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Palestine Congress Kicks Off Behind Closed Doors - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Ramallah- After Palestine’s President Mahmoud Abbas, also head of the Fatah political party, gave his long three-hour speech on Wednesday evening at the public Fatah conference, eye-catching hushed meetings held behind closed doors kicked off. The five-day congress was the first to be held since 2009.

It is as if the actual conference launched only when the public had cleared the view, after listening to Abbas’ speech. The post-conference meetings took place at the Ramallah presidential center, the West Bank’s most secure location.

Confidentiality was not cut short to the public eye or media outlets, but also was limited to a chosen 1,400 members. Regardless of place from authority, power or nationality, if the name was not on the list, access was denied.

Many public figures and correspondents had left the hall. Congress spokesman Mahmoud Abu al-Haija noted that some 250 out of 390 Fatah members based in the blockaded Gaza Strip have attended the congress.

Abu al-Haija said the conference would tackle the longstanding inter-Palestinian divisions — exacerbated when Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip from Fatah in 2007 — and possible means of resolving them. Committee reports were discussed as well.

The national budget, economy and political standings all are topics to be went over during the meetings.

During the congress, Abbas was reelected as Fatah leader. Fatah members will also elect members of both the group’s Central Committee and its Revolutionary Council.

Composed of 21 party members, Fatah’s Central Committee is the group’s main decision-making body and is responsible for all its activities.

The 50-member Revolutionary Council, meanwhile, is the movement’s highest legislative body.

Fatah held its first party congress in 1964 in the Syrian capital Damascus, where it endorsed armed struggle as a means of ending Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory.

Three years later, the movement appointed members of its Central Committee and Yasser Arafat was made the group’s first spokesman.

In 1968, Fatah held its second congress in Damascus, where it elected a new Central Committee composed of 10 members and established its Revolutionary Council.

Fatah’s third congress was held four years later in Damascus amid deadly clashes between factions of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Jordanian army — events that later came to be known as “Black September”.

In 1980, Fatah held its fourth congress in Syria during which the Soviet Union was acknowledged as a “strategic ally” of the movement.

In 1988, Fatah held its fifth congress in Tunisia, at which the movement expanded the Central Committee to include 21 members.

After a 21-year hiatus, Fatah held its sixth congress in 2009 in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. The event was held 16 years after the signing of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Fatah-led PLO.