On Tuesday, the Palestinian president convened his party's first congress since 1989 to strengthen its position in negotiations with Israel, Hamas.
Ramallah, West Bank
For the first time in two decades, the most enduring force in Palestinian politics convened a partywide congress Tuesday to strengthen its position in negotiations with rival Hamas as well as with Israel.
"Although peace is our choice, we reserve the right to resistance, legitimate under international law," said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the party's pro-West chairman, in his opening speech.
Fatah – the party of the late iconic Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat – faces its most serious credibility crisis since its founding half a century ago. It has lost significant popular support in the past few years; younger Palestinians have long viewed the group as corrupt and ineffective. Trounced by the militant Hamas organization in Gaza – first in 2006 elections, then at gunpoint in June 2007 – it now seeks to regain face.
The results of the three-day conference, called by Mr. Abbas and held in Bethlehem, should clarify Fatah's platform ahead of renewed peace talks with Israel – and gauge the strength of Abbas's authority, which senior Palestinian leaders have challenged in recent weeks.
"Actually holding this conference is a miracle," Abbas told delegates, according to Reuters. "People are expecting results."
But some worry that the gathering of more than 2,000 officials, which excludes several key Fatah figures unable to travel here, could further weaken the party by exposing its divisions and disarray.
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