Monday, August 3, 2009

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Historic Fatah Conference to Convene in Bethlehem

by David Bedein

Jerusalem, Israel - For the first time in more than 20 years, Fatah (Arabic for “conquest”), the dominant ruling power of the Palestinian Authority, will gather next week for a conference in Bethlehem, with than 1,7,50 of its active members expected to attend. This is the first since the 1993 signing of the Oslo Accords, which the Fatah never ratified.

Israel has decided not to not keep any delegate to the Fatah convention from being able to attend the parley next week in Bethlehem, including those coming from Syria and Lebanon.

A senior Fatah official Muhammad "Abu Maher" Ghneim returned to Palestinian territory on Wednesday from in Tunisia ahead of the movement's general conference, which opens next week in Bethlehem. Palestinian news sources reported that President Mahmoud Abbas convinced Israeli authorities to allow Ghneim to attend the conference.

After crossing the Israeli-controlled Allenby Bridge border crossing from Jordan on Wednesday, Ghneim was whisked to the Palestinian Authority (PA) headquarters in Ramallah in a presidential car, accompanied by top negotiator Saeb Erekat. In Ramallah, the Fatah official was welcomed by Abbas in an official ceremony.

Ghneim's return also marks a reversal in Palestinian politics. Ghneimopposed the Oslo peace agreements, and at first refused to return to Palestine until all of its territory was "liberated

On the eve of the conference, the Middle East Newsline broke the story that Israel's military has determined that the ruling Fatah movement continues to engage in weapons smuggling, after capturing Fatah militia commanders who admitted to

smuggling weapons acquired weapons from such sources as Israeli organized crime, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority itself.

"The weapons are sold for profit, mostly to Israeli and Palestinian criminals, some of them who engage in terrorism," a military source said.

Fatah weapons smugglers were operating in Bethlehem, Hebron, Nablus, Ramallah and Tulkarm, in coordination with the Iranian-sponsored Islamic Jihad. Israeli military sources also confirm that Fatah weapons smugglers have also sold weapons to the opposition Hamas.

On July 24, the Israel Army arrested a suspected Fatah weapons smuggler in Nablus named as Nasser Mahmoud Abu Kishk, a 34-year-old Fatah militia operative from Nablus Abu Kishk, wanted by Israel for several years, was also said to have supplied weapons to Fatah's Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which is identified by both Israel and by the United States intelligence agencies as a terrorist organization.

Israeli army spokesmen also said that Kishk has participated in shooting attacks against Israelis.

Policy Issues On The Agenda

An organization known as has put forward four policy issues for the Fatah to reconsider, if Fatah is to be seen as a real party to peace talks in the future.

1. Fatah does not recognize Israel's right to exist. Fatah leaders emphasize that this ideology is current and not merely an oversight

2. Fatah continues to use maps that don't acknowledge Israel's existence

3. Fatah charter still calls for Israel's destruction

4. Fatah continues to support the cease fire, only in terms of the continued armed struggle against Israel

View this story in the Philadelphia Bulletin
View this story at Israel Behind the News

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