Encountering Peace: Unity, disunity and peace
From what I hear around the area, once again the reconciliation talks between Fatah and Hamas have re-entered the freezer.
PA President Abbas, Hamas chief Mashaal in Qatar Photo: REUTERS/Thaer Ghanaim/PPO/Handout
From what I hear around the area, once again the reconciliation talks between
Fatah and Hamas have re-entered the freezer. Just last week the parties
announced that on June 20, Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas and
Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal would be announcing a new transitional government
supported by both movements without any direct participation or representatives
of either. The task of the transitional government was to prepare new elections
for president of the Palestinian Authority, the PA Legislative Council and the
Palestinian National Council of the PLO.
From the perspective of almost
all Palestinians, it is not natural or good that the Palestinian house is
divided with completely different regimes ruling the two separated Palestinian
territories. All Palestinians want unity and wish for the dispute between the
two main movements to be settled. On the other hand, it is almost equally
unnatural for these two movements to function together under one roof.
the ideological level, the national movement, the PLO headed by Fatah, has come
to terms with settling for a Palestinian state on 22 percent of the land between
the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, based on the June 4, 1967 lines with
agreed upon territorial swaps with Israel, a negotiated agreement for two
capitals in Jerusalem, including Jewish sovereignty over the Western Wall and
the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, and according to the Arab Peace Initiative,
an agreement on a just solution to the refugee problem. This is the plan that
the PLO submitted to the international community when they requested that the
United Nations recognize the State of Palestine, not more, not
Hamas ridiculed President Abbas and the PLO for submitting such
minimalist demands to the international community. From the perspective
of Hamas, all of the land between the river and the sea belongs to the
Palestinian people, and while the most important Hamas leaders have said that
their strategic political plan is to achieve statehood in the 1967 borders, the
main difference between Hamas and Fatah is that the latter speaks about a full
and comprehensive peace treaty with the State of Israel while Hamas refuses to
recognize Israel or to negotiate.
There are Israeli officials in the
security/ intelligence community, as well as in the Prime Minister’s Office and
the Foreign Ministry, who think Palestinian unity is essential in order to
seriously engage the Palestinians in peace talks. There are others in the same
establishments who believe that Palestinian unity would be
There are elements of truth in both arguments – neither of
which are particularly relevant, because the actions of the Israeli government,
more than anything else, clearly signal to the Palestinians that Israel is not
ready to talk real peace on any terms that any Palestinian could
If there are no genuine peace negotiations with the Palestinians,
eventually the unity talks will succeed because there is such compelling logic
for unity within the Palestinian house when they must all face the reality of
the developing bi-national reality in the West Bank and the continuation of the
siege on Gaza.
Palestinians are losing ground (literally) and their
failure to create enough support in the international community to impose a
compromise on Israel leaves them to confront the deteriorating status quo with
no alternative political strategy developed. Palestinians will not accept
to live under continued Israeli control devoid of political rights including the
right of self-determination.
They don’t wish to return to another round
of violence. There does not seem to be enough energy within the society right
now to generate a real mass movement of refusing to cooperate with the
occupation through non-violent civil disobedience. The national
movement’s leadership has not joined the call of the international solidarity
movement with Palestine for a general boycott of Israel, but they do support a
boycott of Israeli settlements.
But at the same time some 26,000
Palestinians work in settlements and are building settlement houses, because the
PA does not have the resources to offer them alternative employment and salaries
to support their families.
The current situation is not natural and
cannot continue forever. Eventually there will be a strategic change. That
change might come from elections, it may come from the current leadership
deciding that it cannot or does not wish to rule anymore. It may come
from the streets when the young people decide that they will no longer accept
the status quo.
It will come in one form or another, if Israel does not
take the initiative to act in its own interests and make real peace with the
Palestinians, turning the prime minister’s slogan of “two states for two
peoples” into a reality.
There has never been a decision in Israel by the
government, not this government or any previous government, that the State of
Israel is committed to the solution of two states for two peoples to end the
That government decision is not dependent
on a Palestinian partner or a Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish
state. It is a sovereign decision of a sovereign state and would send a clear
message to the Palestinians that there might actually be a partner in
The PLO has adopted the two states for two peoples policy and
their Declaration of Independence of Palestine written and passed in 1988 states
it quite clearly.
The Palestinian unity talks probably fell apart now
because of US pressure on President Abbas to give one last chance to
negotiations with Israel. He does not believe that Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu is serious about making peace. A serious Israeli peacemaker
would not declare a policy of building 10 new settler houses outside of the
settlement blocs for every one the Supreme Courts declares is illegal. This does
not give any signal to the Palestinians, the Arabs or to anyone that Israel is
interested in making peace.
It is most unfortunate that even with such a
large coalition and political stability, Israel’s outstretched hand is not
seeking a handshake of peace with the Palestinians, but instead is carrying
government decisions to take more of their land.
The writer is the
co-chairman of IPCRI, the Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information,
a columnist for The Jerusalem Post, a radio host on All for Peace Radio and the
initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel for the release of Gilad