After two-years delay, Fatah movement’s seventh congress is expected to open on Tuesday, 29 November, 2016 amid Internal wrangling over Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ succession.
Up to 1,400 invited members are expected to design the movement’s strategy for the next five years. The congress will also elect Fatah’s 23-member Central Committee, presided by Abbas, and its 132-member Revolutionary Council. Abbas is said to be under pressure from Arab states to name a successor. Fatah officials, however, insist that the congress “is not about succession”. Husam Zomlot, Abbas’ strategic adviser and newly appointed ambassador to the United States siad, “The congress will discuss and review the tools that have been used to achieve two goals: establishing a free and sovereign state and the right of return which remain our national goals, A major review should be about bilateralism and successive Israeli governments’ insistence to use negotiations as a tool to expand and reinforce the occupation and colonisation.”
In this respect, some analysts have expressed concern about the timing of the congress, with political tensions running high; while others have pointed to the need to forward-plan towards Abbas’ succession to avoid a power vacuum that could lead to serious destabilisation and the imposition of outside agendas. The 81-year-old Palestinian president was recently hospitalised with heart problems, and his term in office officially expired in 2009. PA raids into Palestinian refugee camps, including Jenin and Al Amari, have intensified in the lead-up to the congress, as they did around the now-postponed municipal elections, originally planned for October 8.
On October 22, PA security forces broke up a meeting organised by a group of Fatah leaders in Al Amari refugee camp near Ramallah, which resulted in a number of arrests and ousters from the movement
Hamas, meanwhile, has allowed Dahlan to get a foothold in Gaza, and in return Egypt has loosened some of the restrictions on access and movement it imposed on the Strip. Alaa Tartir, programme director at Al-Shabaka, highlighed six main issues he thinks the Fatah leadership should consider during the congress if the political will existed.
Formerly led by Yasser Arafat, Fatah remains the dominant party in both the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation), which led the Palestinians to the Oslo Accords with Israel in 1993 and 1995, and the PA (Palestinian Authority). The latter was created as a provisional government as part of the Oslo process, which envisaged a five-year interim period to pave the way to final status negotiations.