Will 2016 be the year for new Palestinian leadership?
If the Obama administration’s prediction that 2016 will fail to witness the birth of the Palestinian state proves true, then this year should be dedicated to leadership transition.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, 81, needs to hand in his long-awaited resignation and Palestinians at large should be given the chance to choose a new leadership.
A number of obstacles continue to cause delays in holding elections. The absence of a unified single control over the West Bank and Gaza is the largest.
The PLO and Hamas signed numerous reconciliation agreements, but have not carried out their commitments.
Some blame external forces of wanting to perpetuate the split. The regional differences that pitted nationalists against Islamists reflected almost daily on the Palestinian conflict.
The problem is not the war on extremism, but rather the conflict with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Gulf countries, especially the UAE and Saudi Arabia, have no tolerance for this decades-old movement, insisting that it is the tree from which all religious extremism is branching out.
Palestinians, including many of the second generation of leaders, call for accommodation of fellow Palestinians who are aligned with the Brotherhood and insist that regional conflicts should not be allowed to be mirrored in Palestine.
Recently, a group of second-generation Fateh leaders, including Qadura Fares, Ahmad Ghneim, Muhammad Horani and Sirhan Dweikat made a secret visit to Qatar and met with Hamas leader Khalid Meshaal in order to assess for themselves what is needed to break up the logjam that has kept Rafah crossing closed and prevented parliamentary and presidential elections from taking place.
The obstacles are not solely external. The differences within Fateh are also looming larger and larger, and prevented the seventh congress from taking place.
The congress was due to take place last year, but was postponed more than once. The official line is that the congress cannot take place while Fateh cadres from Gaza are not allowed by Hamas to travel to the West Bank.
Many would argue that the more important reason is the growing differences regarding Mohammad Dahlan who was expelled from the movement and has been effectively unable to return to the occupied territories.
Other problems include differences with public figures who are not Fateh members. The attempts to restrict former prime minister Salam Fayyad and prevent his charity from working were a clear manifestation of this problem.
In Dahlan’s and Fayyad’s cases, the Palestinian courts refused to go along with the restrictive decisions and overturned the ruling of the Abbas administration against them.
A similar disagreement with former PLO Executive Committee secretary, Yasser Abed Rabo, also took place last year and the Palestinian National Council (PNC) speaker refused to go along with a scheme to push him out of the committee.
The above problems are typical of a leadership that has been in power too long.
The only way to remedy many of these problems is to go back to the Palestinian public and give it a chance to elect a totally new leadership.
The excuse that elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council and president cannot be held because of the split is no longer acceptable to the average Palestinian.
Similarly, the delay in revitalising the PNC is also crucial in terms of unifying Palestinian efforts and strategy.
Recently it has been suggested that safe and secure elections can be held online, bypassing physical and political barriers.
If there is a will to hold elections and to usher in a new leadership, a way can be found to carry them out.
2016 might or might not hold much hope for an end to the ugly decades-old Israeli occupation and illegal settlement enterprise, but it should be the year to clean up the Palestinian home and come out with a unified front that can garner the worldwide Palestinian population as well as the huge international solidarity and support Palestine has.