Bernard Sabella: Time for a Palestinian National Agenda

By Bernard Sabella
We Palestinians have grown accustomed to complain and there are a myriad of reasons why we should continue on this course. Yet, the challenges we are facing at present and the opportunities that are there do not allow for the luxury of continuous complaining.

The MECCA agreement under the auspices of His King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has emphasized that there is no way out except for both Hamas and Fatah to work together. But both Fatah and Hamas need to be inclusivist in their attempts at ordering house. All other factions and political groups among the Palestinians, in and out of the Palestinian Territories should be included as well in efforts at bringing in-house order and consensus. We are in need of a national agenda that would address our ills and woes and that would promote serious rehabilitation of our institutions, ministries and other public and private organizations so as to give more hope and encouragement to our people. We need also to work out our priorities, not the factional ones, but most important those that touch the lives of our people and their aspirations, on a personal, communal and social levels. We have to pay special attention to those families and individuals who have been particularly affected by infighting in the Gaza Strip and elsewhere and to help them heal. It is very difficult for dear ones to forget and forgive but without achieving a broader national consensus bent on reconciliation and reconstruction then the costly sacrifices of these families and their dear ones would be wasted.

There are signs that Europe and others are willing to consider positively the formation of a Palestinian National Unity Government. Our priority should not be driving a wedge between the US and its allies in Europe rather it should be how to move forward, after the formation of the Unity Government, to serious peace negotiations that would achieve our political aspirations. The peace negotiations are indeed a top priority and without advancement on this, all our efforts at internal rehabilitation and reconstruction will be in jeopardy. Our primary goal is to end Israeli military occupation and all its restrictive and oppressive control methods exercised routinely on our people. We cannot govern ourselves within small Bantustans and without contiguous links between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Accordingly, side by side with reconstruction, we need to empower the President of the Palestinian National Authority, Mr. Mahmoud Abbas, to go full speed on the negotiation track. All of us, irrespective of factions and ideological positions on Israeli military occupation and ways to end it, should support Mr. Abbas, Abu Mazen, on activating this track full speed.

The realistic statements made by the Hamas leadership whether those of Mr. Ismail Hanieh, the Prime Minister designate on prisoner exchange with Israel or those of Mr. Khalid Mish’al on a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders are themselves additional reason why all should give the National Unity Government a chance to succeed. It is clear that our Palestinian people with its various political groups and factions are ready for change. We should not let this opportunity pass without exploring seriously how to affect internal reconstruction and rehabilitation, on the one hand and the advancement of the peace process, on the other. Reconstruction and peacemaking complement each other as they are both needed in order to help our people achieve its long awaited goal of an end to Israeli military occupation and the establishment of a viable, free and independent Palestinian state.

The road forward is indeed very difficult but the ingredients for a recipe of success are there, if we want to honor not simply the MECCA Accord but also the sacrifices and aspirations of our Palestinian people.

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