“Abu Mazen threatens to use force to prevent Fatah senior officials from running on separate lists and even kill anyone who runs against the central Fatah list,” claims the Amad website, run by Hassan Atzpur, a former Palestinian Authority official.
A Fatah source told Amad that during a Fatah revolutionary council meeting on Tuesday, Abu Mazen threatened to act “by force” to prevent contestants from running on separate lists. Amad also reports that the Revolutionary Council has decided to ban the heads of the organization who previously served on the Legislative Council or currently serve on the Central Committee, as well as ministers, ambassadors and senior officers, from running in the elections.
In light of the publication, Suha Arafat, Yasser Arafat’s widow, claimed in a telephone conversation with TPS that there is concern for Marwan Barghouti’s life due to the moves by Abu Mazen and his intelligence chief who she says worked in recent years with the US and Israel to keep him in prison and prevent his return to the arena.
“There is a real concern for Barghouti’s life if he continues to remain in prison, and international protection is required to secure his right to run against Abu Mazen,” Arafat said.
Sources in Fatah, including Barghouti’s associates, told TPS that he is determined to run for president even at the cost of splitting votes in Fatah, and does not rule out the possibility of running on three separate lists: Abu Mazen’s list, Marwan Barghouti’s list and Muhammad Dahlan’s list.
They estimate that the lists of Dahlan and Barghouti are likely to cooperate with each other and perhaps even unite ahead of the election. In interviews with the Arab media, Hatem ‘Abd al-Qader, who is affiliated with Barghouti, says that the possibility of multiple lists should not be ruled out because despite the need for Fatah unity, he does not accept the measures designed to prevent Fatah leaders from running democratically.
Among other things, ‘Abd al-Qadir is referring to Abu Mazen’s intention to prevent Muhammad Dahlan from running in the elections due to the indictments he filed against him while Abu Mazen’s representatives are working to persuade Barghouti not to run against Abu Mazen for the presidency.
A Fatah source says that Jibril Rajoub has been working in recent days to persuade Barghouti not to run against Abu Mazen, noting that last year Barghouti was offered the chairmanship of Fatah’s main list in exchange for removing his candidacy for president.
Abu Mazen’s entourage is also heavily concerned about the proliferation of Fatah lists, which explains, according to Ramallah sources, the difficult things in the Revolutionary Council. Abu Mazen’s people are working against Dahlan’s candidacy because of what they call “incompetence for criminal reasons.” Azzam al-Ahmad said recently that “Dahlan is unworthy to run because of the pending indictments against him for corruption.”
A senior Palestinian Authority official tells TPS that Barghouti is not expected to face Abu Mazen, but in response the latter’s associates say that “the false optimism in Abu Mazen’s bureau is very far from reality, as Barghouti is determined to run for president, and reports in the Arab media of grave concern in Abu Mazen’s circles, they have something to rely on.”
The middle generation
Senior Fatah figures, including those who led the first intifada, have told TPS in recent days that the elections, announced by Abu Mazen, are a golden opportunity for the younger generation of Fatah to stand at the forefront of the Palestinian leadership and finally oust the corrupt old leadership that came with Arafat with the establishment of the Palestinian Authority and “stole the leadership from them.”
Barghouti’s people are encouraged by his situation on the Palestinian streets, as reflected in a recent series of opinion polls in which he defeated Abu Mazen and Ismail Haniya, the Hamas leader, in the presidential election.
Padua Barghouti, his wife, recently resumed the campaign for his release and his people say that the political alliance made between him and Dahlan, who was thrown out of the movement by Abu Mazen, also greatly strengthens his chances of “defeating the Rais.”
Barghouti’s people are encouraged by Egyptian pressure on Abu Mazen to bring about Fatah unity even before the election, in order to prevent the split of votes and form Fatah as one front against Hamas as part of the Egyptian effort to renew Fatah rule in the Gaza Strip.
The conflict between Fatah leaders has intensified in recent years on personal grounds: “Marwan is aware that Abu Mazen and his men have worked in recent years to keep him in prison in Israel and even opposed him when he led the prisoner strike in Israeli prisons,” his men say.
Dahlan’s people have also recently stepped up their social and political activities ahead of the election. Dahlan is conducting a “lethal campaign,” according to one of his men, against Abu Mazen’s leadership, and his men are exposing a series of acts of corruption in his office, using media sites funded by Dahlan.
Fatah says that the recent unrest in the refugee camps, especially in Shechm (Nablus) and Ramallah, is also a signal from Dahlan, who is defying Abu Mazen’s rule.
In Ramallah, it is said that Dahlan is also mobilizing the emirates that have hosted him since he left the territories of the Palestinian Authority as well as Egypt, to create pressure on Abu Mazen to unite Fatah.
Dahlan is also working in the Gaza Strip and recently transferred doses of medical and economic aid through the “A Tachapul” (Solidarity) Association, which he funds with emirate money, as testified by one of his close associates.
The Palestinian Authority is very aware of Dahlan’s activities and recently arrested a number of his men, also in eastern Jerusalem. A Fatah source says that Abu Mazen is aware of Dahlan’s move and therefore recently announced that he intends to resolve the salary crisis and remove the sanctions imposed on Palestinian Authority officials affiliated with Fatah in the Gaza Strip, as part of the pressure he imposed on Hamas.
Abu Mazen will soon send a delegation of senior Fatah figures to discuss resolving the salary crisis in the Gaza Strip, but a Fatah source says that this is a sham and states that if Abu Mazen succeeds in keeping his promise, the tax money Israel recently transferred to the Palestinian Authority will be used to fortify his political power in the Gaza Strip.
“We are the dam against Hamas“
Many Fatah operatives believe that only they will be able to prevent Hamas’ significant achievement in Judea and Samaria, even though they are aware that splitting the votes on separate lists could play into Hamas’ hands.
Palestinian sources have recently spoken out about fears of Hamas’ victory in the upcoming elections, which could lead Fatah not to recognize the results, due to fears of very heavy sanctions imposed by Israel on the Palestinian leadership with Hamas’ participation. “Gaza, Hamas may gain ground in the West Bank and lead to clashes with Fatah,” says a Palestinian source.
Meanwhile, the election process is progressing. Early next month, Palestinian factions will go on another round of meetings in Cairo to discuss the election issue. The Palestinian Authority also approached the Islamic Cooperation Organization and invited it to send observers to monitor the election. The PA also sent a similar request to the European Union earlier this week.