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Despite Everything, We Seek Peace

By: Ashraf El-Ajrami, Yediot Ahronot

30.08.2009

 

The Fatah Movement finally succeeded in holding its sixth general assembly, the convening of which in Bethlehem – for the first time in 20 years – is considered a major achievement for President Mahmoud Abbas.
 
Many commentators doubted that the movement's leadership had the ability to convene a successful assembly, due to dissent on the whereabouts for holding the event, the number of members and guests to attend and the date. Eventually President Abbas unequivocally decided that the assembly was to be held at all costs, because he felt it to be of national interest as well as constituting a binding move – regionally and internationally.
 
The assembly, which succeeded in bringing together all factions and opinions, lead to two important results: the first was the adoption of a more realistic and moderate political plan. The new plan explicitly speaks of a “two-state” solution, of East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state and of an agreed solution to the refugee issue.
 
It endorses the “Arab Peace Initiative”, and is very close to the Geneva Initiative. This plan is very different from its predecessor, which referred to a historical Palestine stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. This is a significant change – misapprehended by all the radical voices in Israel, which are focused on the phrase of the right to resist occupation.
 
The Israelis need to understand that the Palestinians cannot waiver the right to resist occupation – as long as the occupation is present. International law grants us this right, but that does not mean that the Palestinians are ready or willing to use weapons against Israelis. There are many forms of popular, passive and non-violent resistance, and there are negotiations as an important arena of struggle.
 
Attention should be paid to the words of President Abbas in his important speech at the conclusion of the assembly, when he emphasized that the path of negotiations and the political process is the only way for the Palestinian people to attain their rights.
 
There is no doubt after so many years of armed confrontation and complete anarchy, that the Palestinian leadership has reached an important decision: not to return to the same situation under any circumstance. The decision determines that there is only one legitimate weapon in the Palestinian Authority, the official weapon of the security forces. And that is what the Authority is currently implementing in effect on the West Bank, following establishment of the new government under the leadership of Salam Fayyad.
 
The second important result of the assembly was the election of a new leadership, comprised of supporters of the political process. A significant number of who served with Yasser Arafat, and some of who have been in direct contact with the Israelis, such as former chiefs of the security forces. No one can accuse the new Central Committee of radicalism or of opposition to peace.
 
Therefore, contrary to all the voices that have summed up the Fatah Assembly as a disappointment, its principal results are positive and in the right direction. Mahmoud Abbas can now continue with the political process with unprecedented wide support, inside and outside the Authority. He can also continue the processes with the Hamas and its supporters in the region.
 
The author was the Minister for Prisoners Affairs in the Palestinian Authority