“Fatah does not recognize Israel’s right to exist, nor have we ever asked others to do so,” Rafik Natsheh, a member of Fatah’s influential Central Committee, said last month.
“We do not demand that the Hamas movement recognize Israel,” said Mohammed Dahlan, a top adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in March. “On the contrary, we demand of the Hamas movement not to recognize Israel, because the Fatah movement does not recognize Israel, even today.”
“[T]he desire for popular support has not moderated Hamas, but has radicalized Fatah.”
— David Schenker, Foreign PolicyExtreme statements. Yet neither of these men are known as extremists. Natsheh was an outspoken critic of then-PA President Yasser Arafat several years ago. Ynetnews called Dahlan one of Fatah’s “most moderate figures.”
Now, as thousands of members of Fatah gather for their first conference in 20 years, it is clear they are far from moderate.
The summit began Tuesday and will run through Thursday. Right at the start of the conference—in the opening line of the opening speech—PA President Mahmoud Abbas praised the “martyrs” who died in previous terror attacks against Israel.
Fatah’s charter currently calls for Israel’s destruction. Many in the West hope that this congress will provide an opportunity for Fatah to remove that from its objectives. When asked on July 22 if Fatah would change this aspect of its charter, however, Natsheh replied, “Let all the collaborators [with Israel] and those who are deluding themselves hear that this will never happen.”
Even before the conference, it was clear that Natsheh is right. Parts of a draft to be discussed at the congress in order to update Fatah’s platform were leaked to the Arabic press last week. Israeli Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz summarized it this way on Sunday: “The refusal to acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state, the demand for a withdrawal to the 1967 lines and for the full right of return for Palestinian refugees—this means wiping Israel out of existence.” The draft also reiterates Fatah’s commitment to an “armed struggle” against Israel as one method of creating a Palestinian state.
The plan “is a declaration of war on the State of Israel,” said Katz.
As well as revising the group’s goals and direction, Fatah members will have a chance to change the party’s leadership. The seats of the 21-strong Central Committee and 120-strong Revolutionary Council—the top two decision-making bodies in Fatah—will be up for grabs. Fatah has not held a vote on these seats since the last conference 20 years ago, and many within Fatah hope for fresh leadership.
Will the party move toward moderate leadership? No chance.
David Schenker writes in Foreign Policy magazine that Fatah is becoming more radical, not less:
What seems clear to me now … is that the recent statements of Natsheh and his fellow “moderates” signal a broader sea change in Palestinian politics that has occurred over the past decade. Democratic politics are indeed taking shape among Palestinians, but they’re mirroring the increasingly extreme views of the population at large. In short, the desire for popular support has not moderated Hamas, but has radicalized Fatah.
He notes that recent surveys suggest that 52 percent of Palestinians support armed attacks against civilians inside Israel. “So Fatah,” Schenker warns, “which in recent years has lost ground to the Islamist terrorist organization Hamas, could be trying to better position itself by competing for militant votes.” He goes on to say, “Today, Fatah and Hamas are fighting for power in the Palestinian Authority, but philosophically speaking, their positions on Israel appear closer than ever.”
Schenker concludes that the Oslo accords have now been confirmed dead. “The leading faction of the plo [Palestinian Liberation Organization] that signed the Oslo accords with Israel … now says it never consented to the terms of the deal,” he writes. “Fatah’s formal rejection of the Oslo terms of reference essentially constitutes the plo’s renunciation of the entire agreement. … Sixteen years after the Oslo accords—and following repeated claims of Oslo’s death—Natsheh’s comments confirm the end of that peace process.”
How can Israel possibly negotiate with a group that agrees to work toward peace, only to say down the line that it never meant it?
If any more evidence of Fatah’s intentions is needed, just look at who they’re moving closer to. Fatah’s leaked draft platform also stated: “We must work toward opening a strategic channel to Iran.” Even before the conference, Fatah was doing just that. Last month the PA and Iran held their first-ever high-level meeting.
Iran has already been working with the PA and Fatah. In 2002, the Israel Defense Forces discovered documents proving that the PA was planning to buy weapons from Iran using aid money donated by Western nations.
A “strategic channel” of communications between Iran and Fatah would bring their relationship to a new level. Fatah could soon become another Iranian proxy, just like Hamas and Hezbollah.
Fatah wants to work more closely with a nation with the stated aim of wiping Israel off the map. Hardly the position of a moderate party.
Stories of Israel’s settlers flood the newspaper headlines. Yet news of Fatah’s radical statements go underreported.
Israel is actually in mortal danger. Iran is already to its north and south through Hezbollah and Hamas. “Fatah’s statements are clearing the way to what may eventually be the third intifada,” warned Knesset member Avi Dichter, a former minister of internal security. Such an intifada would essentially be a multiple-front war with Iran.
Enhanced cooperation between Iran and Fatah would put Iran right on the doorstep of Jerusalem. Watch this closely. All it would take is for Iran to kick down that door, and the world will become a very different place. For more information, see our booklet Jerusalem in Prophecy. •