Aspiring Palestinian Leaders to Vie for Top Spots at Heated Fatah Meet on Wednesday

Leading contender for key post, Marwan Barghouti, is serving life sentence in Israeli jail.

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
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Jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti appearing in court in Tel Aviv in 2002.
Jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti appearing in court in Tel Aviv in 2002.Credit: Archive / AP
Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

Tensions are rising in the Fatah movement in the West Bank ahead of the party central committee meeting tonight (Wednesday), at which top jobs, like chairman and secretary-general, are to be decided. At a Fatah meeting in December, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was unanimously reelected chairman of the movement; Marwan Barghouti, who is serving a life sentence in Israeli jail, and Jibril Rajoub also won large numbers of votes.

Fatah is the largest faction of the PLO and the one which dominates the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. The Fatah central committee is the movement’s supreme authority. Aside from the chairman, 18 members were elected and Abbas is expected to name four more shortly.

According to the custom in Fatah, the central committee consists of members who hold portfolios or serve on the executive. The penultimate power, after the chairman, is the secretary-general, but in 2009 the movement also elected a vice-chairman to preside alongside the secretary-general. Other senior positions include treasurer, the portfolios of foreign relations, diplomacy, and internal organization. The latter is considered an influential position, connecting its holder to branch leaders and people in the field.

Several of committee members are vying for the top spots of vice-chairman or secretary-general. Key Fatah members told Haaretz that Rajoub was the leading candidate after Barghouti for the top spots, with Saeb Erekat — who is currently secretary general — also a contender. Several veteran committee members, such as Abbas Zaki and Mohammad Ishtayeh, also see themselves as candidates for an upgrade to higher office.

Barghouti’s camp argues that the fact that he’s in jail shouldn’t be grounds to deny him the vice chairmanship, since he won a majority of votes in December. Sources close to him told Haaretz that his status and popularity are unchallengeable, and that Abbas and the committee members could simply name him vice chairman and thus avoid disputes. Yesterday Barghouti received backing and support from Fatah prisoners incarcerated in Israel, who published an announcement calling on Abbas to name him as his deputy.

Abbas meeting with members of the Fatah Central Committee in the West Bank city of Ramallah, April 21, 2014.Credit: AFP

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