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Hani Almadhoun

Hani Almadhoun

Posted: September 1, 2010 02:23 PM

Every time I call home to Gaza, I am reminded that there is leadership crisis in Palestine
Every time I read the news, I wonder, where have all the decent Palestinian leaders gone?

I ask myself this: in the past five years, when was the last time you heard of a Palestinian leader giving a key speech where he/she laid out a plan or a new policy; the kind of speech that inspired a national dialogue?

I cannot remember such a day and that's why I am not surprised by the sky-high level of cynicism the Palestinian public has. Such banality is dangerous.

Every morning, like many Palestinians at home and the Diaspora, I read the news coming from home. And we see little that pleases the heart. One party does one thing; the other undoes it the next day and brags about it. One party brags about being the more popular; the next day the other throws a rally to show there relevance. One party claims to have the ears of the world; the other boasts to have win their hearts. Both seem to be competing to win some imaginary contest that brings little to the people that matter the most, the citizens. This holy month, you have one politician in Gaza visiting with a poor family and sharing a meal with them and at the end of the visit, the news tells you this politician has issued this family a gift to make their life better. In response to that, a West Bank politician takes a tour in popular Ramallah market, eats ice cream and pose for pictures with random people. In the meantime, my cousins in Gaza wonder at such frivolity, when they worry about getting paid and when they will be able to be set free. At the same time my friends in Hebron are still under constant harassment from armed and violent settlers and still struggles to herd his goats safely.

Advocates for both governments make good cases for both. The ones in Gaza tell you "we are making the best of a bad situation." And the ones in the West Bank remind you of all the stunning accomplishment their beloved leaders have brought to the Palestinians. Both are right and both are mistaken. Can we call our politicians leaders if no one is following them?

Many people in the middle are rightfully cynical about politicians who are unable to talk to each other and come up with an agreement to bring them together. I look at the West Bank and see capacity building and few thriving investments. I look at Gaza and see a government that wants to survive and be relevant. But to me, this is not leadership, this is just management. Both major Palestinians parties are good at management; they are not solving problems but rather coping with them. In other word, their actions are merely delaying the consequences of the inevitable. Without a united Palestinian front, nothing of meaning can be accomplished. Paying the bill is important, but having a clear goal and bold vision are vital, because a true leadership is not a just acting as payroll service, it's a rallying a nation with aspiration and legitimate claims. In the politicians in Gaza celebrate when they provide basic services like water and electricity to the residents of the Strip, but they show little concern with sustainability of the Gaza economy.

The Occupied Palestinian territories remain a toxic political environment. And unfortunately the few non-party affiliated Palestinians leaders who seem to be popular with activists and academics are weak and largely absent in every day news.

Do not get me wrong, there are many fine figures in the Palestinian Territories who mean well and serve with honor in both Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem. Every day I read about them, every time I am reminded of their commitment to public service. None of them, however, have managed to rally the people to stand united.

But those are managers, not leaders, whose primary concern should be the people and not the process of managing the bureaucracy. A manager does things right; the other does the right things. More than three years of Palestinian unity talks and no one has done the right thing. Currently, I fail to see a party that is willing to compromise for the benefit of the majority of the people. Illustrating my point, managers worry about their respective department. Leaders worry about the whole unit. We need both decent leaders and wise managers to go hand in hand in an increasingly complex and volatile political and economical situation. Maybe then the national dialogue can be fruitful. As of right now, no one public figure in Palestine has the ability and the skills to sell an idea on national TV, to get the people mobilized and motivated about a new direction, whether it's the peace process or state building.

Neither government has a mandate to deliver anything new to their citizens. One party wants peace, the other calls for resistance, Palestinians have neither. The lack of leadership on the Palestinian side will bring pain to an already devastated people. I know I am hopeful for a new beginning; a breath of a fresh air may be enough to bring about the best in people. But something tells me the Palestinians are not alone in this; the current Israeli government faces the same puzzle. We are reminded of this everyday.