The Palestinians and their friends have grown tired of negotiations, of consultations, and summit meetings between Fatah and Hamas. Talk abounds about undoing the results of the coup d’état and ending the state of division and restoring unity. Yet action on the ground remains limited and contradicts the aspirations of a tortured people whose pain has grown exponentially as a result of an occupation exacerbated by the agony of division.
Palestinians have lost interest in all the sessions, conferences and mediations. The solution lies in Gaza and Ramallah, and will only come through elections. For elections, after all, are the pillar, the source and the instrument of true legitimacy. Legitimacy cannot exist without elections — be they presidential, parliamentary or municipal.
The president’s term has expired, as has that of the Legislative Council. They both are now devoid of true legitimacy and must, if they truly respect the source of their authority, petition the people of the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza. They must also turn to the ballot boxes in order to renew their mandates, restore that lost legitimacy and receive the approval of Palestinian society, which entrusted them with the state’s institutions and powers.
President Mahmoud Abbas keeps repeating that he will not run for an additional term in office. Hamas would be smart to use this gesture to strengthen its position. The president will not voluntarily run again for personal reasons, as well as others that are simply beyond his control:
First, being president is a tiring job, requiring great sacrifices of a man known to shy away from public office. He played an integral part in shaping events and influenced decisions without stealing the spotlight or asking for recognition during the reign of late President Yasser Arafat.
Second, he truly yearns for his term to end after having restored the unity of Palestinian institutions, fallen victim to a coup d’état and witnessing the division of society. He has an overwhelming desire to put an end to the repercussions of the events that took place in 2007 so that he may be remembered for his January 2006 achievement. It will go down in history that the second legislative elections were held during his term in office — elections that Hamas boasted were transparent and fair, gave it a majority in parliament, and occurred during Abbas and Fatah’s security services reign, but against which it later rebelled. President Abbas accepted those election results, and commissioned Ismail Haniyeh, as majority leader, to form the first unilateral government, and then the second coalition government prior to the coup. Abbas must therefore be given credit for accepting the results, submitting to the will of the people, respecting their desires, and dealing with their repercussions with a high degree of national responsibility, irrespective of any agreements or disagreements he had with Hamas.
Third, he realizes that the Arab Spring revolutions that toppled leaders as important or even more so than he — such as Hosni Mubarak, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Ali Abdullah Saleh and Moammar Gadhafi — succeeded because those leaders had lost their legitimacy. He knows that he cannot stay in power without the people either renewing his mandate or entrusting it to someone else. Hamas must understand this fact and strive to renew its legitimacy through the ballot box. The leaders that were ousted also had honorable political histories. Mubarak was a hero of the October (Yom Kippur) War, Qadhafi liberated Libya from the American bases, Ben Ali brought modernity to his country, while Saleh united Yemen. Yet, they all became victim to their egos, tightened their grip on power, rejected others, and lost the legitimacy that only the ballot box can give. This is what ultimately sealed their fate and led to the events that transpired.
Fourth, Abbas is aware of the inflexibility, extremism, arrogance and racism of Israeli society, and the impact that those traits have on the Israeli government. A long-term national plan is needed to destabilize the cohesiveness and strength of Israeli society, in order to infiltrate its ranks and gain favor among its constituents so that they may look kindly upon the legitimate and just demands of the Palestinian people. Furthermore an agenda must be set in place to isolate, expose and invalidate Israeli policies. This must be accomplished without delay as Israel continues with its settlement activities, maintains its Judaization of Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley, while expelling Palestinians from their lands. Abbas has transcended being the president of a people who need such plans and agendas, to become an expert in both the following issues:
1. Infiltrating Israeli society.
2. Winning over world public opinion in support of the righteous cause of his people. Despite that, time is not on his side.
Many factors need to come together in order to achieve Palestinian unity. Most important among them are the following three: the merging of all agendas, the unification of institutions and of all militant forces against a superior enemy.
Abbas knows full well the reality on the ground, and his pride compels him to relinquish his position and hand over responsibility to others. Perhaps he is giving his people an example of the type of leaders that they deserve to have; leaders who would sacrifice, endure and be as brave as he was. Different times require different types of leaders, and the Palestinian people’s future leadership must be born from the reality on the ground in the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza. The Palestinians must choose their leaders through the ballot box, as is the case in the society of their enemy. For, if Israeli leaders are chosen democratically, then the Palestinians have no choice but to elect their leaders through a similar democratic process, which, regardless of voter prejudices, is solely dependent on the results of ballot boxes.