Since the early nineties, the Palestinian people are crossing several turning points and qualitative stations which are closely linked with its future and influencing it as well. A wide spectrum of important political movements has refrained from taking part in the Palestinian political system and its changes for well known reasons. Now the situation is different and it seems their previous views were mistaken for not taking part in the system; there is a general belief that the coming elections will be an exit from the unilateral one sided political system which carried within its folds many risks and drawbacks on the issue of reform since "Plurality" creates by nature kinds of pressure on the party in charge in order to allow reform operations take place thanks to competition between the different powers; this contradicts with the existence of a one party government which monopolizes authority, regardless of which ruling party it is, it will not feel the need for change and reform nor a need to control internal conditions.
The raised political question is: Is this considered an actual opportunity dictated by political variables What are the characteristics and requirements for it to succeed What are the prospects for a political partnership and how enthusiastic are political parties and factions to do so In case leaders of factions themselves answer these questions, would it be possible to draw a picture of what the Palestinian political system might look like in July 2005 In other words, what are the prospects and what is the outcome of all views presented by figures in Palestinian factions and forces
Plurality: Concept, Risks, Warnings
Hamas movement considers plurality a natural law and at the same time it considers it an ethical human matter. In order to have a straight good life, there should be a kind of openness (acceptability) towards coexistence since man is sociable by instinct; moreover, the one who looks at the reality of education at home , school and all fields of life notices that they are based on suppression, aggression and no expression of opinions; therefore, there is a great need to spread plurality as a way of thinking and behaving; there should also be a life of democratic consultation as a part of people s life. The basic precondition in this subject is the acceptability of the results of plurality and not to only have it as a slogan; the substitute is the continuity of the spread of the phenomenon of " Terrorism" and political and social polarization by way of temptation or intimidation.
Plurality is part of the vocabulary of the western political democratic system; the crisis in which Palestine finds itself in is comprehensive and general and its political expressions are found within the frameworks and organizations in that will lead to the failure to produce a pluralistic political system. Perhaps it is right to claim that all Palestinian political organizations are suffering from a crisis and not one of them may dare to say that their internal affairs are intact and governed by "democratic logic". All organizations had been brought up and raised within the framework of the national liberation movement in which the political aspect is the most powerful on the Palestinian public opinion. The whole issue has been included under the Political Title to form an indicator or a scale for the citizen to decide his loyalty. The resultant is without the presence of a real serious change taking place inside the organizations, the Palestinian society will suffer from the problem of plurality including the role of occupation since it is a reason that is always there to control these developments and influence them.
Drawbacks of Palestinian Plurality
The Palestinian political plurality consists of a number of defects and shortcomings which can be outlines as follows:
- Plurality of Strategies: The best model to measure the Palestinian condition regarding the multiple programs and strategies in order to make it picture clear is the Israeli model thanks to the big similarity between the two: Both are influenced by historical, religious, present factors and the scattering of the internal political make up. The Israeli case fits to used as a tool of comparison and study in order to reach a conclusion to whether the Palestinian situation is heading towards a multi party political system or not. By the way Palestinian organizations realize that they are required to determine the political strategy and the broad lines of the nature of the political system so that the latter will not be subject to what will happen to the majority; the justification for this is that in case any organization gets that overwhelming majority and necessary popular delegation, this will not give it the right nor authorize it to change the form of political system and overlook other organizations. In contrast, there is a dim negative implication to plurality expressed by the numerous forces and factions; consequently, the political system would suffer from fragmentation and small parties, be unable to develop and form a real political power and lessen the prospects of establishment of new effective parties to halt the creation of substitutes.
- Political Address: The political address of organizations and factions is incomplete, fragmentary and unrealistic; it aims is to rally the maximum public support and to have the largest popular base in the society; on several occasions, it was very difficult to refer certain expressions or slogans to this or that faction. For preciseness, we should note that such trends in the factions are not new; they are historical and deeply rooted in the context of winning the support of the public opinion and in competing with other factions. Plurality will find its way to the citizen when all positions are clearly laid out for him and he will have the opportunity to choose, since it will be easy for him to compare, examine , assess and adopt a convincing position. It is not right that there is Palestinian dialogue; there was some seriousness for the first time in that round of deliberations held in Gaza which ended with certain outcomes and arrangements. It is thought that the previous dialogue took place under the title of a "pleasing" process to the public opinion in order to justify and explain the form of incomprehensible relationship between the citizen and the rest of the organizations. The factions had to try to formulate a group of responses and answers to the citizens and to what unites them other than the element of getting rid of occupation.
- Link of Political Pluralism with Geopolitics: Since organizations are working under occupation and the factions are governed by their positions which are not convincing to them but to the system of tribal or clan considerations to a great extent, the organizations stem from this system and are regenerating it. The best proof to this is the nonexistence of any assessment tools of the long history of struggle in each faction. Moreover, the emergence of leaderships in each organization is not subject to general elections besides participation and its forms at the time of the late president did not reflect a real participation but the factions had to accept and submit to participation in an improvised manner. Although the image of a meeting is there and it is followed by decisions published in the newspapers and statements making it look like as if it was a collective decision( President and Heads of Factions), what happened in reality was quite the opposite. Decisions made usually contradicted the views of meeting factions and their representatives without any one objecting, condemning or even boycotting the next meeting or refraining from attending as a form of protest or a natural reaction to the ignorance of his view. Such a situation reinforced the state of confusion, perplexity and contradiction in the political address of the factions and forces and thus it confused the public.
- The warnings against plurality are:
Since Fateh Movement is the ruling party and its members are a majority in the Legislative Council, it prepared an electoral system tailor made for it and for its own benefit. The harm will not only hit the Palestinian people but it will also harm Fateh itself since it did not take into consideration the new developments. As for an elections system depending on proportional representation, it would serve Fateh too even if it deceived itself into believing the opposite due to the fact that this kind of mixed representation will serve large and small bodies as well.
Other warnings and precautions are in making Oslo Agreements terms of reference and authority for elections and this would cancel those of the PLO and its charter. The possibility of political partnership will also be influenced by occupation. If elections are part of the fighting project, it would then achieve victory against the will of occupation.
Other warnings relate to the continuous flow of doses towards reform according to the American and Israeli definition which means holding elections until a certain group will be able to reach a decision making position through a popular designation to pass American and Israeli programs, thoughts and decisions.
Some may consider the educated elite " A Tool Parroting Outside Parties" since they reiterate what the American and Israeli circles are saying about the reforms and elections. At best conditions, this elite group seems, and sometimes from the opposition, to be coherent with external calls, dictations and outside voices. There is a chance and the climate is appropriate more than ever to plant the seeds of Palestinian Plurality. If this is a good indicator, there is a negative one which basically harmonizes with the notion of plurality with what is binding to Palestinians by others under the banner, "Dissemination of Democracy" and how this becomes similar to the American and European vision of a Greater Middle East. Reform should in the first place be stemming out from oneself and not a response to outside pressures since this turns the Palestinian reality to merely a follower of events and not the doer of the action in spite of the fact that there were calls for reform but received no answer except after external insistence to do so. This intricacy poses the position of the elite group whether their views came to support reform upon their own conviction and desire to holdfast to the essence of self initiative or it is nothing but an adaptation with the wide spread thoughts, so it becomes like a " trumpet" blowing foreign views and positions; the truth of the matter, reform has to be self generated and built on convictions and the present legacy.
The analysis stresses the need to free ones self from these complications relating to the base of Palestinian practical needs. One should strip himself from private narrow interests and the state of confusion between the political and practical needs and foreign dictation and commands. What makes the problem more difficult is that movements and organization not being frank regarding what they really want the form of the political system to be; it is hoped that these factions are clear even in the positions that require paying a price. There is a political dilemma which is represented in the premise that some organizations or movements especially Islamic ones boycott the intended election on 17/7 and this might interrupt the embodiment of the political plurality. Also those factions under the wing of PLO did not actually respond nor did they interact with Hams s position for joining PLO and the real dialogue did not actually take place yet.
Opportunities to The Embodiment of Plurality
It seems that there is an agreement between factions and forces that plurality is a healthy, sound and natural matter which comes in response to a need rather than a development. The more important issue which is approved by Hamas Movement is that an understanding of the meaning of plurality is not limited to going to elections and stopping after the results are out, but it is an involvement into the public political life afterwards in order for the participating organizations including Hamas become a part of the new political entity including all coalitions, maneuvers, and effectiveness especially in the presence of new developments in the Palestinian internal conditions and at the external level in contradiction with the occupation which necessitates dealing with those every day developments and variables. Factions see that dealing with everyday requirements has to constitute a principle organizer which controls the relationships between the forces themselves on one hand and the public on the other in order to face dangers threatening the society. If the occupation made it difficult to hold elections or if objective and subjective circumstances did not allow it to take place, there should at least be some agreement on a specific political program and vision and restructuring of relationships in order to cater for the needs of the Palestinian reality.
Political Developments and the New Phase
The Palestinian people are living a period of miraculous events testifying to an inevitable change in the Palestinian political system represented by the PLO, its development, transformation, or termination. If there was a belief in the need to remaining and lasting of the system, then it is important to deal with variables and levels of developments; this political system, however, was found as a necessity towards the launching of the liberation stage following the Setback through two wills:
First: A regional will intended to establish a political system in which Arab policies are introduced under the name of the Palestinian system and its internal one just to make it a copy of their own systems.
As for the second will, it is to have a Palestinian national will to embody the notion of resistance; thus, the Palestinian system was able to contain the system which intended to contain the Palestinian struggle. It is possible to point out that the Palestinian system which came as a result of the Palestinian will was able to neutralize the regional powers and their schemes; moreover, this system created a group of laws which presupposed in the "genes" of this creation a continuity of the system until it fulfills its political mission which is independence.
Nevertheless, over its long history, the system showed signs of growing old and maybe it embarked on terminating itself before the completion of its mission; there are a number of premises and reasons which try to explain this issue and why what has happened happened.
Basically, the result is that the system which consists of many faults has reached a degree in which its presence is at a stake. The question is: Is getting rid of this defective system in the interest of the Palestinian people and producing a new system as a result or what is wanted in the first place is to work on developing and updating it We should not ignore a number of international, legal and political achievements made by the political system in question and this makes it a strategic mistake to get rid of it and start forming a new one! Necessity dictates the need to deal with the development requirements of the system and not canceling it especially when PLO became the International Identity of the Palestinian political entity, and canceling it means to relieve the world of its obligations toward the Palestinian question especially at a time when there are no guarantees to obtain similar recognitions to any new political system in light of the huge present international conflicts.
The analyst or follower of the question of having a multiparty system is faced by a theoretical and intellectual prerequisite regarding finding an answer to a big question: Are Palestinians and their organizations facing a new phase and a new thing Some may argue that the Palestinian political system that had been present for decades is originally a pluralistic one as opposed to others who are inclined towards not having a political system in the first place. Among the two rises a third opinion which emphasizes the existence of such a system but not a pluralistic one.
The Palestinians have devoted a pluralistic political system through out their historic resistance following the Setback; it came to express the stage of national liberation which it is passing through. This was essential and objective and cannot be overlooked. The PLO has embodied this system which has plurality; consequently, the PLO is the analysis unit that needs to be concentrated on and on the tremendous developments it underwent.
There are basic issues which represent changes in the PLO namely:
- A radical and qualitative development in the role and mission of the PLO has taken place and it is expressed in the drop of its performance. The PLO was an expression of a national coalition which includes all the Palestinian political factions with all their ideologies. This withdrawal has radically influenced the Palestinian question. This withdrawal came as a result of the control of one party over its institutions and organizational structures in a very influential way.
- The PLO has lost its real actual essence following the signing of Oslo Agreement; Instead of tracking and following up all the negative factors which accompanied the PLO over the long years of its resistance and strengthen its reforms and institutions, the approach takes a different course; instead of employing what was left of the PLO power and ability towards the new developments at the Palestinian arena which is the Palestinian National Authority, it was completely wiped out.
- Tremendous and huge developments in the structure of Palestinian resistance and liberation movement “ more precisely, some forces went up and others retreated and this changed the Palestinian political spectrum greatly.
Such factors and developments are central in understanding the chances of having a future pluralistic system. Neither the PLO nor the National Authority are able to reflect and express the new reality. This is the real problem facing all national movements as a result of the tremendous dramatic changes. The first task that the factions and forces have to carry out is to restructure the political plurality to match the new reality. This is a binding mission to all ; otherwise, the Palestinian political system would be completely deteriorated and devastated. The urgent need felt by everybody is to have a pluralistic political system which takes into consideration the continuity of the national liberation stage.
Contrary to the views of some that the Palestinian Authority is a new development to the Palestinian society, it can be stated that it is quite the opposite and the proof is its life span which does not exceed a decade; this is not development. As for the actual developments, they can be classified as follows:
- Passing away of president Arafat
- Growing power of Islamic movements
- Outcomes and conclusions arrived at by the different political powers on the need to directly take part in the Palestinian political system and elections.
The accusation that Fateh Movement took control of the political system following the year 1967 is void and groundless and imprecise in its best case. Fateh did not monopolize elections, and it was open for all to take part in it. We should emphasize the position of those who boycotted and opposed the Presidential and Legislative Council elections in 1996. This position was not because of their objection to the form of the political system nor was it because of the elections law; the essence of opposition of the Islamic and left movements was based on the political position towards elections since it was based on the rejected Oslo Agreement. The problem is in the base which was not changed up till now; the Palestinian reality is as it was; there were no changes in the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority. In spite of all this, the position of most Palestinian organizations who were opposing including Hamas in the past are now thinking and considering participation. Worst of all, there are some analytical studies which believe that the political situation and the margin of interpretation and speculation and perhaps the justification for participation in 1996 elections was much better than today especially for the Islamic movement, left wing and national democratic trends since it is probably very difficult now for these two organizations in particular to justify this huge shift of position to the layman.
The Palestinian political system has witnessed a number of radical changes like the inauguration of a new stage titled political plurality and real participation contrary to what was the case in the previous stage which was marked by the control of Fateh movement over the Palestinian system and the nominal participation in decision making. The notion for changing the political system has been developed right after the departure of President Arafat, and actual political participation became an urgent task to fight dangers, threats and challenges facing the Palestinian cause. In this context, the subject of Palestinian elections with all its kinds was raised in light of the keen desire of all forces and the political spectrum to take part in the new system. Although all the Palestinian forces, movements and factions agreed on having a fairly split mixed electoral system to guarantee everybody s participation, the Palestinian Legislative Council turned its back to these proposals.
Sharon s plan was a new development which increased the determination of the political system to face the new developments in case withdrawal from Gaza takes place , so the real participation of factions which have their presence and influence in the street becomes indispensable since it will participate in forming the new political reality. This is in addition to the Road Map, calls for reform, pressures to disassemble what is called " Terrorist Organizations" and their infra structure which harmed effective organizations.
Such transformations are considered a focus of interest in a manner that provides for the possibility of putting a unified strategy among all factions and forces to agree on the character of the coming stage in which the participation of all is in its heart especially when talking about a truce, a ceasefire and an armistice and the rest of internal affairs. The variables pave the way for a real and realistic opportunity for political participation which should be the focus of attention to agree on the make up of the new political system, the mechanism of making decisions in it, preservation and protection. The will of the factions however in embodying this political participation is a precondition to all of this.
Hamas Movement and the Notion of Political Participation
Maybe it is right to say that Hamas movement is the party that can be the most influential on the political system due to its presence on the ground; the results of the first stage of local elections came to emphasize the unexpected wide scale base of support to Hamas; thus, Hamas s decision whether to take part in the elections or not will radically influence the Palestinian political stance.
It is important to note that Hamas movement is not new to the Palestinian political action and street. Since 1992 and the deportation of tens of its cadre to Marj Zuhor, debates were held with members and leaderships of the movement to discuss the notion of establishing a party to represent the political aspect of the movement. If we remember, the movement was conscious since 1989 of the need to separate between its military and political wings in order for work in public life and political affairs be available for its political office. Perhaps the objective factors represented in the occupations pressures and banning of traveling and movement between the two halves of the country in addition to the personal conditions like chase, liquidation and arrest have all contributed to limiting the institutional political work which is considered one of the segments of the movement s project which contributes to the completion of the full circle of the movement; there cannot be a straight forward integrity of the political work in the absence of a real stability which requires a real independence.
There is another view which says that desire of Hamas movement in spite of describing its participation as being not urgent to political work and with the recognition that this development is important and beneficial to the Palestinian political life, Hamas participation in the political system if not new in the thought and attitude, then it will undoubtedly be new in the behavior and the participation itself.
The participation of Hamas movement in the public life in the municipal elections and the presence of positive indicators towards the formation of a final decision for participation in the legislative elections and merge in the political system are considered a great transformation since the start of the process of reading the reality and reviewing of new data by the movement leadership. Eventually, the movement is in the process of making decisive decisions which are linked with certain stipulations like reformation of the Central Elections Committee and review of the Elections Law; the movement is still considering the form of participation it will have whether independent or in a coalition.
The question regarding Hamas is whether it will merge into the Palestinian political system or whether it had already decided to merge; all are inclined to believe that it had already decided and it is gaining speed heading towards it.
The problem which can constitute a source of worry is the expression and speculations of some that the Palestinians political future will an exit from the dictatorship of Fateh movement to fall captive into the dictatorship of Hamas movement. Many have expressed their concern by the many articles published in the three dailies and warned the Palestinian public of the coming danger which will wipe out all; the talk about Hamas whether directly or indirectly continues and it is referred to as " The new comers" to the Palestinian arena ; there was some kind of clear instigation against the Islamic movement in which the participation of this movement would be seen in contradiction with other forces and the Palestinian people will become partitioned; it was also noticed that it might be possible not to respect the results of the elections if someone felt he would fall in them.
Fateh Movement and Plurality
If the previous stage was characterized by something, it would be the control of Fateh movement over the political system since the movement had to put up with the reality and the previous period with all its positive and negative points; the previous failures are Fateh s and the achievements are also Fateh s. This is now history; what about the coming stage One of its most salient features is in the fact that Fateh movement is the mostly influenced by plurality as opposed to the previous period which was some what comfortable thanks to its control and this made it out of the framework of clashes, maneuvers, embarrassments by the other powers in running the everyday and public affairs; it is expected that the plurality will bring about other parties which would make Fateh movement experience a situation that is more difficult in terms of maneuvers and sacrifices which it has to take and would lead to crises at the internal level and with the other partners.
Out of this analysis, the question raised is whether Fateh is inclined to win most of the votes to reaffirm itself and its continuity, sovereignty and feeling of distinction. Plurality is a better situation for the Palestinian political situation in a manner that it prepares a party to bring about a real political reform as a result of the element of competition and the existence of the public that is watching performance and other parties are trying to prove themselves and hope to convince the public that they are a better substitute.
Fateh movement is suffering from a big crisis which is not less severe and harsh than that of the left parties. The essence of that crisis stems from the dualism and mixing up between two missions in which the movement is involved they are the mission of national liberation and its requirements like building structures and institutions and the mission of building the organizational structures of the Palestinian Authority especially when the second mission requires more openness. Consequently, a crisis in Fateh had evolved as a result of not being able to answer the democracy question. There is the clear internal contradiction between the desire of Fateh in bringing in democracy from the other side and this complicates its crisis more.
As long as the movement did not provide an answer to this basic internal democratic question, it stays in a state of " freezing", and it will suffer from hardships in its internal work. What makes it worse is the desire of the overwhelming majority of Fateh base and different levels to abide by the democratic concepts in all movement institutions; however, this attitude and at some movement levels had been understood either by the employment logic or the mysterious logic; it is not a secret that there are some "trends" inside Fateh movement itself who still believe that this democratic experience belongs to experiments of " Central Democracy" which is expressed in real practice when a "Region Committee" for example is elected; double the specified number is elected then the central committee chooses the needed number and the latter appoints the head of the Committee.
Therefore, Fateh movement is a largely stretched movement, yet its internal passage ways and channels between institutions are very narrow and this prevents internal shifting. The internal crisis is related to internal movement inside Fateh and this creates tremendous and huge challenges. However, the movement is approaching a general meeting in which all movement cadre seem to approve the need to introduce new experiences like preliminary elections; this experiment is linked with a deeply rooted understanding of democracy at the same time when some are trying to " tailor " this step to fit them and there are many innovations in this subject.
Fateh movement is facing two important stations: first is that the development of the Palestinian political system is subject to the movements recognition of its problems and its work later on to develop its means, programs and putting its house in order to participate in the legislative elections effectively. Reform of Fateh and development of the whole Palestinian political system are closely related issues.
As for the second station, it is connected with the participation of Hamas in the next legislative elections since this step is not a separate detail but a new big action which Fateh movement has to pay attention to not on the basis of fear from Hamas participation, the rhetoric of not acknowledging or recognizing results of elections but on the basis of reinforcing the concept of participation on real democratic principles and bases. There are positive indications that Fateh will deal with the elections in spite of the possibility for first negative reactions in case the elections results were against the movement, yet the local elections experience is an indication of the high level of maturity and responsibility by which Fateh dealt with its results and accepted them. There is also the way to deal with the concept of rotation of authority in a positive and radical position and Fateh s recognition that Palestine is not Algeria or any other place and it will not be. He who is able to convince the street of its programs, persuade minds, and get their approval and satisfaction has the right to lead the people.
Fateh movement like any other party in charge of authority has to evaluate the situation maybe through public polls or secret ones in order to examine its strength in the future. Moreover, Fateh is a huge power center which includes internal forces that grew and gained strength over the past years and decades in the shape of big interests of these centers. The question raised is" How can the people guarantee to have honest result for the next election like what happened in the presidential and local elections; what are the guarantees
It is right that Fateh movement recognized the previous results, and this constitutes a basic guarantee in addition to the presence of seven candidates for presidency. It is important not to mix between two things: The existence of a deep crisis inside the movement, but its will is to protect and preserve the unity of the Palestinian people. It will not obstruct or cancel any elections; it is also clear that there are centers of power and interests inside it, yet the main pillar inside the movement believes that the future of the Palestinian people is built on participation of all those who have a right to vote and to be represented according to its weight and size in the society.
Looking at the life span of this experiment so far, Fateh movement which was in control did its role and allowed for the holding of presidential and local elections at its first stage. We should note on the basis of this analysis that Fateh crisis does not relate to conflict of generations or succession of members since the Palestinian question is too big to be held by one generation; it is a general issue which touches all levels of the movement and other movements and forces as well.
Crisis of Left Organization or Third Trend
Some see that it would be better if there were three clear cut trends on the Palestinian arena and whose sizes and influences are reflected in public institutions. Thus next to Fateh and Hamas there will be an intermediate, left wing, democratic, and secular strong power within the framework of plurality and may represent the positive implications of plurality.
According to evidences from the presidential elections, the left wing was unable to prove a real substitute between the two dominant poles on the ground; it might be crucially true to state that the failure constituted an important topic for evaluation and internal discussion of meetings of left wing factions. The Palestinian people over its long years of struggle has provided a legacy and history which made factions something holy; this holiness and dignity has won it the accountability to print its name in history. It was supposed that the bright and famous names of the big left wing factions reflect themselves in their presence and wining the different elections as a real expression of the presence of this political reality. The anomaly took place when those organizations failed to balance between its history, reality, big names and the need to be present in the political system. A big name is not only a slogan, it expresses that need which the Palestinian system lacks which is the presence of a strong left wing due to the nature of its make up, external relations and historical components.
The important point that the left has to do is to look into drawing conclusions following the electoral battles it had waged. It should use these conclusions in tackling its crisis which is inherited from a long time ago; there is a positive belief that is based on the possibility to find different ways to address the left crisis through a deep awareness of the lessons and past experiences.
The first thing that crosses ones mind through looking at the Palestinian major political components in considering them right, middle, and left if we may say so, is the coherence and cohesion of the right. As for the middle, it is a power that should not be underestimated. When talking about the left, the impression is that it is disintegrated and this is a quick description; and can be reinforced by quality and qualitative analysis. If this description is true, then the results of the next legislative council elections results are already known. This reality requires the left wing factions to evaluate themselves in front of a new pluralistic political system and not transferring the system from the dominance of Fateh to that of Hamas and the two split the system.
The left factions were active especially in the call for the slogan of a unified national leadership so one may wonder; Is it possible to have a unified left leadership If yes, will this provide a larger opportunity to plurality Is it possible to have a left leadership If it happens, will it be the nucleus for a unified national leadership Is sticking to legacy, names and clich ©s more important than political flexibility, political tactics and political maneuver which dictate the existence of other types of participation and maybe reasonably different names
Many parties in the neighboring countries came out of their cocoon by not holding fast to names for the sake of the general national interest or even the selfish interest of a party or an organization. The parties through their experiences were able to respond and to be present in the political arena and to play the expected role. The challenge is before the left and it seems that its collective mind did not yet reveal a special "genius". The crisis of the left is sharp and existentialist transforming them like one body exactly like the Higher Arab Body whose name remained printed on a big sign on top of its headquarters in the Arab capitals following its fall and extinction for at least twenty years.
The crisis of the left stemmed at first from the national movement priorities within the context of the unfinished national liberation stage, so the issue of occupation and fight against it occupied the top of organization s agenda which was reflected on the political structure of the movement and the left powers when it did not take matters seriously in spite of their importance in their programs. The Left diagnoses its crisis and sees the prospects of getting out of it through analyzing the components of the Palestinian political spectrum of forces and trends:
- The National Trend consists of two parts one is Arab national and the other is Palestinian national according to ideological analyses; it should not be taken for granted that this movement/trend is part of the left.
- The broad democratic national trend which is not left in its entirety, but it is an alliance between the left and the liberal middle which opposes Fateh and the Authority domination in one way or another due to the presence of a liberal trend merged into the Authority and Fateh, yet it lacks the specific political expressions contrary to the left which has such expressions and bodies.
The elections indicate the existence of a space for this trend in the Palestinian political life and in the structure of the participatory pluralistic structure and in decision making on one condition which is to give up dependence on the fake historical legitimacy and to start searching for conditions which guarantee a real representation which is in harmony with the social base which can form a basis for this trend. This requires the following:
- Transformation of the segmented plurality to a rational plurality although all movements are suffering from different forms of fragmentation and conflicts between centers of power inside the same organization. It may be possible to say that the solution is in finding a mechanism, framework, and even a formula whether partial or provisional to solve these problems through establishing institutions for them. Tackling the he plurality among the components of this movement/trend cannot take place on the basis of call for a merge in one party due to the existence of great differences. The solution is in finding a framework which absorbs internal plurality and creates a formula to solve the fragmentation like " a coalition list" form whose elements are being chosen inside the organizations, parties, and forces of the movement on the basis of proportional representation; this is a proposition that is under consideration. The movement will not preserve the space it had in the political life through a fragile state unless being institutionalized, and this requires proportional representation and preliminary elections.
The problem of the left is not related to a program or a project; it is the problem in the distance between the problem and transforming it to something effective and influential i.e. the ability to transform a program to a popular potential and a politics to influence in decision making and this situation does not cohere with the state of fragmentation it suffers from; the solution of the left crisis and the third trend is in beating this fragmentation through renewing the left structure in a manner that would set it free from this crisis.
After recognizing the crisis of the left and its forces and the crisis of the democratic trend, the elements of exiting from the crisis have to be decisively considered not in dictatorial or suppressive means even if it seemed in form contrary to that, but this is the present situation; in order to enter the stage of a solution we should give up the revolutionary and historic legitimacy as if it is a " redemption document" since it is all fake. The door has to be opened to the succession of generations and thoughts and the arrival of young leaderships to decision making positions to carry out their appropriate role.
The problem of the democratic and left movements in general is not only embodied in the programming and the availability of a ready made project struggling for its sake, but it is the essential problem in the presence of contradicting interests between their constituents themselves. The proof to this is disagreement on political positions practical solutions and a joint work because of the contradictions and narrow party interests clashes of some leaderships and figures which represent the movement and this would lead to an impasse before the development of this movement and rescuing it from its crisis. Depending on the support of the public, all battles have to be fought since there is still a large sector of the public unable to put its trust in the available political forces on the Palestinian arena. The democratic and left movements have in order to protect themselves to defend their project which they ideologically support and is being supported by political concepts, organizations and frameworks which have to defend their project which they believe in its validity.
Stipulations to Plurality:
It is possible to put forward certain prospects and stipulations to cross the difficult stage in order to lay the grounds for a Palestinian pluralistic political system.
- The spread of some kind of chaos and competition for centers of power in a manner that leads the cause and the people go astray and pushes the future towards the unknown.
- Agreement and approval of the laws which govern the internal relations in accordance with an agreed upon law and regulations. Moreover, the components of the new situation of change especially Hamas movement have to deal with the complications of the political reality resulting form the "Historic" past of the PLO and its old age. It should also realize the existence of certain aspects and achievements that cannot be thrown away like the international recognition of the PLO. Hamas is required to understand how to deal with the complex situation of the PLO within the last commitments and international obligations. It should discuss the means of coexistence inside the one political system in which views meet and live within the prospect of having a new system.
- Agreement on a unified strategy since the situation cannot have two opposing strategies as long as we are speaking about a political system containing governing and opposing powers. It is the right of the new government to put the political program and apply it on the ground; the opposition on the other hand may not have a different one; this is one of the preconditions as long we are talking about democracy and rotation of power. If the new comer in the political field following the intended election on 17/7 is this party or that or this coalition or that, then it is his right to practice his political convictions and implement his political program by which it obtained victory through the popular authorization even if it was declaring a war and not lifting the resistance slogan. Maybe Hamas movement will be part of this alliance which heads to negotiations; the criteria are the need to acknowledge the new development and recognize its laws; the first law is the rotation of authority and not to live under contradicting agenda and strategies.
In spite of the importance and keenness of everybody on the fact that the PLO is the only legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and it is the point of reference and authority to Palestinians inside and abroad, there should be reforms in it; on top comes that fact that the PLO has to be the real representative of the Palestinian people through activation of its referential status, its institutions and the participation of all in it, organization of its work and the participation of all in its decisions. There are many positive signs from Hamas movement regarding the possibility to accept all stipulations to join the PLO in light of the fact that its calls for the formation of a unified national leadership had failed in embodying a unified reality, and the voices calling for it flew with the wind.
It can be noticed that the Palestinian national unity has been embodied on the ground to the minimum among all within the already existed and maybe existing frameworks, and it worked very well in the past; what is needed is to find real mechanisms to form a pluralistic political system in the context of the existing fertile soil to do so.
Any established political system or intending to be established has to take into consideration that the Palestinian people are passing through a phase of national liberation and not a phase of independence and sovereignty. The national scheme is still there. There should be a legal guarantee to protect this plurality and absorb it through a modern flexible electoral system which gives better chances to representation with reasonable cut off percentage.
Moreover, there should be agreement on the referential authority to elections and the political system which are the Palestinian National Program and the Palestine Liberation Organization, reform of the PLO and independence charter.
There is a real chance to reformulate a pluralistic political system by agreeing on an internal and external resistance project in fighting the occupation. Control of the relationship and roles between the PLO and the Palestinian Authority are still an obstacle and a confusing matter up till now. There are other tasks which may seem impossible at first regarding the merge between the PLO and the Authority at a later stage when Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip become a part of the whole Palestinian people abroad. The reality that hits analysis is the existence of an Authority, without powers and in need for reform, practicing its authorities inside the West Bank and Gaza Strip or even part of it is still occupied. There is the PLO which has the big programs and strategies. In order not to escape from the reality, our research on the chances for both bodies with the best exploitation and activation of the two is the challenge along an evaluation and criticism of both entities even if this evaluation touched the legitimacy of the authority itself.
We should not feel weary of holding other organizations the responsibility and claim that they are clean in light of the dominance of Fateh movement over the political system and relate all failures, obstacles, pitfalls and mistakes to the movement and force it to pay the cost of its failure. This is unacceptable because the rest of the organizations bear the responsibility half and half since they refrained from participating in the elections nor did they find the ways to correct the track of the political system; it also ignored the public at this historical mission and was contended to limit its political role as political opposition under political titles; it did not exercise the role of opposition within the framework of an existing authority; even the dominance of Fateh over the Authority was a given presupposition, this control did not save Fateh and raise the ceiling of its popular reserve nor the national one. It has lost what it had won by roaming over authority; Fateh is paying the price now which is certainly very costly!
Legislative Elections and a Pluralistic System
Controversy at present is on the possibility that the coming legislative elections and counting of votes processes accompanying it would lead to the formation of a pluralistic political system paving the way to all powers to participate in this system according to sizes and influences in the street. Perhaps the coming legislative elections and its outcome would be subject to the action of political powers and what they will embody on the ground.
In order to build this Palestinian political parliamentary system, it should be based on a modern democratic elections law. The mixed system which was agreed upon within the framework of the Palestinian political movement requires the ratification of the Legislative Council. This represents a battle in which the social forces have to take part in order to enable the Legislative Council to depart from the closed circle in the discussion of this topic. The subject matter requires amassing and building up of a wide popular pressure to approve the new formula especially when all the forces including Fateh movement agreed to it. There is concrete evidence that leaving the door open to fighting big battles within the framework of superior relations among the factions, powers or watching Council members, their views and decisions would mean a lost case.
At all cases, the elections law, form and content, should not be a proof to the position of factions towards participation in the coming legislative elections. If the powers wanted to have a pluralistic system, they should all including the Islamic approach participate in the elections. The present stage with its results and developments is a stage of hard labor which will not determine the form of the Palestinian system since its formation and final form will come after this stage for one simple reason that the forces which make up the political system are in a state of change and reformulation in light of the results following the elections.
Finally, regarding the elections law and the position of Fateh movement in general and its parliamentary block in particular and in light of the nonexistence of democratic traditions inside the organizations including Fateh, its leadership frame cannot agree with all the organizations on a specific form of the elections law, so it will refer to Fateh block in the council and commit them to approve the elections law no matter of its content; then, in this case, Fateh members will be forced to vote in favor of the form and abide by it.
Regarding elections guarantees, Fateh theoretically accepts since it practiced the elections before and accepted it results.
Also the change in Hamas s point of view and its merging into the PLO and the Authority opens a second chance. The reform of the political system and the Palestinian internal situation is considered a third opportunity for the success of plurality. However, the way is still very complicated and risky especially when we review the program of the Israeli government and its goals in subduing the Palestinian side and imposing surrender on it. This mixed electoral system will benefit all segments of Palestinians including Fateh movement. According to prestigious studies, if well balanced legislative elections are held in which everybody takes part, the weights will be distributed as follows: 40% Fateh, 30% Hamas, 20% Third Trend and 10% independents and nationals. Percentages may go up or down a little. Fateh movement will preserve its location on top if it adopts proportional representation and it will continue leading the national coalition. As for the current situation and the applied elections law, Fateh is at a stake; even if it tries to solve its internal problems and take firm organizational measures, it will not bring an end to the crisis; in the best case, things will improve a little since the cause is deeper than having organizational and internal measures.
Challenges of the New Political System and the New Stage
There is not even a chance, but there is an objective need for the renewal of the political system in order for it to last. Without renovation along the current changes that have taken place over the last decade, the system is exposed to disintegration and deterioration. By this a complete epoch of the Palestinian national struggle will come to an end, and this is not in the interest of anybody.
The question is: Where is the problem In other words, What is the needed renovation The needed change is not only in the recognition of plurality within the framework of a political system since plurality is there in the Palestinian social reality; it has always been there and recognized by the political system if we take the PLO as the expression and reflection of the political system.
The problem is in the impact of plurality and translating it in a national decision making process. This is the bone of contention; the problem resulted in particular from the state of national liberation which the Palestinian national movement is passing through. In contrast with the independent and stable countries, there is a problem in Palestine when talking about the Authority and Opposition in discussing options: In independent countries, there is no talking about the national invariables that should be held by all, nor is there a participation of all in the decision making. As for the situation of the national liberation movement, each decision whether relating to political or struggle strategy is reflected on the Palestinian people in its entirety; therefore, in all national liberation movements a formula of national consensus has been found which is the participation of all in making political decisions; this law is one of the laws for the success of a national liberation movement. Under Palestinian political system such a need was always solved and met on the basis of agreement; the system (PLO)was originally built this way which reflected an arrangement called quota system or factional quota; accordingly, the system was based on the notion that the prerequisite for a settlement with Israel is the establishment of independent state on the borders of 1967, but this agreement was broken in Oslo because what happened was a settlement based on reaching an independent Palestinian state according to the Palestinian view even if afterwards. However, this was not a precondition according to the Israeli view. This is the root of the crisis which started accumulating and piling up gradually until it reached its present stage.
Although there was a crisis, there were unique conditions to find an outlet which is replacing the consensus basis at the expense of quota by another basis to solve differences within the frame of the national liberation movement which is the basis of elections and returning to the public and not to what is called the historic revolutionary legitimacy; consequently, partnership is built on different bases than those of quota and agreement. In this context, it is not true to speak about exchange and rotation of authority, but it is more correct and closer to understanding is rotation of the leadership location, since the objective need in the present condition is to have a political partnership and not the duality of Authority and Opposition. The raised issue is the faction which is on top in the political partnership and the basis of its relationship with its partners; factions and forces.
As for the rotation of authority, it is a concept that concerns an independent state in which the forces in the authority who form the government make decisions in accordance with their program which gained them victory as a result of obtaining the confidence of voters. As for the Palestinian situation, it is always in need of political partnership in all cases until it fulfills the political objectives of national resistance.
As for the balance of powers between the factions, organizations and attitudes in this formulation of political partnership, it is a subject that is in need for solutions. Political partnership means making determinative decisions in participation with all in accordance to the balance of powers and the distribution of factions weights. It is not necessary for decision to be made through agreement and consensus which means that the small powers have the right to veto for example. What is new in this partnership formula of the present reality is that political partnership should be based on a new and different base of agreement and quota which is the base of democratic selection by the public. This proposition reveals why the unified leadership formula was inapplicable due to the fact that it was not possible to measure objectively the roles and weights of the forces and organizations concerned in the unified leadership.
This diagnosis in particular is what distinguishes the Palestinian condition ; the issue is plurality and its relationship with decision making that is the participation of all in this process “ I mean decision making- but in accordance to the size of its actual influence on the public which can be measured by elections. This is the wanted change and bearing in mind that participation does not mean that participation and agreement of all, but their presence in its making is the origin even if it was made by majority. The important thing is the formula by which the decision is made. We may call this " Unified Strategy" since it is possible to request from all to have" a plan of action" or " action strategy" or a program or plan on condition that it is approved by all and implemented by all. It is a better choice than the congruence choice in investing the new opportunity, so the weight of each party is precisely measured and compared with its occupation of its location in decision making according to its weight. This shows the importance of the elections law since it becomes a precondition to solve the crisis in order to guarantee a commitment by all spectrum of the Palestinian people to the determinative, important resolutions whether political or others as long as all the rest of the spectrum acknowledge the fairness of the representational system and this demands the presence of an elections law which guarantees a precise representation of all the spectrum of the people including its political and social entities and its social bodies which express itself in the regional or affiliation representation, the need is for an eclecticsystem within a balanced base.
There is another view which considers the way of dealing with the issue is incorrect; democracy is addressed if it is a concept going along but not meeting with the stage of national liberation nor can it coexist with it; sometimes there is a mixing up of expressions and terms like when talking about agreement and delegation and leadership location instead of authority exchange.
This can be considered a natural outcome of the continuation of the notion of the establishment of the PLO up till now. The understanding was that democracy is a concept against liberation movements, and the understanding of the liberation movements has transformed to using a superior approach in imposing its program on the people. The program was more loyal to the country than to the people themselves. It is a compound understanding and a dilemma at the same time. It is quite simple for a political program of the national liberation movements to be the same program approved by the people. The issue is in the way how to formulate the program based on the people, and this is what naturally happens. Therefore, the forces and factions have to put forward their programs to the people to choose the program they like; people and the public don t deceive and the political elite is not more patriotic than the people. If the people choose a political program for an organization this is their choice. This is the core of the problem regarding the issue of agreement; since the people had already chosen a political program for an organization who became the ruling party, then the calls for agreement between the factions following that become a conspiracy against people and disrespect of their opinion. After the formation of " the leadership framework" following the choice of the public there is no chance for quota nor agreement since they are foreign terms to the Palestinian cause came to it as a result of relationships with the international liberation movements. These thoughts belong to an old and worn out age and these are concepts which had traveled along the Palestinian liberation movement since the establishment of the PLO.
Others defend this idea by arguing that the participation process in decision making in the Palestinian political system in the past used to depend on agreement and quota, but this formula is over and this foundation has lead to the crisis of today; however, this does not mean that the Palestinian organizations are through of a basic law for the national liberation movement which can be called" consensus" which is the participation of all the components of the people in the process of decision making which is reflected on its self determination. There is a difference between participation and agreement. Agreement is based on understanding between all on the minimum level in which any organization n