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Some Good News from Fatah's General Assembly

Some of the large Jewish groups were quick to cry "gevalt" at Fatah's General Assembly in Bethlehem even before the conference ended. Granted, there were inflammatory speeches and some disturbing displays of anti-Israeli sentiment.



Those deserve to be recognized and repudiated. I find them upsetting and unhelpful for the cause of peace.


But what I find repulsive is the rush to repudiate, the eagerness to seek anything to discredit Israel's Palestinian partners, and, by doing that (I suspect), to discredit the very merits of negotiating peace with the Palestinians.


These organizations did not wait for the final text of Fatah's political platform. They did not wait to see the makeup of the slate of Fatah's governing body. They did not bother to analyze the meaning or the significance of the conference in Bethlehem. All that mattered was that some of the speakers made upsetting statements.


In the rush to reject and renounce, these groups mistakenly represented some of the decisions that were made at the gathering - in some cases based their criticism on utter falsehoods - and simply ignored some of the encouraging developments that emerged from Fatah's 6th General Assembly.


It is significant that Fatah's political platform emphasizes its commitment to "the peace option," to peace negotiations with Israel. Yes, there are references to "resistance" to Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory. But I did not find praise for violence or incitement to violence.


While Fatah did not change its platform and reconfirmed its support for negotiating peace with Israel, it totally reformed its governing body, the Executive Committee. Almost all of those elected are young leaders from the West Bank and Gaza, pragmatists who have been negotiating with Israel and interacting with Israelis for years. All of them share Mahmoud Abbas' politics and strongly support a two-state peaceful resolution to the conflict with Israel.


Fatah is still in need of thorough reform, but the new leadership is a crucial first step that should be welcomed.


One important fact to keep in mind is that Israel's agreements were not signed with Fatah. Israel's interlocutor is the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). True, Mahmoud Abbas is the head of Fatah, as well as the head of the PLO and of the Palestinian Authority, but in negotiating with Israel he is committed to the policies and to the governing bodies of the PLO.


I am happy to see organizations such as the ADL and American Jewish Committee paying close attention to what is happening inside the West Bank and on the Palestinian political arena. But one should expect such reputable, well-funded groups to find the resources and patience to weigh in seriously, in a way that is responsible and balanced.