Written by: Abdel Ghani Salameh
It has been 15 years since the political division between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This is the chance to evaluate the repercussions of the division and answer some important questions, such as: (1) Was Hamas compelled to do what it did, or was that part of a carefully studied plan? (2) How can this division come to an end?
After Hamas won the elections, the features of exclusion became clear in its political rhetoric, and more clearly in its practices. Fifteen years have passed since Hamas ruled the Gaza Strip, and during that period, the social and economic conditions of the residents of the Strip worsened. It can be said that all their aspirations and dreams were replaced with a bitter reality. This jeopardized their future, especially the youth, most of whom are without work. Now, they all desire to leave the homeland, even if they have to ride boats, like what happened with hundreds of young men.
The failures that Hamas has reached are not a result of the moment, but rather from when it transformed from a secret political party to an authority and government. It sought to preserve its entity and security, with all the necessary concessions, as its transformation into a public official organization and government seeking to penetrate the international arena and extract regional and international recognition made it change its strategy, leading to the declaration of the document (Doha 2017). In order to perpetuate its rule, it confronted the popular opposition with force and violence.
The most important is the aggravation of Gaza's life crises, as they have been piling up day after day, where it does nothing about them except accuse others and talk about conspiracies until the people of Gaza lost their passion for life. They turned into a mass of human beings groaning silently, waiting for a slow death.
The Fatah Movement and Palestinian Authority bear an important part of the responsibility for the continuation of the division, while the other political parties and civil society organizations, along with the media bear another part. However, Hamas bears the largest part, for it has been in control of Gaza for all these years, and it has long laid down the conditions, redresses and justifications to impede the achievement of reconciliation and end the division.
The Palestinian political system was suffering from the crisis of the existence of a two-headed authority (the presidency and the government); however, after the division, the system became suffering from the crisis of the existence of two authorities. Each party claims to represent Palestinian legitimacy. In fact, the legitimacy of the Palestinian political system, with its two parts, is eroding, and after the failure of all attempts to end the division, the crisis has reached a dangerous point.
The crisis is not only manifested in the consolidation of the reality of division, but also in the dangerous and continuous decline of internal democracy, infringement of public liberties, the right to freedom of opinion, the return of political arrests and attacks on demonstrators. The failure to clarify a mechanism for democratic partnership as a basic necessity for political pluralism in the Palestinian arena, in addition to the deterioration of the economic conditions of the poor and low-income groups, the dissatisfaction over the absence of social justice, equal opportunities and the rule of law leads to a deep crisis, which can no longer be denied or covered up.
There is a deterioration of the economic, living and social conditions in the Gaza Strip, due to the blockade, the closure of border crossings, the exacerbation of poverty and unemployment, as well as the repercussions of four aggressive wars launched by the occupation on the Strip, which caused massive losses in lives and properties.
The legitimacy crisis is also represented in the weak representativeness of the Liberation Organization and the official Palestinian leadership, and consequently the weakness of the entire Palestinian position. This is because there are two opposing authorities, with two contradictory agendas. It is also represented in the crisis of blocking the political horizon, the continuation of the policies of annexation and settlements, and the inability of both authorities to make any political breakthrough, or to reach substantial achievements. This is alongside the obstacles that Israel places in front of any sign of progress, and its intention to weaken the two authorities and consolidate the state of division.
The first step to getting out of the crisis is to end the division and implement the previous agreements, which is an essential condition. Then, it is necessary to consolidate national unity, and immediately begin reforming the PLO, rebuilding its institutions with their mobilizing functions that encompass the energies of the Palestinians in the diaspora and formulating the framework of a unified political system with a new political programme and agenda. This means stopping attempts to coexist with the division and making it a consensual division, as is happening now through rounds of dialogue and reconciliation that have not led to anything because it has turned into a reconciliation process that manages the division rather than ending it. Also, an announcement of holding legislative, presidential, and National Assembly elections must be made immediately without waiting for the occupation’s approval to hold them in Jerusalem.
On the internal level, the right to freedom of opinion and expression must be respected, all forms of arrest, repression and political summons must be prohibited, serious measures must be taken regarding corruption and the internal front must be strengthened with a unified national media discourse. This gives legitimacy to the system and increases the people's support.
The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author and not necessarily the opinion of the Association or donor.