Ahead of Summit, Fatah Looks to Iran, Shuns Talks in Draft Platform

Fatah should not recognize Israel as a Jewish state and needs to start a strategic dialogue with Iran, according to a proposed draft of an updated political platform to be discussed at its general conference this week.

This draft and others outlining Fatah's platform will be voted on by Fatah delegates at its scheduled general summit on Tuesday in Bethlehem. It will be the first such event in 20 years.

The document, parts of which were leaked to the Arab press yesterday, also calls for Fatah supporters to use civil disobedience against Israel, including limited violence against settlements, as well as against what it calls "the Judaization of Jerusalem." Peace talks will halt until Jewish construction in the West Bank is halted, the draft proposes.

Fatah, the draft proposes, should weigh alternatives to negotiations with Israel, including the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state along 1967 lines or the creation of a binational state, should talks with Israel fail.

The leaked parts also mention Iran, saying, "We must work toward opening a strategic channel to Iran" and calls for intensifying international efforts to boycott Israel and prevent normalization with it as long as the occupation continues.

The convention, the Fatah activists hope, will do much to clean up its corruption-tainted image and transform Fatah into a vibrant alternative to the Islamic militants of Hamas.

However, the bitter standoff with Hamas makes it uncertain the three-day convention in the West Bank city will open on schedule.

The 1989 convention called for armed action against Israel. The new one firmly commits the Palestinians to peace talks, although it still mentions armed struggle as a theoretical right, said its author, veteran Fatah leader Nabil Sha'ath.

Abbas' job as party leader is not on the line, but a show of support from his party can help shore up his political legitimacy. His term as president expired in January, but he has stayed on, saying the rift with Hamas left him no other option.

Potential successors are not challenging Abbas now, but their relative strengths will be measured when the more than 1,500 delegates from the West Bank, Gaza Strip and the Palestinian diaspora elect new party committees.

Marwan Barghouti, who led the last Palestinian uprising, is running for the 21-member central committee from an Israeli prison.

The proposed draft also includes a call to investigate Yasser Arafat's death in 2004, accusing Israel of assassinating him.