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The road to Palestinian statehood runs through Gaza

Irrespective of who wins in Israel’s elections, Palestine will have to deal with the marginalization of its quest for statehood. That process must start by reintegrating Gaza into the Palestinian fold.

By Salam Fayyad

File photo of former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, cropped (By Mazur/catholicchurch.org.uk)

File photo of former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, cropped (By Mazur/catholicchurch.org.uk)

For Palestinians the quest for statehood begins with Gaza. But wait, is there still active regional or international interest in the cause of Palestinian statehood? I submit that whatever residual interest remains in the possibility of making yet another attempt at reviving the “peace process” finds expression these days largely in the phrase “let’s first see what March 17 brings,” a reference to the upcoming Israeli elections.

I also argue that, irrespective of the outcome of those elections, all concerned, but especially Palestinians, will find themselves having to first deal with what arguably is the worst state of marginalization, both regionally and internationally, to ever befall the quest for Palestinian statehood.

Two main reasons underlie this marginalization. The first relates to the broadening, in the aftermath of the failure of the most recent round of diplomacy, of the base of an already deep sense of skepticism regarding the capacity of the Oslo framework to deliver on its promise after more than two decades of futility. The second relates to the virtually complete regional and international preoccupation with the present and fast-mushrooming threat posed by ISIL and like-minded non-state actors in the region and way beyond it.

Even though the weaker of the two parties in the highly asymmetrical balance of power between the occupier and the occupied, the Palestinians still do have a shot at cracking the marginalization nut if they start from where it matters the most, namely, with Gaza. This happens to be the right choice, both because of the urgent need to deal with the catastrophic human conditions there, but also strategically, given the necessity of reintegrating Gaza into the Palestinian fold as a key requirement on the path to sovereignty.

This reintegration requires taking serious steps towards beginning to manage Palestinian pluralism effectively, with respect to the requirements of both national governance and international engagement. This, in turn, requires the immediate convening and activation of the Unified Leadership Framework (ULF), ensuring that the Palestinian government is fully empowered and representative of the entire political spectrum, and reconvening the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC).

The ULF – a hitherto largely dormant forum – consists of leaders of all Palestinian factions, with membership in it not conditioned on acceptance by non-PLO factions of the PLO’s political platform, as amended to comply with the requirements of the Oslo framework. However, by tasking the ULF with collectively informing PLO decisions on matters of high national interest, non-PLO factions, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, are assured of genuine partnership in the Palestinians’ pursuit of their national aspirations, while still enabling the PLO to retain its platform and speak on behalf of all Palestinians.

The government, which is to be empowered to the fullest extent afforded by the Basic Law and the participation and backing of all factions, should be primarily charged with the multi-year dual task of reconstructing Gaza and reunifying Palestinian institutions and legal frameworks across the West Bank and Gaza. And, it should do so with the full accountability that comes with the immediate reconvening of the PLC.

The above measures could set the stage for beginning to make a serious dent on the state of marginalization if they are accompanied by the ULF’s adoption of a time-bound commitment to nonviolence. The ULF would then task the PLO with communicating that commitment to Israel and the international community on behalf of all factions, while working on securing agreement – to be enshrined in a United Nations Security Council resolution – on a date certain for ending the Israeli occupation by the end of the term of that commitment, keeping in mind that it would make sense for that term to correspond to the time needed to unify state institutions and laws after nearly eight years of separation.

File photo of Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Photo: PPO/Thaer Ghanaim - Handout)

File photo of Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Photo: PPO/Thaer Ghanaim – Handout)

Taken together, and with a firm commitment to holding free, fair, and inclusive elections no later than six months before the end of the aforementioned time period, these measures would represent a highly determined act of Palestinian self-empowerment that could be of a sufficient transformative potential as to address, both directly and indirectly, at least some of the basic weaknesses that are either inherent in the Oslo framework, or caused by the expiry of its timeline.

For that potential to be realized, however, continued insistence on the part of the international community on a rigid application of “the Quartet principles” should be abandoned in favor of expecting Palestinian adherence to the less exacting time-bound commitment to nonviolence. For one thing, that is about the most that all Palestinian factions can realistically be expected to agree on; and, for another, the conceptual equivalent to those principles on the Israeli side, namely, acceptance of the Palestinians’ right to statehood, was never formally expected of the various Israeli governments since Oslo.

Palestinian school girls walk across a destroyed part of Shujayea neighborood, Gaza city, November 4th, 2014. Many Palestinians in the Gaza Strip face hard living conditions following the seven-week Israeli offensive during which 2,131 Palestinians were killed, and an estimate of 18,000 housing units have been either destroyed or severely damaged, leaving more than 108,000 people homeless. By: Anne Paq/Activestills.org

Palestinian school girls walk across a destroyed part of Shujayea neighborhood, Gaza city, November 4th, 2014. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Last, but not least, if the cause of peacemaking in the Middle East is to regain traction amid the tidal wave of extremism engulfing the region, it is of paramount importance for the key deliverable of the “peace process”, namely, the State of Palestine, to hold, and fulfill the promise of being a qualitative addition to a region that has long been known for a time-honored tradition of “strong men and weak states.” This should mean, as can only be befitting and worthy of the great many sacrifices and aspirations of the Palestinian people, that the Palestinians’ quest for freedom must be inspired by an overarching vision of a democratic state governed by the rule of law; guided by the universally shared progressive values of equality, liberty, and justice, with full and nondiscriminatory constitutional protection of the unabridged individual and collective rights and privileges of citizenship; and run in full accord with the highest standards of good governance.

With such attributes, the State of Palestine cannot but be seen as an integral part of the longer-term response to the disenfranchisement-and-despair-driven ideology of “rejectionism” that has been the lifeline of extremism and violence in the region for much of this century.

The author is the former prime minister of the Palestinian National Authority. This article previously appeared as a guest blog for The Elders, the group of independent global leaders working together for peace and human rights.

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    1. Pedro X

      Unfortunately Fayyad and his politics have been soundly rejected by Fatah, Hamas and the Palestinian public. In the 2006 elections Fayyad’s party only obtained 20,000 out of 1 million votes winning 2 out of 132 seats. A Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research poll in December 2009 found that only 13% of Palestinians wanted him as prime minister. Marwan Barghouti, the butcher of the West Bank, and Hamas’ Ismail Haniyeh and their political philosophies greatly outshone Fayyad. Marwan Barghouti according to PSR poll 34 would have obtained the backing of 67% of Palestinians if an election was held in 2009.

      It is interesting in that same poll in 2009 61% of Palestinians polled said the unification of Gaza and the West Bank was the most important Palestinian issue. Yet they rejected the politician who sought to create an environment for the creation of Palestinian state in both Gaza and the West Bank living in peace with Israel.

      Five years on and the Palestinian public still supports the jihad method of obtaining what it wants. PSR poll 54 taken in December 2014 found that:

      “Indeed, Hamas can easily win a new presidential election if one is held today. Hamas can also do better than Fatah in a new parliamentary election. Optimism regarding the chances for a successful implementation of the reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas continues to diminish. Similarly, satisfaction with the performance of the reconciliation government and the performance of President Abbas continues to drop.”

      “Morevoer, an overwhelming majority of Palestinians continues to support launching of rockets from the Gaza Strip if the blockade is not lifted. Findings also show that the level of support for a return to an armed intifada remains high; indeed support for armed struggle has increased compared to our previous findings three months ago.”

      “Furthermore, 62% favor the transfer of Hamas’ armed approach to the West Bank”

      “Findings show that 38% support and 60% oppose a package of a permanent status agreement based on the Clinton Parameters and the Geneva Initiative”

      So Fayyad can talk all he wants about a Palestinian democracy based on human rights for all, liberty and non-violence and an unified leadership but the majority of Palestinians are not listening to his message. Fatah and Hamas long ago rejected his message which saw Fayyad resign. Fayyad’s constituency can be found in American and European capitals where they delude themselves that Fayyad and his political philosophy represents Palestinians.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Bruce Gould

      “Low Cost Housing Discriminates Against Arabs in Israel” (some folks would call this an example of apartheid):

      https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17336-low-cost-housing-discriminates-against-arabs-in-israel

      No Arab town in Israel has been listed for new low-cost accommodation units by the Ministry of Housing, a move which has been condemned by Adalah, the Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights. The NGO has called on the Minister of Housing, the director of the Israel Land Administration (ILA) and the Attorney General to reconsider the proposed “price reduction” programme. The tender process has opened which will require apartment prices to be 20 per cent cheaper than others in the same area.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Jello

      That is very impressive. An article about what the Palestinians should do and the word ‘negotiations’ is never used. Apparently, and this is really hilarious, the entire plan presented here at length comes from a magical universe in which the Palestinians are going to rebuild Gaza, get the Quartet to accept a government which does not recognize Israel, and get the UNSC to expel Israel from the territories and they will do all that without ever actually having to talk to the Israelis.

      Who is the next joker that is going to publish his mad ramblings on 972mag?

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        The Likud Charter states its opposition to the existence of a Palestinian state; while Israel ‘negotiates’ it builds settlements. The whole idea of ‘negotiations’ between the weak and the strong is a bit ridiculous – I propose that everyone give up on ‘negotiations’ and contribute instead here:

        http://www.bdsmovement.net/

        Reply to Comment
        • Weiss

          Good point about the Likud Charter.

          Those who endlessly rail against the Hamas Charter should take note that Likud was founded in 1973 LONG before Hamas was INCUBATED and NURTURED into existence by Israel and Israeli policies.

          Reply to Comment
      • Weiss

        No need to negotiate with a dishonest entity.

        The Palestinian State will be forced on you by the International Community through BDS.

        Meanwhile conspicuously absent from Satanyahoos pathetic “speech” were the words “Palestinian” or “Palestinian State”

        Reply to Comment
        • Jello

          Also, through LSD, PMS, QVC and CVS. We are trembling.

          Reply to Comment
    4. Bruce Gould

      Negotiations: if you’re negotiating with your boss about a raise you are unlikely to be successful if your boss thinks you have no alternative but ‘negotiations’. (duh) In fact the Israeli ruling class is, indeed, frightened about the idea of BDS, a fact which shouldn’t require a whole lot of research to convince yourself of.

      Reply to Comment
      • Jello

        We are Jews. We worry.

        Negotiations between the victor and the vanquished have been going on since time immemorial. It isn’t really a new concept.

        Reply to Comment
        • Bryan

          Hugely admire your deep historical learning, Jello. Just which peace treaties in the history of the world have been fairly negotiated with victor and vanquished as equals around the negotiating table? Perhaps you are referring to the complete destruction of Carthage after the Third Punic War? Perhaps you are referring to the Treaty of London (1359) following the French defeat at Poitiers and the capture of the French king, when England imposed on France the annexation of much of Western France? Perhaps you are referring to the three partition treaties of 1772, 1793 and 1795 in which Poland was entirely dismembered between Prussia, Russia and Austria? Perhaps you are referring to the 1836 Washington Treaty and many others in which Native Americans were forced to cede ancestral territories to the USA? Perhaps you are referring to the 1871 Frankfurt treaty in which German seized 1694 cities and villages from France? Perhaps you are referring to the 1918 Treaty of Brest-Litovsk which imposed massive territorial losses on Bolshevik Russia, sacrificed 90% of its coal-mines, required the payment of six billion gold marks in reparations, and where the terms demanded by the German army were so extraordinarily harsh that even the German negotiator was shocked? Or perhaps the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, which entailed massive German territorial losses, disarmament, huge reparations, and the acknowledgement of war-guilt?

          Yes of course the defeated and terrorized Palestinians, crushed by two of the world’s remaining superpowers, will be able to negotiate a just peace whenever they decide they have had enough of being beaten up.

          Reply to Comment
          • Jello

            Thank you. I appreciate your compliments.

            The deal between the United States and Japan after WW2 was more than fair. In any case, the point is that negotiations between the weak and the strong are entirely normal and expected in all facets of human life. This stupid idea that negotiations can only take place between equals is probably the most retarded thing I have ever heard of and doesn’t stand up to any scrutiny whatsoever.

            Reply to Comment
          • Bryan

            Strange that you should talk of “negotiations” and then cite the post-war settlement with Japan as an example. Japan had abjectly surrendered, faced with the threat of further nuclear bombs being dropped and a Soviet invasion. A peace was imposed upon it which involved complete disarmament, the loss of all its continental empire, compensation and hefty reparations.

            In contrast, though bombed and invaded, the Palestinians have not surrendered, and have no intention of surrendering. When you insist that they negotiate, remember that synonyms for negotiation (Mirriam-Webster) are “accommodation, compromise, give-and-take, concession”. The Palestinians conceded, conciliated, accomodated and compromised hugely at Oslo, foolishly believing that recognition of Israel and a period of peaceful coexistence during which confidence could be built would be rewarded with equivalence on Israel’s part. They have received nothing apart from continued settlement building and intensified occupation, and the building of more and more obstacles to peace and negotiation.

            Reply to Comment
          • Jello

            The agreements between the United States and Japan that led Japan to end the war took a while to put together because there was quite a bit of negotiations that took place. The United States treated the negotiations fairly and the outcome was quite obviously beneficial to all sides in retrospect.

            The Palestinians have yet to concede their acceptance of the presence of a Jewish State in the region, which was the original reason war broke out in the first place. They can have peace just as soon as they accept that they have lost that conflict and not a minute sooner. What is being asked of them is simply that they accept that the war is over and abandon their desire to destroy Israel. Short of that no agreement is a ‘peace agreement’ but at best a cease-fire and Israel has no reason to make concessions that make the other side stronger if the other side intends to restart the conflict.

            Whether you define that as surrender or not is up to you, but yes, this change of perception has been a condition of ending wars in the past and it has been used by the United States when ending conflicts with both Germany and Japan. The Palestinians explicitly abandoning their desire to destroy Israel seems like it should be a natural starting point of negotiations, but in this case I am being called a ‘fascist’ for insisting upon it. Somewhat absurd.

            Oslo was in fact a chance for the Palestinians to build confidence among Israelis. Instead the Palestinians walked away from a fair agreement that was proposed to them and instead sent suicide bombers into Israeli cities to blow up Israeli women and children on buses and in restaurants. And they did all that with the full support of their population and with their entire leadership (including Abbas) still treating the suicide bombers as national heroes. So we are done playing this bullshit game where we are told we are supposed to trust the Palestinians to want to live in peace. Either they explicitly say it up front and abandon their narrative of wanting to destroy our country or we are going to take all possible measures to minimize their chances of hurting us and with minimal concern for the well-being of the enemy.

            Reply to Comment
    5. Tony Riley

      Somebody should tell them to surrender.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Joel Cantor

      Why don’t the falestinians just surrender unconditionally and bring the 6 day war to an end?

      Reply to Comment
    7. Richard Witty

      Nice to see Salaam Fayyad publishing again, back in the public eye.

      Before the war, this summer’s developments of Palestinian unity (with serious qualifications), was moving forward.

      The big question is whether such a unity could ever turn the corner to drop resistance to Israel’s existence as part of its concensus. Fatah historically has consented to accept Israel. Hamas historically has not yet. (some say figuratively, in the statement ‘we will abide by what the Palestinian people want’)

      This past summer, irony piled on opportunistic irony and deception. It was ironic that shortly after Hamas declared its deferrence to the PA, a more radical family faction sought to discipline them to not in fact accept any raprochment with Israel at all, any.

      A further irony was the likely preparation of Hamas to take over the PA, via election or election plus militia or just militia, that the more radical faction was not aware of (whichever means were necessary).

      Then after the war, Israel chose to give Hamas room to get off the ropes and almost favored their control over Gaza, rather than act to ensure that the PA would govern Gaza in a unity state. (Israel did not want to abandon its claims to the West Bank, that would be implied by a unified Palestinian state, that could then negotiate authoritatively with Israel. No more excuse of “we have noone to negotiate with”.)

      Ironies.

      Still the same requirements to get anywhere. No single state possible. Two-states best. Good neighbors better than antagonism, for both states.

      But only tactics, not strategy, not conscientious design and skillful implementation.

      Reply to Comment