By Wasim Almasri*
As negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis continue in secret, OneVoice’s role to create positive discussion about them continues in public.
We are the only organization in Palestine actively engaging and conducting serious discussions about the talks with all levels of Palestinian society. This makes our outreach both unique and critical to achieving a Palestinian state.
The September 11 event was the biggest political gathering to date. OneVoice Palestine (OVP) organized a roundtable to discuss and evaluate the ongoing negotiations with the Israelis. Representatives from Palestinian political parties, security forces, civil society organizations, and a number of academics spoke to the negotiation process, Palestinian national interests, and national unity in a little over two hour workshop in Ramallah.
The workshop, entitled “Palestinian-Israeli Negotiations: A Tactical or Strategic Option,” raised a number of questions about the reasons to return to negotiations with the Israelis, in addition to the bases and references for them. Envisioning alternatives to successful or failed negotiations rounded out the discussion.
Fatah Central Committee Member Maj. Gen. Sultan Abul-Enein talked about Palestinian options in the reality of the Israeli occupation.
“Perhaps the option to talk about negotiations in a positive way is a very difficult one, but I understand the reasons for Palestinian leadership return to negotiations with the Israelis.”
While Maj. Gen. Abul-Enein didn’t elaborate, many reasons included the urgency to end the conflict and create a Palestinian state sooner rather than later given the current status quo.
Secretary General of the Palestinian People's Party, Bassam Salhi, explained that the public change in perception toward negotiations is the outcome of failed talks with the Israelis in the past, giving the examples of Oslo and Camp David.
“The best option for the Palestinian National Authority was to go to the United Nations to claim non-member observer status,” said Salhi. “We must expand the scope of negotiations to be imposed on an international level.”
Muhammad al-Madani, Member of Fatah Central Committee, made a number of observations about the title of the workshop.
“Negotiations are a tactical option for Palestinians, our goal is to establish a Palestinian state,” he said. “However, we must wonder, why negotiate? We must move past political differences and discuss what we will get from negotiating with the Israelis. We also should emphasize the importance of reaching an integrated Palestinian political structure throughout the process.”
The participants discussed the principles and references of the negotiations process and Palestinian political strategy during negotiations. Mr. Ramzi Rabah, member of the Political Bureau of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, added in this regard: “The negotiations are not a goal but a tool in our struggle against the occupation. We do not have a political national strategy and there is an absence of support for political decision making for Palestinian negotiators.”
The workshop also discussed the impact of internal reconciliation on the public in Palestine. On this point, member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, Abdullah Abdullah, argued that the Palestinian struggle should remain an international issue crowned by non-violent popular action.
“Negotiations are a national concern and shouldn't be affiliated with a faction or a political party,” Abdullah said. “It is one of the tools in our struggle against the Israeli occupation and it should preserve the Palestinian cause as a central global issue. There is a need for references to the achievements we have made and a dedicated support for these achievements. Non-member status in the UN was the first step and we should resort to the laws of international legitimacy.”
At the end of the workshop, Executive Director of OneVoice Palestine, Samer Makhlouf, spoke of the principles of negotiation and building consensus for non-violent popular resistance.
“There is a need to activate and motivate non-violent popular resistance to support the Palestinian negotiating team with the principles in mind,” Makhlouf said. “We must also think about the outcomes of negotiations and ask ourselves, what are the Palestinian alternatives in the event of failed negotiations or in the event of signing an agreement with the Israelis? What will be our next step? What will be the position of the Palestinian factions and political parties in the light of each event?”
Note: In the coming weeks, OVP is organizing a number of workshops and public events to support the efforts of the Palestinian leadership in the quest to achieve the two-state solution and an end to the conflict. OVP will continue to empower the public in Palestine to positively discuss negotiations and push for the adoption of a unified Palestinian national strategy. These will ensure the achievement of Palestinians’ national rights and creation of an independent Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders.
*Wasim Almasri is OneVoice Palestine’s communications officer.