The status of Jerusalem as the future capital of a Palestinian state is a red line that no Palestinian leader is permitted to cross, President Mahmoud Abbas’ ruling Fatah faction declared in the West Bank on Saturday.
According to Israel Radio, the Fatah general conference, which convened in Bethlehem for a three-day gathering, adopted a position paper which also states that the Palestinian national enterprise will not reach fruition until all of Jerusalem, including the outlying villages, come under Palestinian sovereignty.
Fatah, which rules the West Bank but was ousted from power in Gaza by the Islamist Hamas movement, also ruled out any interim agreements with Israel.
“Fatah will continue to sacrifice victims until Jerusalem will be returned [to the Palestinians], clean of settlements and settlers,” the paper states.
According to Israel Radio, the paper does not make a distinction between the eastern and western halves of the capital, nor does it distinguish between the territories within the Israeli side of the Green Line and the areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War.
Abbas relected to lead Fatah
Mahmoud Abbas was re-elected on Saturday to lead Fatah by consensus at the party conference.
There was no vote taken because no other Fatah member challenged Abbas’ five-year rule of the party. Hundreds of delegates cheered and clapped as Fatah leader Tayib Abdul Rahim announced that Abbas was chosen to lead the party.
Technically Abbas can only lead the party for five years, until a new conference is announced, but this is the first time Fatah members have met in 20 years, so it isn’t clear how long his mandate will last.
Also Saturday, Ahmed Qureia, also known as Abu Alla, told reporters that delegates meeting in Bethlehem would elect a new Central Committee and a Revolutionary Council on Sunday or Monday.
Qureia said the convention would hold the elections for both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank at the same time, adding that “some Gaza members will contest the elections.”
He said the modalities of the election were still under discussion. Changes to Fatah’s platform were being discussed during Saturday’s sessions, he said.
Abbas Zaki, a Fatah representative from Lebanon said “100 candidates are running for membership of the Central Committee and 646 for the Revolutionary Council.
Voting by the some 2,500 delegates for the 18-member Central Committee, and 120-member Revolutionary Council had originally been expected to start on Saturday morning.
The convention is meeting for the first time in 20 years to elect a new leadership for the organization founded by Yasser Arafat.
However, Fatah rival Hamas, which has ruled the Gaza Strip since June 2007, banned scores of Fatah members there from traveling to the West Bank to attend the gathering.
On Friday, Central Committee member Nabil Shaath announced an agreement reached with the convention’s leadership that would allow Gaza delegates to vote by telephone.
Fatah said in a statement that Hamas security forces had placed several Gaza convention delegates under house arrest and prevented them from leaving their homes.
It said that on Friday and Saturday, Hamas security personnel detained several Fatah leaders for questioning before releasing them. Hamas Interior Ministry spokesman Ihab al-Ghussein denied there were any detentions.
U.S. to demand Israel, Palestinian deal with borders
The U.S. administration will demand that Israel and the Palestinians address the issue of borders as the first step in the Middle East peace plan, senior Palestinian officials said Thursday.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Wednesday that Washington will present its new plan for a comprehensive Middle East peace soon.
The Americans will also outline proposals for an Israeli peace with Syria and Lebanon, the Palestinian officials said Thursday.
The American plan will not specify step-by-step actions for an Israeli-Palestinian solution, but will address final status issues – borders, Jerusalem and refugees.
The Americans will set a timetable of about a year and a half for the negotiations and demand the sides first solve the border issue, under the belief that this will lead to solutions for other issues, such as the settlements and water. After that the sides will discuss the other fundamental issues – Jerusalem and the refugees.
The negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians probably will be conducted in the presence of American officials, the sources said. The American administration is likely to present its plan before or during the UN General Assembly set for September.