Amid the ongoing regional and international developments, the Palestinian cause remains a central issue in the Arab world. As Arabs, it is our national duty to give it a priority and examine the extent to which it is affected by the current normalization agreements, the most recent of which was the Sudan-Israel accord on 23 October. Israel’s normalization agreements with Arab countries beg the question as to how the pacts can resolve the Palestinian cause and end the Arab-Israeli conflict.
This article tackles the demands of the Palestinians amid the accelerating developments that surely are not in their favor. How can the Palestinians stand their ground or, in the best case, be able to withstand a confrontation? In my opinion, no matter the injustice the Palestinians are enduring, their means to confront the current developments should remain within the framework accepted by the international community.
As an Egyptian, I believe the Palestinian cause is of vital importance to Egyptian national security. This is why, throughout history and until present, this central issue has been a top priority for the Egyptian political leadership and one of the main pillars of Egypt’s foreign policy.
On every occasion, Egypt puts the Palestinian cause in the limelight. During the Egyptian-Cypriot-Greek summit, held on 21 October in Nicosia, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi stressed the need to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on the basis of international legitimacy, ending the current stalemate, and resuming negotiations.
Egypt is highly trusted by all Palestinian factions and other concerned parties, as it is always keen to maintain the constants of the cause. President Al-Sisi has repeatedly affirmed that Egypt agrees to what the Palestinians accept or reject. Personally, I strongly believe that this principle in Egyptian policy will never change.
For so many years, Egypt has hosted tens of meetings of Palestinian factions. On 4 May 2011, Palestinian actions signed a reconciliation agreement in Cairo. In November 2011, the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal was concluded. Egypt also succeeded in stopping the three Israeli aggressions on Gaza in 2009, 2012 and 2015. Moreover, two conferences were held to reconstruct Gaza in Sharm El-Sheikh in 2010 and in Cairo in 2015. These are a few examples of Egypt’s efforts regarding the cause.
Egypt was never against any steps taken by any country to resolve the Palestinian cause. It always welcomes and supports the Palestinian foreign policy that aims at resolving the conflict and improving the living conditions of the Palestinians.
Back to the same question, what do the Palestinians want at a time they are dealing with very difficult factors?
There are five main factors:
- The first: The ongoing intra-Palestinian division for more than 14 years. Meanwhile, no party offered any solution to this catastrophic situation.
- The second: Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is not flexible enough to implement the two-state solution, and the best it can do is implement the American peace plan that is mainly in the interest of Israeli security.
- The third: The annexation of Palestinian territories has increased since the American peace plan was launched in January 2020. This October, the annexation increased to a great extent. Earlier this year, about 12,000 housing units were built, of which about 5,000 were built over the past week.
- The fourth: Instead of an official declaration, Israel is annexing the Jordan Valley gradually and publicly, according to a systematic approach. It will announce the official annexation at the time it sees fit.
- The fifth: The Arab-Israeli normalization is being adopted by many countries recently. On the other hand, the Palestinians, who object to normalization agreements, are unable to change this reality.
Through Israel’s escalating settlement policies in the West Bank and Eastern Jerusalem, Netanyahu aims at delivering two important messages. The first is a message to the Israeli right affirming the settlement policy will never stop. The second is that Israel’s normalization agreements with the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan, which were able to temporarily suspend the official annexation of the Jordan Valley, will never succeed in stopping Israel’s settlement policy.
The Palestinians are totally against the one-state solution, the same way they are against the US peace deal. The one-state solution is a malicious idea that aims at ending the Palestinian cause altogether. It is worth noting that Israel will not agree to the one-state solution unless it becomes absolutely certain that the Palestinians will be second-class citizens with no rights in a Jewish country. The Palestinians will not agree to this situation, and they have all the right to object to it.
The Palestinians must bear in mind two important steps:
- The first step is that they must be united in one political position, in which the views of the three branches of the Palestinian Authority, organizations, factions and the Palestinian people are combined. They should leave no room for their criticism by the international community by facing any attempts to divide them into different sectors. However, the differences of views on the Palestinian arena shall not disappear, but what is needed at that stage is for these differences to be set aside from the agreed-upon constants of the Palestinian cause, especially regarding Jerusalem and the refugees.
- The second step is that despite the current problems Palestinians suffer from, they should be keen not to lose the Arab incubator. The reason for this is that this necessary incubator must be always present, even partially, whatever problems or breaches they might endure.
In my view, the Palestinians at this stage should focus on reconciliation, ending division, and turning all the positive impetus, that resulted from the secretaries-general meeting in September and all the meetings that followed, into action.
Moreover, the higher interest of the country must be prioritized and talk of obstructions or parties that do not want reconciliation must stop immediately. Without this, the Palestinians can only blame themselves, especially in light of the following:
- Some parties criticize the Palestinian position for the failure of both the Palestinian Authority and the factions to end divisions despite previous agreements.
- Israel still claims it is hard to resume negotiations with a Palestinian Authority that is divided between the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
- Israel is keen to see the Palestinian divisions unending and Hamas in control in Gaza. Israel also has no objection to having Gaza as a small independent Palestinian state.
- The ongoing Palestinian divisions not only weaken the Palestinian position, but that of the Arab world as a whole. They also undermine Arab arguments for defending the Palestinian position.
- Egypt, which is authorized by the Arab League to pursue the reconciliation file, is ready to exert all efforts required to implement reconciliation agreements as soon as possible.
The conclusion is that the Palestinian leadership, factions and people should take the initiative now and start the necessary measures to end their divisions. The Palestinians’ main messages to the world now should be that they ended their differences and that they became united and more powerful to face the US peace plan, Israel’s settlement policies, annexation and normalization. This way, the Palestinians will not allow any party to impose a settlement that does not meet their legitimate demands.
In my opinion, if reconciliation, which is mainly the Palestinians’ responsibility, materializes, there will be positive changes in the interests of the Palestinian position. Without reconciliation, there will be more Arab and Islamic normalizations with Israel, and the US peace deal will be accelerated. What will open the door to establishing an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital is reconciliation and ending divisions.