This document is addressed to each and every Palestinian citizen wherever they may reside, and to all Palestinian factions, political forces, and communities. It has been drafted by a non-partisan group of national figures with diverse political backgrounds. We present this initiative over one year after the cancellation of the presidential and legislative elections and the insistence in February of this year on the convening of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Central Council in a manner that was legally and politically flawed. Amid the continued, severe deterioration of all aspects of Palestinian life, which has been met with political complacency, this initiative is an effort at preventing imminent and total collapse. We seek to push toward a national mobilization that can effect deep, extensive change to the Palestinian political system and rebuild its institutions, with the aim of empowering our people to confront the massive national and existential threats that we face.
The Palestinian people is experiencing a state of decline unprecedented since the Nakba, a cumulation of the absence of democracy and good governance alongside unbridled Israeli oppression, murder and settler-colonialism, in addition to fragmentation among the Arab countries and waning regional and global support. We have so far been unable to confront all of this and to institute the necessary internal changes, a vital step toward contending with the present decline and averting an even worse situation.
Complacency prevails under the presiding integrated system of clientelism, in which a security regime oversees the doling out of punishment and reward. Toxic division also prevails, with the systems and practices in Gaza faring no better than those in the West Bank. The Palestinian people now faces an insistence by the group in power to remain in place and reap the benefits. This is happening as the Palestinian cause disappears from the international agenda, with the exception of some timid efforts at de-escalation and improving living conditions, as part of what is termed “economic peace.”
In light of these circumstances, it would appear as though the world were conspiring against us. In truth, it is the deteriorated state of Palestinian affairs that prevents us from facing these challenges and availing of the global popular solidarity with our cause. To make up for years of Palestinian complacency, all of us must take the initiative and innovate a new and creative path toward change, as opposed to reverting to orthodox ideas and solutions that have failed us time and again. This need is even more pressing amid massive and dire regional and global transformations with implications for the Palestinian cause.
In line with our understanding of this reality, we put forward this political document laying out a vision for the extensive change necessary, which includes: the rebuilding of Palestinian institutions, especially the Palestine Liberation Organization, through a new Palestinian National Council that is re-formed with general elections; the restoration of national unity and an end to division; the formation of a new government not subject to unjust preconditions; and a political transition and the mechanism necessary to achieve that.
This vision necessitates broad national consensus, as well as a commitment to democracy, good governance and all the elements needed to confront Israeli aggression and challenges. A necessary practical step toward this end is to convene a national forum and dialogue leading to consensus around a vision and mechanism for transition. Out of unremitting concern for the general state of affairs, we believe the door should remain open to any and all sides who accept the broad strokes outlined herein, particularly the need for deep and extensive change and the call for general elections.
Diagnosing the current state of Palestinian affairs:
1. The Palestinian political system is losing its legitimacy at an accelerated pace due to several factors, most prominently, the absence of presidential and legislative elections since 2005 and 2006, respectively, and the cancellation of the elections that had been set for 2021, in addition to the supplanting of institutions with authoritarian rule. Moreover, the foundations of good governance have been eroded while basic rights and freedoms are systematically violated, amid an absence of the rule of law, widespread corruption and a decline in living conditions. Meanwhile, the political rift endures, and the political regime finds itself at a dead end with no viable alternative program, opting instead to coexist with Israeli policies and refrain from confronting them in any meaningful way.
2. The destructive repercussions of the unabating and widening geographic, political and institutional rift pose a massive threat to the Palestinian people and all of its individual and collective rights, undermining our ability to lead a unified struggle to end the occupation and achieve our national rights.
3. The last meeting of the PLO Central Council was unlawful and politically flawed, dealing damage to the PLO, deepening the political division and thwarting the Algerian initiative for national reconciliation. The outcomes of this meeting are therefore considered null and void.
4. All Palestinian factions, whether under the PLO umbrella or otherwise, shoulder a tremendous responsibility. These factions are in a state of general decline that necessitates comprehensive political reassessment toward the restoration of their role and efficacy. This must include: the formulation of a new Palestinian social contract grounded in respect for the Palestinian citizen and foregrounding their dignity and rights; the restoration in practical terms of the people’s role as the source of all authority and legitimacy; the commitment to national unity, political partnership, rule of law and the rights of citizenship; and an absolute commitment to the democratic nature of the Palestinian political system, which is to be reconstituted through cyclical and regular elections on a permanent basis.
5. The Palestinian struggle persists within a framework of unity of our people, land and historical narrative. Every sector of our society has an integral role, including our people’s struggle under occupation and in forced exile, against oppression, killing, collective punishment, settler colonialism, racism, discrimination, displacement and siege, and toward securing international solidarity and support. This struggle is complemented and made whole by the strife of our people who endured the 1948 Nakba and remained on their land to face all forms of discrimination and attempts at fragmentation and erasure of their national identity by Israel.
Despite the lack of a unified vision and strategy for resistance and political action, our people has not ceased its struggle and uprisings, continuing to pay with lives and freedom in defense of Jerusalem and our Christian and Muslim holy sites, at the forefront of which is the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque, thwarting attempts at the Israelification of the Al-Aqsa compound and the enforcement of a time-space division therein.
The path to change:
1. There must be a collective effort at effecting deep and extensive change to the political system, moving beyond what is currently established to found something new. This begins with a national dialogue yielding consensus on the composition, remit and duration of a transitional body, followed by consensus within the framework of this body regarding a tangible vision for change. General elections are then convened, the Palestinian National Council is reconstituted and the remaining clauses of the agreed-upon vision are implemented.
2. The commitment to the democratic nature of the Palestinian political system is to be affirmed in accordance with Palestine’s foundational documents, as is the right of the Palestinian people to hold regular, free and fair elections. It must be affirmed that the people are the source of all legitimacy and that there is no alternative to elections and national consensus.
3. The Palestinian factions and all constituents of the Palestinian people wherever they may reside, individuals, political factions, institutions, communities in exile and movements must all commit to dialogue and a consensus-based national decisionmaking formulation among all national and civil forces. In addition, they must acknowledge that the political scene has changed and that there are new actors as well as youth and civil movements, all of whom have the right to be part of the proposed transitional process and the political system that is to be reconstituted.
4. The Palestine Liberation Organization is to be upheld as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people wherever they reside. It must be affirmed that the PLO needs to be lifted out of its crisis and rebuilt so that it is able to meet the challenges.
5. The PLO is to be rebuilt and its role upheld through the formulation of a new Palestinian National Council on the basis of elections. In light of the impossibility of holding elections in some key Palestinian constituencies, we put forward that two-thirds of the council members be made up in equal part of elected members of the Palestinian Legislative Council and elected representatives of communities in exile and refugee camps, in addition to trade union and syndicate representatives, after they integrate and hold sound and democratic elections in a manner that asserts their professional and representational standing.
The remaining third of the National Council would be selected by national consensus in accordance with clearly defined criteria, with stipulations regarding the representation of specific sectors, such as academics, professionals, experts and artists, in addition to Palestinian factions that, for political reasons, do not wish to run for Legislative Council office. In this context, it must be made clear that membership in the Palestinian National Council through this path does not necessarily equate to membership in the PLO’s leadership bodies, which ought to be limited to those parties that are active on the ground and to individuals with
broad national support. However, this formula ensures that none are excluded and that the PLO’s inclusive nature is reaffirmed.
6. The rebuilding of the PLO must include consensus on a new National Charter and political program grounded in shared aims that are committed to by all. Consensus must be reached regarding the duties of the PLO, with the central national goal laid out with utmost clarity. It must be granted as basic fact that the Palestinian people are the indigenous people of the country and rightful owners of the land, possessing the natural, historical right to statehood and that the Palestinian people adhere to their national identity, to their right to struggle to end military occupation, to exercise their right to self-determination and national independence in the State of Palestine on the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital, whether through a political settlement or otherwise, and irrespective of Israeli acquiescence. The political program must also include an affirmation of the right of return for Palestine refugees and their right to reparations and recovery of property. It must uphold the defense of the civil and national rights of our people in exile and places of refuge, in addition to supporting the struggle of our people who endured the 1948 Nakba and remained on their land to achieve individual and national equality as an indigenous people and to dismantle the present Israeli apartheid regime while providing for coordination and integration among their representatives and the Palestine Liberation Organization.
The path outlined above requires the formation of an interim body responsible for convening a national dialogue and implementing its outcomes, with this body’s tenure being limited to one year and with transparency as to its constituting members.
Membership in the interim body shall reflect the Palestinian reality as it truly exists at present, including the recent changes that took place ahead of the canceled elections. The body shall be formed through consensus and not as an alternative to any established bodies.
The success of this proposed mechanism requires an application of popular, political and legal pressure in order to mobilize support and effect change. The signatories of this document vow to contribute to this effort to achieve the desired ends.
We will all work to achieve national consensus, built upon a clear inclusive, participatory and democratic foundation and with the imperative of structural change, as outlined in this document. Upon achieving the necessary change, we seek to achieve national healing, which involves the people’s reclamation of stolen public funds and lands, their compensation for personal damages and losses, in addition to bringing those who have committed serious crimes, especially murder, to justice. Such a path would achieve our collective empowerment and allow us to confront Israeli aggression and settler-colonialism, as well as all other challenges, following in the footsteps of our martyrs, political prisoners and wounded.