Fatah fallout continues

Nabil Amr, who was spokesman for the Fatah Sixth General Conference held in Bethlehem from 4-14 August (more or less),has just resigned his posts as Palestinian Ambassador to Egypt and to the Arab League whose headquarters in Cairo, and also as head of the Fatah satellite television channel, Filastina, that he started in recent months with a reported budget of $500,000. Amr left the Conference before it ended (it was originally scheduled to last only three days) for previously-scheduled medical treatment.

Amr was shot in the summer of 2004 by unknown gunmen while standing on the balcony of his home in Ramallah, after remarks he made in a television interview in which he criticized then-leader Yasser Arafat. As a result, his leg had to be amputated during his emergency hospitalization in Jordan, and he subsequently was treated in Germany as well.

Amr, a former journalist, was a member of Fatah’s outgoing Revolutionary Council who ran for election to the Central Committee but lost.

So far, Amr has not given any explanation for his resignations from all his current posts.

He announced his reported resignation from Cairo, according to a report by Bathlehem-based Ma’an News Agency published here, and said he was returning to Ramallah, and would make his formal farwell from the Egyptian capital later.

Mohammad Dahlan, the former head of Fatah/Palestinian Preventive Security Forces in Gaza, who was successful in his campaign to win a seat on the Fatah Central Committee, has reportedly been in Cairo in recent days.

The Fatah General Conference endorsed a proposal by Palestinian President and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas that all candidates who win elections to seats in either the Central Committee or the Revolutionary Council would have to resign from all other jobs. But the only resignation that has been announced so far is that of Tawfik Tirawi, now elected to the Central Committee, who reportedly resigned as an adviser to Abbas. It is not clear if Tirawi also resigned as head of the Palestinian training academy for security forces in Jericho.

Abbas — who is now head of the overarching Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the elected President of the Palestinian Authority as well as the newly-appointed leader of Fatah [by acclamation, in front of the television cameras suddenly called into the otherwise closed conference proceedings] now holds a concentration of political power similar to that held previously by the late Yasser Arafat.

He has just decided to call a meeting of the PLO’s 600+member Palestine National Council, or Parliament, just over a week from now. On the agenda, apparently, is a proposal to add six new members to the PLO’s Executive Committee, boosting the number of seats from 12 to 18 — one way to compensate some of those who lost in the Fatah elections.

And, Abbas still hasn’t played his other cards remaining after the elections at the Fatah 6th Conference — he can still name three members to the Central Committee, and a dozen or two members to the Revolutionary Council, subject to the approval of the Central Committee and the accord of the Revolutionary Council.

Meanwhile, Israeli retired Brigadier-General Shlomo Brom, a senior research fellow and head of the Program on Israeli-Palestinian relations at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv, has just published what he entitled a “preliminary” analysis of the 6th Fatah Conference.  In his article, Brom wrote that “The very fact of the recent event is a victory for Fatah’s current leader, Mahmoud Abbas, who succeeded in holding the convention after many postponements and in the face of severe intra-organizational opposition, especially on the part of the old guard worried about losing positions of influence …Initial analyses indicate that the election results will strengthen the standings of Mahmoud Abbas as well as Muhammad Dahlan – despite the accusations about his role in the Gaza Strip’s fall into Hamas hands. The election results were hotly contested, and a recount was necessary.  . The absence of women among the voters and the lack of appropriate representation for the Gaza Strip were challenged, but Abbas promised to address these protests through his prerogative to appoint four additional members to the Central Committee … [Abbas’ achievements over the last year] have been translated only partially into increased political support for Abbas and Fatah, because the political process was not successful and because Abbas was accused by his political rivals, at home and from without, of being a lackey for Israel and the United States and having abandoned Palestinian national objectives. At the same time, Hamas was said to continue to pursue Palestinian national goals, while proudly defying Israel and the United States. This state of affairs was reflected in a discussion during the convention on the resistance (muqawama), which naturally enough received extensive coverage in Israel. Fatah’s fundamental principles required renewal because they were written before the negotiations process that began in 1991. The convention repeated Mahmoud Abbas’ policy principles from recent years, centering on a commitment to the political path and the peace process alongside declarations that the Palestinians have the right to choose resistance in all its forms should the political process fail. However, even in this respect, Abbas expressed his preference for popular resistance of the kind involving demonstrations against the separation fence. Similarly, the convention stressed the traditional positions with regard to the agreement with Israel, i.e., a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital, and a solution to the refugee problem on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 194. The convention also emphasized its opposition to an interim solution of a Palestinian state with temporary borders.  In Palestinian eyes, there is no contradiction between these positions and the progress that has been made in negotiations over the years … At the same time, many in Israel saw these positions as representing a hard line and unwillingness to show the flexibility necessary for an agreement”.

Thanks to a link on the Angry Arab blogspot, I found an earlier analysis published by Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations in Beirut on the very eve of the Fatah 6th General Conference.  The analysis,written by Toufic Haddad, included his translation of “a large excerpt from an article published in the Pan-Arab daily, Al Sharq al Awsat, which comes out of London, written by Bilal al Hassan … brother of Hani al Hassan [n.b. — and also of the late Khaled al-Hassan], a former close political adviser to Yasser Arafat, and a ranking member of Fateh. Bilal has been around long enough to understand the dynamics of Fateh, and he also has the contacts to be able to write with credibility on what is going on in the movement, as it prepares for its moment of truth with itself. His conclusions are not very optimistic I’m afraid. It seems that many of the ploys and power games used by Fateh throughout the years to manipulate and control other factions within the Palestinian national movement, have now been turned inward against Fateh, thereby setting the stage for the movements final demise. Here are excerpts from “The Moment for the Curtain to Fall on the Unity of Fateh Has Arrived” Bilal Al Hasan, Al Sharq al Awsat July 19, 2009 (Unofficial translation by Toufic Haddad):
Observers of Fateh, and those familiar with its atmosphere, currents and issues, expect that nothing from here on in is going to be smooth or simple. Developments will also not be solely determined on the basis of ideas or logic. That is, the Fateh wing enthroned in Ramallah, owns the money through which it guarantees the salaries of tens – actually, hundreds – of members on its payrolls. It also owns the money that guarantees the paychecks of those heading into retirement, once they turn 60, or after 45 if they [the leadership] so desire. The paying of these salaries takes place by way of the budget of the Ministry of Finance in the Palestinian Authority, or from the budget of the Palestinian National Trust, which for years has had the political task of exiling the generation of resistance from Fateh and the like, into the world of retirement [a reference to a PLO practice of marginalizing former guerillas and nationalist figures (many from the early days of the Palestinian revolution) by forcibly retiring them and giving them a salary.]  It is then, a war of money, a war of hunger, which we might be witnessing in the coming months, which could result in the hunger of some who in turn seek an outlet for themselves. Or, it will result in the silencing of some, who refrain from declaring their opinion so as to secure their daily bread for their families. This is a pitiful state, in which the path of fighters, strugglers, cadre and their qualifications – those who worked for many years to create what is termed the history of ‘the Palestinian Revolution’ will end. Rather than giving them praise and thanks [for their sacrifices], they face the terror of silence, the terror of hunger, or the tragedy of life on the margins. But if Fateh splits, it won’t just split in two. There could be successive splits – one splitting off independently in an Arab country, another in Europe [etc.] so that we find ourselves before a series of Fateh splinters. Moreover these splits will not result in anything inevitable [such as the reform of the movement], but could bring about the gradual diminishing of the movements membership [overall], such that its [Fateh’s] body, presence and influence atrophy day after day, until one day the only part of Fateh within them is a piece of its history.  These splits point to the end and failure of the Palestinian national project that was led by Fateh, by way of the PLO, and its declared political program. They also point to the end of the revolution and the failure of the revolution. The question here is what comes after the end of a revolution and its failure?”  This analysis, including the translation of Bilal al-Hassan’s article, can be read in full here

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