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An urgent Palestinian rescue plan is needed

Palestinians need a comprehensive national rescue plan that goes beyond existing institutions with all their disputes and contradictions, because threats facing them now are much greater than the philosophical differences with which some are preoccupied. As such, the meeting of the Palestinian National Council scheduled for the end of April cannot be enough in the face of challenges facing the Palestinian issue today.

In the summer of 2000, Palestinians faced the dangers surrounding Jerusalem and the refugees' issue with unity and unprecedented public support. This formed a strong backup for the late martyr Yasser Arafat, who refused to give in to 14 days of pressure at Camp David when the then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and US President Bill Clinton tried to force him to accept Abu Dis instead of Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, and accept the return of 10,000 Palestinian refugees out of six million. Arafat resisted the pressure and preferred to die as a martyr than live as a president who sold out.

Today, the Palestinians are in need of a similar or even a more solid stance in order to stress their rejection of the US-Israeli liquidation plan; a plan that is supported by the Arab Zionist forces which were absent in 2000, or perhaps were staying neutral at the time. This means that Palestinians are now going through a more critical and sensitive stage than the one they experienced at Camp David in 2000.

Accordingly, it would not be enough to convene the Palestinian National Council, the Palestine Liberation Organisation or Palestinian Authority bodies; the Palestinian people need a comprehensive national rescue plan affirming that any unilateral measures to impose a solution or guardianship cannot succeed, and that any political solution without Jerusalem will not work; not by negotiation, not by force and not by fait accompli.

Any comprehensive national rescue plan must be based on a number of important principles. For a start, the convening of a general national conference that includes all Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, as well as Fatah. It should be headed by Mahmoud Abbas as leader of the PLO and held outside the occupied Palestinian territories, in order to avoid the impact of the occupation with all its paraphernalia of entry permits, travel restrictions, VIP cards and so on.

The Palestinian Authority must respond immediately to the decision of the PLO's Central Council, issued last January, to withdraw recognition of Israel and to stop security coordination, even if the PA institutions have to suspend their work in order to implement the decision.

Agreement on a unified Palestinian position on the issues of Jerusalem and refugees is important, as are negotiations on the final-status solution and the "deal of the century", and announcing this unified position publicly in order to alleviate Arab pressure on President Abbas. There is also a need to support the position that refuses to change the legal status of Jerusalem, while stressing that Abbas — even if he gives in to pressure exerted on him — does not have the right to give away the historical rights of the Palestinian people.

The PLO and Fatah should also set clear benchmarks for the succession of Abbas to avoid "Arab tampering" with the Palestinian scene. There are regional and Arab forces that are now closer to Israel than Netanyahu himself. More clearly, some Arab countries want those collaborating with them to reach the Palestinian decision-making circles so that they can pass what they want and meddle in such a way that can only serve Israeli interests.

It should be obvious that no Palestinian national rescue plan can succeed without reconciliation. This must be accomplished at any price and in any form. Any loss to any faction or political movement will be worth nothing in comparison to the Palestinians' loss of Jerusalem, so let Hamas lose all of its gains in Gaza, and let Fatah lose all of its gains in the West Bank, as long as the price is to maintain the city of Jerusalem and adhere to the highest principles of the Palestinian people.

In conclusion, Palestinians must start working immediately on a comprehensive national rescue plan, starting with a general conference that leads to reconciliation and declaring a unified position regarding issues facing threats. This conference should be held in the presence of all factions and independent figures of concern at home and abroad, thus protecting the President and the PLO and at the same time being a barrier to resist any possibility of wavering or giving into liquidation attempts. If the Palestinians do not do so, they will be facing some very dark times ahead.

Translated from Al Quds Al Arabi 13 March 2018

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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