The Palestinian Leadership Present and Future: Challenges on the Path to Liberationand Peace

The Palestinian cause is going through a phase that is considered the most dangerous in its history and whose main characteristics are embodied in the endeavor to push it into oblivion, counting on the factor of time and the repercussions of the international crises that have surfaced as a result of the Russia-Ukraine war. This coincides, too, with a series of systematic and accelerated Israeli actions on the ground aimed at marginalizing the conflict and pushing it from the political to the humanitarian domain. This is being done in the absence of the historical Arab commitment to the Palestinian cause, a commitment that no longer exists in light of the abandonment of the Arab Peace Initiative (API) and the rapid normalization conducted by some of the Arab states, which relinquished the principle of an Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian territories as a precondition to establishing any relations with Israel in accordance with the API adopted at the Beirut Summit in 2002. This is happening at a time when the Palestinian national movement is suffering from a strategic problem concerning national action.

New Strategy for Joint Arab Action Required

The strategy adopted by the official Palestinian leadership is based on two tracks — namely, negotiations with Israel on the one hand and the building of state institutions on the other. Nevertheless, the two tracks have been stuck for quite some time. The Palestinian national project itself is suffering from a state of deadlock, political vacuum, and loss of direction. This is certainly not a new crisis, but it is the result of the state of social fragmentation, the absence of an inclusive national goal, and the failure of the national movement in its ultimate mission — namely, liberation and ending the occupation. This crisis is also the product of the crisis in the process of confronting the Zionist project, which is a settler-colonial and racist project, and by virtue of Israel’s advantages in being able to possess the elements of predominance in the Arab and international arenas.

In light of this reality, the Palestinian leadership must deal with the decline of Arab support as a reality and consider a new approach to the national dimension of the Palestinian cause upon which it builds its strategy for joint Arab action, on the official and popular level, and begin developing a strategy of self-reliance. It must assume this responsibility by developing its own capabilities. It is not sufficient to call for either the dissolution of the Palestinian Authority and the abolition of the Oslo Accords or reaching a peace agreement based on the two-state solution, as this has become fictitious. Rather, it should be based on an unobstructed vision of how to manage the Palestinian issue in confronting the occupation and its practices by adopting a strategy that keeps the cause alive, keeps the flame of popular resistance burning and maintains the elements of steadfastness.

Need for Joint Political Program Based on Shared Axioms

The path to Palestinian national revival requires:

1. To initiate an inclusive national dialogue aimed at reaching a comprehensive and balanced vision that begins with the recognition of the reality as it is — its difficulties, imminent dangers, and opportunities. The national project must then be redefined, giving priority to the restoration of unity, full partnership, and pluralism- determining short-, medium- and long-term goals; and developing strategies to guarantee their fulfillment on the basis of achieving the maximum possible at each stage.

In order for the national dialogue to be real and serious and represent a strategic beginning for Palestinian national action and a solid base of national unity, it must address the methods of struggle within the framework of the political program — that is, the determination of the methods of struggle must be dealt with based on a joint political program acceptable to all political streams. The results of this dialogue can only be morally and ethically binding if it starts from standing on the same side of the barricade against the occupation and from the same political axioms to determine the methods of struggle.

2. To seriously seek to overcome the existing institutional division within the framework of the Palestinian Authority and to rebuild the PLO on democratic foundations. Perhaps the task of rebuilding the PLO is the most prominent task at the current stage to confront the Israeli occupation.

It is a task to which all the Palestinian people must contribute, and its reconstruction must address key issues, such as regulating the relationship between the PLO and the Palestinian Authority, redefining the PLO competencies in light of the supreme interests of the Palestinian people, and correcting the relationship between the two main factions in the Palestinian arena (Fateh and Hamas).

3. To renew the popular resistance against the occupation wherever the Palestinian people are present and to internationalize the Palestinian cause by: 
- expanding the circle of recognition of the State of Palestine and all the Palestinian national rights. 
- expanding the membership of the State of Palestine in all available international institutions and agencies after it was recognized as a nonmember observer state at the United Nations General Assembly. 
- prosecuting and punishing Israel for violating the Geneva Conventions and for committing war crimes by invoking the Human Rights Council and the International Criminal Court. 
- expanding the boycott campaign (BDS) of Israel on a broader scale. 
- mobilizing all available energies to secure the resilience requirements of the Palestinian people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and in the diaspora refugee camps.

Palestinian demonstrators in Ramallah calling for Palestinian political unity between Gaza and the West Bank. Photograph: Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images

There is no doubt that the Palestinian leadership has strong cards, if used competently, that will inevitably lead to a national liberation program that combines intensifying popular resistance programs in all their forms on the ground and engaging in a political human rights struggle in international forums. In addition, the Palestinian leadership is required to start launching a focused international political campaign aimed primarily at returning the Palestinian cause to the forefront of international and regional arenas, following the serious decline it suffered in the recent crisis.

United Nations Must Fulfill Its Responsibility

On the level of international organizations, President Abbas referred in his recent speech at the UN General Assembly in September 2022 to several steps that the Palestinian leadership will initiate after it has lost hope in the role of the UN Security Council in implementing the resolutions it has adopted for decades, which have remained locked in the drawers under the policy of double standards applied by the Security Council, which is dominated by the United States on international security issues.

These steps include submitting a formal request to the United Nations for the implementation of UNGA Resolution 181, which constitutes the basis of the two-state solution, as well as Resolution 194 calling for the right of return.

Should the Security Council not seek to implement the resolutions it has adopted to achieve peace in the region, we as Palestinians must turn to the UN General Assembly to assume its responsibility. Should attempts continue to obstruct our efforts to achieve the full membership of the State of Palestine in the United Nations and to protect our people and their rights to their independent state, we will resort to the United Nations again for a referendum on the legal procedures and proceed with political steps to that end. We hope and are confident that the General Assembly will entirely shoulder its responsibilities.

Social Media Change Nature of Discourse

The Palestinian media discourse has suffered from a perceivable weakness and a bitter inability to present the Palestinian political vision and convey the suffering and the true image of the conflict with the occupying Israeli state during the past decades; and here we are not in a position to list the nature of this shortcoming and its causes. However, events compel us to shift the Palestinian media discourse to a new stage that keeps pace with technological changes based on better exploitation of the images and use of the discourse of the 21st century to deliver the message to various parts of the world. We saw what the social media did during the May 2021 protest demonstrations and the significant impact of the young Palestinian volunteers who conveyed an authentic image of the events that changed and refuted the traditional Israeli narratives supported by the American media. This has had an impact on the scale of the large condemnation of the Israeli aggression, represented by mass marches that took place in American and European cities and calls for sanctions against Israel in a precedent not earlier known to the American public.

The Relationship with the U.S. Administration

Throughout the implementation of this program, the Palestinian leadership must adopt the most effective method to deal with the U.S. Administration and distance itself from a direct clash with the Biden administration. The aim is to deny the U.S. Administration any opportunity to evade the moral obligation put forward during Biden’s election campaign or to avoid domestic political pressure by claiming that it was the Palestinians who took an extreme political position that brought about the status quo.

Rebuilding the PLO; achieving national conciliation and ending the division between Fateh and Hamas; rearranging the Palestinian home from inside while restoring democracy and the rule of law; and achieving consensus on a national struggle program that takes into account national, regional, and international considerations, will play a positive role for the sake of peace because it will strengthen the Palestinian leadership in its efforts to achieve a just and acceptable political settlement to the conflict, which is a shared Israeli-Palestinian interest.