Can the Palestinians have a united front against Israel?
The goal of the reconciliation agreement between the rival Palestinian factions is to give the Palestinian people “genuine elections” and a united political representation for negotiations with Israel.
Rival Palestinian factions have agreed to a reconciliation deal that aims to resolve 15 years of division by calling for new elections in the occupied Palestinian territories within a year after months of Algeria-brokered talks. So far, Palestinians are both hopeful and skeptical of the reconciliation effort after previous promises of elections failed to materialize.
The agreement was signed Thursday in the Algerian capital by Fatah leader Azzam al Ahmad, Hamas political bureau chief Ismail Haniya and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine secretary general Talal Naji.
In an exclusive interview with Arabic TRTHaniya said the Algiers Declaration would contribute to the unity of the Palestinian people against the occupation.
“The most important thing for the Palestinian people to be able to resist the occupation and stand up is for the Palestinian administration and people to be united,” Haniya said.
In a statement released on Thursday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said it was satisfied with the outcome of the national reconciliation conference between the Palestinian factions.
“We appreciate Algeria’s contributions to the intra-Palestinian reconciliation process which Türkiye has always supported.
We believe that the declaration adopted at the end of the conference constitutes an appropriate basis for the final unification of the Palestinian factions and we hope that the measures enshrined in the declaration, in particular the holding of elections, will be implemented, “says Ministry press release.
But how is this agreement different from previous ones?
Kamel Hawwash, a Palestinian-American activist and chairman of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign as well as a founding member of the British Palestinian Policy Council, said Algeria’s mediation could potentially make a difference this time around.
“The Algerians have said they will set up a monitoring committee, made up of Arabs, Palestinians and Algerians, to monitor the implementation of the agreement,” Hawwash said. World TRT.
According to the agreement, elections will be held for the presidency and for the Palestinian Legislative Council, which acts as a parliament for Palestinians in the occupied territories.
It also requires elections to the Palestinian National Council (PNC), a parliament for Palestinians, including the multi-million strong diaspora. The agreement also recognized the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as the sole representative of the Palestinian people.
Hawwash says another force for change could come from a new conference to be held by and for Palestinians on November 5.
“It will truly be a cause to push for Palestinian National Council elections and rebuild the PLO and will stand on the ground in both Ramallah and Gaza and connect Palestinians to show popular demand for elections,” Hawwash explains.
“This push comes from below with a promise to continue pushing for proper elections so that there is representation for 14 million Palestinians.”
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Palestinian politics have been deeply divided since Hamas seized control of Gaza from rival Fatah in 2007. The main factions came together on Thursday after months of talks to sign the so-called Algiers Declaration . pic.twitter.com/M3QgYyE2DP
— TRT World (@trtworld) October 14, 2022
The challenges ahead
The main focus of the November conference will be the Palestinian National Council because, as Hawwash explains, it should be the supreme organ of the State of Palestine. But currently, this is not the case.
Candidates elected to the Palestinian National Council would then be elected to smaller bodies – the Central Council and then the Executive Committee, which is the PLO.
Hawwash says the PNC is an important democratic body because people can elect their representatives. He says the PNC should be the first body to organize elections.
“The point is that the base should be the Palestinian National Council, which should decide what the role of the Palestinian National Authority should be, or whether the body should even exist. But that is completely sidelined by current management and it works effectively without reference to that higher body,” says Hawwash.
The Palestinian National Authority, which is the Fatah-controlled government body that exercises partial civilian control over parts of the occupied West Bank, is a post-Oslo Accords body, as is the Palestinian Legislative Council, which was created to increase accountability within the Palestinian Authority. National Authority.
President Mahmoud Abbas effectively dissolved the legislative council and placed the Palestine Liberation Organization, of which he is also president, under the Palestinian National Authority, when it should be under the PNC.
If the PNC becomes recognized as a superior body, it could lead to a change in the way the Palestinian government deals with Israel on the political ground. A top priority for the PNC would be to end security cooperation with Israel – a decision that has already been passed by the body but has not been implemented by the current leadership.
It is important to note that elections for the PNC could prove difficult due to the very large Palestinian diaspora, which the body aims to represent alongside Palestinians in the occupied territories. If the diaspora is included in the vote, what will the process look like? Currently, there is no mechanism in place to officially include the population living outside the State of Palestine.
The reconciliation agreement did not specify which body will organize the elections first. No bodies were listed in any particular order, indicating that there might not be too big a change in the status quo of government in the occupied territories.
It is also possible that Israel does not allow Palestinian residents of Jerusalem to vote. This problem arose last year when President Abbas called for elections and then canceled them due to Israel’s position.
Another critical point to consider under the deal is the fact that the delegations have not agreed to form a unity government.
“There was clearly a disagreement on this and it may be that this point threatened to lead to the non-signing of the agreement… The prospect of a unity government was therefore ruled out,” says Hawwash.
“The reason the article was removed could be because of the fear that if the unity government includes Hamas, it will not be recognized by many countries like Israel, America, Britain, etc. . So maybe they suppressed the prospect of a unity government to ensure that there is reconciliation first.
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According to political analyst Sami Hamdi, it has always been a bit too optimistic to expect a unity government for the occupied Palestinian territories, given the deep divisions as well as pending issues between parties.
“However, any dialogue is always seen as a positive development. Both sides are under heavy domestic pressure as Israeli settlers push deeper into the [occupied] West Bank, which suggests there is a possibility of some traction in the talks.
The prospect of elections also suggests a desire to appease the Palestinian populations who have protested against the Palestinian leadership in recent times, which adds momentum to a possible political rapprochement,” Hamdi said. World TRT.
Another possible positive development looming on the horizon is the difference a united voice could make in peace negotiations with Israel.
One of the main excuses offered by Israel for its unwillingness to participate in peace negotiations is that there are no united Palestinian leaders to talk to.
The Palestinian National Authority controls parts of the occupied West Bank. Hamas, which Israel recognizes as a terrorist organization, rules besieged Gaza.
“Now if the Palestinians are united and they say this is the address you are going to, you are talking to X, this person or group of negotiators, then the Palestinians will tell them [Israeli government] that what they claim is not true. We have one voice,” says Hawwash.
The newly signed agreement also means that Palestinian leaders will have significant progress to make at the upcoming Arab League summit to be held in Algiers on November 1-2.
“They want to go with something that Arab countries can unite on, making sure that this deal is implemented and that there is a path for the Palestinians to free themselves from Israel’s daily aggression. “, explains Hawkash.
Hawwash concluded his remarks by emphasizing that the highest priority for Palestinian leaders going forward should be to understand and agree on what the Palestinian people need and want.
“It’s important that we get back to basics and ask ourselves what do we want? So you will find people who are calling for an end to apartheid and so maybe everyone who lives on earth will have equality, whether they are Israeli Jews or Palestinians. So what I’m saying is the starting point is what the Palestinians want?… I think that’s the first step before you even get to the prospect of peace.
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