Ishtayeh’s Government between the Possible and the Required By: Hani Al-Masri

I have always believed and still believe in the necessity of forming a Government of National Unity, under a comprehensive national agreement which includes the political program, the foundations for partnership, PLO and PA, and consensual democracy, with the elections at its core. However, winds do not blow as the vessels wish, yet, this doesn’t mean that we shall hope or work on causing the government to fail, instead, the duty calls on us, in light of the positive signs expressed by the assigned Prime Minister Mohammed Ishtayeh, to support any positive step and oppose any negative one, on the ground that the standard of judgment for or against such step shall not be based on what shall be done, nonetheless, it shall be based on what can be done, particularly in the area of halting and reversing the ongoing deterioration at almost all levels and areas, which persistence and continuation threaten with scourge and utter devastation.

Based on the foregoing, I present the following observations and suggestions:

First: the scope of internal and external challenges faced by the Palestinian cause creates the need for resolving and achieving victory over these challenges. The thing which requires something greater than a government in which some people are involved and the others are opposed, such as the national consensus on unity based upon the comprehensive package solution and the preparation for holding elections. However, conducting elections under occupation and in light of factional divisions and mutual demonization does not lead to unity, but rather to separation and belligerency, that is in case the elections were held in the first place.

In order to form a government which includes everyone, it would not be sufficient to say that this is a government of all, but it needs to turn into reality. How would it be the government of all when main factions are not offered to participate in such government, and when other main factions of the PLO boycott this government?

In this context, one of the new government’s judgment standards shall be determined by its level of contribution to the creation of an environment which enables us to achieve national unity, as unity is not just an option, however, it is a national necessity. Moreover, the government could never succeed without a political, economic and popular incubators, unfortunately, such incubators are not available or not sufficient. Consequently, the sooner a consensus or unity government is formed, the better.

Speaking of the required of Ishtayeh’s Government, it is worth mentioning that the basic political files are not in the government’s hands, but in the hands of the President in his capacity as the President of both the PA and PLO which he controls and governs, and such matter has a profound impact on the government. Thus, the government should convince the President to change the unsuccessful and previously adopted approaches, or at least devoting a reasonable margin to the government, enabling it to work and offering it prospects for success. This matter must have been agreed upon during the assignment and acceptance. Therefore, the government is expected, for example, to perform all it can to reduce the burden, preserve citizen’s dignity and rights, and support citizens’ resilience.

Second: the government is required to develop a detailed plan which includes the exact plans intended to be achieved, in a clearer and more extensive manner than in the letters of assignment and response. It should also determine what it wants and what it can do, away from generalities and slogans, in order for the government to be held accountable for what it has undertaken. For example, the plan should include the way in which the government will deal with the budget deficit and the Israeli cut off of Palestinian tax revenues, it should also discuss the available realistic alternatives, and how it will make the achievement of unity a top priority?

In addition, the government should include completely new figures, who are competent, loyal and belonging to citizens and homeland, particularly from youth and women, in adequate proportions, and not as a kind of accessories. The government should also represent refugee communities to embody the unity of people, and to respect and reconstruct the institution which was totally eliminated, as well as studying policies, decisions and planning work before implementation, and examining all possibilities before making decisions in order to ensure proper decision- making.

Third: Gaza Strip is an integral part of Palestine, as it is the tank of national patriotism and the second pillar of the Palestinian State’s pillars. It is a natural right that is recognized internationally, and it requires common struggling and battling to put an end to the occupation and achieve national independence and sovereignty, whereby, the unification of divided institutions or creating the conditions for such unification must be the government’s main concern.

In this regard, the government cannot continue to justify punitive actions practiced against the Strip, nevertheless, the government should lift such punitive actions and refrain from taking any new actions, as the Strip suffers enough from the blockade and aggression exercised by the occupation, which is primarily responsible for the suffering of our people over there. Gaza also suffers enough from “Hamas” Authority which staged a “coup” and still considers the preservation of its unilateral authority as a top priority that transcends all.

Fourth: the existing realities, at the local, Arab and international levels, indicate that there is no forthcoming national solution, the Palestinian State won’t be established in the near future and the main challenge that we face is a plan developed to liquidate the Palestinian cause, entitled “Trump’s Deal”, such plan would be implemented whether the deal was put forward or not. The main concern of such plan is the occupation’s interest, and their established facts, thus, efforts must be focused on thwarting this plan, rather than only opposing it, and this requires to:

Strengthen the steadfastness of the Palestinian people and its continued presence on the land of Palestine, particularly in Jerusalem and areas at risk of confiscation, annexation, and the Israeli’s army and settlers’ aggression. In addition to the reconsideration of the functional and administrative structure of the Authority, including all of its organs and ministries to become an Authority for people, not for specific faction or centers of power, and this can be achieved through transforming the security services into national services instead of factional ones. At this point, we shall caution against filling the institutions, ministries, security services and government with more figures who belong to Fatah Movement, in light of the enormous amount of people who wish to become ministers and seek promotions.

Ensuring and guaranteeing the citizen’s dignity, rights and freedoms, which requires the support of judiciary as an independent authority, the support of media freedom to perform its role as a fourth estate and the repeal of laws and halting repressive procedures and practices which restrict media freedom and other sectors.

As well as the reconsideration of the budget structure, as priority shall be given to the basic needs and interests, on the basis of reducing the security share which has varied from 23-36% of the Authority’s budget since the establishment of the PA, and allocating greater shares to agriculture and industry, in addition to making investments in the so-called (c) areas and in the besieged Gaza Strip, as well as the education and health sectors which witness a deterioration that must be stopped.

Furthermore, the development of a genuine austerity plan that shall affect people in top positions, privileged, businessmen and large enterprises, however, such plan shall not affect junior employees and poor workers, in addition to refraining from imposing new taxes and fees, and from cross-borrowing from banks and elsewhere which has amounted to alarming rates.

The current crisis must be handled on the grounds that it is a section of the broad dilemma which must be overcome, as such crisis is the result of Oslo Agreement and its commitments. Therefore, it is necessary to develop gradual plans to implement the resolutions of the National Council, instead of continuing to speak about the formation of committees to develop plans which never come to light, whereas the resolutions remain mere words on paper, the thing that affects the trust and credibility left in the leadership and Authority.

Fifth: the bet shall be on the Palestinian people and their capabilities, competencies and creativity, who have always proved that they heed the call. In order for people to do everything possible, the gap between the Authority, leadership and people must be bridged, noting that it is a very wide gap, and the key of achieving such matter shall be through preserving the citizen’s dignity, rights, freedoms and interests which are constantly violated, with impunity.

Such bet can achieve success through enabling Palestinian people, of all segments, to assume their responsibilities along with the government, whereby the integration of the public, private and non-governmental sectors and the formation of economic and other groups enable people to be aware of the things that are being done, and consequently, open the way for accountability, the thing which would relatively make up for the absence of the Legislative Council.

The bet on the United States has lost as well as the change from within Israel, moreover, the bet on the cessation of cutting off clearance funds after the elections will lose, because such decision is a part of multiple comprehensive campaign that is poised to grow and increase in order to force the leadership to accept the liquidation plan, or at least, to coexist with it, this campaign aims also at starving people, limiting their awareness and preparing them for accepting economic peace, away from the national rights. The thing which creates the need to proceed with changing the shape, functions and commitments of Authority, in order to become at the service of the national project and a tool in the hands of the Organization which institutions need to be reconstructed to include various political and social spectrum.

I have started the article by speaking of unity, and I shall conclude with the same. Although difficult, unity can be achieved if there is conviction and will, and since the serious risks threaten everyone with no exception, and everyone falls within the weight of comprehensive dilemma, then, unity-and only unity- shall be the key to national salvation.

Unity will be achieved when Fatah Movement is convinced that the time of dominance and unilateralism practiced over the institution and the monopoly exercised on leadership has passed, also, it will be achieved when Hamas Movement is convinced that its “coup” and control over the Strip are one of the leading causes to the occurrence and continuation of factional divisions. Whereas partnership within a single political regime is the magical solution, and unity is a goal which is worth striving for, regardless of its difficulty or even possibility, as history is full of events where the unachievable was achieved.

Finally, I wish the Government success, and to stay away from the endless problems and challenges.