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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Fatah and PLO infighting coming to a head

For the past few months, there have been efforts to put together a Fatah conference in Ramallah. They have not had such a conference for twenty years, and Mahmoud Abbas is determined to schedule one for August.

The major problem is that Fatah's leadership in Tunisia, led by Farouk Kaddoumi, doesn't want the conference to be held in the West Bank. He blasted Abbas in a speech in Amman a couple of days ago, and Abbas' people blasted him back.

The two have been in a power struggle for a long time. Kaddoumi is actually Fatah's chairman, succeeding Yasir Arafat, and he is secretary general of the PLO. Abbas is trying to use this meeting to marginalize the PLO factions abroad. Kaddoumi is threatening to make his own alternate Fatah meeting.

Not too many people realize that the PLO formally delegates power to the Palestinian Authority. In some ways, Abbas is subordinate to Kaddoumi.

Kaddoumi has no interest in peace with Israel, of course, and he has stated explicitly what most "moderate" Arabs feel: "At this stage there will be two states. Many years from now there will be only one."

Not only is this a fiasco in the making, but it is proving that Abbas is hardly recognized as a leader even within his own faction. So much of the West is invested in the idea of Abbas, and about the power struggle between Fatah and Hamas, but no one is even considering the problems that Fatah has internally that weaken it further.

Of course, the Western media have been mute about this upcoming conference, so the severe problems that could arise are not even on the radar of most Western leaders.