Palestinian elections must usher in a new era of unity and progress

The Palestinian people and their friends are waiting for a leadership decision setting a date for parliamentary and presidential elections as a way out of the current political impasse. There are high hopes that they will also provide a solution to the many problems, issues and complexities that now dominate Palestinian life and are on the verge of paralysing it.

It is no secret that such elections are a constitutional right for the Palestinians. They who have been and remain plagued by a colonial-settler occupation must be able to exercise their right to choose who will represent them.

Having free and fair elections will help in the reconciliation process; all mediation efforts have failed for over 12 years, during which time the Palestinians have lost a lot of their precious blood, status and reputation. Pessimism has dominated the Palestinian scene and the division has become one of the constants of the cause and, in the eyes of some, an almost inevitable outcome.

What’s more, it is necessary to change the leadership to allow new blood and younger representatives to play a role during a critical stage that most affects their future. This is especially the case given the Trump administration’s ties to the occupation state, while the rest of the West is too cowardly to take a lead on seeking peace and justice for Palestinians. And the Arab world, meanwhile, has its collective head in the sand so as not to upset Washington, upon which it depends for its protection.

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Holding elections will mean a radical and necessary review of the Palestinian strategy based on negotiations since Madrid and Oslo, and the danger of continuing this destructively passive approach. After all, the occupation state has basically declared its abandonment of the Oslo Accords by annexing all of Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, and looks set to do the same to the Jordan Valley and major illegal settlement blocs, all with Washington’s blessing. Indeed, the US has backed the occupation up in every respect by moving its embassy to Jerusalem and ending financial support for the UN Agency which looks after Palestinian refugees. It has also declared that settlements are not “incompatible” with international law, even though the world regards them as illegal. Meanwhile, Israel has passed the “Nation-State Law” confirming itself as a “Jewish State” while depriving the Palestinian people of their right to self-determination and an independent state in their own land.

A picture taken from the Israeli settlement of Gilo in Jerusalem on 17 April 2019 [THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty]

A picture taken from the Israeli settlement of Gilo in Jerusalem on 17 April 2019 [THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty]

Elections should not just mean new faces, but also a new strategy after the failure of the current process based on the recognition of the Zionist enemy on 78 per cent of the historic land of Palestine. We need a strategy based on a return to priorities and to assert that Palestine — all of occupied Palestine — is the homeland of the Palestinian people and they do not accept its fragmentation. The new strategy should be based on a return to all forms of resistance as the way to liberate all of the land, from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea.

Elections are a confirmation to our friends and our foes alike that the perseverant, steadfast and resisting Palestinian people can practise democracy in its finest form to choose who will represent them and lead them out of the Oslo tunnel. They will begin a new stage of the struggle and resistance to defeat the occupation, establish a state with Jerusalem as its capital, and allow all refugees to return.

In short, there is no alternative to the elections, and they must be inclusive of all Palestinian communities, within occupied Palestine and in the diaspora, in order to end the division. The duly elected leadership must adopt a new strategy based on the abolition the Oslo Accords, withdrawal of recognition of the occupation state, and opening the doors to resistance to end the occupation of our land. In short, the elections must usher in a new era of unity and progress.

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