Fatah’s seventh general conference on hold as problems abound

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (C) arrives for a meeting of foreign ministers at the headquarters of the Arab League in the Egyptian capital Cairo on September 7, 2014. (Photo: AFP-Mohammed al-Shahed)
Published Tuesday, September 9, 2014
Ramallah – Fatah leader and president of the Palestinian Authority (PA), Mahmoud Abbas, announced late last month that “the organization’s conference will be held very soon.” His statement, however, has not been translated into action, especially since regional elections and elections for movement offices have not taken place, and due to his preoccupation with the rapid political developments after the war.
A Central Committee member, who declined to be named, ruled out the possibility of holding the conference in the near future due to developments within Fatah and in Palestine. He told Al-Akhbar that the next phase is going to be characterized by “clashes with the occupation.” That view was reiterated by another member of the committee who attributed postponing the conference to ongoing developments in the region. Jamal Muhaisen, from the Central Committee, told Al-Akhbar that the decision to hold the conference still stands but that the date has not been determined.
Fatah’s Revolutionary Council secretary general, Amin Makboul, said the date has not been set yet “but the internal elections that precede the conference are expected before the end of the year.” He denied that the delay has anything to do with developments in the region, “except what is going on in Gaza, especially if Israel attacks again or members from Gaza are not able to make it,” he told Al-Akhbar.
Political writer and analyst, Khalil Shaheen, says that these are realistic conditions. He believes that the problem is not in Fatah’s ability to set a date for its conference, “but in its ability to hold it under the Israeli occupation’s restrictive measures in the West Bank, which would prevent an accurate representation of Palestinians in the diaspora and the Gaza Strip. This, in turn, will affect the integrity of a conference of a national liberation movement held under occupation.
If Fatah holds its conference, it will have to deal with a whole host of issues, including counting on the emergence of “a youthful leadership to carry on the struggle and to take its organizational place after the elections of the Central Committee and the Revolutionary Council.” Voices within Fatah are calling for the need to create a new position for a vice president of the PA. That is what Makboul said: “We have recommendations to create the position of vice president but the issue is a legal one in the first place and it falls under the authority of the Legislative Council.
Revolutionary Council vice chairman, Fahmi al-Zaarir, explained that Fatah, in principle, “asked to create the post of vice president but this requires a legal accommodation by official institutions and it might be carried out by the Legislative Council or the Central Council of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) being an umbrella organization, or through a presidential decree if the Legislative Council continues to be obstructed.” He told Al-Akhbar: “Fatah, in principle, supports the suggestion of creating a post of vice president, even Abbas was not opposed to the idea.”
Legal experts insist, however, that it is difficult to elect a vice president without passing a law by the Legislative Council because such a step requires an amendment in the basic Palestinian [legislative] structure. Besides, there is disagreement as to whether the president has sufficient legitimacy to issue a decree of this sort. Political analyst, Shaheen, believes that Fatah can elect a deputy for the organization’s president “which would help rearrange its structure and would allow this person to run in any future elections on the president’s list.”
If the post of vice president is in dispute because it is associated with the law of the PA, there are other issues within Fatah that will be the focus of great controversy, especially after Central Committee member, Mohammed Dahlan, was expelled along with other members from his inner circle. In this regard, Makboul denied that there is any intention to reconcile with Dahlan. He said: “The claim is baseless, Dahlan was expelled from the organization and it is over.” But observers and cadres from Fatah are worried that some parties within the conference might create a disturbance and a tense atmosphere regarding Dahlan’s ouster.
Zaarir echoed these concerns: “There is fear of creating disorder at the conference, for indeed there are people trying to do so.” He added: “A decision was taken by the Central Committee to expel Mohammed Dahlan and others. The organization’s agenda does not include having to reach an agreement or reconcile with him.” Consequently, analysts concerned with the affairs of Fatah believe that the conference is a chance to completely get rid of Dahlan’s camp as the ouster process began before the conference.
Another issue that will surely be on the agenda during Fatah’s big meeting is the relationship with Israel after the faltering political process as they will talk at length about the next step that the PA will have to take.
A number of Central Committee members agreed that the war and its effect on Gaza are not over. And the same goes for the relationship with Israel, especially that they are not oblivious to the possibility of renewed clashes with the Israeli occupation if the security coordination stops and Palestinian leaders seek action in the Security Council and international institutions. What makes this scenario more likely is Israel’s continued settlement building and land confiscation.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


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