Abbas re-elected head of Fatah

Palestinian Authority chairman's party re-elects him party head at its first congress since 2009.

Elad Benari,

Mahmoud Abbas
Mahmoud Abbas
Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90

Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah re-elected him party head Tuesday, as the movement opened its first congress since 2009.

According to AFP, Fatah spokesman Mahmoud Abu al-Hija said Abbas was re-elected by consensus at the congress attended by some 1,400 delegates in Ramallah.

The congress was attended by representatives of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist groups, who were invited directly by Fatah, despite the fact that Abbas is called a "moderate" by most of the Western world, while Hamas and Islamic Jihad openly call for the destruction of the state of Israel.

The election of members of Fatah's parliament and its central committee over the five-day conference will signal the direction the party a time when Abbas is weakened by his own unpopularity and internal dissent.

While Abbas has said he has no intention of stepping aside anytime soon, talk of who will eventually succeed him has intensified. He has not publicly designated a successor.

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.

There has been pressure by some Arab countries on Abbas to name Dahlan, who ousted from Fatah in 2011 and has since continuously verbally attacked Abbas, as his successor. Abbas vehemently objects to this.

Dahlan, for his part, has said he will not challenge Abbas for the leadership of Fatah but has also blasted him as unfit to lead and suggested he would support archterrorist Marwan Barghouti, who is currently serving five life sentences in Israeli prison for his role in planning suicide terror attacks during the Second Intifada.

Observers have seen the reduced number of officials to vote at the Fatah congress -- down from more than 2,000 in 2009 -- as part of a move to exclude Dahlan supporters.

Dimitri Diliani, elected to Fatah's revolutionary council, or parliament, in 2009, said he was not invited to the congress like dozens of others because "we bring a different voice".

He said a press conference on Tuesday with those recently dismissed from the party had been called off after threats "from the security services," including death threats.

Jibril Rajoub, a former intelligence chief, current head of the Palestinian Football Association and Fatah central committee member, acknowledged "opponents and dissidents" had not been invited, but said "the priority is to hold the congress".

Rajoub also said the gathering was to provide an opportunity to update the party's structures.

"The system from the 1960s no longer works in 2016," he told AFP.

"We have to take into account the current circumstances. The current system was created when we were in the diaspora and we are now on national soil. It was put in place at a revolutionary stage. Now we have a state."

The congress comes as Fatah and its longtime rival Hamas, in power in Gaza since violently taking control in 2006, are still deeply divided.

A unity government between Hamas and Fatah collapsed last June when Abbas decided to dissolve it amid a deepening rift between the sides. This only intensified the war of words between the sides.

Since the unity government was dissolved, Hamas and Fatah have held several rounds of reconciliation talks in Doha, Qatar – but with no success.

A letter from Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, in which he said he was "ready to cooperate with Fatah," was read at the opening of the congress.




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