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Electoral Reform Project "Reconciliation and Elections: achievements, failures and scenarios"

2010-05-08

The final workshop of Electoral Reform Project was held on April 25, 2010 at the Best Eastern Hotel in Ramallah by The Arab Thought Forum and the Carter Center  under the title "Reconciliation and Elections: achievements, failures and scenarios" in order to shed light on the Palestinian political process and reconciliation. The project aimed at building consensus among Palestinian political factions, civil society and Central Election Commission on the legal electoral framework and reconciliation.

The workshop was very successful and attended by 78 people who represent political factions, civil society and women organizations, universities, municipalities, media organizations, Central Election Commission and independents.
Four major well known speakers talked for 15 minutes each on the various perspectives to reach consensus on major issues relating to reconciliation and unity and the obstacles that faced the achievement of such reconciliation. Those four speakers and topics were as follow:
• Dr. Nabil Sha’th, Fatah Foreign Relations Commissioner: The Guarantees of unity and democracy after reconciliation.

• Dr. Mahmoud Ramahi, Hamas PLC member: Reconciliation and how to be achieved.
• Khaleda Jarrar, PFLP official and PLC member: Electoral Reform Steering Committee and the role of political parties and prisoners in achieving reconciliation.
• Hani Masri, a Palestinian Writer and analyst: the impacts of division on the situation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.
The Meeting was moderated by Abd Al-Rahman Abu Arafeh, the Director of the Arab Though Forum who raised the following points: 

- Assistance of the Palestinian reconciliation and an end to division and to
- Contribute to restore the confidence of citizens in the electoral process after the international community punished the Palestinian people for their choice and unfair siege imposed on the Palestinians.
 
Abu Arafeh declared that the achievements of these goals were modest. In contrast, the project has achieved successes in the overall goal related to the treatment of technical matters that might face the electoral process, where he stressed that to make the amendments to be included in the law. Those amendments will only take several days if the conditions are ripe for reconciliation and the decision to go to the ballot boxes is made.
- A meeting between representatives of Fatah and Hamas was held before the workshop which is a very important achievement of the project that could bring the two sides together in one room to discuss reconciliation issues.

The main issues of focus by the speakers were as follow:

1. Dr. Nabil Sha’th / Member of the Central Committee of Fatah:
"Guarantees of unity and democracy after reconciliation”
- Dr. Nabil Sha’th stressed that the reconciliation and ending the division is the highest priority of the Palestinian people at this stage that without reconciliation and national unity, there is no hope to restore any of the rights of Palestinian people, either if the Palestinians adopt the path of peace and negotiations or war and armed struggle or popular non-violent resistance.
- Sha’th expressed his optimism and that he is quite confident that Palestinians can achieve reconciliation and end the division if there is a broad consensus between Fatah and Hamas on the vision of establishing the Palestinian state on the borders of the 1967 with East Jerusalem its capital and if there is a truce with Israel and assistance by the international community.
-  The current interim strategy of Fatah Movement is based on four items: popular resistance, international movement to impose siege on Israel, achievement of reconciliation and to continue building state institutions and support steadfastness. This strategy is the focus of an agreement between the two movements of Fatah and Hamas.

2. MP Dr. Mahmoud Ramahi / Change and Reform PLC Member

"Reconciliation and how to be achieved"
- Dr. Mahmoud Ramahi attributes the risks and challenges facing both the West Bank and Gaza Strip to the siege, the absence of a political horizon and continued incursions, noting that the division was affected the Palestinians of the Diaspora, which makes reconciliation and ending the division supreme interest and a priority for the Palestinian people as soon as possible.
- Holding elections is not the solution to the crisis and not a means of  reconciliation, especially if there are no adequate guarantees to respect the results of these elections and provide the appropriate atmosphere to hold them freely with free campaigning for all the candidates.
- The Egyptian paper is not the safest way to reconciliation because it rearranges the division in a similar way that took place after the signing of the Mecca agreement.
-  Consensus on the political agenda and forms of resistance, strategies and negotiations in addition to activating the PLO are the basic issues that require agreement prior to reconciliation and ending the division.

3. Mrs. Khalida Jarrar / Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine, PLC member

"The Electoral Reform Steering Committee and the role of factions and the prisoners in reconciliation"
- Mrs. Khaleda praised the positive spirit of optimistic speakers from the rival Hamas and Fatah movements, but stated that the division was deepened horizontally and vertically because the two major factions are seeking to dominate, stay in power, keep on the status quo and live with it, so reconciliation was not achieved until now.
- A diagnosis of the current situation confirms that the best entry to resolve the crisis, end the division and reach the reconciliation is to agree on a partnership with a comprehensive review of the political mechanism that prevailed in the Palestinian street since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority.
-  It will be dangerous if the political rapprochement in the positions of the two factions aims at the success of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations and not reconciliation.
- The partnership should not be bilateral (between Fatah and Hamas), but must be within the framework of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
- Holding elections without consensus may lead to a deeper split in Palestine.  Partnership and consensus between the total components of political action on the forms of struggle, resistance and negotiation is the principle to form a broad national front.
- The Prisoners’ Document should be taken into consideration and sponsored since the prisoners have supreme value and should be partners in decision making.
4. Hani al-Masri / Director of Badael Media Center, Writer and Analyst

"The impact of division on the Palestinians in Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza"

- The major obstacle that prevent reconciliation are the non-conviction of the two parties (Fatah and Hamas) in partnership because both sides want reconciliation to take place on the own terms of each.
- Hamas is very close to the political program of the PLO and its political perspective, however, the current program is not the program of PLO because of the two issues of territory swaps and refugee issues.
-  The other factors that impede reconciliation are the political program, the external and Israeli factors.
- The division is the hen that lays golden eggs for Israel in that it practices its policies with no united Palestinian response.
- There is a serious need to end the atmosphere of repression that accompanies the division both in the West Bank and Gaza.

• The most important points achieved by this workshop:
1. The two major parties, Fatah and Hamas, has held a meeting before the workshop and discussed reconciliation issues and how to express optimism.
2. The people attended spoke openly on the various obstacles facing the West Bank-Gaza reconciliation and conveyed the message to the political parties.
3. The other political parties vowed to support any initiative to end the division and to play more effective role in this regard.
4. There was consensus on reconciliation and to be followed by elections as a democratic mechanism to solve any future conflicts peacefully.
5. Important recommendations were set to solve the division issue represented in the following:
A. To agree on a political program and strategy internally and externally.
B. To consider the prisoners document as the bases for ending the division.
C. Not take unilateral steps by any party that violates the legislations and any potential agreement between Fatah and Hamas.
D. To consider the higher interests of the Palestinian people apart from the personal partisan interests.
E. To start good will gestures by both Fatah and Hamas such as releasing the political detainees and stop human rights violations.
F. More focus and support should be paid to the Israeli practices in all the Palestinian territory.


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