Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Fatah Congress: No Sign of Moderation or Reform

By Barry Rubin

Three additional facts have come out regarding the Fatah Congress that makes it look even worse.

First, there are reports that Mahmoud Abbas packed the delegate selection to the point where the "younger generation" withdrew its candidates for the Central Committee election. For a detailed analysis of the Central Committee which is overwhelmingly hard-line, go here.

While the term "├┐oung generation" is used the issue is not merely one of age but the fact that this group comes largely from people who lived in the West Bank or Gaza Strip continually since 1948, while the Fatah leadership operated in exile from Jordan, Lebanon, and later Tunisia. This group is not necessarily more moderate than the old guard, in fact it is probably more likely to resort to armed struggle rather than just talk about it.

Second, there is beginning to be some talk about the successor as the movement's leader being Muhammed Ghnaim. It is hard to think of a worse choice. He opposed the 1993 Oslo agreement. In other words, he has been harder line than Yasir Arafat. The idea of a man heading the PA who has been opposed to the agreement on which the PA was based is pretty absurd and would make any prospect of a peace agreement laughable. Perhaps this rumor is not true but then who will succeed Abbas? Until that question is answered, the movement's future is in doubt.

Third, individual terrorists who murdered Israeli civilians in cold blood were greeted as heroes at the meeting and applauded. Aside from what this tells about Fatah, it also shows us that the movement couldn't care less about how Israelis think of it. One could call this "anti-confidence-building measures." Equally objectionable, at official Fatah and PA rallies, it is made clear that all of Israel is included in the Palestine these movements expect to obtain eventually.

Naturally, there was not a word about serious internal reform or anti-corruption, much less punishing anyone for being too extremist or engaging in anti-Israel violence.

In short, while Abbas spoke about and a lot of the Western media touted a "new beginning" for Fatah, it is actually surprising that even the tiniest elements of change aren't being put in place. This is not a movement moving toward peace but one settling down for decades of the same policies.

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