Fatah moves 'to remove, defeat occupation'

Defense minister urges Abbas to enter serious talks, calls on Obama to lead way for peace in the region.

ehud barak 248.88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
ehud barak 248.88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
Fatah's sixth General Assembly on Sunday approved a political platform that emphasizes the Palestinians' right "to resist occupation in all forms." The conference, meeting in Bethlehem for the fifth straight day, also endorsed a resolution that defines Fatah as a "national liberation movement whose goal is to remove and defeat the occupation." In a statement, Fatah said that despite its commitment to a just peace, "we won't abandon any of our options, and we believe that resistance, in all forms, is a legitimate right of occupied people in confronting their occupiers." The statement also stressed the Palestinian refugees' right to return to their original villages inside Israel. Tayeb Abdel Rahim, a senior Fatah operative and aide to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said Fatah will continue to be a liberation movement as long as it hasn't achieved the aspirations of the Palestinians. He reiterated Fatah's decision not to resume peace talks with Israel unless the Israeli government halted settlement construction, accepted the two-state solution and fulfilled all its obligations in line with the various agreements signed with the Palestinians. Abdel Rahim said Fatah was committed to the peace process, but there would never be a permanent solution without the release of all the prisoners from Israeli jails. Also Sunday, more than 2,000 delegates began voting for new members of Fatah's key decision-making bodies, the Central Committee (21 seats) and the Revolutionary Council (120 seats). Ninety-six candidates were running for seats on the committee, while 617 presented their candidacy for the less important Revolutionary Council. More than half of the candidates running for the Central Committee are known as representatives of Fatah's old guard. The committee has long been dominated by veteran officials who have stubbornly blocked the emergence of a new leadership. Among the old guard operatives seeking seats in the committee are many former Yasser Arafat loyalists such as Nabil Sha'ath, Saeb Erekat, Sakher Bsaisso, Ibrahim Abu Dakka, Ahmed Abdel Rahman, Abu Maher Ghnaim, Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala), Ismail Abu Jaber, Tayeb Abdel Rahim, Intisar al-Wazir (Umm Jihad), Jibril Rajoub, Hakam Balawi, Rafik Natsheh and Rouhi Fattouh. For the first time in 20 years, several young guard Fatah activists have also presented their candidacy as members of the Central Committee. They include Muhammad Dahlan, Marwan Barghouti (in an Israeli prison serving five life sentences for five murders and 40 years for an attempted murder), Husam Khader, Muhammad Hourani and Kadoura Fares. Elections for the two bodies were originally scheduled for Friday, but were postponed following a row over the participation of Fatah representatives from the Gaza Strip in the vote. Hamas has banned some 400 Fatah members from leaving the Gaza Strip to attend the conference. Some Fatah delegates complained that Hamas had confiscated their cellular phones and personal computers to prevent them from casting their ballots. However, Fatah leaders said that their colleagues in the Gaza Strip did participate in the voting on Sunday afternoon, but refused to say how they did so. Some of the delegates expressed disappointment that the conference was concluding its meeting without a detailed report about Fatah's financial and administrative conduct. Husam Khader, a Fatah legislator from the Balata refugee camp near Nablus, said the failure to present such a report reflected his faction's "incompetence." The Fatah leadership justified the absence of a report by saying that Abbas's opening speech at the conference was sufficient. Some Fatah officials said that the conference paved the way for the establishment of new Fatah-controlled institutions that would function separately from the PA. Abbas Zaki, the PA representative to Lebanon, said that these institutions would actually serve as a government alongside the government of Salaam Fayad. Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Sunday was critical of the positions expressed at the Fatah General Assembly in recent days, saying at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting that "the rhetoric coming from Fatah and the positions being expressed are grave and unacceptable to us." "Still," he said, "it must be understood that there is no solution in the Middle East other than a comprehensive [peace] deal, which includes us and the Palestinians." Fatah's sixth General Assembly has issued several hard-line resolutions, saying it would not renew peace negotiations with Israel until all Palestinian prisoners are released from Israeli jails, all settlement-building is frozen and the Gaza blockade is lifted. It also vowed to struggle against Israel "until Jerusalem returns to the Palestinians void of settlers and settlements" and pinned the blame for the 2004 death of Arafat on Israel. Barak called on Abbas to enter serious negotiations with Israel and on the US and President Barack Obama to lead the way for peace in the region. Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.