Challenges Facing Fatah in the Wake of Its Seventh Congress

Prof. As’ad Abdul Rahman

It is hoped and expected that Fatah movement’s priority is to embark immediately on implementing its seventh Congress resolutions and recommendations (approved in its meeting in Ramallah on the 4th of December 2016) and which it has considered as a plan of action and a road map for the upcoming period. A number of writers and researchers who are not necessarily opposed to the movement wished to see it undertake constructive self-criticism, assessment and revision of past experiences in its history, while developing a plan with steps for confronting the Israeli occupation with a focus on the much-needed Palestinian popular resistance.

Regardless of the many views and attitudes and even recriminations, the situation of Fatah (one of the two major organizations in the Palestinian arena along with the Islamic Hamas Movement) remains of high concern to every Palestinian, especially after a series of assessments by the movement itself and by others which saw a decline in its activity that almost threatened its unity and cohesion. Fateh has also been accused of turning from a “national liberation movement” into a party holding power in Palestine Authority. Indeed, a number of its leaders believe that its actual position has made it a political regime tied to Israel by agreements leading to huge commitments which they do not agree with, but expect them to be addressed and handled in the course of the Palestinian issue.

Fatah movement now faces major challenges; the first is how to confront the Israeli occupation with its continuous violations on the land and against the Palestinian people. The threats are immense including the Jewish colonization/ building new “settlements”, Israel’s Judaization policy, the deteriorating economic, social and political situation of Arab Eastern Jerusalem, the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees and self-determination needed to establish a sovereign Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. The situation is aggravated by Israel tilting more towards rightest extremism to the degree that the so-called Israeli leftist peace camp has almost vanished along with a stalemate in the negotiating process and with Tel Aviv imposing a de facto situation on the land. These developments require energizing the peaceful popular resistance against the Israeli occupation which should not be left to thrive comfortably on the land! Why, for example, the 1936 Palestinian civil strife launched against the British occupation at the time is not invoked anew as part of steps for struggle against the Zionist colonialist occupation.

Secondly, and in order to achieve the above, it became necessary to convene the Palestinian National Council preparatory committee with the participation of Hamas and Islamic Jihad movements according to previously agreed formulas. In fact, all Palestinians, at home and in the Diaspora should be engaged in order to end the inter-Palestinian divisions and unify efforts to confront the Israeli occupation while activating the PLO’s departments and maintaining them as a political and moral home for the Palestinians, in addition to achieving reconciliation as called for in the Fateh Congress’ final communiqué. The current situation requires reform that should also include reform of the status of the PLO Executive Committee, considering that it represents the highest political leadership of the Palestinian people in its daily life, although, it is itself responsible for ‘kidnapping’ its own responsibilities as well as a decline of its role.

Thirdly, it is important to avoid hinging on a positive atmosphere that emerged between Fatah and Hamas during the Congress due to the constructive language and spirit of a letter from Hamas Political Bureau leader Khaled Masha’l. Thus, ending the animosity among the two major groups should be expedited to the best interest of a true national partnership. This can be achieved either through an agreement or direct popular election with the aim of restoring the national unity, of course if Israel allows such a vote to take place.

A fourth challenge facing Fatah is that if the reconciliation with Hamas -a top priority- is difficult to achieve, efforts should then be focused on convening the Palestinian National Council (PNC) with the utmost level of legal professionalism and national responsibility. Failure to convene the PNC would be disastrous should a void is left in the PLO leadership and its Executive Committee whose men have grown in age and spent long years without their positions being renewed. It is a fact that a lack of new blood infused in the leadership prevails along the entire factions of the PLO.

Fifth, more should be exerted on the international arena and alternative strategies to those governing the deadlocked peace negotiations should be developed by intensifying efforts at the United Nations within the context of the Palestinian cause and issue at the world body. The Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas has repeatedly indicated that his priority lies in diplomatic and political efforts. He has pledged to join 520 UN agencies and activate Palestine membership in agencies it had joined, particularly the International Criminal Court,  request the UN Security Council for recognition of Palestine as a UN full member state and rally support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against the Israeli occupation. This campaign managed to gain support of thousands around the world, arousing anger and fear in Israel with the political, media, moral and economic losses the Zionist State had sustained as a result of the BDS activities.

Finally, it is important for Fatah to make every possible effort to try to restore a better political climate in the Arab and regional situation which currently is not favorable to the interests of the Palestinian cause.  Regaining the issue to its previous central position in Arab affairs and finding a solution should form the basis when dealing with any of the other issues.