At this critical juncture, Palestine’s leaders should come together to craft a clear strategy for reunifying the Palestinian people
As Israel continues its war on Gaza, which is causing loss of life and displacement at a scale that has led to it being labeled a “genocide” by various experts, the Palestinian liberation struggle is at a critical juncture.
Despite undoubtedly recognising the importance of the current moment, however, Palestinian political factions, including Hamas and Fatah among others, appear unable to come together and lay out a coherent and realistic vision for the future of Palestine. It’s imperative for them to set aside their differences, acknowledge their moral responsibilities to the nation, and come together to craft a clear strategy for reunifying the Palestinian people. Such a strategy must not only thwart Israel’s well-defined and openly discussed plan to ethnically cleanse Gaza and detach it from the Palestinian homeland, but also respond to Israeli efforts to displace Palestinians in the West Bank and Israel itself.
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As a Palestinian from Gaza, I believe at this point in the conflict, opportunities are ripe for putting an end to the ongoing war in Gaza, uniting the Palestinian factions, and launching a new political path to end the occupation. There are 10 clear steps that could and should be taken, starting with Palestinian leaders, to achieve this and put our nation on a direct path towards justice, peace and statehood:
- First and foremost, all Palestinian factions should commit to the fulfilment and eventual expansion of the Qatar-brokered agreement to exchange Israeli captives in Gaza for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
- Hamas should declare its acceptance of and commitment to the Fatah reconciliation agreement it signed in Cairo in 2017. It should call on the Palestinian Authority to assume its responsibilities in Gaza and also reassert the commitment of resistance factions in Gaza to all agreements signed by the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). To counter Israel’s destructive post-war plans for Gaza, Palestinian leaders should establish an interim governing council for the Strip comprising technocrats from the region. All past Palestinian Authority personnel from Gaza, including the police, should be called upon to return to their duties. This plan should also include retaining civilian Hamas employees, including the police. The reintegration of Hamas fighters and weaponry into the Palestinian Authority forces after the end of the war should also remain under consideration.
- Hamas should publicly acknowledge the Peace Accords signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as the foundation for a peace process, and agree to the scheduling of elections for the entire Palestinian territory within one year. In return, Israel should be pressured to recognise a reformed Hamas as a mainstream Palestinian political faction and a party to future negotiations.
- The PLO should be reactivated and reformed in a way that would ensure the representation of all Palestinian parties and components within its structures. Particular emphasis should be placed on empowering young Palestinians, both men and women, taking on consequential roles within the organisation and have a say in the future of Palestine. The reformed PLO should include not only Fatah, Hamas and other PLO factions, but also representatives from the Palestinian diaspora, as well as independent representatives from across the nation. Members of the organisation should be reelected every four years in free and fair elections, and it should be agreed that the organisation will have the final say in all critical issues concerning the Palestinian people until an independent Palestinian state is established.
- The reconstruction of Gaza should start immediately under international and Arab supervision. While the international community should contribute to funding the project, the brunt of the financial burden should be put on Israel as the occupying power responsible for causing the destruction. The reconstruction effort should be used to put Gaza on the path to achieving sustainable economic growth. It should also aim to address the rapid depletion of the Strip’s environmental resources as a result of the occupation, including issues relating to water and electricity shortages, shrinking fishing areas, and destruction of agricultural land among others.
- Israel should be made to set up a compensation fund for the families – both Israeli and Palestinian – victimised by its wars, aggressions and occupation. Western countries adopted the idea that Russia would be compelled to pay for its war in Ukraine, and Ukraine would be rebuilt using frozen Russian assets. The Palestinian leadership should insist that the same responsibility is imposed on Israel.
- International observers should be deployed along Israel’s borders to prevent confrontations. Turkiye [Turkey], which is accepted as an honest broker by the Palestinians and has strong relations with the West and Israel as a NATO member, could be asked to take on this important responsibility.
- The siege on Gaza should be lifted, fully and unconditionally, with its border crossings, airports and ports reopened and its residents given full freedom of movement. A permanent and secure passage between Gaza and the West Bank should also be established. Turkiye can also play a crucial role in opening Gaza up to the world, by establishing maritime and aerial bridges for reconstruction and development.
- Israel should be pressured to immediately and unconditionally halt all its settlement activities and initiate comprehensive negotiations for bringing an end to its occupation under UN auspices, based on the 1967 borders, and within a pre-set timeframe of no more than three years. The Arab League should continue to push for its 2002 Arab Peace Initiative which called for all Arab states to recognise and normalise relations with Israel in exchange for the establishment of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Any further attempts at normalisation should be frozen until this is achieved.
- Finally, if this political track towards sustainable peace and dignified co-existence fails or faces a significant roadblock, a reformed PLO that is kept in check by the Palestinian people through regular elections should be accepted as the sole entity that could decide on the future direction and nature of the Palestinian struggle for liberation.