By: Prof. Dr. Mohsen Mohammad Saleh.
After leading the Palestinian national project and its official institutions for more than fifty years, the Fatah movement finds itself at a historic milestone and a crossroad, where it has to decide its future tracks and options.
When it was launched, the Fatah movement was highly dynamic and had extensive mobilization capacities and the willingness to make great sacrifices. Its emergence in 1965 was a milestone at which the notion of Palestinian national action was launched, in addition to armed resistance. It contributed to having an independent national decision-making, away from the hegemony of the regimes. Then at another crossroads in 1968, Fatah led the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), “revolutionizing” it and putting its vision of national action and liberation into practice. Since then, Fatah has been passing crossroads whether in the issues of the resistance’ geographic positioning in Jordan, its relocation to Lebanon, its forced dispersion to Tunis and other locations, its political positioning between the comprehensive liberation project and the one democratic state (1969), the Ten Point Program (1974), the two-state solution (1988), or the Oslo Accords (1993)….
After the official announcement of the “Trump’s deal,” on 28/1/2020, and the thundering failure of 26 years of Oslo Accords and the collapse of the two-state solution project, the Fatah movement stands these days at a historic turning point, which may save the national project if dealt with boldly and responsibly. At this crossroad, Fatah needs to make a serious review and reset the compass, before the events crush it and dissipate it into history.
There are three important issues on which Fatah has to decide its position, while it stands at crossroads:
The First Issue: Dealing with the peace process: After about thirty years of trial, and chasing the “mirage” of the Palestinian state; there is no room for delay or escape from this issue anymore. The US has decided to go along with the “Likudist Zionist project,” the Israeli society has become more racist and extreme, the Arab environment adopting the peace process is impotent, weak and fragmented, and the international community is incapable of enforcing even one resolution on Israel. Thirty years of “peace,” “renouncing terrorism,” “chasing the resistance forces” and “begging” in the corridors and hubs of the United Nations and international agencies… have not convinced the Israelis and their allies that the Palestinians are people who deserve dignified life. After all what Fatah has offered… they can’t see it except as “functional tool” to legitimize the occupation, Judaize the land and holy sites and suppress of resistance.
The Second Issue: The position on the Palestinian Authority (PA): The Fatah movement, which assumed the burden of establishing the PA in pursuit of the dream of a Palestinian state on the 1967 occupied land, have found that it is actually now managing a self-rule authority without any horizon but to establish “bantustans” and ghettos under Israeli domination. It is an authority whose role has been devoted to “serving the occupation,” rather than serving the objectives of the Palestinian people. There is no longer any justification for a militant movement and a “liberation” movement like Fatah to play such a role. For it is a role that the Israelis have emptied except from the “dirty jobs” of security coordination and what the Israelis wish to relieve themselves from, such as managing the daily life of the population. Everyone realizes that 26 years of the PA’s functional role, led by Fatah, has only strengthened the Zionist project, provided a cover for its settlement and Judaization projects, stricken the resistance forces and provided justifications for the normalization and recognition of Israel, in the Arab, Islamic and international landscapes.
Fatah faces extreme difficulty where the PA is concerned, for tens of thousands of Fatah cadres have their living and are functionally connected to the PA and its institutions. Consequently, they adapted their lifestyles accordingly. Therefore, any decision, whether to “drop the PA” or to redefine it as “a resistance authority,” is a historic decision that involves high costs and great sacrifices. However, whether Fatah likes it or not, it has almost reached this crossroads, and it has to choose either to pay the price for its national choices (while coordinating with other resistance forces), or to find itself gradually emptied of its national and militant content, and has become part of the Israeli establishment.
The Third Issue: The official structure of the Palestinian national project: Fatah has been leading the PLO for more than fifty years, and the PA for nearly 26 years.
Regardless of the reasons that led to its dominance over the organization, and the argument that the Arab and international community reject the approach of the resistance or “political Islam” movements…, the Palestinian condition has reached a “critical point” that no longer affords the possibility of delay. For major issues must be confronted, first and foremost, the “Trump deal” and the liquidation of the Palestine issue. The “luxury” of time for political maneuvers and rivalries and factional quotas can no longer be afforded.
All followers of the Palestine issue, as well as Fatah itself, know the weakness, deterioration, and collapse of the PLO institutions. Everyone has been witnessing the strange insistence of the PLO leadership on carrying on with the same leadership style, monopolizing the leadership of the Palestinian National Council (PNC), the PLO Executive Committee and its branches, and dominating the PA, its government, ministries, and apparatuses. Everyone has been witnessing how the call of the Provisional Leadership Framework is being ignored, the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) has been dissolved, and a Fatah government has been formed, at a time of greatest need for national unity and a comprehensive national program.
All what has Fatah done to “qualify” or to be accepted in the Arab and international environment, according to US standards, or even according to many Israeli requirements, has only led to emptying it from its national and militant content, while at the same time the occupation was reinforced and the Palestine issue obliterated. Therefore, Fatah has to stand up to this historical situation, take the initiative, and put the Palestinian political house in order and rebuild the PLO, on the basis of Palestinian fundamentals and real national partnership.
Perhaps, in this article, it’s enough to discuss these three crucial issues, which put the Fatah movement in front of a historic crossroads, that can neither be postponed nor ignored, because as a result the biggest loser would be Palestine, and also Fatah itself for sure.
There are other issues that Fatah must tackle, such as the succession of Mahmud ‘Abbas, and the future form of Fatah leadership. Besides, there are other issues that Fatah would face when it makes its choices concerning the peace process and the PA, the Palestinian armed resistance, ending security coordination with Israel, allowing the popular uprising in the West Bank, and reactivating the role of Palestinians abroad. All of these questions are of vital nature that affect the nature and structure of the Palestinian national project. However, in essence they are connected to the above three main issues.
Further delay and procrastination in resolving Fatah’s decisions will only lead to further decline of Fatah’s status, role and impact, and to it losing its identity and compass, especially since there is an occupation that no longer accepts it, except as a tool and cover for its occupation.
Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations, 9/3/2020