Fatah conference in Bethlehem
Fatah conference in BethlehemIsrael news photo: (Flash 90)

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, the head of Fatah, had a busy day Wednesday as he referreed an increasingly angry Fatah conference. Conference spokesman Nabil Amr admitted that the second day of talks between thousands of Fatah's worldwide representatives was “stormy.”

The chief cause of delegates' discontent was the fact that Fatah's Central Committee had failed to prepare even basic information regarding the last two decades of Fatah activities.

Among other things, the committee was unable to answer delegates' questions about Fatah's finances. Fatah has often faced charges of financial corruption, particularly as the Fatah-led PA continues to fall into debt despite receiving billions of dollars in international aid.

Abbas attempted to calm conference attendees by promising them more time to meet and discuss issues. Senior Fatah officials confirmed that the conference may not end on Thursday as previously planned.

Abbas also promised delegates that those responsible for failing to adequately prepare for the meeting would be punished. He offered his own speech from the day before as an alternative source of information on Fatah's recent history.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Fatah officials were planning to continue with Thursday's agenda, which is to include the nomination of new members for Fatah's Central Committee and Revolutionary Council.

Report: Bethlehem Without Water

While Abbas' announcement that the conference would be extended may have appeased Fatah delegates, it is likely to have annoyed residents of Bethlehem, the city in which Fatah is meeting. According to Ynet, the Fatah conference has led to a cutoff in water to many neighborhoods of the city.

Instead of receiving water, residents are being told to buy large containers of water, which can cost up to NIS 1,000 each week.

In addition, Bethlehem residents complained that several local streets had been closed for the conference, and that traffic was regularly snarled by senior Fatah members coming and going with their security details.

Al-Aksa Infuriated by Zubeidi Snub

Another reason for Fatah infighting Wednesday was an apparent snub directed at Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades delegate Zakariya al-Zubeidi. While Zubeidi formally renounced his terrorist life several months ago in exchange for clemency from the Olmert government, he remained an official Fatah delegate representing the terrorist Al-Aksa offshoot.

Despite his continuing membership in Fatah, Zubeidi was turned away from the conference when he arrived on Tuesday. While he was later allowed in, the perceived rejection of Al-Aksa angered many of the group's leaders.

An Al-Aksa terrorist interviewed by the Bethlehem-based Ma'an news agency on Wednesday accused Fatah of “stabbing resistance in the back,” while a second warned, “This is humiliation for the Al-Aksa Brigades, and they won't let it go unquestioned.”