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In lengthy speech, Abbas addresses future of Palestine, Fatah during party's 7th congress

Nov. 30, 2016 11:29 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 1, 2016 4:32 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas delivered a speech on Wednesday evening during the Fatah party’s seventh congress, addressing a scope of issues ranging from the political movement itself to conflicts in the Arab world.

Abbas’ two-and-a-half-hours speech marked the second day of Fatah’s seventh congress, which has gathered some 1,322 members of the party in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah.

Abbas stated that the Fatah conference would reinforce the Palestinian people’s march towards achieving their national goals, stressing that Fatah would not give up on its goals or identity.

The organization of the congress, the first since 2009, was the embodiment of Fatah’s convictions and commitment to democratic values, Abbas claimed.

Abbas was promptly reappointed as chairman of Fatah on the first day of the five-day conference, during which the political faction is expected to discuss internal Fatah issues, as well elect members of its revolutionary council.

Abbas has been the chairman of Fatah and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) since 2004, and the president of the Palestinian Authority (PA) since 2005, although his mandate as head of state officially ended in 2009.

There have been serious speculations over whether the conference would address the pressing issue of preparing for the future of Fatah, the PA, and the PLO after Abbas.

During his speech, Abbas also hailed a number of countries and people, most notably deceased Fatah leaders Abu Jihad, Abu Iyad, Abu Said, and Abu Yousif al-Najjar, as well as former Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.

He also saluted all Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli custody, with a particular emphasis on minors, adding that Fatah would not rest until they were all released.

Abbas went on to state that Fatah’s accomplishments could not be summarized in a speech or book, and that the party remained one of the most important facets of Palestinian history and a “role model” of determination and patience.

Fatah has witnessed growing internal dissent over the past year, with the party discharging a number of officials from their functions in past months or otherwise preventing them from attending the party’s conference.

The Palestinian Authority has also faced growing discontent in the occupied Palestinian territory, with the Hamas movement accusing it in April of adopting a "revolving door policy" funneling Palestinians from PA jails into Israeli prisons as part of “escalating security collaboration” with Israeli authorities.

Abbas addressed the ongoing conflict between the Fatah-led PA and Hamas, stating that the internal Palestinian discord had to end, affirming that “there can be no Palestinian state without the Gaza Strip.”

He thanked Hamas politburo leader Khalid Meshaal for his speech earlier in the conference, describing it as a peaceful message.

Abbas added that Fatah would keep working to achieve Palestinian unity, and expressed the party’s readiness to participate in democratic elections.

The relationship between Hamas and Fatah has been in a dire state after a government of national consensus was dissolved in June 2015, one year after it was first announced.

The two Palestinian parties have had particularly tense relations since Hamas won legislative elections in 2006 and became the ruling party in the Gaza Strip.

Relations were further fragilized when municipal elections, the first elections to take place in the Gaza Strip in a decade, were postponed in September following a controversial decision by the Fatah-run Supreme Court in Ramallah.

Addressing the wave of unrest which began in October 2015 across the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel, Abbas said that Palestinians needed to defend their cause with all their strength in what he termed an “intifada of brains.”

Abbas later added that he was against all types of violence and terrorism, stating that Islam was a religion of forgiveness, love, and peace, and had nothing to do with terrorism.

His statements reflected the PA’s general attitude towards the recent unrest, which has been mainly characterized by small-scale attacks carried out by politically unaffiliated Palestinian individuals, with 241 Palestinians being killed by Israelis and 34 Israelis killed by Palestinians during that time period.

Moving on to diplomatic moves by the PA, Abbas claimed that Palestinians were “walking towards achieving independence,” and that he planned to head soon to the United Nations Security Council to demand membership to the UN.

He said that Palestinians would remain steadfast, and that the experience of 1948 -- when the creation of the state of Israel led to the displacement of 750,000 to one million Palestinians -- would not be repeated.

Abbas highlighted the “necessity” of negotiations with Israel and, addressing Israelis, he said “we want peace in accordance with international law.”

He said that efforts were still in progress regarding the French initiative to hold an international peace conference regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict before the end of the year, reiterating the PA’s stance in favor of a two-state solution with East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state established along 1967 borders.

Abbas also mentioned hopes for Palestine to become an oil state.

A number of Palestinian activists have criticized the two-state solution as unsustainable and unlikely to bring durable peace, proposing instead a binational state with equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians.

Abbas stressed that he would not recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Nonetheless, the PLO formally recognized Israel’s right to exist in 1993.

However, Abbas defended his decision to attend the funeral of former Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Regarding regional issues, Abbas emphasized that the PA would not interfere in other Arab countries’ affairs, and that it would not allow anyone to interfere in its affairs in return.

He expressed deep pain regarding the conflicts in Syria, Yemen, and Libya, and expressed hope that they would end as soon as possible. Abbas went on to state that he opposed the so-called Arab Spring, and that he saw the ongoing situation in the Middle East as a new Sykes–Picot agreement.

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