What happened in Gaza and Ramallah during the past few weeks has left many people perplexed. How much was genuine and how much was contrived? And if it was set up, who set it up? For what reason? And for whose benefit? Who are the key players in this political play?
We may be able to see some of the more visible players, but who are the behind-the-scenes actors? Was it simply an internal Palestinian case or were there outside players? What was the role of Egypt, the US and, most importantly, what was the Israeli role? Who made the assassination attempt on the former Information Minister Nabil Amer who is now being operated on in Germany from wounds that will result in the amputation of a leg? Finally, what should the position of the Palestinian public and of the political parties in the Palestinian body politic be?
There is no doubt that what happened in Gaza, and then in Ramallah, is part of an internal Palestinian power struggle, mostly within the ruling Fateh party.
Some of the known players in this struggle are the head of the movement, Yasser Arafat, Fateh’s central committee member Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala’a) and revolutionary council member Mohammed Dahlan (even though he denies having anything to do with what happened in Gaza). Also very obvious is the struggle between older and younger Fateh leaders.
Since its inception in 1966, Fateh has had only five general assemblies, the last one in 1976. Attempts by the young local Fateh leader Marwan Barghouthi to prepare for the sixth congress were dashed by his arrest by the Israelis nearly two years ago.
While the call for internal elections has been the battle cry of many of the young leaders, the older leaders seem to be fighting internally for positions and power rather than favouring a democratic process for the movement as a whole.
The issue of corruption is also a major topic of discussion, although there is disagreement about whether it is a genuine issue of contention or rather an issue that easily generates emotions.
One of the more obvious conflict has to do with the Palestinian security forces which are largely made up of Fateh cadres. These include many long-time soldiers and officers, as well as young Intifada Fateh cadres. The former are fighting for title, rank and influence, the latter for some influence and, in many cases, a simple appointment that can guarantee them regular monthly salaries.
Hamas and other Palestinian factions and groups have been mostly sidelined. Publicly they have expressed a policy of non interference, but it is clear that they seem worried about the long-term effects of this internal conflict on the overall Palestinian position.
The US, Egypt and even Israel have generally expressed similar positions, although there is no doubt that all are hoping for a weakened Arafat and a more flexible and pragmatic new leadership for the Palestinians.
There are many hopeful voices among Palestinians who are expecting that this internal fight will result in a process that will lead to reform within the Palestinian national movement. Others feel that the main loser in all this fighting is the Palestinian people themselves, who seem to have lost an opportunity to make capital from the historic decision of the International Court of Justice regarding the wall and the following UN General Assembly decision.
The truth about what is happening behind closed doors in the muqata, in Gaza and within the Fateh movement is still far from the ears of the Palestinian people. Since this movement has taken upon itself the daunting task of leading the Palestinian struggle and controlling government and security, the Palestinian public deserves to know the truth about what happened in order to understand the consequences.