Fatah at the Helm of the Palestinian Authority
By June 1990, the
The Fatah leadership was under the illusion that the Declaration of Principles would establish for the Palestinian people a presence as a nation-state on Palestinian soil for the first time in history. They believed that the components of Palestinian sovereignty could be accumulated bit by bit and that self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip could, after the end of the transitional phase, develop into an independent Palestinian state that, with political and financial support from the international community, would build its state institutions. True, as noted by Mahmoud Abbas, the agreement’s architect, they were aware of the difficulty of negotiations that whould follow and revolve around final settlement issues, such as Jerusalem, refugees, borders and water. Yet, they reckoned that Israel’s acceptance to include these issues on the negotiations agenda, after it had insisted that each side table the issues it deemed relevant without the other side being under any obligation to discuss them, would necessarily compel the Israelis to discuss these issues, on the one hand, and could shape the contours of the final settlement phase on the other.
After his arrival in Gaza, Arafat began to build the military and civilian institutions of the
Mahmoud Abbas Assumes Leadership of the Movement
On 20 January 1996, presidential elections were held for the PA in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem
) and Gaza Strip. Arafat won with 87.1 percent of the vote, defeating his opponent,
Israel continued to create “facts on the ground” through ongoing settlement construction and Judaization; that, together with the failure of the Camp David
negotiations that had commenced on 11 July 2000 between Arafat and Prime Minister Ehud Barak
, led to the outbreak of a new intifada on 28 September 2000. Out of this
On 11 November 2004, Yasir Arafat died in suspicious circumstances. The compound in which he resided in
Fatah and the Hamas Challenge
In his electoral platform, Mahmoud Abbas stressed the need to reform the political system on the basis of strengthening the role of institutions and kickstarting the democratic process. He called for a halt to the militarization of the intifada and for the revival of negotiations as the only way to arrive at a political solution that would guarantee the rights of the Palestinian people, to contribute to transforming their image in the eyes of the international community, and to ensure material support for their cause. Just a few weeks after he won the election, he succeeded in reaching an understanding with the leadership of the
However, instead of providing a solution to the crisis faced by the PA, those legislative elections resulted in deepening the polarization between the Fatah and Hamas camps and to a large extent expunged the leftist groups, which were unable to form a “third pole” as a major force in Palestinian politics. Although President Abbas gave senior Hamas leader
Fatah’s Sixth and Seventh General Conferences
In August 2009, Fatah’s sixth general conference was held in
In late November 2016, the movement’s seventh conference was held in Ramallah. In its first session, it unanimously elected Mahmoud Abbas as commander-in-chief of Fatah. It also elected an eighty-member
More than six decades after it was founded, and having spearheaded the Palestinian struggle for national liberation in our time, Fatah now stands at a crossroads. The gamble it took on the Self-Governing Authority transforming into a fully independent state has melted into thin air. The PA survives in isolated cantons in the occupied West Bank governed by the will of the Israeli occupation, while the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip continues. Still, its popular base inside the occupied Palestinian territories remains the largest of all groups, as shown by opinion polls and student council elections, just as its influence among Palestinians in the diaspora remains the strongest.
Baumgarten, Helga. “The Three Faces/Phases of Palestinian Nationalism, 1948–2005.” Journal of Palestine Studies 34, no. 4 (Summer 2005): 25–48.
Bröning, Michael. Political Parties in Palestine: Leadership and Thought. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.
Dot-Pouillard, Nicolas. La Mosaïque éclatée: Une histoire du mouvement national palestinien (1993–2016). Beirut: Institut des études palestiniennes, 2016.
Jamal, Amal. The Palestinian National Movement: Politics of Contention, 1967–2005. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005.
Løvlie, Frode. “Questioning the Secular-Religious Cleavage in Palestinian Politics: Comparing Fatah and Hamas.” Politics and Religion 7 (2014): 100–21.