Thirteen Years After the West Bank-Gaza Strip Split: Phased Policy Alternatives Between Reunification and Separation

The solutions proposed since the 2011 Cairo Agreement to restore unity between Fatah and Hamas have failed to reach the intended goal, in part because of their ambitious goal of restoring full reunification. This failure reflects the inability to overcome existing obstacles as both sides refuse to abandon their goal of dominating and controlling the other while strengthening their own positions and manipulating the political system. Today, we remain unable to develop a unified Palestinian vision able to overcome this division or put in place interim solutions to end it. Indeed, the Palestinian public seems to have lost hope of a quick fix as the results of a poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) in June 2020 reveal that about two-thirds of the public are pessimistic about the possibility of restoring unity in the near future.

Ending the division and unifying the West Bank and Gaza Strip enjoys a wide public support as a supreme national interest. Results of PSR Poll #75, conducted in February 2020, show a 90% support (89% in the West Bank and 91% in the Gaza Strip) for ending the division and unifying the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a response to the Trump plan and the Israeli annexation threat. Yet, only 29% of the public are optimistic about the prospects of reconciliation while 64% are not, according to the results of a PSR poll conducted in June 2020. Also, 41% believe that unity will not return and two separate entities will be established in the West Bank and Gaza while 40% believe unity will return, but after a long period; only 12% believe that it will return in the near future.

In light of the current deadlock in the efforts to restore full unity, this critical brief aims to review three phased or temporary alternatives: a confederation, a federal system, and a decentralized administration. The assessment of each of these alternatives is based on four main considerations: (1) the ability to shorten the transitional period to end the split, (2) acceptance by the Palestinian public, (3) the ability to protect the goal of state-building in the context of the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, and (4) the ability to positively affect a transition to democracy in the Palestinian political system.

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