Thursday, November 11, 2010

Another Dialogue...Another Failure

By Mohammad Salah
This comment was published in al-Hayat on 11/11/2010

There is now less or scarce talk of the direct negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis, which had started with US sponsorship and Arab blessings then had stopped after all parties failed to pressure Israel to prevent it from resuming settlement-building activities. I had written in this column before the start of these negotiations, wondering when they would stop and expecting them to fail. Yesterday began a new round of inter-Palestinian dialogue in the Syrian capital, bringing together the leaders of the Fatah and Hamas movements. This is not the first time, and it certainly will not be the last either. Thus today I wonder about the date of the next round of dialogue and about the place where it will be held, after the failure of the current round of negotiations!

In the world of politics, there is no optimism or pessimism, but rather facts, evidence, proofs, interests and balances of power. In view of all of these matters, predicting the failure of inter-Palestinian dialogue is considered logical, as the facts on the ground indicate that the most that can be achieved by Palestinian dialogue under the current circumstances is agreeing not to quarrel, fight or clash. As for imagining that dialogue between the Palestinians might lead to returning to the situation that prevailed before the Hamas movement took control of the Gaza Strip, that is a matter that falls under science-less fiction!

It is true that the alliances of Palestinian parties have come to make of Palestinian reconciliation a matter that cannot take place without regional parties having a role to play in it. It is also true that the stances of Palestinian parties on the peace process are contradictory and mutually exclusive, as it is true that the interests of common Palestinian citizens have been harmed and that life’s problems have increased for them as a result of the disputes between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. However, the situation on the ground has become well-entrenched, and interest groups have arisen for which reconciliation would be harmful and which it would strongly impact.

Some believe that the rounds of dialogue between Palestinians have become a kind of Public Relations activity, which each party resorts to in order to improve its image before the Palestinian people, the world and the regional forces that affect the Palestinian issue. Yet the dialogue itself cannot lead to real reconciliation because the geographical division has turned into a division of interests. Furthermore, the passage of months has entrenched situations on the ground which it has become difficult to backtrack from or change. Indeed, what are the advantages any party could obtain so as to relinquish the power they currently hold, which was brought about by the division?

The question is asked before every round of dialogue, a question which the parties participating do not reply, but to which we know the answer. Indeed, the current situation is ideal for both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, despite the fact that the leaders of both parties declare their concern for reconciliation, and despite the exchange of accusations between the two over the reasons for division and for failing to achieve reconciliation.

Palestinian division reflects Arab weakness, it results from it and at the same time consecrates and increases it. As long as the state of the Arabs does not improve, hopes of achieving real Palestinian reconciliation will remain mere delusions that will never find their way to reality. As for talk of the reconciliation taking place according to the Egyptian document or any other document, it does not make much of a difference. Indeed, Palestinian factions have agreed over countless documents before tearing them up at the first test. Every dialogue will fail as long as the parties to it have no real interest in achieving reconciliation through it. All active parties in the Palestinian issue may consider that the time has come to achieve a Palestinian reconciliation because it truly would achieve the interests of all Palestinians, but as long as the parties to the dialogue themselves do not realize this… there is no hope.

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