Feb 11 2016

Reconciliation is measured by results

Published by at 12:20 pm under Articles,Palestinian politics

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By Daoud Kuttab

For the first time in years, Palestinian reconciliation talks have not received the usual high-calibre media coverage, not even in the Palestinian media.

The low level of coverage might be a good thing. The deeply split parties Fateh and Hamas know that their credibility has been eroded by many false promises and optimistic headlines.

The current talks appear to focus on implementation mechanisms rather than making any changes to the content of previously signed agreements.

The Palestinian public is very sceptical regarding any breakthrough, and negotiators are aware of this, so it was a clever decision to keep the talks at very low profile, without making promises that might not be carried out.

The outstanding issue is clear: Hamas should allow the presidential guards to retake their former positions at the Gaza border crossings, which will ensure the opening of the Rafah crossing point.

This has been an Egyptian demand and all parties know that the Sisi administration, which is not very friendly to any Muslim Brotherhood group, will not negotiate it.

Agreement has also been reached to replace the current national accord government with a national unity government that will supervise the overdue presidential and parliamentary elections.

The restoration of an inclusive Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) that can hopefully unify the Palestinian liberation strategy has also been agreed to, but has not been implemented.

One issue that continues to delay reconciliation has to do with some 40,000 civil servants hired by the Hamas government, which the Islamic movement wants the Palestinian government to recognise and add to the already bloated government payroll.

There are many reasons for the guarded optimism regarding the potential for serious advance in the reconciliation process this time.

The closure of the Rafah crossing point has had disastrous effects on the morale of the Palestinians in Gaza, and the public appears to be blaming the Hamas government for its refusal to give up its last source of power.

The daily tunnel deaths show that alternative routes to break up the closures appear to be failing, and that adds to the pressure for a resolution that allows the opening of the crossing between Gaza and Egypt.

Financial support to both the Hamas and the PLO governments is also a major incentive to find a quick resolution to the years-long split that has left Gaza and the West Bank nearly permanently separated.

The continued violence and the harsh Israeli responses have also added to the public anger with the fact that Palestinian leaders are incapable of solving the differences between them.

Finally, what might be encouraging a quick resolution of the internal Palestinian differences might simply be the fact that the Middle East appears to be on fire, and that has shifted attention away from the Palestinian conflict.

Regardless of whether there is a political will to implement a solution or not, the Palestinian public seems to have decided that the only thing it will trust is what happens on the ground.

If the Rafah crossing point is opened after the deployment of the presidential guards and if an election date is announced, Palestinians will believe that the reconciliation is going in the right direction.

However, if the current talks about talks continue, the level of scepticism and distrust in all Palestinian leaders will continue unabated.

Palestinians deserve a leadership that can reflect their aspirations and understand the importance of giving priority to national interests, above partisan ones.

At the present rate, it is highly unlikely that the current leadership can secure the support of the people.

The only way to garner such support is to work for tangible results on the ground.


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