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Fatah and Hamas reconciliation still misses the main issues in the national struggle

From a strategic point of view, the reform of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) is the most important issue for the parties to Palestinian reconciliation. However, it is the least important concern for both the parties and observers. All discussions focus on forming a national unity government headed by President Mahmoud Abbas. What's really sad is that both sides are blamed equally for marginalising the PLO file, giving more attention to the issue of governance and confidence-building, and, to a certain degree, to the coming Palestinian Legislative Council and presidential elections. Of course, each party has its own reasons for that.

For Fatah and the Palestinian Authority (PA), negotiations and the peace process are the "safety pin" for the Palestinian strategy. It means that the PA is still a "state programme" in their view, and negotiations the best way to achieving an independent state, whether now or after the US election. Everything beyond that regarding the alternative options of resistance and other sorts of threats, amongst them going to the UN, are considered to be mere delusions.

For Hamas, the priority is to reinforce its de facto position in the Gaza Strip at any price. That is not enough, though, so it needs to add more legality to its position under the pretext of a unity government following a patronising reconciliation, which is being constructed precisely for the benefit of Fatah as it hopes to consolidate and extend its position in the West Bank. The reality, meanwhile, is that both Fatah and Hamas are running illusory Palestinian Authorities, one under the Israeli occupation and the other under the Israeli siege.

Buying time is of common interest to both: Fatah as it is waiting for the end of the pressing regional developments and the American elections; Hamas as it is waiting for the end of the Egyptian elections and the Arab Spring to try to exploit the outcomes for its own benefit.

Renewing and revalidating the PA is also of common interest for Fatah and Hamas. Having an election has the potential to do that, as it would not only bring about patronising reconciliation but also legitimise both sides through joint recognition. Moreover, this would provide a glimmer of hope for Palestinians who want an end to national division.

Division and reconciliation, therefore, is in one sense a non-issue, as the main focus is on forming a government. That's the bottom line, even if it is without real power, as long as each side can run the main functions for its own benefit.

After close scrutiny of the current Palestinian landscape from a strategic point of view, there is nothing promising for the Palestinians, especially with regards to the right of return, self-determination and building an independent state. Negotiations with the Israelis are at a dead end with no way out in sight. The option of resistance has been marginalised into a long-term truce or ceasefire awaiting the outcome of the Arab Spring. The solution in terms of Israeli policy is no more than unilateral moves or variations on the "Jewish and democratic state" scenario.

The unprecedented phenomenon on the Palestinian scene is that the maintenance of some sort of Palestinian Authority is, increasingly, a priority for Fatah and Hamas in Ramallah and Gaza respectively. At the same time, the actual value of PA diminishes in the overall national liberation strategy. This means that neither party gives reform of the PLO and renewal of the Palestinian national movement the attention that is needed. As such, grand announcements about reconciliation may fizzle out without changing the PLO. Hamas and Islamic Jihad may face a quota policy on the pretext that it is impossible to hold elections because of Israeli policies, restraints put in place by refugees' host countries and the difficulty of counting and registering all Palestinians, as well as other excuses which are well known.

This does not mean that the ongoing dialogue and consultations in Cairo and Amman are useless. Reconciliation, even if it is patronising, is important. The importance of having a national unity government surpasses the end of the caretaker government in Ramallah and the de facto version in Gaza. Any kind of exit strategy or national reconciliation is better than the unpleasant current division. We should not be too optimistic, though. The two main parties are still discussing the headlines, not the agenda of the national Palestinian strategy, such as the future of the national movement, the PA, the PLO, popular resistance and forms of strife, taking Israel to task for its human rights abuses, reconnecting Palestinians in the diaspora with the daily Palestinian struggle and reconnecting the Palestinian cause with its national spirit at this time of the Arab Spring. All are headlines way beyond the discussions of Fatah and Hamas at this stage, and they all deserve more research, discussion and agreement.

The author is a Jordanian writer. This article is a translation of the Arabic version which appeared in Ad Dustour newspaper, 6 June 2012

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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