Gaza strongman Dahlan
Photo: AP
Abbas. Secured
Photo: AFP
Fatah vote contractors making promises to everyone
Bethlehem conference approaching decision on composition of Palestinian movement's future leadership

BETHLEHEM – The Fatah movement entered the last straight Thursday night ahead of the conclusion of its historic congress. Thousands of phone calls were made, with the most common phrase uttered by the conference's delegates being "what you want is what will be."


During a break in Thursday's discussions, a group of vote contractors sat in the al-Khayma ("the tent") restaurant in the West Bank town of Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem, and made phone calls to candidates wishing to be included in Fatah's future leadership.


It was clear to everyone that the contractors' loyalty had been promised to more than one candidate, but this did not stop the head of the group from stressing in each conversation, "You are our only leader and only you will get our people's votes."


The delegates themselves, after voicing their satisfaction with the congress' unanimous decision to blame Israel for former Palestinian Authority Yasser Arafat's death, found the time to discuss disputed issues.


The most urgent matter continues to be the candidacy and voting of the delegates from the Gaza Strip, who have been forbidden by Hamas from travelling to the conference.


Most of the Gaza delegates demand that their quota be removed from Friday's vote on the manning of the movement's institutions, and that they be allowed to vote separately when this is made possible.


This issue may disrupt the conference and even lead to the departure of a significant number of Gaza delegates who have arrived, including Mohammed Dahlan, the former security chief in the Strip.


Bethlehem delegates: 'What you want is what will be' (Photo: AFP)


Another prominent dispute is the disagreement over the activity of Fatah's finance committee, whose meetings have been particularly stormy and have failed to result in a decision. The delegates demanded to know the whereabouts of the large amounts of money in the movement's treasury, where has the property disappeared to and what happened to the real estate owned by Fatah in several Arab countries.


The real battle over the composition of the movement's leadership officially opened Thursday night. The supporters of former Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti, who is jailed in Israel, continued on the third day of the conference to distribute the speech sent by Barghouti to some of the delegates.


"Before the conference it was safe to say that Dahlan or Barghouti or even Abu Mazen (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas) were secured, but now I can't say if anyone is secured," a senior Fatah activist told Ynet. "The coalitions, the alliances and the blocs change every minute."


Nonetheless, it's safe to assume that there will be no surprise where Abbas is concerned, but all eyes are directed at Dahlan. The Gaza strongman has the most organized camp, but groups opposing him are working to reduce his power in the central committee.


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