There is a swefeping tendency of conviction that the Palestinian division is a disaster for the Palestinian cause, struggle, and people. Some consider that reconciliation itself, regardless of its content, is the remedy for Palestinians and the way out of every crisis. Moreover, some become optimistic every time Mahmoud Abbas and Khalid Mesha’al meet, or when a delegation from the Palestinian National Liberation Movement (Fatah) negotiates with a delegation from the Palestinian Resistance Movement (Hamas).
Yet, one reconciliation attempt after another ends in failure after so many hopes and dreams were pinned on it and articles of praise were written about it.
The people have the right to be pessimistic even after the signing of a reconciliation agreement has been announced because the agreement to re-establish the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) signed by several factions in 2005, including the main ones, did not see the light of day nor was any progress made.
This matter raises the question: Why is division prevailing over reconciliation? Or, why is reconciliation almost impossible? The answer is simply: because there are substantial grounds and strong external obstacles hindering reconciliation, and despite all the negativities of reconciliation, they must first be dealt with.
Hamas has always been, particularly over the past 2 years, more interested in reconciliation than Abbas and his aides. This is not to say they are more interested in it than the Fatah movement and its supporters.
Everyone agrees that all the conflict and division that the Palestinian arena has witnessed in its history or future, should be viewed as conflicts of politics, principles, and systems. The Palestinian arena was united, since 1968, on the basis of the PLO Charter, which contained an agreement on principles and objectives (total liberation of Palestinian land) and a strategic agreement to adopt the approach of armed struggle and the refusal of settlement strategies and peaceful solutions.
Then the division of objectives started on a lower level (Ten Point Programme approved by the PNC in 1974), then a higher level (PLO Charter), joined by the urge to use all forms of political, military, social, and cultural struggle. It was then overwhelmed by the stress on the political form, which led to negotiations and engagement in a settlement process.
Then the goal of establishing a Palestinian state within the borders of resolution 242, i.e. in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, moved to the forefront of goals, even if it led to the direct or indirect forfeiture of 78% of Palestinian land and the conversion of the issue of the right to return into one of “finding a just solution for the refugee issue”, bringing it down to the level of compensation and resettlement, or partial return to the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Since the beginning of this conflict, the favoured argument was to blame what had happened to Palestine on the rejection of the Partition Plan, then on the policy of sticking to the principle of armed struggle and resistance, then on the abandonment of international legitimacy (resolutions of the Security Council and General Assembly) and the isolation from international public opinion (including the “Israeli” opinion).
This argument is superficial and naïve because it does not take into account the objectives of the Zionist project and the balance of military and international power in favour of the Zionist entity. It also does not take into consideration the fragmentation of the Arabs and American and European domination of the Arab situation.
The supporters of the aforementioned argument (the argument of flexibility, entering the political game, and taking into consideration the “international legitimacy” and the dependence of the US administration on the settlement) thought that they would salvage what could be saved, contrary to the policies that upheld rights, principles, armed resistance, and popularity (Intifada) along with the goal of a unified Arab liberation renaissance and the emancipation of the region from foreign domination.
Those who criticised the rejection of the Partition Plan did not realize that it was never meant to be applied, but was meant to give “legitimacy” to the announcement of the establishment of the “State of Israel” then the war. This is due to the fact that this state could not be established based on the Partition Plan without displacing the Palestinians and seizing their land and property through the use of military force and international support for execution. After that, Palestinian and Arab approval wouldn’t prevent war and displacement and the establishment of a Zionist entity would have been with the legality of the Palestinians and Arab countries as well.
Despite this, the argument continued, reaching its peak in the Oslo Accords, then its climax during the reign of Mahmoud Abbas. What has actual experience proven?
The answer is the current situation, which has flooded the West Bank with so many settlements that there is no land or sub-surface for a state to be established on, in addition to the Judaization of Jerusalem to the point of suffocation.
On the other hand, since its beginning, this argument has held the differences and divisions leading to the current division. This division has reasons related to objectives, principles, and strategies, particularly negotiation and settlement policies, as well as working with the U.N and major countries on one hand, and the policies of resistance and the Intifada on the other.
Moreover, holding elections while the land is still under occupation has led to the extension of the political division into a division of two authorities and two realities; one represented by the authority in Ramallah, and the other by the authority in Gaza liberated from occupation and settlements. It has transformed, under the leadership of Hamas, into a liberated base that has fought and won two wars against the Zionist entity, and is continuing its military, political, and public preparation for a third.
What settlement can combine these two cases if it is not on the basis of the West Bank adopting the strategy of resistance with the goal of liberation from occupation and the dismantling of settlements, as well as the liberation of Jerusalem from occupation and Judaization unconditionally, because any negotiation would interfere with defeating the occupation and unconditionally dismantling the settlements. Only then can an end be put to the division of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
However, those who want to end the division on the basis of a liberated Gaza Strip, which is in a state of military confrontation, falling under the Ramallah authority or Mahmoud Abbas including its strategies and policies, are almost inviting the occupation and settlements back into Gaza by transferring the experience of Dayton’s forces to it. This would lead to Gaza’s demilitarization and the destruction of its tunnels, making it like any other city in the West Bank; weaponless and with no will to fight. It is a way of making reconciliation a crime thus making it impossible.
As such, how can Abbas’s main condition be to hold new elections to resolve who will have authority; Hamas or Fatah, instead of re-establishing reconciliation between all the Palestinian factions in accordance with goal that cannot be put off: an Intifada to defeat the occupation, disassemble the settlements in the West Bank, and salvage Jerusalem unconditionally?! Basically, a reconciliation focusing on elections will lead to a division even worse than the current division.
Arab, Islamic, and international conditions are positively arranged to achieve a victory for the Intifada in less than a year – provided that Salam Fayyad goes home and Mahmoud Abbas stays in Amman and observes how the resistance and Intifada prevails. He has already experienced the defeat of the strategy of settlements and negotiations, leading to the current state of the West Bank and Jerusalem, including the consecration of the occupation, the building of the wall, and the spread of settlements and Judaization.
The author is the general coordinator of the Arab-nationalist-Islamic Congress. This article was translated from the original Arabic, which appeared on Al Jazeera net on 10 January 2013
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.