Where are the NOs of Khartoum today? Despite the scale of the defeat of 1967, the Arabs came together and cried: No peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, and no negotiations with Israel.
Today, there are new NOs that reflect the Palestinian situation: No peace (among the Palestinians), no negotiations (half of the Palestinians oppose them), and no resistance (which the other half opposes).
The Palestinians today cannot even agree to meet, let alone meet and put an end to their differences.
A meeting had been held in Damascus last month, between representatives from Fatah and Hamas, in addition to other factions. However, the meeting did not lead to any results save for agreeing to holding a second meeting that was supposed to be held in Damascus yesterday. However, the heated exchange between President Bashar al-Assad and Abu Mazen in the emergency summit in Sirte, prompted the Palestinian National Authority to request that the second meeting be held in Beirut, or any location other than Damascus. However, Hamas rejected this.
The negotiations among the Palestinians are almost more difficult than negotiations between them and Israel. Each of the two main sides of the intra-Palestinian dispute cannot act in a manner that contradicts its alliances, or the path that it has chosen for itself.
Abu Mazen will continue to rely on the support of the United States, the European Union and the moderate Arab countries. He sees that there are results in terms of the good performance of the economy in the West Bank, the lower number of checkpoints, and the employment opportunities for all. While all of this is indeed true, it comes at the hefty price of security coordination with the occupation, which has reached an extent hitherto unseen by the Palestinians, as it targets the supporters of Hamas before [upholding] security itself.
Meanwhile, Hamas seems content with its unilateral control of the Gaza Strip. While Iran calls on the Palestinians every day to continue their armed struggle, Hamas has ceased firing rockets at the Israelis and is hunting those who do, and perhaps Hamas believes that its steadfastness is a form of resistance, pending the opportunity to move on to the next stage.
In the end (and in the beginning), the success of any Palestinian reconciliation depends on the roles of Egypt and Syria, and on Saudi support. The first supports the Palestinian National Authority while the second supports Hamas. The relations between the two countries and their two presidents are not strong enough to allow for a scenario where both countries would impose a solution on the Palestinians, as indeed they are able to do so if they wish.
Frankly, I see that there is a deadlock of which there is no exit. Indeed, there are rational or wise people among the Palestinians who are working for the sake of reconciliation. However, the choices and alternatives that Munib al-Masri, the Chairman of the National Reconciliation Commission, talks about are not feasible at all. Instead, what is required is for the Palestinians to have some good faith, and I don’t see this happening, and for the Syrian-Egyptian political relations to be elevated to the degree where the presidents of both countries would work as one, with the strong support of Saudi Arabia which lost enthusiasm following Hamas's lack of commitment to the Mecca agreement.
This is the Palestinian situation as it is. Things are more or less the same in what concerns the situation with Israel: President Mahmoud Abbas held 30 hours of negotiations with Benjamin Netanyahu over the issues of security and the borders, without any results at all. Even if Abu Mazen were to spend 300 or 300 thousand hours negotiating with Netanyahu, the result would still be the same because the Israeli side will not concede anything. This is particularly true when Israel sees the Palestinian strife and Arab division, and considers these two facts to play into Israel's favor, to the extent that Israel today has the audacity to announce the construction of housing units in Jerusalem and the expansion of settlement, and then still expects the Palestinians to continue negotiating.
The most dangerous aspect of the Palestinian’s failure in achieving reconciliation is that it compounds the difficulties and problems that the next attempt at it would face. With exacerbating disputes, the sharpness of exchanges and retorts also increase. For instance, I heard supporters of Hamas say that while Abu Mazen has visited Netanyahu in his home and ate at his table, he does not want to go to Damascus, while I heard officials in the Palestinian Authority say that Hamas has sold its soul and the cause to Iran, and is executing the orders of Ahmadinejad's government that is hated by the entire world.
This toxic atmosphere is blinding Fatah and Hamas, which are failing to see that they are losing the Palestinian public opinion, if they haven’t already done so. The Palestinian citizen in the office, factory or a field will hold them both responsible for the loss of the cause, and will look for a third party to protect the cause from its "champions" who have succeeded in doing nothing save for facilitating the work of the Israelis. As a result, occupation, settlement, expulsion and dispossession continue, and nothing of the cause remains except its name.
*Published in the London-based AL-HAYAT on Oct. 21, 2010.