Many of the newly-elected members of Fatah's Central Committee may be younger than their ousted predecessors, but that does not necessarily mean that they are more reform-minded or less corrupt.
In fact, all the newly-elected Central Committee members voted during the Fatah convention in
The young guard members also voted in favor of a series of hard-line resolutions that were brought before the conference, including one that endorses Fatah's armed militia, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, as an official organ of the faction, and another that states that the Palestinians will never relinquish the "right of return" for refugees to Israel proper and that they are willing to make "sacrifices" to liberate Jerusalem.
It's unrealistic to expect changes in Fatah's policies now that younger leaders are sitting in the Central Committee. Even if Barghouti, Dahlan and Rajoub wanted to adopt a more moderate approach in peace talks with
Fatah has said quite loudly and clearly that it's either 100 percent or nothing. Israel must withdraw to the pre-1967 borders, including from all of the eastern part of Jerusalem, allow Palestinian refugees to return to their original homes inside Israel, dismantle all the settlements, including ones built in Jerusalem such as Pisgat Ze'ev and Ramot, and evict all settlers living there and in the West Bank. Only then, according to Fatah, will there be a chance for peace with
Fatah's young guard operatives may be popular among the faction's 2,200 delegates who met in Bethlehem over the past week, but there is much doubt as to the extent of the support they enjoy among the larger Palestinian public.
Barghouti, who is serving five life terms in Israeli prison, was the head of the Fatah list that lost to Hamas in the January 2006 parliamentary election. The fact that he was in prison back then did not prevent a majority of Palestinians from casting their ballots for the rival Hamas movement.
Dahlan, Rajoub and Tirawi are all former security commanders who served as Yasser Arafat's henchmen and enforcers after the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 2004. The three men can be described as anything but reformists and moderates. They are best remembered for building detention centers, prisons, big villas and a casino for the Palestinians.
The main task of the security forces they presided over was to suppress and intimidate political opponents, human rights workers, journalists and anyone who dared to challenge Fatah's corruption-riddled regime.
Moreover, one of the trio's missions was to hunt down Palestinians suspected of "collaboration" with
The power struggle between the old and new guards in Fatah has never been over ideology or the future of the peace process. On these issues, there's almost no difference between Barghouti's views and those of Sha'ath and Qurei.
What's certain is that the change of guard does not necessarily mean that Fatah is about to regain the confidence of a majority of disillusioned Palestinians. Nor does it show that Fatah is on its way to reforming itself or softening its policies.