Meeting of Palestinian factions’ leaders fluctuated between hope and truth

Dr. Ayman Ibrahim AL-Regeb

On September 3, 2020, the general secretaries and heads of the political offices of the Palestinian factions held a joint meeting from Ramallah and Beirut using the video conference feature, where they could meet with the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The significance of this meeting lies in the encounter of Hamas and Islamic Jihad movements with the factions of the Palestinian Liberty Organization (PLO). Actually the meeting was called for by these factions in March 2005 but couldn’t be implemented even then.

Convening the meeting as an event in itself is a historical achievement, but it turned into a festival of speeches despite the weight of what was said in some of them. Although there were long talks lasted for months about this meeting, the speeches delivered during the meeting uncovered that no clear documents, plans, policies or proposals were put on this meeting’s agenda to be discussed and determined. This actually leads observers to wonder why a preparatory committee including best experts and competencies from each group was not formed before the meeting in order to suggest draft decisions and policies that address today’s challenges (the deal of the century, settlements, Arab normalization, the siege of the Gaza Strip, rearrangement of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the Palestinian authority and the relationship with occupation, division and mechanisms to overcome it, etc?

Most of the participants’ speeches implied compliments in some situations, although they were interpreted to enhance rapprochement and trust between different leaders historically. Some speeches were not written which indicated the absence of preparation and the continuity of managing the Palestinian situation randomly and in an impromptu way.

The speeches were attributed to the fact that each of the participants agreed on the minimum level of legitimacy which the Palestinian people have forgotten because of their absence from the Palestinian arena after Fatah and Hamas movements took over most of the Palestinian scene.

Hamas was more organized and ready at this meeting, and the head of its political office, Ismail Haniyeh, proposed a small plan that talks about forming committees for many files and gave a date for these committees to finish their work before tenth of next October, which will set as a date for the second meeting of the leaders of the Palestinian factions. If this meeting is postponed, it will be postponed for years as usual.

It is true the presentation of successful practical and preparatory steps was really absent after waiting fifteen years to hold this meeting. Although the meeting’s outputs were ambiguous, it represented a glimmer of hope that the Palestinian status can change. For example, the consent over popular resistance meant adopting this way as a unified method for all, although the armed resistance wasn’t mentioned in the final statement.

The Islamic Jihad Movement realized this mistake after the end of the meeting and issued a statement indicated that it would not accept a state on the borders of June 4, 1967 and that it would accept only all of the Palestinian lands, stressing that it accepted this statement for the sake of national interest and Palestinian reconciliation, which underscored the poor preparation for this meeting and leads us now to carefully read the final statement
In the name of of Allah the Merciful
A statement issued by the meeting of the general secretaries of the Palestinian factions
Our great people,
Our Arab and Islamic nation,
Free world
At this fateful moment of the history of our people, when our central cause is facing conspiracies, liquidation and attempts to undermine it in favor of the mere quest of improving the living conditions, and when we are stripped of our right to self-determination, the establishment of our independent and fully-sovereign state on the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital, as stipulated in the National Reconciliation Document, and our right to solving the refugee issue and the right of return of the refugees to their homes as per Resolution 194, plots and conspiracies are being hatched by the Israeli occupation government and the current US administration through the deal of the century and the annexation plans, and through normalization with Israel, and most recently the trilateral US-UAE-Israeli normalization deal, which has been rejected by our people.

In this historic meeting today, a unified Palestinian action has kick-started under the umbrella of the PLO, the legitimate and sole representative of our people, under a courageous joint initiative by Mr. President Mahmoud Abbas, President of the State of Palestine and Chairman of the Executive Committee of the PLO, and the General Secretaries of the factions. We have agreed to initiate a national effort that responds to the national goals of ending the division, achieving reconciliation, and achieving the Palestinian national partnership.

The Palestinian people, with all its components, at the forefront of which is the Palestinian leadership meeting today headed by Mr. President Abu Mazen, affirms its absolute rejection of all projects aimed at liquidating our national cause and our legitimate rights. The leadership affirms its rejection of any prejudice to Jerusalem and its Christian and Islamic sanctities. It condemns all manifestations of normalization with the occupation, and considers this a dagger in the back of the Palestinian people and the Arab and Islamic nations. The Palestinian leadership calls on our [Arab and Muslim] peoples and the free peoples of the world to confront with all the strength they have all of these liquidation plans.

The meeting of secretary-generals also discussed the rules of engagement with the Israeli occupation, including activating the regional and international factors to confront those plans. The delegates agreed on the means and mechanisms of struggle to confront the occupation on our land, including those means guaranteed by international conventions in the way to fulfill the right of peoples to resist occupation.

As Palestinians, we believe that it is our right to practice all legitimate methods of struggle, and at this stage we agree to develop and activate popular resistance as the most appropriate option for the current stage, in defense of our legitimate rights to confront the occupation.
In order to achieve our strategic goals to end the occupation and establish an independent Palestinian state, we must expedite the end of the political division and achieve reconciliation and national partnership.

In this context, as a unified people who live in a single free nation, we have agreed on the need to live under one democratic political system, one authority and one law, and under a framework of political and intellectual pluralism. We have also agreed to consolidate the principle of peaceful transfer of power through free and fair elections, according to full proportional representation according to international standards.

We also affirm our commitment to the establishment of a Palestinian state on the entire Occupied Palestinian Territory, with Jerusalem as its capital, and we affirm here that there will be no state in Gaza, and no state without Gaza.

Realizing the necessity of unifying our position despite the differences in our opinion concerning some issues, we have decided to form a committee of eminent national figures, who enjoy the confidence of all of us, and who will present a strategic vision to achieve an end to the division, and to achieve reconciliation and partnership within the framework of the PLO, the sole legitimate representative of our Palestinian people. This shall be done within a period not exceeding five weeks, and the committee will present its recommendations to the upcoming session of the Palestinian Central Council, with the participation of the General Secretaries of all factions, in order to ensure the participation of all under the umbrella of Palestinian national unity.

We also agreed to form a unified national committee to lead the inclusive popular resistance, provided that the PLO Executive Committee provides it with all the means necessary for its continuation.

We offer our greetings to our steadfast and patient people in occupied Jerusalem, and our people in the refugee camps everywhere. We pay tribute and appreciation to the families of the martyrs, prisoners and the wounded.

In conclusion, we express our deep solidarity with the brotherly people of Lebanon in their current ordeal, and we express our thanks and appreciation for Lebanon’s hosting of this historic and national unity meeting.

Indeed, the meeting renewed Abbas’s legitimacy despite the end of his term, got Hamas out from its isolation, and reinstated movements that had disappeared from the street

Reading the statement and its lackluster outcomes, the beneficiaries from this meeting can be easily noticed. Firstly, President Mahmoud Abbas renewed his legitimacy, leadership and situation despite the end of his term as a president and he gained legitimacy from the general secretaries of the 14 Palestinian factions. The approval came from the most important groups namely Hamas, Jihad, the Popular Front, and General Command. Secondly, Hamas obtained a partnership and a part of the legitimacy it has been seeking for and it was prevailed in Ismail Haniyeh’s visit to the Ain al-Hilweh camp. Finally, some forgotten factions returned back to the scene to regain legitimacy they lost for years.

In all candour, tenth of October will be of utmost important as it will disclose if the leaders of these factions really feel the historical responsibility they have and the imminent danger that circles the Palestinian issue or that meeting held was just a face-saving measurement.

If this meeting is postponed, it will be postponed until after the US presidential elections. With Trump’s failure and his exit from the White House, relations with the next democratic administration should be revived as suggested by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and if this happens, this factional session will not take place for years and Palestinian reconciliation will enter a dark tunnel. On the other hand, if Trump wins, we will find these factions crumbling with a decision by President Mahmoud Abbas to confront the Trump administration and his deal.

Failure of the call for a day of rage in Palestine after the Arab normalization agreements is an evidence of the frustration of the Palestinian street from the elite.

On the 15th of September, the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Bahrain signed a peace agreement with the Israeli occupation and different Palestinian factions called on to consider this day a day of Palestinian anger, but the scene was dim and only a limited number of Palestinian masses participated in the demonstrations, which uncovered the frustration of the masses from the Palestinian factions.

This event was an opportunity for the Palestinian leadership to reassess its previous stances, but it issued a statement attacking the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Bahrain and inciting against them instead of mentioning the occupation and calling for confrontation against. This indicated a state of confusion experienced by the Palestinian leadership, which has placed itself in a contra position with the Arab League and the Arab Axis countries.

The president’s failure to evaluate the Arab and international changes will make him trapped by himself, so he must open new horizons with his Arab depth and not to depend on failed bets. He is the one who spoiled the resistance and will not be able to get it back to the confrontation, and he is afraid that he will let Hamas work in the West Bank and witness a repeat of Gaza scenario of 2007.
Besides, the president shall work seriously on arranging the house of the Palestinian National Liberation Movement that he heads and to set timetables for holding Palestinian elections in all institutions starting with the election of the President and then comes the Legislative Council and finally National Council, otherwise, the Palestinian people will witness more sufferings. Arranging the internal house is the most important step to face the new challenges.

Standing paralyzed in front of international changes means crushing of the Palestinian national project. Thus, Palestinian decision-makers should rather seek for achieving reconciliation, partnership and unity in order to win everyone and win the Palestinian people. It is necessary to bet on the Palestinian people only and to arrange their tools to be able to confront variables.

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