By: Prof. Dr. Mohsen Mohammad Saleh.
Algeria and its people are credited for having strong, unconditional support and deep attachment to the Palestine issue. The nation of 1.5 million martyrs is fully aware of the cruelty, oppression and brutality of occupation and colonialism. It appreciates sacrifice, pride, dignity and the liberation of land and man. Algeria enjoys also Palestinian consensus for treating all parties on par, despite the differences and schism.
Perhaps this is the reason the Algerian diplomacy, under the auspices of President Abdelmajid Tebboune, was able to issue the “Algiers Declaration” that emanated from the “Reunification Conference for Achieving National Unity,” held in Algeria on 11–13/10/2022. Over the past nine months, Algeria had worked diligently and calmly, hosting Palestinian factions and figures to find a way out of the Palestinian impasse and for the Palestinian national action to restore its institutional structure and its effective force on the ground.
It is noted that previously, Algeria used to leave the initiatives and reconciliation sponsorship to other Arab countries, specifically Egypt, which usually has the “Palestinian dossier” within its jurisdiction in the Arab world. However, there has been in Algeria a policy change, perhaps it is not just due to the Egyptian years of failure in addressing the Palestine issue, it may also be due to two reasons: First, Algeria’s firm and decisive stance towards the normalization with Israel, and it’s a strong message to Morocco (that has gone a long way into normalization), the Arab countries in North Africa and other African countries, that Algeria still strongly supports Palestine and rejects normalization. Second, Algeria wants to achieve a breakthrough in the Palestinian schism issue, before hosting the upcoming 2022 Arab Summit in November, in Algiers.
The “Algiers Declaration” is vague and loose, containing general ideas, most of which are not subject to disagreement, while the implementation measures were postponed. Most of the content is a repetition of previous agreements that did not go into force (Cairo Agreement 2005, National Accord Document 2006, Mecca Agreement 2007, Reconciliation Agreement (Cairo) 2011, Doha Agreement 2012, al-Shati’ Agreement 2014, Cairo Agreement 2017 and the Reconciliation Arrangements 2020–2021). It was clear that the Palestinian factions, especially Fatah and Hamas, did not want to embarrass Algeria, and both of them wanted to avoid any responsibility for the failure of negotiations.
The leadership of the Fatah movement, which dominates the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority (PA), continues to insist on controlling the “Palestinian legitimacy” and the Palestinian decision-making. Even after the failure of the elections and the reconciliation process last year, it continued with the same policies, whether when the Palestinian Central Council (PCC) convened in February 2022, or by pursuing security coordination and suppressing the resistance forces in the West Bank (WB), or by insisting on the peace process, the two-state solution and the Oslo Accords and their implications. It even sought to include a clause in the Algiers Declaration related to the commitment to the conditions of the International Quartet and the agreements signed by PLO. Although it failed to do the latter, such a request indicates that it is still living in “illusions” that cannot be bases for a national program or for a way out of the Palestinian impasse.
However, the Fatah leadership is aware of Algeria’s position and is keen to have its support, therefore, it did not want to be the reason for the failure of the Algerian efforts:
First, Algeria was the largest Arab supporter of the PA in 2021, providing nearly $100 million.
Second, the Fatah leadership found in Algiers Declaration an opportunity to “recycle” and rehabilitate itself among the Palestinians, who have been angered and frustrated by the cancellation of elections and the disruption of the reconciliation efforts, making its popularity hit rock bottom.
Third, perhaps Fatah found in the Algiers Declaration an opportunity to gain time to get its cards in order, in light of the fragmentation and division it is witnessing, in addition to the PA’s erosion and failure.
Fourth, perhaps the Fatah leadership wanted to take advantage of the Algiers Declaration to preoccupy the Palestinians with elections and electoral campaigns, and “vent” the escalating resistance in WB. This way, its security forces would be able to single out the resistance outposts in Jenin, Nablus, etc., and re-establish its control over the Palestinian people in WB. These would requalify the PA to continue its “functional” role that the Israeli occupation demands.
As for Hamas, along with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) Movement, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and other factions, it was an important opportunity to communicate and interact with the Algerian officials, and to present clearly their point of view. At a time when Fatah, by being the leader of the PLO and PA, dominates the official Palestinian communication with the others. Hamas has made diplomatic progress in terms of its relations with Algeria, where the latter understood the point of view of Hamas and the resistance, while Isma‘il Haniyyah, Hamas head, received a distinguished reception.
Of course, Hamas also did not want to appear as the one to hinder the reconciliation process and the Algerian initiative. It agreed on the declaration (keeping in mind) putting pressure on the Fatah leadership and testing its seriousness and credibility, especially with regard holding presidential and legislative elections, the re-formation of the Palestinian National Council (PNC) within one year, and the re-activation of the role of the secretaries-general to follow up on ending the schism and achieving political partnership.
Among the articles that were in the resistance interest was the commitment of the signatory factions to develop the popular resistance and acknowledge the right of the Palestinian people to all forms of resistance. Moreover, the resistance factions did not make any pledge of calm, and even after the Algiers Declaration, matters remained open for them to practice the resistance action.
Perhaps having an Algerian team, who would overlook, along with the Palestinian side, the implementation of the agreement, brings seriousness to the Algiers Declaration. However, we should not bet on it too much; As the PLO and PA leadership is adept at repudiating previous agreements, and holding others accountable for failure and disruption.
Regardless of the Declaration’s results, whose responsibility is only borne by the Palestinians, the Algiers Declaration remains highly appreciated by the Palestinians.
It is almost impossible to reach an agreement that includes an accurate road map and guarantees. For there are many obstructive factors, including the strategic and fundamental contradiction between the resistance and the peace process camps; the lack of trust between the two parties; the Arab and international pressures and interventions in the Palestinian file; and the fact that the PA is under an occupation that imposes its conditions and has the ability to thwart the elections in the areas under its control.
As long as there is no real pressure on the Fatah leadership (the PLO and PA leadership) to proceed with a real partnership—although in the event of holding transparent elections it may lose its leadership of “Palestinian legitimacy,” it is highly unlikely that it will agree on a transitional leadership, or on providing guarantees. It will insist on managing the Palestine issue itself, issuing decrees and legislation, and granting “legitimacies.” Perhaps it would put pressure to take over the Gaza Strip under the pretext of “legitimacy.” It will find thousands of reasons for disrupting any elections or arrangements that do not guarantee its continuous dominance of the Palestine issue.
That’s why the Palestinians did not receive the Algiers Declaration with enthusiasm, because they consider it not very reliable. As a matter of fact, they returned to resistance action, facing the occupation and the attempts to Judaize the land, particularly al-Aqsa mosque and Jerusalem.
Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations, 27/10/2022