The Palestinian leadership is in a very tough position. Those losing trust in it are no longer limited to the traditional opposition which normally came from within the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and beyond it. Recently, they’ve been joined by top leaders from Fatah, which is supposed to be the foundation for this leadership and its main tool to control the domestic situation.
For example, a worksheet provided by members of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council, published by Watan news agency last Thursday, talked about “losing confidence in the Palestinian political leadership’s ability to provide new solutions or alternatives that can achieve any progress”, adding that “the current leadership of the movement – headed by President Mahmoud Abbas — does not represent the required level of leadership and lacks the vision and goals that can unite it.” The worksheet called for a creative way to embrace the ongoing Jerusalem uprising which it described as “the popular revolution” and also called for “activating and escalating its level and diversifying its methods”; this is precisely what the Palestinian leadership is refraining from doing. The document concluded that the seventh general conference is the best and most successful way for the advancement of the national situation as well as the situation of Fatah; it’s a conference that has been postponed indefinitely three times so far.
Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi may be in prison in Israel, but an article by him published two weeks ago called for “generating new Palestinian political elites” to deal with the “old-age” issue and allow young people to be in leadership positions. He believes that the official leadership, as he calls it, is isolated from the masses, and has transformed itself from a leadership of national liberation to a mediator between the Palestinian people and the Israeli occupation authorities. Barghouthi denounced the continuation of security coordination with the Israelis “while we pretend to be a liberation movement that struggles against [their] occupation.” In this context, a visit by an official Palestinian delegation, led by Fatah, to give condolences on the death of the head of the Israeli civil administration in the occupied West Bank last week, produced a chorus of disapproval and wide condemnation in popular and national Palestinian circles.
According to Barghouthi, the official leadership has failed to seize the historic moment of the “ongoing popular uprising”. He said that what is needed is to bring back the rhetoric of the liberation movement, after the “absurd negotiations have lost it.” He added that big tasks that will come as a result of the return to the liberation rhetoric require a comprehensive national conference in order to reformulate the national movement and the Palestinian regime; however, he did not suggest convening the seventh conference of the Fatah movement.
President Abbas, though, in his speech to the Fatah Advisory Council on Tuesday, seemed more concerned with continuing efforts to hold an international conference called for by the French initiative, even though he called for holding the Fatah conference “quickly” because, “It is the backbone for the Palestinian national project.” He also called urgently for holding the national council of the PLO in a regular session to elect a new executive committee for the organisation.
The head of the Advisory Council, Mohamed Al-Horani, has expressed his “sorrow” because none of the movement’s institutions, including the council, has any influence over the movement’s decisions, which has led Fatah to become weak and confused, “as reported by ‘Dunya al-Watan’ last Thursday.”
Barghouthi described the current Palestinian situation as a “crisis”, saying that resolving it requires national reconciliation and an end to the catastrophic division. More importantly, it requires going beyond national unity, albeit that it is very important, as what is needed is to regain the liberation rhetoric. It is clear that Barghouthi is giving up on what are purely factional matters in the best interests of the nation, whereby bringing Fatah back to national liberation will be a strategic transformation that will create a joint basis immediately for national partnership with resistance, national and Islamic movements, and will end all of the real causes of the current political and geographic division. Media reports suggest that on 22 March Fatah and Hamas signed an agreement in Doha that will lead to the formation of a national unity government, which in turn will pave the way for presidential elections of the Palestinian Authority and its legislative council, and for the PLO’s national council.
However, national democratic rhetoric by itself is not enough to overcome the crisis, insists Barghouthi. When Naser Al-Qedwa, an experienced Fatah diplomat and leader, says that the Palestinian political institution and its actions suffer from unclear positions and do not provide a clear or reliable vision, leading to it being disliked by Palestinian youth, as reported by Watan, observers can only wonder what he and other leaders have been doing over the past two decades. After all, they were a main part of the same Palestinian leadership, marketing, implementing and being faithful to its strategies.
Analysts explain that opposition from within Fatah to its leadership is becoming more noticeable as part of the conflict over who is going to succeed President Abbas and part of media campaigns introducing elections in the movement in the conference next year. It is even an expression of genuine conviction about the failure of the Palestinian leadership to achieve what it still calls the national project, and thus the opposition is paving the way for people to abandon the sinking ship before it is too late. They are right to be in opposition, but those who have been consistent in their opposition to the ill-starred Oslo Accords hope that it will not be used for the wrong reasons.