least—a contempt of the Palestinian people, the Palestinian forces and their factions, the national consensus and the reconciliation process. This process has given some hope for a way out, even partially, of the state of Palestinian “wandering.”
We have previously warned (as others have did, too) about the possibility of ‘Abbas and Fatah using the Israeli ban on elections in Jerusalem as an excuse to postpone the elections and elude national duties… . We have also previously called for guarantees that the reform of the Palestinian political house will proceed, without being susceptible to the will of ‘Abbas, Fatah or the current Palestinian leadership… Unfortunately, our “fears” were well-founded.
This Palestinian leadership that is leading a project against a usurping Israeli occupation and a global Zionist movement supported by major powers, and that is dealing with international bodies heavily lobbied by its opponents… has discovered that its important mission of putting the Palestinian house in order needs the “permission” of its enemy?!! And so it has returned to “its safe bases,” where it is helpless and lacks resourcefulness… and where it would continue to take the Palestinians “lightly”!! Waiting for the of approval of Netanyahu, “may God prolong his life,” as per ‘Abbas!!
Despite the surrounded difficulties and fears, the reconciliation process, which started in the summer of 2020, was an opportunity to get out of the Palestinian impasse. Especially that there were indications, which seemed serious to many at the time, that the Fatah leadership was proceeding with putting the Palestinian political house in order. Furthermore, the Fatah leadership controls the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the leadership of the Palestinian Authority (PA), and enjoys Arab and international recognition. Therefore, its approval and adoption of reform seemed to be the safest road map, less costly and the less damaging in order to reach the goal, albeit slowly. This process had one main advantage that Fatah was willing to proceed with it.
With the concerted Palestinian “wills,” we were supposed to succeed in imposing our will on the occupation and the world. However, as the Fatah leadership has backed out and insisted on pursuing its solitary dominant role, it has brought everybody to square one… Consequently, our cause has become extracting our Palestinian will from such a leadership, as a basic strategy for the mobilization of our elements of strength and the liberation of our land.
We are aware that a combination of factors had a role in ‘Abbas’s decision to postpone the elections, the most prominent of which are: the fragmentation of Fatah, the submission of three electoral lists in its name, his fear that his list would lose and that the chances of Hamas winning the elections have increased by a relative majority, the Israeli rejection of holding the elections, and the pressure of a number of Arab countries to stop the elections, because they feared Hamas would win. Moreover, the European-American “enthusiasm” to hold the elections was false, for they are with the elections as long as ‘Abbas and his associates will renew their legitimacy, and against it as long as the Palestinian people choose an effective national leadership that reflect their will and not the will and desires of global forces.
It seems that ‘Abbas preferred to take a chance and postpone the elections, which would lead to an overwhelming popular anger against him and further weaken his stature and the political and popular standing of his Palestinian faction. For him, this is better than repeating Hamas’ victory and renewing its legitimacy. This would further ensure that he stays in the leadership and please his allies, supporters and system…It’s okay to endure Palestinian public anger for one week or two, then he would re-grab the reins.
The brave clashes of Palestinians in Jerusalem in the past days, and the confrontations at Damascus Gate and elsewhere, have proven that our problem is not getting “permission” from the occupation to vote in Jerusalem. It has also proven that rights are wrested, putting the Palestinian political house in order would include clashes and confrontations with Israel and that it’s a battle of wills. Had the current Palestinian leadership the slightest will, it would have picked up the Jerusalem message… rather it insisted on its traditional approach; disrupting all resistance action and the launch of a genuine national action, and remaining a tool to thwart any real process to break the deadlock.
The Palestinian leadership could have turned the issue of elections in Jerusalem into a national issue. It could have called the Palestinian forces and factions to discuss ways to impose the elections on the occupation, and it could have even turned matters into a state of national escalation that would receive Arab and international support, for elections and the “right to vote” is an integral part of human rights. The people in Jerusalem could have held elections, taking suitable procedures in mosques, churches and gatherings …; Unfortunately, this leadership preferred to stay helpless and impotent… and let its people down.
The postponement of the elections is not just an ordinary decision. For it shook the trust and credibility bases on which any reform of the Palestinian political house is built, and to many Palestinians who have strongly embraced this experience with sincerity and openness, this decision has indefinitely missed a “historic opportunity.” The Fatah movement led by ‘Abbas has brought back the Palestinian situation to its chronic and historical crisis… and it seems that sooner or later it will pay for this crisis and disruption.
The current Palestinian leadership has failed to differentiate between the interests of the party or faction (Fatah ‘Abbas) and the higher interests of the Palestinian people; between faction calculations and the calculations of the Palestinian national project; and between the institutions of a faction and national institutions that represent the Palestinian people and take decisions on their behalf. The way Fatah and its leadership identify themselves makes the Palestinian national project and its major milestones dependent on the calculations of a Palestinian faction, which is afraid of mere elections. This faction knows perfectly well that it no longer represents Palestinian majority … whether on the popular, struggle or political levels.
The Hamas movement position was good and consistent with the rest of the Palestinian factions and lists, when it did not support ‘Abbas and his decision and boycotted the meeting of Thursday 29/4/2021. Its rejection of ‘Abbas’s decision, after its issuance, was consistent with the movement itself and the serious process of putting the Palestinian political house in order.
The Palestinian forces have now a new opportunity to surpass the state of mere public anger and convert it into an effective constructive energy, forming a broad national front that imposes the true Palestinian popular will, at home and abroad, rather than the will of ‘Abbas and his team. Furthermore, this experience should not go unnoticed… in terms of (at least) studying it and preparing all the conditions, mechanisms and infrastructure necessary to put the Palestinian political house in order. These include the independence of the Palestinian decision and not being dependent on the occupation; to start with the PLO and the National Council; having consensus on the political program of managing the stage of facing the occupation; having consensus on an interim leadership that manages the transitional phase; and reform and putting the Palestinian political house in order must not be dependent on a specific person or faction.