Intra-Palestinian Reconciliation: Time for accountability

Israel/Palestine
on 5 Comments
Mahmoud Abbas and Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza City, March, 2007. (Photo: AP/Hatem Moussa)

Mahmoud Abbas and Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza City, March, 2007. (Photo: AP/Hatem Moussa)

The al-Shati’ refugee camp reconciliation agreement signed in Gaza on April 23, 2014 between Fatah and Hamas is the most recent chapter in the intra-Palestinian reconciliation saga. While it is promising news for the Palestinian people, the obvious challenge is whether it will be implemented. It seems that both parties are underestimating the extent of the damage that such a long conflict has caused to the Palestinian political and social landscape. I fear that after seven years, the division has become entrenched in every single aspect of Palestinian life.

Although it took many observers by surprise, the signing of the al-Shati’ refugee camp reconciliation agreement at this time could be due to a number of reasons. It could have been a tactical move aimed at supporting the Palestinian negotiators in their “peace talks” with Israel and the US administration. In this context, the agreement could be understood as a move towards gaining popular and national legitimacy before offering further political compromises in the peace process. Both Fatah and Hamas are currently undergoing a crisis of legitimacy and are eager to fend off rivals, like former PA security chief Mohammad Dahlan. In this context, the agreement offers them a much-needed boost of national credibility. At the same time, the move appears to have also been a reaction to some of the major changes happening in the region — particularly the ones in Egypt.

Assuming that the reconciliation agreement will be implemented this time around, and regardless of the reasons that led to it, the Palestinian people should continue to hold Fatah and Hamas responsible for the damage and harm they have caused over the last seven years. Both parties are responsible for causing damages to the national liberation cause, for fragmenting the Palestinian society, for committing human rights abuses and for causing additional suffering for the Palestinian people. Both parties helped the Israeli occupation directly and indirectly through adding another layer of oppression and repression in the lives of Palestinians. Therefore, the leaders of both sides need to be held accountable.

During a press conference held in the home of Hamas’ Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, senior Fatah official Azzam Al-Ahmad responded to a question on who will guarantee the implementation of the agreement. He said to the journalist: “You, the Palestinian people.” In a rather energetic and passionate way, Al-Ahmad argued that “the Palestinian people should monitor the Palestinian leadership step-by-step, and that they must be strong in confronting those who had prevented the implementation of the unity agreement.”

Al-Ahmad failed to mention, however, the authoritarian transformation of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its security forces (this also applies to Hamas rule in Gaza), particularly in the aftermath of the intra-Palestinian divide. Al-Ahmad dismissed the fact that the PA’s security forces have been suppressing the Palestinian people while also guaranteeing the security demands of the Israelis rather than supporting the Palestinian people in their resistance to Israel’s colonial domination. This is most clear through the policy of security collaboration.

Certainly, Palestinians must do everything in their power to ensure that this agreement is implemented. But, they also must be aware of the challenges, and engage with them rather than simply dismiss them. For instance, there was no mention in the press conference of the security arrangements and the role of the Palestinian security forces in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This issue has been a major obstacle in every agreement and potential agreement since the divide began to take shape.  Due to the absence of trust, each party wants to keep its own security forces and control the security apparatus.

It is not clear, either, why both parties need five weeks to announce a unity government. They know very well the composition and role of such a government. This delay will give the Israeli and US governments an opportunity to threaten the implementation of the reconciliation agreement.

Finally, as was noted by Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzouq in the press conference, neither party discussed their different political programs or resistance strategies in this round of talks. However, they did make sure to announce, once again, that a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital is the ultimate national goal for both Fatah and Hamas and all of those who participated in the reconciliation talks. Therefore the glowing discourse of Hamas about liberating Palestine from the river to the sea is replaced by the Oslo Accords framework for two-state solution.

After so many years of failing to unite, the Palestinian people remain suspicious about the viability of this most recent agreement, despite the consensus around the need for one. This reflects the deep legitimacy crisis and the very low level of trust that the Palestinian people have in their “leadership” and political factions. In fact, this is yet another golden opportunity for alternative voices, particularly Leftist and secular, to emerge and flourish.

To be sure, this unity agreement means that Palestinians are most likely to be punished by Israel, the US administration, and by other actors in the international donor community. We are already seeing signs of this. In order to face these challenges, Palestinians must stand firm and united facing all the obstacles and seek alternative approaches that will empower and enable them to remain steadfast, persist, and resist. At the political front, Palestinians need to have an open debate about representation and the role of the PLO. At the economic front, it is about time to utilize the model of resistance and steadfastness economy as the only viable model for a nation that persists under a prolonged military occupation. In other words, the alternative necessities moving beyond the framework of Oslo Accords in both political and economic terms.

Remember: when the Israeli government gets angry as a result of some Palestinian action, it means that the action was on the right track. After all, Israel is an occupying and colonial power that must be resisted and boycotted as part of Palestinians’ efforts to achieve self-determination, dignity, and freedom for all. Without, however, paradigm shifts and coordinated actions on the ground, including the (forced) realization on the part of Fatah and Hamas leaders that the phantom authority for which they have fought so dearly has been a key obstacle, none of this will come to fruition.

Note: This article was originally published at Ma’an News Agency.

About Alaa Tartir

Alaa Tartir is a Palestinian writer and researcher who is working on a PhD at the LSE. He is also the program director of Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network.

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5 Responses

  1. American
    April 29, 2014, 3:54 pm

    I suggest you do less Phd’ing—-piling higher and deeper —-and go with at least a ‘united public face’ for the time being to at least see how far a united front can get Palestine (and Gaza) against Israel.
    You can fight over and natter about all the alternative voices and greviences in private until the unity efforts gets somewhere or falls apart.
    Keep your eye on the ball which is the occupation and expanding OTs and dont put the cart before the horse.

  2. Rusty Pipes
    April 29, 2014, 4:04 pm

    While the outlines of a Palestinian reconciliation agreement may have been known for a long time, its implementation at this time could be related to a few regional factors:

    1) Gaza, which has been under blockade from Israel for several years, has been even more isolated in recent months by Egypt’s destruction of smuggling tunnels and almost complete closure of the border. In addition, Egypt has been giving death sentences to hundreds of its own MB citizens and penalizing Hamas for its actual and alleged connections to the Morsi government. Gaza desperately needs a change and Hamas is not in a strong negotiating position.

    2) Israel had already signaled that it was not serious about even abiding by its technical commitments to the peace process by missing the schedule of prisoner releases. Kerry had signaled that the 9 month commitment was no longer working on a peace process or even a framework for a peace process, but on an agreement to extend the process beyond the 9 month deadline. Abbas has committed to sit down at the table with Israel until the very last day of that process. But, by announcing his impending deal with Hamas (a week before the deadline and several weeks after Israel reneged on its minimal commitments), he has signaled that he is not willing to allow a fruitless process to be extended forever.

    3) By announcing the five week window for concluding the understanding with Hamas, he gave Israel a chance to make a serious offer, to give a valid incentive to extend the talks beyond the 9 months. As of today, Israel has not done so. In addition, by giving a five week framework, Abbas is waiting until after Egypt’s elections. A joint Fatah-Hamas government may be on stronger terms to negotiate with Egypt about insuring the secure and reliable functioning of the border crossing between Gaza and Egypt. What is to stop a joint Fatah-Hamas Palestinian government from entering into treaties with its neighbors, Egypt and Jordan?

  3. Kay24
    April 29, 2014, 5:27 pm

    The Palestinians are expected to make decisions involving their people, not for their advantage, or for improving their situation, but to satisfy it’s hostile occupier.
    The rest of the world seems to think uniting and getting their act together is a good thing for the fractured Palestinians, but what do you know, it threatens and makes the occupier, angry. Sounds like Israel wants the groups to be at each other’s throats, and a united front makes Israel vindictive, and afraid.

  4. Hostage
    April 29, 2014, 6:55 pm

    Both parties are responsible for causing damages to the national liberation cause, for fragmenting the Palestinian society, for committing human rights abuses and for causing additional suffering for the Palestinian people. Both parties helped the Israeli occupation directly and indirectly through adding another layer of oppression and repression in the lives of Palestinians. Therefore, the leaders of both sides need to be held accountable.

    The declaration filed with the ICC permits investigation and prosecution of any serious crimes committed in Palestine from July 2002 up to the present time.

    Al-Ahmad dismissed the fact that the PA’s security forces have been suppressing the Palestinian people while also guaranteeing the security demands of the Israelis rather than supporting the Palestinian people in their resistance to Israel’s colonial domination. This is most clear through the policy of security collaboration.

    That’s an obligation imposed by an Emergency Special Session of the General Assembly convened under the auspices of a “Uniting for Peace” resolution:

    “Calling upon both parties to fulfil their obligations under relevant provisions of the road map, the Palestinian Authority to undertake visible efforts on the ground to arrest, disrupt and restrain individuals and groups conducting and planning violent attacks

    http://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/F3B95E613518A0AC85256EEB00683444

    If they are abusing or jailing political protesters, then the recent accession to all of the UN human rights treaties will allow Palestinian civil society NGOs to report on the situation to the treaty monitoring bodies.

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