Fatah Conference Ends
Issues broadsides on Israel, Hamas
At Fatah’s sixth General Assembly last week—the first the political party has held without its founder, Yasser Arafat—Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that he will not negotiate a peace deal with Israel until the Netanyahu government accepts the two-state solution (something Netanyahu appeared to do at his Bar-Ilan speech last month) and halts construction on all Israeli settlements (something the Obama administration has been pressuring Israel to do for six months). Abbas also reaffirmed the Palestinian right to “resistance,” which he clarified should not take the form of terrorism. He accused Israel of conducting an “ethnic cleansing” program in Jerusalem to void that city of its centuries-old Arab character (Fatah adopted a position paper arguing for the incorporation of all of Jerusalem into a future Palestine), and, once again, refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. However, earning just as much, if not more, censure than Israel at the conference halls and public squares of Bethlehem, where the General Assembly occurred, was Hamas—Fatah’s main rival for power in the West Bank and Gaza. Abbas accused his enemy party, which prohibited 400 Fatah delegates from leaving Gaza to attend the convention, of being responsible for the giant breach in Palestinian politics and of murdering opposition figures. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman—not exactly a catalyst to happy Arab-Israeli relations—said the outcome of the Fatah convention “bur[ied] any chance” of an Arab-Israeli peace accord in the near future.
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