By: Prof. Dr. Mohsen Mohammad Saleh.
The decision of the Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership (the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Fatah) to indefinitely postpone elections and consequently disrupt the reconciliation process and putting the Palestinian political house in order (29/4/2021), in addition to the resistance decision to fight the “Sword of Jerusalem” Battle (Operation Guardian of the Walls) (10–21/5/2021); were two milestones in Palestinian affairs. Among the most significant impacts were the Palestinian leadership’s loss of credibility and people’s confidence, whereas the resistance movement took the lead and Palestinians at home and abroad were unified behind the resistance program and Jerusalem.
A new political map was expected to emerge onto the Palestinian landscape. However, we have warned then that this map faces great challenges that cannot be ignored in the midst of the euphoria of victory in the Sword of Jerusalem Battle.
The PA Erosion:
The political vacuum in the Palestinian arena, the absence of Palestinian “legitimacy” from the field of action, and its inability to influence Arab and international affairs were clearly manifested in May 2021. When the Palestinian people and most of their factions, leaders and movements have bypassed the peace process, the Palestinian leadership was still in a “state of denial,” insisting on it while being dissociated from the movement of history. At the same time, it still insists on following up on the PA’s functional role and security coordination, hence serving Israeli purposes rather than the people’s aspirations. It also insists on dominating the PLO with a blatant disregard for any real partnership with the broadly popular and influential Palestinian forces, and what added insult to injury is this leadership’s failure to manage the reconciliation dossier.
If we added to the above the fragmentation of Fatah (especially during elections); the leadership succession crisis for the post-Abbas era; the loss of vision in managing this phase; the absence of an effective political program; the lack of will and the deterioration of the PA and the PLO; in addition to the decline of popular support for the presidency, the government, and Fatah itself… They all reveal the extent of the PA’s erosion, especially among the Palestinian people.
The Evanescence of Victory:
As for the resistance forces, the opinion polls have expected their win in Palestinian elections, had they taken place. They were distinguished in the Sword of Jerusalem Battle, causing a popular Palestinian “earthquake” and enjoying great Arab, Islamic and international popular solidarity; at a time when the peace settlement and normalization movements declined… However, they faced the dilemma of employing their victories and reflecting them on the ground in addition to the dilemma of how to express the popular will in the Palestinian “official” frameworks and institutions that do not reflect the true pulse of the Palestinian people.
Due to their adoption of the peace process, the Arab regimes and the international community are unfavorable of the resistance movements. They are also hostile to or incompatible with the Islamic line adopted by the most prominent of these movements. That’s why they preferred to continue “legitimizing” the PA leadership and blocking the way for the resistance forces, even if they are attuned to the will of the overwhelming majority of the Palestinian people.
Thus, the United States and its allies betted, as did the Arab system, on three tracks:
First: The rehabilitation of the PA, while trying to breathe life into it through economic and security assistance, burnishing its image and by trying to limit the sources of Palestinian funding and its support.
Second: Devaluing the victory of the resistance by prohibiting any political investment; dampening popular enthusiasm, bringing people back under control especially in the West Bank (WB).
Third: Occupying the Gaza Strip (GS) and the resistance leadership with the siege, scars of war and the reconstruction issues in order for the conditions of the pre-Sword of Jerusalem Battle, or may be even worse ones, to return. All of this to continue subduing the resistance and make it fail.
In this context, the GS witnessed complicated financial transfers and delays in the reconstruction file. Moreover, the assassination of Nizar Banat and the political arrest campaigns came as a reminder of the iron fist ruling of the WB, particularly when it comes to liberties or to those who detract from the PA artificial prestige of power. As for the continuation of the Israeli attacks in Jerusalem and GS, they were an Israeli attempt to mitigate the impact of the Sword of Jerusalem Battle, and so was the Egyptian authorities’ closures of the Rafah crossing, over several periods of time, so as to pressure the resistance leadership.
The catastrophic part is that the Palestinian president seemed comfortable with the Arab and international “crutches” that support the legitimacy of his authority; and appeared as if he was the one who won the popular elections and won the Sword of Jerusalem Battle!! So to resume national reconciliation, he tightened his conditions to require the resistance to abide by the “international legitimacy” as a starting point. It is a condition that he knows in advance that the resistance will not agree to, because it simply means recognizing the “legitimacy” of Israel over most of Palestine, abandoning resistance and adhering to the “dead” peace process. In other words, he is asking the resistance to abolish itself, share with him the management of illusion and Oslo’s failure, adopt the policy it refuses, and offer him concessions that neither the Israelis nor the Americans, nor the Arab and international normalization forces were able to make it do. The Palestinian president sets this “international legitimacy” as a condition to evade the “popular Palestinian legitimacy” and its entitlements whose results are already known to him. Simply put, his bet is on time, by putting sticks in the wheels, waiting for the PA to be rehabilitated and the people to forget the achievements of the resistance, and for the evanescence of victory under the harsh reality. This is what happened after al-Furqan Battle/ Operation Cast Lead 2008/2009 and after Operation the Eaten Straw (al-‘Asf al-Ma᾿kul)/ Operation Protective Edge, late 2014.
This disrupted and disrupting environment of the Palestinian action reflects the worst manifestations of the Oslo project crisis; 28 years after signing the Accords. It reflects the crisis of the Palestinian national project, with its various dimensions: leadership crisis, crisis of paths, the national program crisis, and the crisis of the representative and executive institutions. Therefore, it is a crisis that prevents the achievements of the resistance and effective national action from being reflected on the Palestinian institutional structures.
The Duty of Time:
It seems that as long as it is comfortable with its Arab and international support, the Palestinian leadership will not take any serious steps towards real reform of the Palestinian house. Therefore, it is wrong for the Palestinians to remain waiting at its door. Meanwhile, hastening to find a broad national alignment of all Palestinian forces, inside Palestine and abroad, based on a program that adheres to the fundamentals and supports the resistance and Jerusalem, is a “duty of time.” It is an alignment that might take the form of a front or an alliance, which would impose a situation that expresses the Palestinian popular majority and sends a strong message that the people of Palestine insist on owning their free will, making their own decisions and rejecting external dictates and artificial legitimacies.
Secondly, there must be a transitional leadership that garners the confidence of the people to manage the reform of the Palestinian political house. Thirdly, there is also a need for a temporary political program that goes beyond the Oslo stage and pursues the liberation project. Fourthly, the popular forces, unions and syndicates must not wait for anyone. They must establish effective popular environments that would pressure the Palestinian leadership to make way for a true, fair and transparent national change.