Palestinians Discuss Future Relations Between the Two Parts of Historic Palestine (March 2011)

With the continuing crisis and division of the Palestinian people, and the hope generated by the revolutions in the Arab world, Palestinian academics, activists, and media came together for two days in Ramallah for a workshop on relations between Palestinians in the historic land of Palestine. The workshop was the initiative of Mada al-Carmel and Muwatin–The Palestinian Institute for the Study of Democracy, an organization in Ramallah.

In their comments opening the workshop, Dr. George Giacaman, executive director of Muwatin, and Dr.Nadim Rouhana, executive director of Mada, explained the workshop’s objectives. Dr. Giacaman described the workshop as a brainstorming session for a vision for the future. He noted that, given the Palestinian reality, and due to the Nakba, the Palestinian people were divided (Palestinians in Israel, Palestinians in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip, Palestinians in refugee camps, and Palestinians in exile). He added that, recently, there has been exceptional activity, especially on the internet, with calls for the election of a new Palestinian National Council, which would represent the entire Palestinian people, drawn from all over the world, and for election of a unified political body.

Dr. Rouhana emphasized the importance of the meeting, saying, “We are one people, which means that every part of the Palestinian people should share in political decision-making, in one way or another. We must consult among ourselves and take action to repair the divisions among the Palestinian people.” He called for the establishment of an organized framework for thinking about historic Palestine, in which representatives of all Palestinian groups take part.

During the course of the two days, the participants discussed such issues such as relations between Palestinians on the two sides of the Green Line and avenues for improving these relations; the status of Palestinian citizens of Israel in the negotiations; the Palestinian view of the status of Palestinian citizens of Israel in the event of a two-state solution; and the effect of a collapse of the two-state solution on intra-Palestinian relations. Other participants in the discussions were Dr. Huneida Ghanem, Dr. Thabet Abu Ras, Attorney Muhammad Dahleh, Ms. Suha Barghouthi, Mr. Hani Almasri, and Dr. Azmi Shuebi.

The participants raised a number of proposals and emphasized the need for institutionalizing and continuing the workshop’s discussion framework. It was decided to hold similar meetings and expand them to include representatives of political parties and movements as well as Palestinians from the refugee camps and from those in exile.