Dalia Hatuqa writes: After nearly a half-century of existence, Fatah has left many loyalists and critics alike pondering its accomplishments. On New Year’s Eve, the Palestinian political party — which has led the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) for decades and currently holds the presidency of the Palestianian Authority (PA) — celebrated its 48th anniversary. In Ramallah, a few thousand mostly young men marched across the West Bank city to the Muqata’, the headquarters of the PA president and Fatah leader, Mahmoud Abbas. The streets were lined with the party’s younger supporters, some elderly veterans clad in military fatigues and several high-ranking members of the group’s leadership who are based in the West Bank.
As the marchers converged upon the headquarters — once a ravaged icon of the second Intifada, today it stands a revamped modern military compound — many started to trickle away. Addressing the enthusiastic group that remained, Abbas, looking every day of his 77 years, spoke of Palestinian leaders of years past. He started with Yasser Arafat, a Palestinian figure unrivaled in his persona, then moved on to Abu Jihad and Abu Eyad — both icons of Palestinian resistance — and Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Hamas’s late spiritual leader, whose group Fatah has been at loggerheads with since it wrested control of the Gaza Strip in 2007.
Abbas recited the litany of names as if lamenting his party’s failure to deliver a unifying leader since Arafat to guide Palestinians through exceptionally troubling times: a moribund peace process, dire economic circumstances brought about by dwindling international aid, mushrooming Israeli settlements, and a political and geographical rift with the Gaza Strip.
Besides the marching band and the rally, few people in town seemed aware, let alone interested, in the festivities. Discussion of the economy and the E1 Israeli settlement plan dominated TV and radio station talk shows and café conversations. On the domestic political front, Fatah hasn’t been faring as well as should be expected on its home turf. During last October’s municipal elections, only 54 percent of eligible voters turned out to cast their ballots. Despite a Hamas boycott, Fatah was unable to present a unified front and many of its members broke with the party line by running on independent platforms. [Continue reading…]