by Fares Akram and Emad Drimly
GAZA, Aug. 5 (Xinhua) -- After two decades of delay,
Palestinian Fatah movement has finally started its sixth general conference,
aimed at reforming the movement which lost 2006 parliamentary elections.
Regional and international impact is still unclear
from the conference which will bring on new leaders for the movement, the
backbone of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and the Palestinian
Liberation Organization (PLO).
The conference is being held in the West Bank city of
Bethlehem amid challenges the PNA and Fatah are facing now, starting from the
Israeli government's refusal to meet peace obligations and the internal standoff
with Islamic Hamas movement which controls the Gaza Strip.
The death of Fatah founder Yasser Arafat in 2004,
Hamas' victory in the 2006 elections and losing control of Gaza in 2007 were the
biggest blows Fatah has been dealt with since it held the last general
convention in 1989.
Moreover, the delay in holding the conference has
made Fatah leadership flabby and increased rift between the old guards and the
young leaders; the latest were the statements by Farouq al-Qadoumi, a member of
Fatah central committee, who accused the current leader, Mahmoud Abbas, of
plotting to kill the late Arafat.
Fatah's internal troubles have motivated its leaders
to stress making the conference successful, hoping to refresh and revive their
movement to meet the challenges.
"Holding the conference itself is a historical
event," said Ahmed Abdel Rahman, Fatah spokesman. "We are determined to revive
the national liberation project."
The convention took place despite Hamas' attempts to
thwart it by preventing some 400 Gaza-based Fatah activists from traveling to
the West Bank.
Meanwhile, observers have ruled out that Fatah would
make essential amendments on its political program. According to the draft of
the new program, Fatah renewed commitment to "principles, mainly the liberation
of the Palestinian lands that have been occupied since June 1967, to declaration
of a full-sovereign statehood with Jerusalem as a capital."
However, the issue of keeping the armed resistance in
the program still subjects to argument.
"Fatah will continue negotiations with Israel, but
will not drop its right to carry out combative activities and this will be
related to the nature of the time," said Talal Awkal, a political analyst.
He added that the armed resistance "in case it
happens" would only be in the occupied territories against the Israeli army, not
Rafiq al-Natsha, a Fatah official, agreed with Awkal
that "peace will remain Fatah's strategic choice and the resistance choice won't
Following the 1993 Oslo peace deals between Israel
and the PLO, which paved the way for the creation of the PNA, Fatah dismantled
its military wing and gave up armed attacks against Israel.
But when six years of peace negotiations failed to
make any progress, a Palestinian uprising erupted in the Gaza Strip and the West
Bank. With that, Fatah-affiliated militant groups have convened under the name
of al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and launched a series of attacks against Israeli
citizens, settlers and soldiers.
Today, Fatah partisans count on the general
convention to come up "with a new, well-united youthful leadership that defines
the relations between Fatah and the PNA and Fatah ties with other Palestinian
factions, including Hamas," said Awkal, the analyst.
Debates between Fatah activists who want to run for a
seat in the central committee or the revolutionary council, the highest
supervisory committees, and the rest of the members have reached peak but
expectations remain low, according to the observers.
Reports say candidates for the central committee,
which is made up of 21, has reached 100 and more than 500 would also run for the
revolutionary council which comprises 121.
The absence of Gaza members has also fueled doubts
about the shape of the central committee and the revolutionary council. Gaza
quota in the two bodies is preserved and its members would be elected later.
Mukhaimar Abu Sa'da, an academic, expected that half
of the central committee and revolutionary council members would remain in their
positions and the others would be elected from the young generation. "This aims
at making balance between the old and the new guard."
He added that the conference will succeed in
"arranging Fatah cards and unifying it more but will leave many issues unsettled
because they would cause big cracks in case they were
Special Report: Palestine-Israel Conflicts