The concept of reconciliation (sulha or musalaha in Arabic) immediately raises good connotations related to the positive social meaning this concept has in popular consciousness. Reconciliation is usually associated with daily differences and social tensions intertwined in the contexts of relations, overlapping interests and the relative positions of all involved. These differences and tensions might culminate in conflicts between and amongst circumscribed or wider social groups, such that once the reconciliation or sulha has been achieved through external or internal intervention, social life and relations return back to “normal” forms and principles. In this sense, reconciliation does not lead to a change of relationships, power balances or ethics of the group; its role in this case is instead to “re-harmonize” the existing structure with ongoing social contexts and disparities.
We hope that the Palestinian political reconciliation formally signed and celebrated in Cairo on 4 May 2011 does not go in this direction. The reasons that led to the Palestinian division, which lasted more than four years with all its negative consequences, as well as the questions and national challenges entailed in this reconciliation, are more complex and dangerous than the level of reconciliation, or sulha, conceived in its simplistic social and communal meaning.
One who believes that the mere signing of a reconciliation agreement means the end of contradictions between Fatah and Hamas is most mistaken. On the contrary, the signing of the reconciliation agreement puts the Palestinian political factions at the very beginning of the reconciliation process on the national, political, strategic and tactical levels. The value of this agreement must be understood in its implicit recognition of the failure and futility of factional options; it must also be considered a realisation of the fact that the political, social, economic and national challenges can be met only by a cohesive political actor. Fatah and Hamas did not solely give in to the pressure of the people’s demands, but recognised the non-viability of the current political path and the weakness to which they had abandoned themselves.
The range of complacency and optimism that greeted the reconciliation reflects a satisfaction at the opportunity provided by the agreement for a conciliation process, although conditions for a real reconciliation have not been fully met. We are thus cautiously optimistic about the reconciliation, waiting for political actors to seize this fundamental opportunity and commence discussion of the most vital issues, such that we do not return to the same sectarianism and fragmented political framework after a few days or months.
The first of the conditions for success of reconciliation is a reevaluation and reconstruction of the Palestinian political strategy in order to regain a balance in accordance with national priorities on all levels. The re-evaluation must be based on the fact that the Palestinian people are still in the stage of national liberation, such that the political strategy should first and foremost serve this liberation, with all the attendant implications and priorities, including an interaction between the various forms of struggle. This requires a position far away from a compromise on Palestinian national goals and rights as a precondition for national unity.
It is imperative to identify clear boundaries between the goals of the Palestinian national liberation process and the functions of the Palestinian Authority, especially in light of the catastrophic consequences of the amalgamation of the two and the PA’s cooptation of the liberation struggle in both its political and social aspects, with all the terrible cultural and moral consequences of this process.
Reconciliation is the opportunity for a fresh evaluation of the peace process and the political performance of the Palestinian leadership. An assessment in this context - especially after the long-term failure of the process under the pressure of American and Israeli conditions - will highlight the manifestations of the imbalances in the past two decades, as well as the necessity to cut with incorrect political choices and thus to regain the initiative in respect to national interests. Such a political reorientation is not anymore dictated solely by loyalty to the Palestinian cause; it became imperative after decades of compromises recently crowned by Obama’s speeches to Congress and the American Israeli Public Affairs Commitee, which leave no hope for consistent change in the future assets of America foreign policy.
The second condition is to rebuild the Palestinian political bodies of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority in accordance not only with a new national strategy, but also with an evaluation of the evolving regional scenario, taking into account the impacts of the Arab revolutions and their role in promoting and re-framing the Palestinian national struggle in its Arab dimension, a dimension which has been deeply harmed by the Arab dictatorial regimes in the last decades. Furthermore the change in the internal balance of power and a pursuance of national efforts on the basis of democracy must be taken into consideration to ensure the participation of all Palestinian political and social forces according to their actual role on the ground.
A balance must accordingly be achieved between the functions of national liberation and the functions of social development, such that the latter is in tune and does not constitute an obstacle to liberation. A primary goal must be to escape from the trap of foreign funding, which has transformed into a field of political pressure.
The implementation of these major points will lead Palestinian political forces to face serious and dangerous national challenges. To not miss this opportunity implies not falling into narrow and selfish sectarian thinking. Every political force must work hard to meet the national challenge, which is first and foremost the ability to rebuild itself on all levels.
The process we are witnessing on the ground goes well beyond a political tightrope walk; it affects the very future of the Palestinian people and their national rights, which are the raison d’être of any Palestinian organization or party, whatever its history, authority or legitimacy might be.
Alternative Information Center (AIC)