Fatah’s New Orientation

If not a new vision, the Fatah party at least now has a new face. In a surprising development, the long-delayed congress in Bethlehem has elected younger leaders to powerful posts.

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Published: Wed 12 Aug 2009, 10:28 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 12:28 AM

Though Mahmoud Abbas survives as the party chief, he has now been tasked to work with people who might not sit motionless as politics develops around them. Yet, it is too early to say what impact it will ultimately have on the legitimate cause of attaining an independent Palestinian state. But it comes as a relief for the West to see pragmatists at the vanguard of Palestinian politics – in particular, proponents of dialogue with Israel in the realisation of statehood.

It is no mean development that young faces will now occupy 14 out of the 18 seats in the powerful central committee. Similarly, the fact that many of the veterans have been shown the door speaks well of the psyche evolving in Palestinian politics. Status quo, perhaps, is no more acceptable, and the intention now is to make the difference felt. Which is why the battery of leaders who had tried to balance all-out armed resistance with recourse to diplomacy are out of the fence. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean a new policy is in the making, but at least the quest for a renewed approach is visible.

What seems more relevant at the moment is that young politicians have questioned the very functioning of the Fatah party, which was once the torchbearer of Palestinian struggle against the Zionist state. It is no secret that corruption and complacency had crept in the party, which rendered it almost irrelevant to the world stage. Thriving on big donations and playing to the gallery in times of discord and crisis had, of late, become its modus operandi.

Moreover, Fatah has long been split between ideologically driven contemporaries of the movement’s founding father, Yasser Arafat, and a pragmatic lot that went wayward without sticking to the manifesto of the party. Which is why the emergence of Hamas was seen as a more rational option, as it spelt out its goals more categorically.

All said and done, the new leadership carries a daunting task. Now is the time for it to help realise Palestinian unity, and walk the extra mile to woo estranged elements. Similarly, the politico-ideological gap between West Bank and Gaza has to go. The leadership of both the geographical flanks need to join hands for furthering consensus in their much contested peace talks with Israel. These are changing times: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas icon Khaled Mashaal have indicated that they accept what they had long rejected – the two-state solution. If that psychological gap can be bridged, why can’t the Palestinians unite? Fatah’s young blood is at the crossroads of history — it should make the difference felt. And for that, it should start at home.

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