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Fatah unity: why and how?

In the coming days, Fatah will be holding a series of meetings of the Central Committee and the Revolutionary and Advisory Councils to discuss the current situation following what is known as the Arab Quartet Committee's plan, which included a call for Fatah unity by means of restoring those who have been expelled from the movement, beginning with Muhammad Dahlan. This was rejected by President Mahmoud Abbas, who was supported by the Central Committee. He is expected to be supported by the rest of the movement as well, because Dahlan's return would ignite and accelerate the battle to be Abu Mazen's successor and this increases the president's fear of meeting the same fate as his predecessor.

Fatah sources have mentioned in public statements the intention to hold the seventh Fatah conference, which has been seriously delayed, by the end of the year. This aims to organise the movement's situation and close the door completely to any external intervention, especially that regarding the return of Dahlan, who has called for a national meeting, apart from bilateral negotiations. Many sources have revealed that preparations are underway for such talks in Cairo over the next few days amid conflicting reports about Egypt's willingness to host such talks.

I am looking into this matter because what Fatah does is not exclusive to the movement and its members. Whatever it decides affects not only the movement but also the entire Palestinian issue. Fatah is regarded as the first bullet, the first rock and the backbone of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, which led the Palestinian revolution unrivalled for decades until Hamas was founded and competed with Fatah over leadership and representation after the assassination of Yasser Arafat, the father of modern Palestinian nationalism. This began specifically after the second legislative elections in 2006, during which Hamas received a significantly larger number of seats than Fatah, although the latter received more votes on the individual level.

Fatah has also led the Palestinian Authority since its establishment, which makes it mainly responsible for the current situation; prolonging the self-autonomy authority indefinitely after the transitional period outlined by the Oslo Accords in May 1999, which has lasted until now.

Before addressing the small matter of holding of the seventh Fatah conference, we must first know why the conference should be held and why Fatah should be united. Is it to reproduce the current situation and repeat the same mistakes or is it to revive the Palestinian nationalism that Fatah embodied in the past, which was lost within the Oslo Accords and its unfair commitments and obligations, and in the tunnel of unfair negotiations that were treated as the only or main option relied upon over and over again, even after it reached an impasse a long time ago? Or is the purpose of the conference and unity to drown in the privileges of the "authority" without actual authority, as Saeb Erekat always says; the authority that Israel uses as a cover to continue its profitable occupation or to cut off Fatah and look at other options?

Fatah lost a lot when it completely melted into the PA and its "bliss", to the extent that we no longer know where Fatah ends and the PA starts. This led to Fatah losing a lot of what set it apart. Now the ranks and salaries have taken over the fighters and those with real initiative, will and vision. After the PA's role grew and the role of the PLO was dwarfed and almost paralysed, the PA is being led in the name of Fatah, and therefore it is dependent on the movement's historical legitimacy and popular weight without Fatah being the actual leader.

If Fatah is going to hold its conference in order to emphasise the Oslo path that led us to the disaster we are living in now, or to further lower the Palestinian ceiling in response to the deterioration of the Arab ceiling after recent events in the region, then we are in no need for the conference.

Fatah and the Palestinian people need the Fatah conference and similar conferences for all the factions and parties; they need national and popular conferences that lead ultimately to a Palestinian National Council (PNC) conference attended by the various political and social parties. This conference must determine a new political programme and the election of a comprehensive national leadership. The process should aim to review past experience, reach conclusions therefrom and close all the doors to the options and strategies that were adopted in the past and did not achieve the desired goals. The conference must also tell us why the Palestinian people haven't been victorious despite their continuous struggle and sacrifices for over one hundred years.

It is true that the people are suffering from division and a lack of options and alternatives for the current Palestinian leadership and main forces, to the extent that the situation is threatening the cause, the country and the people at an unprecedented level, but the Palestinian cause is still alive despite its decline in the past few years. The cause is still half in the homeland and the various factions are insistent on not surrendering and on fighting for their rights and goals, no matter how long it takes and how many sacrifices they have to make.

Anyone who doubts this must look at the Palestinian national identity, as well as the cultural and artistic nationalism as seen in songs, poems, novels, drawings, folklore, research centres and the individual creations and achievements. They must look at the legendary perseverance of the people in the occupied land, the brave resistance in all its peaceful and armed forms on an individual and collective level, and at the various forms of boycott exercised against Israel that unsettles the occupying state and that has a promising future if it is used as a strategic measure for which all official and popular capabilities are provided. The boycott should not be labelled as a tactic and there should not be a distinction between boycotting Israel and boycotting the settlements, as if Israel is not a discriminatory colonial state that occupies Palestinian land and embodies the settlements.

Fatah's unity is necessary and a step forward if it aims to adopt a new programme capable of unifying the movement with the Palestinian people in a manner that helps confront the challenges and dangers that threaten the cause and is capable of utilising the available opportunities.

What has delayed the Fatah conference until now, and what is currently delaying the PNC meeting in its current or new form, is the desire to tailor the results of such meetings to specific individuals or to serve individual interests rather than to be open to different opinions and trends and to be keen on renewal and change, as well as responding to the interests of the Palestinian people including their various trends, individuals and groups. When we are focused on formulating a comprehensive national vision capable of paving the way for a new path and focused on how to progress on the path of reaching the national goals that have still not been achieved, only then will Fatah be revived or will someone step forward to carry the national Palestinian cause at the current stage.

In light of the current Palestinian leadership's dependence on the policy of survival, waiting it out, and counting on future variables and the unknown that will never arise automatically on their own, we will only go from bad to worse, and there is always something worse. We have not yet hit rock bottom, as evident by the continuous deterioration. We will not necessarily make true change and find the desired alternative by only moving in the opposite direction, as if merely taking action would improve matters. This is not what our people need. What they need is to move forward, armed with the justice of their cause, their moral superiority, the people's insistence on embodying their cause, achieving their goals and the Palestinians' ability to do the impossible.

Despite Israel's superior strength, abilities and international alliances, especially with the US, it still has great weaknesses within it that emerged recently despite its golden external environment. These weaknesses could become more evident if the Palestinians arm themselves with a national vision, realism and the right programme, and if they reconstruct their institutions in the PA, the "state" and the PLO in a manner that goes hand in hand with the lessons learned, the facts on the ground and the potential variables.

Translated from Masarat, 27 September, 2016

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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