Thursday, November 26, 2020

What do Palestinians want from reconciliation?

By The Palestine Monitor - October 12, 2017
Section: [Main News] [Interviews]
Tags: [Occupation] [Gaza]

The Fatah and Hamas movements have reportedly reached a preliminary reconciliation agreement after two days of intensive negotiations in Cairo. Details of the agreement will be made public during a press conference on Thursday.

The next phase of the talks will focus on critical national issues including Hamas' military wing, the issue of weapons and political positions, Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem told Israeli newspaper Haaretz on Thursday.

Palestine Monitor spoke with Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, secretary general of the Palestinian National Initiative, about what Palestinians should demand and expect from a reconciliation deal, after ten years of political division.

PM: In what way is this attempt at reconciliation different from previous ones?

Barghouti: It is different for three reasons. The first is that both Fatah and Hamas realise how upset the Palestinian public is at this continuous division. It is beginning to cost them a lot in terms of people's opinion. Second, the realisation of a complete deadlock politically. Third because Egypt is throwing all its weight behind it and provides the venue, its support and facilitation in an unprecedented manner.

PM: What have the past ten years of political division cost Palestinians?

Barghouti: The division has cost us a lot. But mainly it has weakened us, it has been the main cause of internal weakness. It has been used as an excuse by Israel for claiming there is nobody that can represent all Palestinians, which is of course not true. It has lead to a huge amount of human suffering of course to people, especially in Gaza.

Importantly in addition to that, we lost our democratic system. We lost the separation of powers, we lost our administrative authority, the need for accountability, and the separation between the executive, judiciary and legislative powers. We also lost our right to elections. And the fact that the last elections took place in 2006 is another indication of how bad our democratic system has suffered.

PM: What do Palestinians want from reconciliation?

Barghouti: This division was mainly about fighting over an authority that is under occupation, competition about an authority that is limited. We don't want reconciliation to be only about how to organise the authority.
What we want to see from this reconciliation is, first of all, bringing back the democratic system and the separation of powers by reactivating the Palestinian Legislative Council. Second, bringing back the right of the people to choose their leaders through democratic elections. And third, that it would lead to adopting a unified Palestinian strategy, and creating a unified Palestinian leadership so that that world can see two things: that there is one voice speaking on behalf of all Palestinians and that we have a collective form of decision-making when it comes to political matters, as well as to which forms of struggle we should use.

In addition, it should guarantee Palestinians their freedom of expression, and eliminate all forms of political arrests or political interrogation - or summoning and arresting people because of their political views or opinions.

PM: What are the main obstacles, internal and external?

Barghouti: There are several obstacles, internal and external. The first obstacle is Israel, which does not want Palestinians unified. When Palestinians engage in reconciliation talks they say Abbas is choosing Hamas not peace. And when we are in a state of division, they say Abbas does not represent all Palestinians. Israel wants to defuse the situation in Gaza today. They are worried about the possibility of an explosion, and Israel itself is starting to suffer from the ecological problems of the pollution in Gaza. But they don't want anything more than just defusing the situation. And they don't want to see us unified and united because they want to keep Gaza separate from the West Bank, so they can manage the demographic problem and can prevent the possibility of the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

Internally of course there are interest groups that are benefiting from occupation and do not want to see us unified. And these interest groups might try in several ways to obstruct reconciliation. And there are some regional and international forces who do not want to see Palestinians unified. So these are the three major obstacles.

PM: What should the international community do and not do?

Barghouti: If the international community care about peace and democracy they should fully and full-heartedly support the reconciliation effort.


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