Tension swirls around long-delayed P.A. Congress opening

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas convened the Fatah faction’s seventh congress in Ramallah Tuesday.

The congress, which may last beyond the planned five days, was supposed to be held two years ago, but internal disputes, mainly between Abbas and exiled Fatah official Mohammed Dahlan, was cancelled.

Dr. Kobi Michael, former head of the Palestinian Desk at Israel’s Strategic Affairs Ministry and a 23-year veteran of IDF Intelligence, told journalists, “It’s almost an historical day,” one that may represent the P.A. chairman’s “swan song.”

“There’s a lot of tension,” Michael said. “Many members who should have attended the conference will not attend. They are Dahlan supporters.”

Dahlan, 54, former head of the P.A.’s security forces Gaza, is considered Abbas’ arch rival.

The P.A. invited Hamas, the Palestinian faction controlling the Gaza Strip, and Islamic Jihad, also in the Strip, but Dahlan’s supporters in Gaza were excluded.

“There is a very good chance the conference will be held smoothly because all the people who attend are Abbas supporters,” Michael explained. “Therefore I think this conference eventually will symbolize the distress Palestinian society finds itself in.”

Participants will vote for Fatah’s 23-member central committee and its 132-member revolutionary council.

“The conference begins with a very low level of legitimacy and it will end with a lower level of legitimacy,” Michael continued. “Instead of creating solidarity and unification, it will be just the opposite.”

Nonetheless, it’s in Israel’s and the Palestinian Authority’s interest that the P.A. remains a stabilized, functional and responsible entity, able to carry the responsibility for its people, he said.

“There is a sort of equation between instability and violence. More stability equals more violence,” he said.

“We are in a sort of transition process in the Palestinian theater that will last some years until a new generation takes its place,” Michael concluded.

Last week, the Arab League advised the 81-year-old leader to choose his successor.

This article originally appeared on CBN News, November 29, 2016, and reposted with permission.