What is next for Palestine?

Fourteen Palestinian intellectuals tell us about the way forward for Palestine.

A Palestinian boy takes part in a protest marking the anniversary of Nakba in Gaza on May 15, 2014 [File Photo: Mohammed Salem/Reuters]

It is time for a new beginning.

US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital came as no surprise to most Palestinians, for, after all the US’ political backing and military funding of Israel is older than the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Trump’s decision, however, has exposed the “peace process” for the last time as a complete charade. It also exposed the Palestinian leadership as corrupt, subservient and politically bankrupt.

If the Palestinian leadership had a minimal degree of accountability, it would immediately undertake a total overhaul within its ranks and activate all Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) institutions, bring all factions together under the umbrella of the PLO and declare a unified strategy inspired by the aspirations and sacrifices of the Palestinian people.

And if Palestinians are to start anew, they have to commence their journey with fresh political discourse, with new political blood, and a new future outlook that is based on unity, credibility and competence. None of this can ever take place with the same old faces, the same tired language and the same dead-end politics.

Since Trump signed the Jerusalem Embassy Law on December 6, many Palestinian intellectuals voiced their ideas about the proper course of action for their leadership and their people.

There has been much talk about a new Palestinian strategy. Palestinian officials have “threatened” to shift the struggle to a one-state solution – as opposed to continuing to pursue the defunct “two-state solution”, to exclude the US from the “peace process” and so on; but there are few indications that their discourse is anything but transient and opportunistic. 

In this article, I sought the opinion of 14 independent Palestinian intellectuals from across Palestine and the diaspora. Although they subscribe to different ideological schools of thought and come from different generations and locations, they shared a lot of ideas. Palestinians are demanding change, or, in the words of renowned Palestinian historian Salman Abu Sitta – interviewed below – they want to “go back to the roots”.

Going back to the roots   
Salman Abu Sitta – historian and president of the Palestine Land Society.

The 26-year-old Oslo disaster should have taught those who started the process a lesson or two about proper leadership. It should have taught the Palestinian people that they should stand up in defence of their inalienable rights in their country, Palestine. Neither have learned their lessons.

In the past 70 years, the major achievement of the Palestinian people was to show that we are not pitiful refugees who need food, shelter and work. We are the people of Palestine from Ras al-Naqura to Umm Rashrash. We have the Palestine National Council (PNC), whose members are elected according to the National Charters of 1964 and 1969. We also have the PNC-elected PLO executive.


Today we do not need to invent a new Palestine or a new national strategy. We need to go back to the roots. We need to wipe out the sins of Oslo, which has been more detrimental to the Palestinian cause than the Balfour Declaration. 

We need to have 13 million Palestinians, half of whom were born after Oslo, represented in a newly elected PNC, from which a new, young, efficient and clean leadership can blossom. We need to put our support behind the Popular Conference of Palestinians Abroad, which was formed in Istanbul in February 2017, for the same purpose.

Let us go back to the roots. Complaining and blaming others is useless. This is the time to act, not to talk. Let us do just that.  

Rallying the people  
Lamis Andoni – writer and journalist based in Amman, Jordan.

The immediate task ahead is to unify the Palestinian people, inside Palestine and in the diaspora, against US President Donald Trump’s so-called “deal of the century” that is swiftly unfolding before our eyes. Trump’s deal is nothing more than another attempt to legitimise Israeli control over all Palestinian territories and delegitimise the Palestinian people’s historic, national and legal rights – especially the right of return. 

We should not focus on whether we want a two-state or one-state solution. Instead, we need to focus on uniting Palestinians around the goal of freeing Palestine by dismantling the Zionist colonial project that employs brutal methods to keep them under control, including apartheid and ethnic cleansing.


We cannot ignore the urgency of the reconstruction of the PLO. The Israeli and US governments have been bent on its destruction, and they are being successful. Let us work towards its revival on a wider, more inclusive basis, and its transformation into a body that represents all Palestinians. We should also not accept the criminalisation of armed resistance. 

The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement is a crucial tool in this struggle, but it cannot be the only form of resistance. We must take Israeli officials to the International Court of Justice and try them for war crimes. We need to delegitimise the occupation and all its practices, challenge the US at the UN Security Council and use all legal tools to resist Israeli and US pressure.

But first, we must halt our heavy reliance on foreign aid, particularly US aid, which is being used to tame the NGOs and maintain the Palestinian Authority (PA) as a policeman for the Israelis.

Defeating Zionism  
Mazin Qumsiyeh – West-Bank-based author, scientist and director of the Palestine Museum of Natural History.

Someone once told me that “we are kicking the dead horse of a two-state solution”. I explained that this was an “illusionary” horse invented by David Ben-Gurion in the 1920s for propaganda purposes. I believe there are only three possible scenarios for the anti-colonial struggle:  

1 – The Algerian model, which is very costly, rarely successful and unlikely to be implemented in Palestine. 


2 – The Australian model, which is a relative win for the colonisers. This model also comes at great cost – in Australia’s case – genocide of the native population. 

3 – The “rest of the world” model which was successful in South America, Central America, Canada, South East Asia and South Africa. In this model, one shared country is created for all the peoples of the land after ending colonialism.

Only the third model can be implemented in Palestine and has the capacity to bring an end to Zionist oppression.

I am very optimistic that Zionism will end. We, 12 million Palestinians and millions of others, will make sure this happens sooner than expected.

It is time to reclaim the liberation struggle from those who hijacked it.   

Resurrecting the PLO  
Samaa Abu Sharar – journalist and activist based in Beirut, Lebanon.

Palestinians everywhere should adopt a new approach to give more honour to their cause. They should:

1 – Unite all Palestinian think tanks under one umbrella to assess, evaluate and draw up a new strategy capable of dealing with the current Palestinian situation.


2 – Dismantle the Palestinian Authority and revoke the Oslo Accords. 

3 – Elect an alternative young leadership under the PLO, representing Palestinians everywhere, capable of uniting Palestinians and working towards a one-state solution with equal rights for Palestinians.

4 – Encourage all forms of resistance in occupied Palestine including armed resistance (which is consistent with international law) until the demise of the occupation.

5 – Mobilise affluent Palestinians abroad to establish a support system on the moral and financial level for Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem, and refugees abroad.

‘A third Intifada is a must’  
Ibrahim Sa’ad – writer and academic based in the UK. 

“The game has changed”, PA official Saeb Erekat said. When the game changes, the players must also change. In Palestine, obsolete players should retire, and a brave new generation must take over.


If Abbas and the group clustering around him want to go down in history as courageous men, they should pull out of the political arena, leaving behind administrative personnel to run the Palestinians’ day-to-day matters.

I realise that this act may create mayhem – particularly when a third Intifada is about to materialise – but it must be done.

Also, the Israelis should suffer the sour consequences of their actions if they refuse to adapt to the one-state-solution. 

A third Intifada is a must. I believe it will be a step towards building one democratic state with equal rights for all and guaranteeing the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

One state for all  
Samah Sabawi – award-winning playwright, author, poet and policy advisor to Al-Shabaka, based in Australia.

The Palestinian leadership seems to be stuck in a loop desperately trying to find ways to “save” the two-state solution by seeking a new mediator for the peace process to replace the US.


But having a dishonest broker was only one of many traps within a process that was designed from the start to cripple Palestinian resistance by fostering Palestinian dependency on international aid in exchange for maintaining Israel’s security and well-being. 

What is needed today is for the PA to immediately cease all security collaboration with Israel and for the old guard within the PA/PLO to make way for the young generation of Palestinians both in the diaspora and in the homeland, who can lead us in a popular unified civil rights struggle for freedom, justice and equality.  

I believe our time has come, and we are ready to turn today’s one-state apartheid reality into tomorrow’s vision of one state for all its people. 

Internationally-aligned strategy  
Sam Bahour – Chairman of Americans for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy, based in Occupied Palestine.

I view Trump’s ill-fated Jerusalem declaration through two vantage points.


As an American, I think the declaration could not have done more damage to America’s already deteriorating standing in the region. This single act has reignited distrust and condemnation from every corner of the globe, brought violence back to the streets of Palestine, and left the door wide open for other regional players, like Turkey and Iran, to fill the policy vacuum.

On the other hand, as a Palestinian, I see Trump’s declaration as a confirmation of what Palestinians have been saying for decades: the US is on the wrong side of this conflict, and has been for 70 years. The opportunity that Trump has provided is for the world to finally act to hold Israel accountable. 

Palestinians have shown tremendous political maturity in all of this by not knee-jerking away from their internationally aligned strategy for freedom and independence in the State of Palestine. 

Yes to popular resistance, no to political elitism  
Yousef M Aljamal – Palestinian PhD candidate at the University of Sakarya, Middle East Institute, Turkey.

The Palestinian people should adopt a three-level approach:


1 – The Palestinian strategy now should be based on building a unified Palestinian front, which reflects the aspirations of Palestinians. This front should not include elites who were part of the previous period because they proved to be a big disappointment to our people. This front should represent all Palestinians everywhere.

2 – Palestinians must cease calling for a two-state solution. Instead, they should adopt a new strategy based on gaining equal rights at home and punishing Israel internationally by intensifying the BDS movement’s campaign, which has proven effective in the past 10 years.

3 –  Palestinians should start a large-scale popular resistance movement against the Israeli occupation by building on the support Palestine has gained globally in order to hold Israel accountable for its crimes against the Palestinian people. 

International intifada  
Iyad Burnat – the head of the Popular Committee against the Wall in Bil’in village, West Bank.

Today what people refer to as “Trump’s plan” is not Trump’s plan at all. Rather, it is the continuation of the Zionist plan based on “a land without a people for a people without a land”.


This is a plan to evacuate the indigenous inhabitants of the land through ethnic cleansing, to construct a purely Jewish state, and to end anything resembling Palestine.

In my view, the only way out of this crisis is to abolish the PA and to establish a unified national leadership that includes all factions of the resistance and the grassroots. Such a leadership can organise a popular Intifada that would attract the attention and support of a large number of people around the world – an international Intifada! 

The end goal for the Palestinian cause should be a single, democratic state where all live in freedom, justice, and equality – a place that exiled Palestinians can also return to. In other words, the answer is a post-Zionist Palestine where Muslims, Christians, and Jews can live in harmony, security and peace.  

Full steam ahead with BDS  
Randa Abdel-Fattah – academic at Macquarie University, Australia.

The global rise of far-right, populist racism, coupled with Trump’s indisputable exposure of US bias, offers us an opportunity to reaffirm that our liberation cause is not “too complicated” but is very clearly an anti-racist, anti-colonialist and anti-apartheid one. 

I, therefore, believe we must go full steam ahead with the BDS movement, specifically forcing dramatic changes in Israel’s international economic/trade relations.

Academic and cultural boycotts lay the groundwork for promoting public opinion and action in favour of isolating Israel.

Ultimately, we need to “follow the money”. By mobilising a critical mass of support from global civil society, especially in western countries collaborating with Israel (such as my country Australia), we can press for economic sanctions and divestment.

Haidar Eid – one-state activist and Associate Professor at Al-Aqsa University, Gaza.

I think a completely new strategy is needed, one that breaks away from the existing political system, including the “Oslo-ised” and “NGO-ised” opposition. This strategy is a form of “un-participation” from the current political system altogether.


The crisis of the existing leadership, and indeed of all political parties, is now so deeply ingrained that the only way forward may be to “un-participate” in the present Palestinian political system. Otherwise, we will continue to face a very limited set of options – each worse than the other and none realising Palestinian self-determination and rights. One of those limited options is the racist two-state solution that has, ironically, almost managed to gain a consensus from the existing political parties. 

Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, followed by the Likud party’s endorsement of a resolution to annex most of the West Bank, have only made us realise the facade of the so-called “peace process” and the myth of independence. 

Hence, the solution is a complete divorce from the discourse of the racist two-state solution, and the endorsement of a democratic and inclusive one that is based on the universal declaration of human rights, democracy and on our right to self-determination, i.e. a secular, democratic state on the historic land of Palestine, a state for all its citizens regardless of religion, ethnicity, gender, etc.

Fearing the worst in Gaza  
Rawan Yaghi – Gaza-based writer and University of Oxford alumna.

In Gaza, we can’t even think of a solution to the current crisis. We don’t feel that our hardship is being taken seriously. The anticipation of new Israeli military attacks is making an already tense atmosphere even worse. The economic isolation and siege imposed by Israel, the PA and the US leave us fearing the worst.

The Palestinian leadership has lost the trust of Palestinians, whether those living in the Occupied Territories or outside. We need an alternative, an encompassing strategy that includes Palestinians everywhere as the legitimacy of the PA and its political decisions are rightly being questioned. 

Moreover, ongoing efforts to isolate and boycott Israel are not enough. More needs to be done on that front as well. 

Mohammad Nofal – former political prisoner and retired teacher

Trump’s decision regarding the status of Jerusalem is foolish, to say the least. However, it would have never been possible without the tacit approval of certain Arab countries, the likes of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and some other Gulf states. That said, Palestinians, now more than ever before, need to assert their voices.


Here in Palestine, we understand that “what is taken by force, can only be redeemed by force”, not by a “peace process” that was never genuine in the first place. Israel never fulfilled any of its commitments to previous agreements. In fact, it continued to talk of “peace” while expanding illegal settlements and demolishing Palestinian homes. 

Also, the US was never fair to Palestinians. Its pro-Israel bias has been glaringly clear for many years. Israel has no interest in allowing a Palestinian state, and the US has no desire to push Israel on that front. The only party that continues to speak of a “two-state solution” is the weak Palestinian leadership.

But the Palestinian people are courageous, strong and steadfast and they deserve a leadership that is equally courageous; one that is not afraid to abolish Oslo, cancel its recognition of Israel and, yes, resume all forms of resistance in the West Bank as we did in Gaza. We must end all security coordination with Israel, end the detentions of Palestinians and commit to the national liberation project.  

The struggle continues…  
Ahmad Khaleel Al-Haaj – activist and writer based in Gaza.

A proposed settlement presented by any mediator, in this case, the US, is only a trick to detract us from acting according to this universal law – struggling for a decisive victory. 


Those Palestinians who accepted proposals such as Oslo, incurred – as we can see – shameful successive defeats and made our people pay dearly with loss of lives and possessions, all for naught. Those who stood by Oslo gained high wages for themselves and their families alone.

Yet the enemy could not and will not secure a final and decisive victory. The struggle continues, and it will carry on until we are victorious and until we return to our homeland. No savage victor will remain victorious, nor will the vanquished be left to roam forever. 

The views expressed in this article are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.