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Analysis / Doing the Fatah shuffle (HA´ARETZ NEWS) By Danny Rubinstein 07/09/03) Source: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=315950&contrassID=2&subContrassID=1&sbSubContrassID=0&listSrc=Y
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The background to the crisis in the Palestinian government, with Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas threatening to resign and quitting the Fatah Central Committee, is actually the declining influence of the Fatah movement leadership.
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Yasser Arafat, who chaired the discussions that peaked in the crisis on Monday night and Abbas´ resignation last night, stayed quiet. He didn´t come out openly against Abbas, but he did not defend him, either.
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The Fatah Central Committee is the supreme institution of the movement, but there haven´t been elections to it for years, since the Fatah has not held a convention in years. Some of the central committee members are dead, including Abu Jihad, Abu Iyad, Khaled al-Hassan and Faisal Husseini. Some of the members live overseas in the Palestinian diaspora and don´t come to the territories, like Farouk Kaddumi.
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Arafat has added some new faces from the territories to the committee, and they have been critical of the committee´s performance and its composition of old-timers who don´t enjoy significant public support in the territories.
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Three people were the loudest and most critical of Abbas at the Monday night meeting at the Muqata, which also included members of the PLO central committee: Hanni al-Hassan, the interior minister and head of security services in Arafat´s previous government, and Abbas Zaki and Sahar Habash, both also closely associated with Arafat. They seemed angrier about Abbas´ management style and the style of his ministers than with the policy he represents.
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So they were angry about the pictures of the Palestinian ministers meeting with Israeli ministers and the reports that Abbas was planning to go to the Knesset. Meanwhile he has denied he plans to do so, and said he would be happy to see Israeli ministers and MKs in his office in Ramallah.
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At least two of Abbas´ critics, al-Hassan and Habash, are known to be more hawkish than Abbas. They opposed the Oslo agreements, and they now believe Abbas is kowtowing to the Americans and Israelis. It is almost certain that the tension in the Palestinian leadership is not working in Abbas´ favor.
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There was also anger in his office about the Haaretz report yesterday quoting U.S. ambassador Daniel Kurtzer as saying Abbas is a weak leader. The weaker he appears, the more difficult it will be for him to make the kinds of concessions now under negotiation with Israel. In other words, he now needs to be able to point to a success, and in the matter of the prisoners, it is doubtful he will be able to do so - unless Prime Minister Ariel Sharon surprises everyone.
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Nonetheless, most people in the Palestinian leadership believe Abbas´ threats to quit are only a tactic to pressure his rivals, who know Abbas enjoys broad international support and cannot be replaced now. And at least one Abbas associate said last night the postponed meeting with Sharon would be rescheduled soon, possibly as early as today. (© Copyright 2003 Haaretz. 07/09/03)
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