BETHLEHEM – The Fatah movement is attempting to present its first congress in 20 years being held in Bethlehem as a success. The organization is mostly trying to convey a sense of "business as usual" and in terms of the status of Gaza Strip and Fatah activists living in the Strip, who have been stopped by Hamas from traveling to the West Bank for the conference.
But those who are really suffering from heat are the West Bank city's residents, who are waiting for the conference to conclude Thursday.
A store owner on the city's main street says the Bethlehem's neighborhoods share the water flow – which is supplied every other week.
"This time the entire flow is directed to the conference area, and we are forced to manage without any water. Otherwise, we can buy containers for NIS 500 (about $129), which are enough for up to four days for an average family."
Security forces in Bethlehem (Photo: AFP)
Without any running water and in light of the boosted presence of thousands of security officers, Bethlehem's residents are trying to go on with their lives. "Half of the city's streets are closed, and every time a senior official's convoy passes, the main road is closed," says the store owner.
The Palestinian added that the congress delegates have not left even one vacant hotel room. "But this is not the problem – we expected the hotel area to be busy and closed. The problem is with the senior officials who have rented villas and houses in areas far from the conference, and every time they move, the entire world has to stop. It harms people's life routine."
Security officers angry with Abbas
The conference is looking into a series of proposals on how to represent and elect Gaza activists for the Fatah institutions. According to one opinion, the movement must not play into the hands of Hamas, and the elections must be held during the current convention even if the Gaza activists cannot take part in the voting.
According to a second opinion, the institution members should be elected by the conference without the Gaza activists, and another conference should be held in the near future.
The third and prevailing opinion calls for electing the representatives with the quota of the Strip and allowing the absent delegates to elect their representatives when it is made possible.
This third proposal is the one expected to be accepted, and the committee is likely to elect 50 out of 80 members of the revolutionary council. The 15 members of the central committee will be elected in a similar way, and the other six will be elected by the Gaza delegates later on.
On another front, the Fatah leadership headed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has been trying to come up with a solution for the resentment among security officers seeking to run for roles in the movement's institutions, after Abbas said that only the organizations would be considered candidates.
The Fatah conference was expected Wednesday to try and find a solution for former al-Aqsa Brigades Commander Zakaria Zubeidi, who discovered Tuesday that he was not considered at delegate at the congress. The decision to remove Zubeidi from the list of delegates angered many al-Aqsa activists.