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By: Prof. Dr. Mohsen Mohammad Saleh.

In the previous article, we have talked about three illusions in Palestinian politics. Today, we will talk about two others.

The fourth illusion is the reform of the Palestinian political house without a transitional leadership

Experience has shown, over at least the past sixteen years, that the current leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority (PA) is neither serious about reforming the Palestinian political house, nor about holding elections on transparent democratic bases for the legislative and executive institutions. As long as reform does not guarantee the continuation of its control and domination of the PLO and the PA, it will take place, and in case it offers reform, it would merely be a decorative and formal procedure, empty of content and a waste of time.

When this leadership disrupted the Palestinian elections on 29/4/2021, it fired the “bullet of mercy” at itself, confirmed the suspicions that had already existed about it, and was consistent with its history and mentality, which is prone to domination and tyranny. Consequently, the current leadership can no longer be entrusted with any serious reform or development process for the Palestinian political house. It has lost what was left of the trust of people and credibility. However, it is still insisting on representing the “old” Oslo Accords camp and its network of interests, corruption and failure, and failing over and over again.

It has become clear that no reform could be done by or under the supervision of the symbols and leaders who are fighting it and have valid interest in thwarting it. It has also become clear that since these figures represent a certain faction (Fatah), their moves are contingent upon its continued control and domination of Palestinian official institutions; and not necessarily related to the higher interests of the Palestinian people.

Therefore, if we want to talk about real Palestinian reform, peaceful transfer of power, objective conditions for rebuilding the PLO and developing its institutions and including all Palestinian forces, factions and competencies; it is necessary to have a transitional leadership to manage them. This leadership may be the temporary leadership framework, may be expanded to include real emerging forces and may have a small executive leadership emerging from it… What is important is that this leadership must enjoy the trust, credibility and seriousness to complete this process.

Even if this proposal is a practical solution for the current PLO and PA leadership and a dignified way out, the author of these lines doubts that it would respond to it. Nevertheless, it will respond, if subjective and objective circumstances impose such change, such as the resignation or death of Abu Mazen and the disintegration of his leadership system, or if its Arab and international legitimacy declines or ends due to emerging political conditions and new facts imposed on the ground.

The fifth illusion is the term (Tarafay al-Inqisam) “both sides of the divide”

It is a misleading term that has spread since 2007, when the Hamas-led government took control of Gaza Strip (GS), and the Fatah-led “Emergency” government took control of the PA territories in the West Bank (WB). This term is usually used by those who try to present themselves as being objective and at the same distance from both sides, where they hold the two parties almost equal responsibility for the division. Therefore, the context in which it is used is misleading and subjective.

At first, a real division seems to have occurred, where geographically Hamas has controlled GS and Fatah has controlled WB, while institutionally, Hamas is supported by the Palestine Legislative Council (PLC) and the right of its majority to form a government, hold it accountable and grant it the vote of confidence or withholding it. As for Fatah, it relies on the presidency institution and on its ability to “legitimize” its measures through its domination of the PLO.

What deludes and misleads in this term is that it apparently means that the division is confined to the WB and GS, whereas the two parties actually do not share responsibility in the general Palestinian environment, nor in the Palestinian “official” institution. For the Fatah leadership, which is also the PA leadership, totally controls the PLO and its official legislative and executive institutions, and almost completely monopolizes embassies, Palestinian representation, decision-making and enforcement of policies and procedures. As for Hamas, its share is practically “zero” in the PLO, and it is not responsible for disrupting any decisions or actions in the organization. The PLO weakness, the collapse of its institutions, the deterioration of its performance, the prevention of its reform and change and the prohibition of partnership in it, are the sole responsibility of none else than the ‘Abbas–led Fatah.

The Fatah movement basically dominates and controls the Palestinian “legitimacy,” whether in the PLO or PA.

Consequently, the disruption or enforcement of any legislative or executive reform is primarily decided by the Fatah leadership and not the others. Hence, neither Hamas nor the opposition forces can be held responsible for it.

As the recent experience of reforming the Palestinian political house has proved, Hamas has made all the concessions that Fatah demanded, despite the fact the some of them are intrinsic and fundamental, such as the synchronization clause in the 2011 Reconciliation Agreement or keeping silent about the PLC dissolution…. Furthermore, when elections were to be held, the ‘Abbas Fatah leadership was the one who disrupted it, bringing everyone back to the “schism” realm, continuing its PA monopoly and evading the Palestinian people’s vote. Therefore, revealing to everyone that there are those who are primarily responsible for the schism.

In short, it is unfair to use the term “both sides of the divide,” for these sides are “not alike”:

• While the first side bases its legitimacy on artificial Arab and international crutches, the other side relies (and is willing to rely) on the will of the Palestinian people.

• While the first side has ceded most of Palestine, is subject to the will of the occupation, leads a functional entity serving the occupation, pursues resistance fighters and suppresses freedoms, the other side has adhered to the whole of Palestine, fights the occupation and expresses the dignity of the Palestinian people and the Arab and Muslim nation.

• While the first side closes the doors of constitutional institutions and hide their keys, the other side is deprived of its fair chance and natural rights.

• While the first side has based its strategy on an expired illusionary failed peace process, the other side bases its strategy on the natural right of the Palestinian people to their entire land, on the National Charter of the PLO.

• While the first side has been—for more than thirty years—constitutionally, politically and morally, fundamentally responsible for the setbacks and disasters that befell the Palestinian work, the other side continues to be patient with the suppression of Abbas’s authority, while paying a hefty price for resisting the occupation and facing the enemy.

In other words, we are not just witnessing “two wrong sides,” who need to set aside their personal interests, rather, they are sides with two different visions, approaches, courses of action and priorities. They differ in the mentality in which things are managed and in the way they rely on legitimacy. Therefore, using the term “both sides of the divide” the way it is used by some sides is misleading and not scientifically and objectively accurate.

Ending schism is not only dependent on entering into one house, rather, it is in the manner of managing this house, according to a system that is respected by all (A system that expresses the higher interests of the Palestinian people, their aspirations and the aspirations of their nation)… Otherwise, “divorce” will be a quick and inevitable ending.

We will continue later with other illusions!!



Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations, 10/7/2021


Read: Political Opinion: Illusions in the Palestinian Politics (1)


The opinions expressed in all the publications and studies are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of al-Zaytouna Centre.


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