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Wednesday, May 11, 2011     FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

Report: Fatah racked by dissent amid Arab revolt

JERUSALEM — The ruling Fatah movement has been hampered by divisions amid the Arab revolt throughout the Middle East, a report said.


The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs said Fatah, believed penetrated by the opposition Hamas, has been divided between the so-called old guard and younger members.

In a report, titled "Pressures Build Inside Fatah Ahead of Palestinian State Declaration," the center said Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has come under increasing opposition from the young guard, determined to end one-man rule in the West Bank.

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"The young guard also opposes Fatah policy vis-a-vis Hamas and seeks to mend the rifts and reunite the PA with the Gaza government," the report, authored by Dror Bar-Yosef, said. "But at this stage its leaders are unable to influence Fatah policy."

[On May 4, Fatah and Hamas were scheduled to sign a reconciliation accord in Cairo, Middle East Newsline reported. The agreement was meant to pave the way for the establishment of an interim unity government as well as elections within a year.]

The report said Abbas' key rivals were comprised of a group identified with Fatah Central Committee member Marwan Barghouti. Barghouti has sought to bring about changes in Fatah's structure that could allow the young guard to play a prominent role in Palestinian strategy.

"The Palestinian people and the Fatah membership recognize Abbas' importance and international standing, thanks to which he enjoys support and accessibility, without which their situation would be infinitely more difficult," the report said. "Yet many people in the movement and in Palestinian society do not identify with him as a leader and hence do not support his leadership."

Fatah has been divided mostly over relations with Hamas and Israel. The issues included options to establish a Palestinian state, a freeze in Jewish construction in the West Bank and opposition to any negotiations with Israel.

"In the coming months, if an independent state is declared, Abbas will have to deal with complex internal Palestinian issues," the report said. "If such a program is not realized, he will face an even harder task making sure that he retains control in the face of both internal and external challenges."

Another key opponent of Abbas has been former PA security chief Mohammed Dahlan. Dahlan has been exiled from the West Bank amid allegations that he sought to organize a militia to overthrow the PA leadership.

"Publicity about the ongoing Fatah investigation of Dahlan constitutes another nail in the political coffin of a man who was once the strongest Fatah figure in Gaza," the report said. "While Dahlan succeeded in the Fatah elections at the Congress in Bethlehem and entered the Central Committee, this episode could be serious enough to threaten his political future."

Dahlan has also been accused of allowing Hamas infiltration of Fatah. The report said the infiltrators were relaying information on Fatah and Israel to the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip.

The report envisioned a decline in Abbas' authority. Bar-Yosef, a researcher on Palestinian affairs, cited the resignation of PA chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, the defeat of Abbas allies in Fatah Central Committee elections in 2009 and coordination between the committee and the Fatah Revolutionary Council, also said to be dominated by the young guard.

"The structural changes currently underway in Fatah are a sign of the internal crisis within the movement and further evidence of efforts by prominent members to play a larger role in strategic decisions, rather than leaving them only to Abbas," the report said. "The success of endeavors by this group could bring about major changes in Fatah policy, especially regarding the movement's attitude to the crisis with Hamas and relations with Israel."

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