“By en­gag­ing Is­rael in a process of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, the Pales­tini­ans can strengthen the hands of the Is­raeli op­po­si­tion par­ties who will then be in a stronger po­si­tion to make the case to the Is­raeli pub­lic in favour of peace based on a two-state so­lu­tion

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

In this re­gard, it should be noted that Sisi also wants a de­mil­i­tarised Gaza and Ha­mas’ full co­op­er­a­tion to com­bat ter­ror­ism in north­ern Si­nai. Thus, if Ha­mas wants to rec­on­cile with the PA, it must work with Egypt to re­solve the weapons prob­lem, with­out which there will be nei­ther a unity agree­ment with the PA nor a so­lu­tion to the con­flict with Is­rael. In this con­nec­tion, the PA must also de­ploy its se­cu­rity forces into Gaza to take charge of the cross­ings into Is­rael to ease Is­raeli con­cerns and re­stric­tions.

The third ob­du­rate is­sue is the po­lit­i­cal na­ture of a fu­ture Pales­tinian gov­ern­ment. Al­though both sides must re­main com­mit­ted to a demo­cratic form of gov­ern­ment, the Pales­tini­ans should agree on de­fer­ring gen­eral elec­tions for at least five years, which the US and EU ought to sup­port. In the in­terim, the PA and Ha­mas will es­tab­lish a pro­por­tion­ate rep­re­sen­ta­tive unity gov­ern­ment based on the cur­rent de­mo­graphic com­po­si­tion of the Pales­tini­ans in the West Bank and Gaza. Both sides would se­lect rep­re­sen­ta­tives to fill all ma­jor gov­ern­ment posts, with de­ci­sions made by con­sen­sus rather than a sim­ple ma­jor­ity vote.

Due to the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment be­tween the two sides, and given that it has al­ready been es­tab­lished that the unity gov­ern­ment will be led by Ab­bas, the prime min­is­ter should be se­lected from Ha­mas. Gen­eral elec­tions will be held once the tran­si­tional pe­riod passes, al­low­ing new lead­er­ship to emerge. Both sides will have to fully abide by the re­sults of the elec­tions; oth­er­wise, they will end up again as bit­ter ri­vals.

It should be em­pha­sised that all cabi­net mem­bers and other top of­fi­cials must be apo­lit­i­cal fig­ures — skilled, pro­fes­sional bu­reau­crats who will fo­cus mainly on so­cial pro­grams, re­con­struc­tion, health­care, ed­u­ca­tion, and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment both in the West Bank and Gaza.

The tran­si­tional pe­riod is par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant not only for the Pales­tini­ans to rec­on­cile many of their dif­fer­ences, but also for ad­vanc­ing the peace process with Is­rael. In­deed, if peace ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween Is­rael and the Pales­tini­ans re­sume now, they will sim­ply fail like all pre­vi­ous at­tempts since the 1993-1994 Oslo Ac­cords.

Is­rael and the Pales­tini­ans must first en­gage in a process of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion to build trust, which is to­tally lack­ing, and mit­i­gate ma­jor se­cu­rity con­cerns be­fore they can re­sume ne­go­ti­a­tions in earnest.

This can be achieved only by ini­ti­at­ing gov­ern­ment-to­gov­ern­ment eco­nomic projects and peo­ple-to-peo­ple so­cial ac­tiv­i­ties to build trust. Thus, a tran­si­tional pe­riod is cen­tral to mit­i­gate both the in­tra-Pales­tinian po­lit­i­cal dis­cord as well as re­la­tions with Is­rael.

Un­der any cir­cum­stances, the cur­rent right-wing Is­raeli gov­ern­ment led by Ne­tanyahu will not seek nor com­mit to a two-state so­lu­tion. There­fore, what is crit­i­cal here is that by en­gag­ing Is­rael in a process of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, the Pales­tini­ans can strengthen the hands of the Is­raeli op­po­si­tion par­ties who will then be in a stronger po­si­tion to make the case to the Is­raeli pub­lic in favour of peace based on a two-state so­lu­tion.

Not­with­stand­ing the de­plorable Is­raeli oc­cu­pa­tion of the West Bank and the block­ade over Gaza, blam­ing Is­rael solely for the Pales­tini­ans’ mis­for­tunes while re­fus­ing to look at their own short­com­ings did noth­ing but un­der­mine their le­git­i­mate cause.

The PA and Ha­mas must now put their act to­gether, aban­don their old and tired nar­ra­tive, stop their in­cite­ments and vi­o­lent ex­trem­ism against Is­rael, and present a plau­si­ble sce­nario for peace based on the API.

It is true that this is a tall or­der. Given the stark ide­o­log­i­cal dif­fer­ences be­tween the PA and Ha­mas, their con­trast­ing ap­proaches to re­solv­ing the con­flict with Is­rael, and their ri­valry for power, the chance of suc­cess is not promis­ing un­less they tackle the three ma­jor con­flict­ing is­sues head on.

Oth­er­wise, the PA-Ha­mas rec­on­cil­i­a­tion ef­forts will amount to no more than a poker game where each side tries to out­smart or out­right cheat the other. It is time for the PA and Ha­mas’ lead­er­ship to play their cards right.

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