Written by: Dr. Talal Abu Rukba

An examination of the genocidal acts and ethnic cleansing committed by the Israeli occupying forces in the Gaza Strip reveals a deliberate targeting of Palestinians and their presence. This includes the Israeli right's desire to "correct" what they view as a historical mistake by the first Israeli governments, which did not expel Palestinians beyond the borders of Mandatory Palestine. This effort effectively seeks to complete the Nakba of 1948 in 2024.

The government, implicated in war, genocide, and displacement, saw the "October 7th" incident as an opportunity to carry out a large-scale displacement of Gaza Strip residents. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu publicly supported this approach, proposing the displacement of Gaza residents to Sinai until the military operation in Gaza concluded. Ministers from this government, notably Ben-Gvir and Smotrich, also advocated for forced transfer. Minister of Agriculture and former head of the Shin Bet, Avi Dichter, further underscored this by evoking the Nakba of 1948 to the people of Gaza.

Without the Egyptian authorities' rejection of Netanyahu's proposal, considering it a threat to Egyptian national security, the displacement process would likely have occurred. Israeli aggression began targeting Palestinians throughout the Gaza Strip, even in areas declared safe, which became targets for bombing and ground invasions. This situation led not only to threats but also to an insistence on conducting a military operation in Rafah, located in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. Rafah is home to over one and a half million Palestinians, all of whom are displaced persons who fled the Israeli military operations in the northern valley, Khan Yunis, and central areas. The primary aim of these actions is to force the displaced population to flee across the borders to escape death, thereby turning displacement into a reality.

The military operation in the Gaza Strip has garnered consensus within Israel, with opinion polls indicating that over 60% of the Israeli public supports it, including the necessity of the Israeli army completing the operation in Rafah. Even the political opposition in Israel, led by Lapid, has not diverged from this consensus. Lapid offered Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu a path to negotiate a deal for the hostages' release and to conclude the military operation, on the condition that the Israeli right-wing forces withdraw from the government.

Will the Israeli consensus be met with a corresponding Palestinian consensus? Such a consensus seems elusive due to ongoing political division, the monopolization of decision-making, and attempts to suppress alternative voices within Palestinian society. Despite the urgent need for national cohesion, key players seem reluctant to seize the opportunity presented by the Moscow meeting to bridge these divides. This reluctance likely stems from entrenched factional interests, which are perceived as the primary obstacle to achieving unity and consensus. The delay in forming a national consensus government, supported by all Palestinians, and revitalizing the PLO to encompass all segments of Palestinian society, reflects the current reluctance to restore its status as the representative body of a united national front. Addressing these issues requires a comprehensive reevaluation to rebuild the Palestinian national project.

The genocidal actions of the Israeli occupation forces in Gaza, coupled with systematic raids and daily violence in West Bank cities, highlight a comprehensive strategy aimed at subjugating and displacing Palestinians. These actions are part of an ongoing annexation plan, underscoring the urgent need for Palestinians to reinvigorate the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as the unifying force for their national liberation. The PLO, historically pivotal, has transformed the Palestinian cause from a humanitarian issue affecting refugees of the 1948 Nakba into a political struggle for just rights. These rights include the right of return, self-determination, and the establishment of an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital, encompassing all Palestinian land occupied in 1967. They form the bedrock of the Palestinian national project, reflecting the identity and aspirations of all Palestinians.

The absence of the PLO from the current aggression allows Israel to target the largest demographic bloc in the Gaza Strip. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has advocated for a policy of displacement (transfer), both forced and voluntary, with the aim of making life in Gaza unsustainable. This includes targeting essential infrastructure such as schools, hospitals, universities, sewage networks, water, electricity, and communications, with the explicit goal of regressing Gaza to a primitive state.

Israel's actions serve a dual purpose. Firstly, they aim to coerce Palestinians into contemplating fleeing the harsh conditions in Gaza, whether during or after the war. Secondly, Israel seeks to restore its image of deterrence, which was weakened after the events of October 7th. Netanyahu has emphasized his pursuit of an "absolute victory" to regain international confidence in Israel's response and handling of the situation. The absence of the PLO, representing the Palestinian national project fundamentally opposed to the Zionist project, has left Palestinians vulnerable and seemingly defenseless against Israel. They are depicted as easy targets, facing the full brunt of Israel's military might, which operates without fear of international repercussions.

This absence is not a recent phenomenon or the outcome of a momentary inability to withstand the strength of the Israeli assault. Rather, it stems from a strategic error by the Palestinian Authority (PA) since its establishment in the mid-1990s, following the signing of the Oslo Accords. The PA marginalized the PLO, gradually diminishing its authority. This process culminated in the erosion of our shared sense of purpose and inclusive representation. The PA governs the West Bank and Hamas governs the Gaza Strip. The internal political division has led to a situation where the Palestinian people are represented by two separate entities, with the Palestine Liberation Organization's role marginalized. This division has hindered efforts to address the Israeli threat and has been exploited by Israel to further its goals.

Confronting the current war on Gaza, which impacts not only the region but the entire Palestinian national project, requires a swift and effective Palestinian response that matches the scale and nature of the Israeli assault. The first step in addressing this crisis is to restore the PLO to its fundamental and pivotal role as the guardian of the Palestinian national project. This can be achieved by revitalizing the organization's institutions and branches, accompanied by a thorough and responsible reassessment. This reassessment should focus on the necessity of democratic renewal and reform of all organizational frameworks, reinstating the PLO as a unifying platform and a political voice for all Palestinians. It should serve as a framework under which all Palestinians unite, free from partisan agendas, and dedicated solely to serving the cause and the Palestinian people. Renewing, rebuilding, restructuring, and reforming the organization are essential steps in the comprehensive confrontation against Israeli attempts to uproot and dismantle the Palestinian cause. This requires Palestinian action capable of meeting these challenges head-on while also harnessing the latent energies of the Palestinian people to bolster their resilience and presence on the land. Failing to do so may result in a recurrence of the grim prospects of Palestinian loss and diaspora, akin to those experienced before the Nakba of May 1948. It is crucial for political and societal forces within the Palestinian community to heed the lessons of history and avoid a repeat of the political fragmentation that preceded the Nakba.

The current situation highlights a crucial lesson: the absence of a strong Palestinian presence from Israeli, international, and Arab discussions about the Palestinian future underscores the need for an influential Palestinian presence that can assert itself on the global and regional stage. Achieving this requires revitalizing the PLO from its current state of weakness and ineffectiveness. It must rebuild a sense of national consensus to counter the prevailing Israeli consensus and reassert itself as a prominent player. Without this, we risk being vulnerable and unable to protect our cause and people from being marginalized as Israel desires. The upcoming Moscow meeting could potentially serve as a glimmer of hope for restoring this national consensus in the face of Israeli opposition.

The persistent monopolization and usurpation of national decision-making in public affairs, especially concerning the consensus on a government of national reconciliation supported by a unified national agenda, erode public confidence in the leadership's commitment to collective interests over personal agendas. This undermines efforts for national unity and obstructs crucial initiatives such as reconstruction and, more critically, stopping the ongoing aggression.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's views and not necessarily the Association's or donor's opinion.