The congress of leading Palestinian party Fatah voted Sunday for a new executive body and assembly. Meanwhile, Israel called the Fatah conference "disappointing" after the party reiterated its right to “resistance” to Israeli occupation.
REUTERS - The congress of the leading Palestinian party, Fatah, voted on Sunday for a new executive body and assembly filled with fresh faces to regain the lost trust of the Palestinian people.
The movement led by the late Yasser Arafat for 40 years wants to shed a reputation for corruption and cronyism that led in 2006 to a stunning election loss to its Islamist rival Hamas, which opposes peace with Israel.
Hamas seized the Gaza Strip in a bloody confrontation a year later, splitting the Palestinian independence movement.
The voting being held in the West Bank town of Bethlehem was expected to take at least 10 hours, which meant the process could last into Monday, and tabulating the results could take about a day as well.
One of the favoured candidates is Marwan Barghouthi, a younger, articulate and popular member of the movement currently in an Israeli jail.
Delegates stood in long queues to cast ballots, choosing among 96 candidates, six of them women, standing for election to the 21-member central committee and 617 party members, including 50 women, vying for the 80 places open in a 128-seat Revolutionary Council, the body’s parliament.
Some 300 Fatah members from Gaza barred by Hamas from attending, dictated their votes by telephone or sent them in by email.
A motion was passed earlier reaffirming that “the aim of Fatah as a liberation movement is to end the Israeli occupation and achieve independence for the Palestinian people in a state with East Jerusalem as its capital”.
“Despite our commitment to the option of a just peace and our efforts to accomplish it, we will not drop any options and we believe resistance in all its forms is a legitimate right of occupied peoples in confronting their occupiers,” it said.
PEACE IS CENTRAL ISSUE
The congress of 2,355 delegates—Fatah’s first in 20 years -- began last Tuesday, marked by reformists’ charges of vote-buying and nepotism by the “old guard”.
If stalled peace talks with Israel resume, Fatah’s leader, the Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, will be Israel’s main interlocutor, a position Hamas is certain to continue challenging whatever the convention’s outcome.
Holding its first meeting on Palestinian soil in 44 years of existence is part of Fatah’s efforts to underpin Abbas’s personal authority as the voice of all Palestinians.
Abbas would create a Palestinian state alongside Israel, roughly along borders created by the 1967 Middle East war.
Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak deplored Fatah’s anti-Israel rhetoric but stressed that “it must be understood there is no Middle East solution other than a comprehensive, broad settlement including us and the Palestinians”.
Abbas, 74, won unanimous endorsement by a show of hands on Saturday, telling the congress it must mark a new beginning.
“We’ve had many launches and setbacks. Sometimes we have reached the edge of the abyss but we have always emerged stronger,” he said to applause.
All eyes were on the competition for leadership places by members of the younger generation of Fatah members, who say the top ranks of the movement are long overdue for an overhaul.
Delegates had to write the names of chosen candidates on ballots before dropping them into 20 available boxes, a process that took some as long as half an hour.
“Fatah will emerge from this conference with a new look, a positive image,” Mohammed Shtayyeh, a Central Committee candidate, said as he waited his turn to vote.
Fatah is dominant in the West Bank, separated from the Hamas-run Gaza Strip by Israeli land. Together the territories would form a future Palestine in a peace deal with Israel—except that they are now governed by two hostile rivals.
Date created : 2009-08-09