Dabka, Not Tango: The Palestinian Issue Is on Hold

By Yasser Ali

The Palestinian issue is experiencing paralysis due a number of international, regional, local and personal reasons, all of which have pushed it into a negative status quo. It is no longer moved or activated by major events, such as the Jerusalem Intifada, and no longer has any historical figures, like Yasser Arafat, who can break the mold dramatically, one way or the other.

The US has basically frozen the peace process led by Secretary of State John Kerry, who toured the region seeking an acceptable agreement. Kerry declared his inability to do so in the face of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s stubbornness and inflexibility. America’s abandonment of the peace process has been intensified by the run-up to the presidential election, which cannot tolerate any political lapses or setbacks from anywhere. It also seems as if Russia is challenging the Obama administration, which does not dare to engage it on the field of battle. This emboldened the Russians to enter Syria, joining the geopolitical action directly in the region for the first time. A number of other international forces have also emerged, with different perspectives and influences. As such, the US is no longer the only major international player in regional affairs.

The situation in Palestine has been influenced by events which are redrawing the maps across the Middle East. With the Syrian conflict appearing to have a solution on the horizon, everyone wants their share of the spoils as they wait for the dust to settle and things to become clearer. The most dangerous aspect for the Palestinians is the pressure from the Egyptian government and its allies. Cairo is, for example, trying to influence the talks between Turkey and Israel, urging the latter not to agree to lift the siege of the Gaza Strip. This is a critical matter for the Egyptian government, as it does not want Gaza – which it views as a stronghold of the Muslim Brotherhood in its own backyard – to be open to anyone, or even to be comfortable. The closures and restrictions at the Egyptian-controlled Rafah border crossing are worse than those at the Erez crossing into Israel.

Locally, the causes of the paralysis are manifested in the failure of the peace process and security coordination with the occupation authorities, which has been a thorn in the side of the Palestinian people, especially since the beginning of the intifada in October. Officials from the Palestinian Authority and its security forces lay a lot of stress on this coordination; intelligence chief Major General Majed Faraj claimed recently that 200 attacks against Israel have been thwarted. Added to this is the failure of the reconciliation negotiations that were activated with Hamas a month ago on the back of a proposal to form a national unity government and resolve the PA employee issue in Gaza. This local deadlock is caused by the ongoing wait for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to step down and introduce the post-Abbas phase. This has become an obsession, which is distracting the PA’s institutions, the PLO and Fatah, and is influenced by regional and international events.

The Palestinian cause has been put on hold awaiting action to solve regional crises. Although another Israeli war against Gaza could stir things up, there is little real interest in this being shown by either side.

The current phase requires a rejection of the impasse and for the main forces to take the lead in Palestinian affairs. This requires Fatah to reunite and steer clear of internal factionalism centered on the succession to Abbas, because any weaknesses and strengths shown by Fatah have a direct influence on the Palestinian cause.

Furthermore, unity must lead to serious and strategic national reconciliation that is not linked to any regional or international developments and rises above the internal conflicts and balance of power. To achieve this, all of the Palestinian factions must participate in the reconciliation process. Unlike the tango, which requires just two partners for it to work, the process must be like the Palestinian dabka, which needs every participant’s efforts to be made in a unified line, standing shoulder to shoulder for the overall good of everyone involved.

(Translated by MEMO from Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, 21 March 2016)

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