While many observers tend to agree that last January’s Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) elections have underlined the limitations of the Palestinian socio-political structure to a bipolar system, namely between Hamas and Fateh, there is an increasing sense of acceptance of a third political current, capable of transcending traditional factional loyalties and able to deliver the Palestinian people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip out of international economic and diplomatic isolation, and hopefully facilitate the resumption of both the peace process and the Palestinian nation-building process altogether.
It goes without saying that any outcome from the ongoing talks between Hamas and Fateh concerning an exit strategy from the current crisis will depend, on the one hand, on Hamas’ willingness and readiness to adopt a “softer” stance on essential rhetorical/existential issues concerning Israel, and on the other hand, on Fateh’s adaptation to the new challenges posed before it after almost 40 years of dominating Palestinian political life; namely Hamas’ rise from political outcast to a legitimate mainstream political force.
However, despite this heavy dependency on the fate of Palestine’s two giants, and caught right in the middle of the Hamas-Fateh battle for authority, there is sufficient room of manoeuvrability for Palestinian civil society to re-emerge as a viable political force to be reckoned with; namely the dwindling leftist movements, the independents, the technocratic/professional/academic PLC members, among other segments of society’s “enlightened” circles.
In recent days, members of these circles have taken the initiative to propose an alternative, albeit temporary, strategy to resolve the occupied Palestinian territories’ political crisis. In a well-publicised effort, they issued a “Call for Palestine,” in which their key political motives and, more importantly, strategies are outlined:
First: the formation of a transitional Palestinian government, composed of independent national personalities, and blessed with the acceptance of existing political forces and the PLC’s endorsement for one year, during which this cabinet would work towards resolving internal issues, particularly 1) reversing the deteriorating socio-economic situation, 2) remedying poverty and unemployment, 3) ending the international political and economic siege on the Palestinian people, 4) guaranteeing the resumption of international financial assistance, 5) resuming financial and administrative reforms, and 6) improving government services to the public.
Second: the authorisation of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), in its capacity as the central political reference to the Palestinian Authority (PA), to follow up the political process (i.e. peace negotiations), and urging President Mahmoud Abbas to convene the PLO’s Higher Committee, which is headed by Abbas and composed of the Palestinian National Council’s President, members of the PLO’s Executive Committee, the leaders of the various Palestinian factions and political parties, and several independent personalities; the aim of this meeting would be to re-elect the PLO’s Palestinian National Council, in addition to the overall development of the PLO itself.
Third: the proposition of a national plan to combat (and end) the current state of security and weapons chaos in the Palestinian territories, reform the Palestinian security apparatus, safeguard the rule of law, and achieve security and justice to Palestinian citizens. This would be carried out in a spirit of co-operation between the Presidency and the Government, with the participation of the relevant institutions and the support of all political forces and the PLC.
Fourth: the allocation of this transitional period (one year) for the promotion and fostering of a calm internal national dialogue, free of rhetoric, in order to reach agreement over the mechanisms to implement the National Conciliation Document of the Prisoners (a.k.a. the Prisoners’ document), including the formation of a national unity government and reaching consensus on its proposed agenda.
At the heart of this initiative, there is arguably a more optimistic alternative to the existing internal strife that has paralysed Palestinian society and dragged it into the dark shadow of potential civil war, let alone a workable solution to complex issues that have so far been overlooked by factional, almost tribal, extremism and antagonism. At the heart of this initiative, there is a desperate Palestinian call for national unity; detached from the existing paradigm of power struggles, this “Call for Palestine” is somewhat a last attempt to re-induce pragmatism into the legitimate Palestinian struggle for liberation and independence.
-MIFTAH’s Editorial is a regular column drafted by MIFTAH’s Media and Information Director. It covers a wide range of topics relevant to current developments in the occupied Palestinian territories, and is intended to highlight the organisation’s perspective on key issues.
© 2006 MIFTAH, October 20, 2006 (www.miftah.org)