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The Palestinians between reconciliation and national unity

All Palestinians, on every level and front, are concerned with the issue of reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. A lot is focused on the search for this elusive concord.

Many Arab states and Palestinian domestic parties have tried to mediate a reconciliation agreement in an effort to end this devastating division affecting the people of Palestine; there has not been much success. In fact, every time that such an agreement is signed, something happens to disappoint the people. They used to rejoice at the announcement of every such agreement between the various factions but their joy and celebration was short-lived because the parties would often go against the document that they had just signed.

The Palestinians have suffered from the conduct of these factions and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) for many years. For this reason, much of the trust that was placed in leaders has been lost; many believe that these leaders are only concerned in advancing their own agendas at the expense of the Palestinian cause.

This is a destructive situation because a loss of trust means a loss of the ability to develop strategies that will elevate the status and the prestige of the cause. The loss of trust means the deterioration of basic values in society, namely teamwork and mutual cooperation; ultimately, this means the inability to face challenges. The Palestinian issue is a big issue, and there are many strong players, but if the Palestinian people themselves become weak then that will open the door to many outside interventions.

It will very difficult for the two main Palestinian factions to reach a reconciliation agreement for many reasons, among them the security coordination that is taking place between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli occupation, which forces PA security agencies to ensure Israel’s security. This has been the sticking point for several reconciliation efforts.

Even if a true reconciliation is ever achieved, though, this would in no way mean that the internal civil strife among the Palestinians would also come to an end because many relationships are fragile. In short, any reconciliation agreement reached between Fatah and Hamas can easily be spoiled because neither party can control its behaviour towards the other.

Ultimately the Palestinians are not in dire need of reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, per se, because we have seen previously how factions can fight each other with weapons in Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine. Despite all of this, the Palestinian journey has continued.

What existed instead of long-term divisions between Palestinians in the past was their focus on national unity even as we grow further and further away from the very idea of it; reconciliation remains the most prominent headline in the search for internal Palestinian cohesion.

National unity transcends disagreements between factions and it is possible to develop standards on the level of the PLO that would mandate the faction’s acceptance of the other so as not to destroy national unity. Moreover, it is not logical that a Palestinian citizen would be willing to listen to so many political and media statements emerging from various factions about reconciliation without seeing serious interest in the issue of national unity.

Are people interested in the unity of Palestinians wherever they are, and the unity of their factions, or are they interested only in reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas? If the nation is to unite domestically and abroad, it has no option but to write a single Palestinian charter that acts as a compass for different political, cultural, intellectual activism that fights for the return of their rights.

A charter, or constitution, is considered by countries to be an expression of how the nation sees its future, strategies and goals, and the tools that can be used to reach those goals. It is difficult for a country or people to develop a vision of the future without developing a charter or constitution, unless they have cultural norms and practices that over time have become moral values that people, political parties and rulers commit to.

The Palestinian people abandoned their charter in 1996 when the PLO decided to repeal a number of the terms outlined in the national charter and amend other terms in a manner that rendered them null. This left the Palestinian people without a compass to guide them. How can the nation search for freedom or make its way without a constitution that directs its actions and attempts to retrieve set national rights, when it still suffers from expulsion, occupation and repression?

The Palestinians do not have a tradition of creating a system of values that brings people together, with parties around them. It is difficult to judge the behaviour of anyone without the existence of a system of values represented in a Palestinian national charter upon which everyone agrees.

It is unfortunate that the Palestinian factions do not discuss the necessity of creating a charter that can be presented to the factions and the public for discussion, and instead, as mentioned above, care only about the issue of reconciliation. National unity is far more important than national reconciliation, and unity cannot be achieved through an agreement, as an agreement is worthless if it does not bring about constitutional changes that can be followed by the people.

Translated from Arabi21, 19 May, 2015.

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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