Will Palestinian unity survive?
By: Daoud Kuttab
It was no coincidence that the announcement of the permanent ceasefire agreement would be made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at his Ramallah headquarters.
While Abbas may have been battered in social media and in activists’ circles, it is clear that, in real terms, he emerged as a key player.
Hamas’ enmity towards Egypt and Israel, the two countries neighboring Gaza, played into Abbas’ hands.
Sending a united delegation to the indirect peace talks headed by a Fatah leader cemented this newfound unity.
It was ironic that the two men who negotiated for a long time the Fatah-Hamas agreement would be the leaders of the talks in Cairo.
Whether Palestinians choose violent, or non-violent resistance, or a combination of the two, it has been proved that talks without support from a resisting population accomplish nothing
Fatah lead negotiator Azzam al-Ahmad and Deputy Head of Hamas’ politburo Musa Abu Marzouk worked together and stayed together despite continuous Israeli attempts to sow rumors of major differences.
However, that does not necessarily translate into the survival of unity.
The fact that the government was agreed upon two months before the war on Gaza will certainly provide an agreed to vehicle for the activities that will follow. But the key to the success of the newly found Palestinian unity in Gaza will be Hamas’ reaction to any attempts to flex the executive muscles of the unity government headed by Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.
Stepping foot in Gaza
Despite calls from different sources in Gaza and despite discussions among the PLO leaders, neither Abbas nor Hamdallah have stepped foot in the beleaguered Gaza Strip.
Abbas has avoided Gaza for over seven years after an attempt on his life was discovered.
A visit by the new Palestinian health minister to Gaza during the war was not very well received. Angry Gazans did not welcome him, and that cold reception probably caused Abbas and Hamdallah to have cold feet.
But avoiding Gaza cannot be accepted after the permanent ceasefire.
The Hamdallah Cabinet should hold its weekly session in Gaza in order to show Gazans that it is serious about unity.
One of the major problems of the PLO-Hamas unity agreement was the fact that it avoided dealing with the issue of fighters and security personnel.
The war on Gaza certainly justified the presence of a large number of war soldiers, but the question that needs to be answered is what happens to these thousands of young fighters when there is no war.
It will be argued that what Israel has failed to do should not be accomplished by fellow Palestinians. Therefore, there will be no desire to talk about decommissioning the various group fighters.
Dealing with fighters
The trick, then, will be to find a way to prevent these fighters from intervening in the normal workings of the Palestinian government in Gaza.
The reconstruction effort will require agreement on priorities and will witness the distribution of large sums of money for various basic needs.
The success of this process and the acceptance by the general public that it is being done based on accepted and fair criteria will go a long way in giving the unity government the legitimacy it will need to carry out the tremendous efforts that are needed in Gaza.
But policies in Gaza will not succeed if the larger political issues that have contributed to the current crisis are not met.
Irrespective of what happens during the talks, one month from now, about airport and seaport, Palestinian leaders must not allow the return of the apathetic policies towards fellow Palestinians. Seven years of a cruel and inhuman siege has taken place in part because of the continuation of the split among Palestinians. This split has made Gaza second fiddle to the talks with Israel. That has allowed Israel to continue its siege while spinning its wheel in fruitless talks about a permanent solution of the Palestinian Israeli public.
The war on Gaza and the success of Palestinian unity should be an impetus to a revisit the Palestinian liberation goals, strategies and tactics.
A united front is certainly a plus for the Palestinian efforts, but its success hinges on agreement on goals, priorities and a realistic action plan to accomplish the aspiration of the Palestinian people.
The united Palestinian delegation could negotiate the ceasefire agreement because the negotiators had the support of an active resistance movement.
Whether Palestinians choose violent, or non-violent resistance, or a combination of the two, it has been proved that talks without support from a resisting population accomplish nothing.
Palestinians must agree on the goals, the methods of accomplishing them and a willing public. This is the only way strategies will produce the desired goals for the Palestinian people.
Daoud Kuttab, an award winning Palestinian journalist who resides in Jerusalem and Amman. Mr. Kuttab is the director general of Community Media Network a media NGO that runs a radio station in Amman (al balad radio 92.4fm) a newsweb site ammannet.net and a TV production operation in Palestine Penmedia (penmedia.ps) which is producing the Palestinian version of Sesame street. You can read his blogs on DaoudKuttab.com and find him on Twitter @DaoudKuttab.