By: Prof. Dr. Mohsen Mohammad Saleh.
It seems that the starting point of reforming the Palestinian internal political house is linked to two main determinants; first, to start with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and second, to have a reliable transitional leadership able to set up objective conditions and a serious and effective environment for the success of the reform process.
Ever since Hamas won the 2006 elections, and its ability to lead the government or work within the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) has been disrupted, the schism has developed and Hamas took charge of Gaza Strip (GS)… Since then, meetings, workshops, conferences and panel discussions have not stopped, trying to “end the schism” and reform the Palestinian internal political house, and al-Zaytouna Centre has carried out many activities and studies in this regard.
However, one of the prominent workshops, in which the author of these lines participated, was the one held by Masarat Center. It consisted of periodic sessions over the course of more than three years (2010–2012), and prominent figures from inside and outside Palestine participated in them; affiliated with Fatah, Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) and other factions, in addition to a number of experts and independents. One of the most prominent conclusions reached was that the most appropriate approach to the reform of the Palestinian internal political house begins at the PLO, where various Palestinian components and forces would be included, its institutions would be rebuilt and activated on democratic foundations, and via the PLO independent Palestinian decision-making would be carried out, away from Israeli domination. At that time, our colleague Dr. Jamil Hilal was assigned to write a memorandum on this subject, which he did. Over the course of 13 years, when objective studies are conducted or in-depth meetings of experts and specialists are held, the same result has been reached.
However, over the past years, there has been strange insistence by Mahmud ‘Abbas and the leadership of the PLO and the Palestinian Authority (PA or Fatah leadership), on focusing on forming a PA “national unity” or “consensual” government, while disregarding any other reform programs. Although Hamas and the Palestinian forces were forced to respond to the insistence of ‘Abbas and his leadership, forming the government itself was a faltering process. For Fatah would eventually form the government or dominate it, and the participation of Hamas’s ministers or those affiliated with it would be impossible, because, according to the PA’s realistic reading, it must comply with the Oslo Accords terms and the criteria of the international Quartet. In addition, this government (the Ramallah government) would implement policies that target the resistance, contribute to the GS siege and prevent the PLC from holding sessions, because Hamas has the overwhelming majority in the latter. This means that, for 14 years, this government has been implementing policies that are contrary to the council, which is supposed to hold the government accountable and from which the latter takes the legitimacy of its formation.
The leadership of ‘Abbas and the PA have failed terribly in managing the Palestine issue. Following the disruption of the elections and the path of reconciliation, it witnessed a state of overwhelming discontent and anger in the Palestinian street; and following the battle of the “Sword of Jerusalem,” the confrontations in Jerusalem, the West Bank (WB) and the 1948 territories massive popular support of the resistance, it has suffered political isolation and popular decline… Despite all that, the PA leadership, nowadays, is back talking about a “national unity” government according to the Oslo Accords terms, or what it calls “international legitimacy.”
Is it possible that this leadership has not yet received the message of the Palestinian people that it has lost confidence and credibility, and that repeating the same methods that would reproduce failure, is rejected by all means. And if it did not receive it, how and when will it receive it?! Maybe it is still betting on the Arab and international crutches to “rehabilitate the PA” and the peace process, and as a result, the Palestinians will continue to suffer the disasters it brings them.
As for the PLO, considering it a starting point for reform is no longer enough. For time has proved that it needs a reliable transitional leadership capable of establishing objective conditions for the success of reconstruction and reform, and the inclusion of various Palestinian forces, factions, competencies and experiences. These must come within an effective legislative and executive institutional structure that expresses the will of the Palestinian people, holds real and transparent elections, overlooks a smooth transfer of power and ensures that all these processes come to an end.
The Palestinian people has gone through a miserable experience with the current PLO and PA, where the latest was when the elections were disrupted due to the electoral calculations of ‘Abbas and the “official” Fatah movement. Such a move has decisively confirmed (reinforced by many other experiences over the years) that this leadership can no longer be entrusted with any serious change or development, and that it looks at matters from a partisan perspective. Hence, it is unwilling to proceed with any fair and transparent electoral process that could decrease its dominance over the PLO or the PA. This leadership is primarily responsible for the state of collapse and deterioration of the PLO. Therefore, this leadership, its network of interests and its corrupt system cannot be relied on, otherwise failure would be reproduced once again.
Let this transitional leadership be the temporary leadership framework or any other body originating from it, and let a specific time frame be set for the completion of its work. However, it is necessary that this leadership be an effective dynamic one, able to make decisions and implement them on the ground. Maintaining consensus must not be a reason for some sides to stop the process or put sticks in the wheels. As for some small factions (with all due respect), they should not practice a “minority dictatorship,” they should rather respect the overwhelming will of the Palestinian people, while keeping their full right to be represented according to their size, and to benefit from their expertise, energies and capabilities.
The model required as a starting point for Palestinian reform is similar to what happened during the December 1967–February 1969 period. At that time, the PLO leadership resigned and Yahya Hammudah took over the leadership of a transitional phase, which ended when all Palestinian factions, led by Fatah, were included, the PLO and its national council were rebuilt and a new Palestinian leadership was elected.
Therefore, at the start of the reform, there is correlation between the transitional leadership and the Palestinian representative institutional structure (PLO). It is no longer possible to talk only theoretically about the PLO, without providing the minimum requirements for the success and seriousness of the implementation procedures.