It's Now or Never
April 6, 2005
Months ago, we Palestinians had openly supported the calls for internal political changes in order to achieve a better future for the Palestinian people. We said that the future needs a leader with courage to take over. We called for real democracy and a new Authority to be elected. We called for the newly elected Authority to clean up the Palestinian house and to work on the internal Palestinian agenda as a priority in a process of creating real democracy. We also called for all parties to be patient and to give the man a chance. We expressed our concerns that the Palestinian internal situation could erupt into chaos if real action is not taken, sooner rather than later. We called on the Palestinian leadership to take decisive action against those who think that they are above the law. We had hoped that the newly elected Authority would fight corruption and would work for reforms.
The latest incidents in Ramallah, Tulkarem and earlier in Jenin where armed Palestinians disrupted public order with violence, proved that the leadership is still too weak to take strong and decisive actions in establishing a rule of law and order. The Authority’s strategy of conciliation with the fugitives has backfired on the Authority and on its authority. The Authority has no choice but to take a firm and strong stand against those who believe that they are beyond the reaches of the law, that they have some kind of untouchable status, privileged with immunity.
There should be no law above the law and there should be no authority above the Authority. Gangs are taking over the streets, spreading fear and terror over people, knowing that the Authority will run to appease them. In any democratic society such acts are considered a direct threat to the Authority and a challenge to the Authority's authorities, they are acts of anarchy. If action is not taken now, we will be heading to a future controlled and ruled by fugitives and gangsters. It’s now or never.
Those who claim that they are freedom fighters defending the people and liberation or the Palestinian struggle, should not be free to create a reign of chaos in the streets of Palestine, threatening civilians, the Authority and any chances of reaching peace.
If the newly elected President cannot bring safety and security to his people, at least from his own people, he should resign. The people want to see the first signs of a new era, signs of internal security prior to agreements with Israel. If the Authority is crippled in bringing internal security to its people, how can it be trusted to bring the Palestinian people their national rights?
The newly elected Palestinian leadership has to prove that it is capable of leading the nation; otherwise it has to submit its resignation immediately, with no delays. The leadership’s main challenges are not with the opposition - with Hamas or Jihad, but to organize itself internally – inside of Fatah. Fatah itself must reorganize and enable Palestinian democracy to take hold. There is no need for understandings or agreements or even "Hudna" or ceasefire or "Tahdia'a" with the opposition while the main threat comes from inside the house.
Fatah has to understand that the recent successes of Hamas come from the failure of Fatah itself. Fatah has to go through an intensive and serious self evaluation, re-examining their policies, tactics and strategies. They must see where they have failed until now. They must understand how they are losing the trust of the people.
The opposition and mainly Hamas have prepared their new strategies – they are planning their involvement and roles and how to reach their final goals. Fatah, on the other hand, is still fighting between the old guard and the young guard, between the militias and the reformists, and between the supporters and believers of the old regime and the new regime. They are too involved in the struggle for power between its own members over authority and have lost sight of the more important political struggles ahead.
Hamas has realized that the new directives are to prove that they are not a passing movement, but they are a direct outcome of a need expressed by the people. Fatah too has to understand that the circumstances have changed and that we are in a different era. Forty years have passed since the establishment of Fatah and Fatah has yet to change its tactics and strategy. The old guard of Fatah doesn’t believe that the situation has changed and that they are no longer the sole player. Fatah has to become a democratic and open political party that elects its representatives. Fatah should be the model for others political factions in Palestine. Fatah should adopt a comprehensive agenda including political and social issues.
It is also time to consider seriously disbanding the institutions of the PLO. Why is there a need for two authorities? Why we can't have one authority for all Palestinians representing the interests and needs of all Palestinians - inside of Palestine and in exile? Why is Hamas and Jihad being called to join the PLO and not the PA? If the opposition has to share and to take part in governing the Palestinian people; it should be through democracy and chosen by the people.
There is now a need for a new national strategic agenda - we should learn from the past. The Palestinian people want democracy. Democracy should be the channel for our strategies, and the Authority, whoever is elected, has to respect the peoples’ choice and to carry it out. If the elected Authority fails to do that, they should resign. If Mr. Abbas is confident in his ability to bring change with security, order and democracy, then he should move ahead decisively. I say to him "It's now or never".
Khaled Duzdar is the Palestinian Co-Director of IPCRI’s Strategic Affairs Unit.