Before Fatah commits suicide on the election trail

President Mahmoud Abbas can make three final decisions: Keep the door open for nominations to reorganise the electoral lists; postpone the date of the elections by one month and last of all, resign.
Saturday 03/04/2021
President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting in Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank August 18, 2020. (REUTERS)
President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting in Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank August 18, 2020. (REUTERS)

Faced with the reality of the continued disintegration of the Fatah movement, President Mahmoud Abbas can make three final decisions: Keep the door open for nominations to reorganise the electoral lists; postpone the date of the elections by one month and, last of all, resign.

The Fatah movement which President Abbas has torn asunder with his arrogance can then reunite.

Neither the reformist movement led by Mohamed Dahlan nor Nasser Qudwa nor Marwan Barghouti will hesitate to accept that call for unity.

An urgent meeting of all the movement’s leaders, in which President Abbas hands over the mandate, is his best option, both for himself and for Fatah, instead of committing suicide on the election trail.

It is clear to everyone, including President Abbas himself, that the Fatah’s official election list is likely to face a crushing defeat, if the present fragmentation remains as it is today.

Fatah is not just a party, it is not just a legacy, nor just an authority, it is the only organisation that can consider itself an inclusive Palestinian tent which accommodates different ideas, currents and political and intellectual visions.

It is this reality that Abbas tried to destroy, in order to create an organisation that resembles himself, rather than his own people.

The problem is that he could be punished not just by the terrible defeat awaiting the Fatah list in the legislative elections, but for what this defeat could mean for the movement’s leaders.

Some of those leaders are not hiding their unhappiness about the reality of the situation.

It is likely that the discontent will turn into an open clash and may even end up with a clamour for his dismissal.

President Abbas does not need to reach such an end.

Quietly withdrawing now would not only maintain his status, but also preserve his dignity.

All those who were arrogant in their exercise of power and preferred to be stubborn till the end finished up being beheaded.

This will not happen in the literal sense of course, as the Palestinians are not of this type,

However, it can happen in all other symbolic ways.

Those who love President Abbas are the ones who should be giving him this kind of advice.

If he heeds that advice, people could eventually fin reason to defend  him, his policies and options; and he could preserve his place in the record of his people’s struggle.

Those looking at the history of Fatah would look at him with greater sympathy. They will forgive him for his mistakes and find some explanation for his failure.

This option will only be possible if Abbas steps down early enough, so proving he is capable of self-sacrifice for the good of the movement he has led and for the sake of preserving its place among the Palestinians.

The issue is not simply about a race between Fatah lists competing in the scheduled elections.

It is because such divisions mean that Fatah no longer knows what it stands for nor what it wants. It does not know, therefore, what the future will look like.

Any political movement that finds itself in this predicament ends up in an historic defeat, the effects of which may extend for more than a generation.

In the difficult circumstances that the Palestinians face under occupation, committing mistakes or adopting failed policies may express a level of inability to deal with reality. However, it must not turn into a disaster or a planned self-destruction.

One of the most important reasons for this failure is that President Abbas imposed on Fatah certain choices that have proved to be harmful and could not achieve real progress.

A large part of this outcome emanated from his fear of other opinions, his wariness of criticism and his evasion of responsibility.

The Fatah Central Committee meetings turned into a radio station broadcasting the president’s speeches. They were no longer a venue to discuss options and alternatives or to devise strategies that fitted the reality of the situation and anticipated what could be done.

Dahlan, Qudwa and Barghouti are forces for change and reform that should be listened to.

They represent currents and visions. The Fatah movement cannot be itself anymore if it cannot benefit from them.

Even without the elections these currents are drawing large support across the generations.

What makes it imperative that President Abbas resigns is that he is no longer able to contain these currents, to coexist with them, or even to reach an understanding with those who represent them.

Moreover, Abbas does not have the support of all of his central committee.

Futhermore, he is not the type of person who can accept other options or policies dictated by the urgent need  of reform, by changes on the ground and by the pressures of occupation.

This means that he has effectively painted himself into a corner. He has left himself no wiggle room  to start change and reform.

Resignation is not necessarily the end. It could be the first step in a new process.

Mahmoud Abbas will always be Mahmoud Abbas.

No one will deny him anything and his voice will not necessarily fade away.

Renewal is required by itself in the face of crises.  A person cannot lead his people into a closed tunnel and insist that he can come through without reversing course.This is collective suicide.

New approaches out of any crisis require new leadership. Just as the Israelis are fed up with the authority of Benyamin Netanyahu, even though he embodies their right-wing outlook better than others, so the Palestinians have the right to be fed up with the authority of President Abbas not the  least because he can no longer be like anyone but himself. Change is a must.

It is better for President Abbas to realise this before it is imposed on him.