The Palestinian party that the West considers moderate reaffirmed its commitment to a violent struggle against Israel and called for the removal of all Jews from Jerusalem.
It also refused to renew the peace process until all Palestinian prisoners are released form Israeli jails - language that paves the path for another round of violence in the region.
Reiterating its theme of armed struggle, the Fatah platform states: “We believe that all forms of resistance are a legitimate right of the peoples of territories in the face of occupation.”
“The struggle stems from the Palestinian people’s right to oppose the occupation and the settlements, the expulsion and the racist discrimination – and this right is a right guaranteed by international law,” the official wording reads.
In a one-man race, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was re-elected as head of Fatah for another five-year term.
“Although we have chosen peace we reserve the right to return to armed resistance,” Abbas said, setting the tone of the assembly in his keynote address.
The Fatah General Assembly's approval of the radical language could lead to another violent Palestinian uprising against Israel, said Avi Dichter, Israel’s former internal security chief. “Fatah’s statements clear the way to what may eventually be the third intifada,” he said. “Once you say that the fight will go on by all means necessary, anyone in their right mind understands that spells an armed conflict.”
The Palestinian party, which the Obama administration and other Western nations cited as a peace partner for Israel, held its first general assembly in more than 20 years with about 2,260 delegates in the West Bank town of Bethlehem. Israel allowed participants from Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, and the United States to travel to the West Bank while Hamas, the ruling party in Gaza, prevented Fatah members there from leaving the strip.
The assembly, which was scantly reported in mainstream media outlets, ended late last week with militant statements and even a call from one member for the party to forge a strategic alliance with Iran. Fatah ratified a political platform that includes the Palestinians’ right “to resist occupation in all forms;” the continuation of the armed struggle until all Palestinian refugees are repatriated inside Israel; refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state; and a call for Palestinian sovereignty over Jerusalem, according to the Arabic language Al Quds newspaper.
“Fatah will continue to sacrifice victims until Jerusalem will be returned [to the Palestinians], clean of settlements and settlers,” language used to refer to Israelis, the platform states. “Fatah is still a liberation movement, and since we have not yet achieved our goals, we have popular resistance,” said Fatah Central Committee member At-Tayyib Abdul-Rahim.
In another step backward for peace, the party endorsed the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades as Fatah’s official armed wing despite previous agreements with Israel and the U.S. to dismantle the faction.
“The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades are the jewel in Fatah's crown,” said Fahmi Al-Za'arir, a Fatah spokesman. “We must strengthen their status . . . [and] maintain them in a state of alert.”
Tom Gross, an expert on Middle East affairs, said that, instead of proving itself the “responsible Palestinian party that could form an independent Palestinian state that would live in peace with Israel, the extremely hard-line pronouncements and resolutions Fatah adopted during the past week show that it still has not made the transition from a guerrilla movement in exile bent on destroying Israel to a political party charged with establishing Palestinian self-rule.”
The Bethlehem rhetoric ostensibly buries the chance for peace in the near future. Israeli leaders were frustrated with Fatah’s resolutions to support an armed struggle.
“If its program is to be believed, Fatah is just as extremist as Hamas, and that’s worrying because it damages the prospects of reaching a compromise with the leadership of the Palestinian Authority,” said Israel’s Information Minister Yuli Edelstein. “We must not act as if we haven’t heard. We must emerge from the circle of illusions that these are moderates who want peace.”
Caroline Glick, a right-wing columnist for The Jerusalem Post, had harsh language for the West, particularly the White House.
“A central pillar of the Obama administration’s Middle East policy paradigm was shattered at the Fatah conference in Bethlehem — but don't expect the White House to notice,” she writes in her column Friday. “Fatah was supposed to be the poster child for moderate terrorists . . . It was supposed to be the group that proved the central contention of the Obama White House's strategy for dealing with terror, namely, that all terrorists want is to be appeased.”
“But over the past week in Bethlehem, Fatah's leaders said they will not be appeased,” Glick writes. “They remain an implacable terror group devoted to the physical annihilation of Israel."
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