In light of the renewed talking about initiatives proposed to heal the situation and bring both FATTAH and HAMAS to the negotiation table, and in order to evaluate the national and Arabic initiatives put forward so far in this line, and to strengthen the mechanisms of such talks, the Palestinian Council for foreign Relations along with Pal-Think for Strategic Studies have held a discussion session on Saturday January twelfth, 2008, in Gaza city. The session was moderated by Dr. Zeyad Abu Amre, member of the PLC and Omar Shaban, head of Pal Think for strategic studies . The session was attended by twenty participants who represent PLC members, politicians, journalists, university professors, private sector and researchers. More importantly, four youth who are active in the community were invited to present the youth point of views on the issue Discussion was opened with the fairly new, yet recurring issue of attacks against the American School north of Gaza strip as such incidents are extremely dangerous for the harm they’re causing to the Palestinians’ reputation. Participants in the discussion have agreed that despite of the fact that nothing directly ties hamas to the events, it is still the deposed government’s responsibility to protect the school as well as other international institutions inside of Gaza Strip since it accepted the responsibility of providing safety and security; and thus it’s became essential that hamas condemns these attacks and find out who the culprits are and prosecute them in order to prevent such incidents.
Followed that attempts for brainstorming the reasons which prevented reaching national reconciliation after six months of the mid-June events in Gaza strip.
Reasons that prevented reaching national reconciliation:
- Conditions put by the two sides of the conflict.
- The varied political stances.
- No real wish for partnership.
- The lack of confidence.
- The severity of the event and the continuous steps taken on the ground.
- Fears of the dialogue or what it may lead to.
- Personal interests.
- Regional forces that have significant influence over the tow parties.
- The weak present mediation.
- The ambiguity of each side’s demands.
- The state of anticipation and waiting for Arab and International intervention.
- The weakness of public and community pressure.
- Complications of the regional situation ( Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq) .
The crowd have attempted to discuss each of the reasons separately where all agreed not to give the regional factor any more effect than the other ones. Omar Sha’ban, president of Pal-Think for Strategic Studies, has stressed that the reconciliation process depends on four factors: 1- the formula for reconciliation. 2- The mediating group. 3- Timing and general atmosphere. And 4- readiness of conflicting sides for reconciliation. He has also clarified that all proposed initiatives for talks were valuable and had many common denominators but all have lacked the persistence of the mediating groups which did not exert enough of an effort did not enjoy patience and perseverance. These initiatives also lacked the community support and pressure.
Dr. Ghazi Hamad , spokesperson of the HAMAS government browsed through the experience that led to the Mecca accord which was the basis for forming the national unity government and asserted that national reconciliation does not need a lot of efforts especially that the current atmospheres are more ready than ever. Dr. Hamad has asserted that the atmosphere inside HAMAS movement is moving towards national accord. He explained that , in his opinion, the weakness of the initiatives proposed and the lack of continuing efforts by the mediators was the reason why nothing has been achieved until today.
The youths part of discussion came to clarify that the public pressure is weak and is almost not there, and that national reconciliation has to start on the public level in order to start public campaigns that can be used to inform the youths and convince them of the importance of ending this situation instead of imposing political solutions on them that may not be enough to end their feuds form within.
The conclusion was made that in order to reach a quick and effective solution, mechanisms for implementing the following steps must be found:
1- How to initiate dialogue.
2- How to rebuild trust.
3- Finding a strong mediator that can penetrate both groups.
In conclusion, participants stressed the importance of starting a strong national campaign in order to get some public pressure and reach strong and independent mediators that may be able to penetrate the situation. There is an internal and external readiness for ending the crisis, but as previously mentioned, the solution has to come from within, followed by the international support and sponsorship. The lack of a strong mediator has contributed to the continuation of this crisis. The crowd has agreed that it is necessary to find some fair mediation that can be accepted by both Fattah and HAMAS, where it can be a group of unbiased public figures that can move smoothly between the two groups.
At the end of the session, it has been agreed upon the following:
– Continuing these sessions.
– Starting to look for a mediating group.
– Reinforcing public support especially amongst the youths for the reconciliation efforts