Ab­bas to ad­dress Fatah congress

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Pres­i­dent Mah­mud Ab­bas ad­dresses his Fatah party’s first congress since 2009 yes­ter­day as he con­tends with in­ter­nal dis­sent and grim prospects for ad­vanc­ing his decades-long goal of achiev­ing a Pales­tinian state. The 81-year-old leader was re-elected head of Fatah as the congress opened on Tues­day, but spec­u­la­tion has mounted over who will even­tu­ally suc­ceed him as Pales­tinian pres­i­dent. He has not pub­licly sup­ported a suc­ces­sor.

His speech is be­fore some 1,400 del­e­gates in Ra­mal­lah. It comes with Pales­tini­ans fac­ing con­tin­ued Jewish set­tle­ment build­ing in the oc­cu­pied West Bank and an in­com­ing Donald Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion in the United States seen as far more friendly to Is­rael. More than 600,000 Is­raeli set­tlers now live in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, which the Pales­tini­ans see as their fu­ture cap­i­tal.

The United States, Euro­pean Union and oth­ers have warned that con­tin­ued set­tle­ment build­ing is eat­ing away at prospects for a two-state so­lu­tion to the con­flict, the ba­sis of years of ne­go­ti­a­tions. A con­tro­ver­sial Is­raeli bill to le­gal­ize some 4,000 set­tler homes in the West Bank had been due to come up for a first read­ing in par­lia­ment on Wed­nes­day, but it was de­layed un­til Mon­day as be­hind-the-scenes de­bate con­tin­ued.

The in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity con­sid­ers all Is­raeli set­tle­ments in Is­raeli-an­nexed east Jerusalem and the West Bank to be il­le­gal, whether they are au­tho­rized by the gov­ern­ment or not. The Is­raeli gov­ern­ment dif­fer­en­ti­ates be­tween those it has ap­proved and those it has not. The progress of the bill, ap­proved ear­lier by a com­mit­tee of min­is­ters on be­half of the gov­ern­ment, has demon­strated the power of the set­tler move­ment in Is­rael.

Fatah’s five-day congress is ex­pected to dis­cuss whether to seek to in­tro­duce a UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tion against Is­raeli set­tle­ments. Ab­bas, head of Fatah, the Pales­tine Lib­er­a­tion Or­gan­i­sa­tion and the Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity fol­low­ing Yasser Arafat’s death in 2004, has con­sis­tently called for a ne­go­ti­ated so­lu­tion and op­posed an­other vi­o­lent up­ris­ing. But he has grown un­pop­u­lar, with polls show­ing most Pales­tini­ans want him to re­sign, and many have lost faith in the so-called peace process spelled out in the Oslo ac­cords of the 1990s that he helped ne­go­ti­ate.

Some an­a­lysts see the congress as an at­tempt by Ab­bas to marginal­ize po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents, in­clud­ing long­time ri­val Mo­hammed Dahlan, cur­rently in ex­ile in the United Arab Emi­rates. Ob­servers have seen the re­duced num­ber of of­fi­cials to vote-down from more than 2,000 in 2009 — as part of a move to ex­clude Dahlan sup­port­ers.

The elec­tion of mem­bers of Fatah’s par­lia­ment and its cen­tral com­mit­tee will sig­nal the di­rec­tion the old­est Pales­tinian party will take. The congress also comes with Fatah and its Is­lamist ri­val Ha­mas, in power in the Gaza Strip, still deeply di­vided. Fatah dom­i­nates the Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity, which runs the West Bank. How­ever, a let­ter from ex­iled Ha­mas leader Khaled Me­shaal, in which he said he was “ready to co­op­er­ate with Fatah,” was read at the open­ing of the congress on Tues­day.

Ab­bas and Me­shaal re­cently met in Qatar for the first time in two years. On Tues­day, UN Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Ban Ki­moon warned that hopes for a two-state so­lu­tion were fad­ing fast, de­cry­ing set­tle­ment build­ing and home de­mo­li­tions by Is­rael. But he also crit­i­cized the Pales­tini­ans’ “par­a­lyz­ing lack of unity”. — AFP

RA­MAL­LAH: Pales­tinian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas, cen­ter, waves to fel­low Fatah mem­bers as he ar­rives for the open­ing ses­sion of the Fatah party con­fer­ence, in the West Bank city. — AP

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