Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Young Guard

Is the Fatah movement ready for a change? The recent elections and new central committee membership seems to at least suggest the possibility. Only four of nine "old guard" members were re-elected to the central committee, while all remaining members constitute the emerging "Young Guard." In my mind, three major questions emerge:

1. Barghouti versus Dahlan?: The election of Marwan Barghouti provides perhaps the biggest glimmer of hope in my mind. If anyone on the contemporary scene may be regarded as a Palestinian "Mandela" figure, its Barghouti. The likely successor to Mahmood Abbas, Barghouti currently holds court in an Israeli prison. His work in prison proves he has the ability to unite the next generation of both Hamas and Fatah activists, and many believe that he will be able to carry on that unifying spirit once beyond the prison walls. Barghouti is not simply charismatic and widely admired, he represents a way forward, and has proven that partisanship needn't lead to schism.

Dahlan, on the other hand, is cited by Hamas as a primary motivation for the Gaza coup. Hamas believes that Dahlan's security apparatus threatened Hamas' strength in Gaza and Dahlan would not have stopped until Fatah regained a foothold in the strip, at any cost. Dahlan was supposed to be the wunderkind, the rising star in Fatah. Hamas seizing power in Gaza marks a major failure on Dahlan's part, but he still holds a vital place in the party, and likely will for some time. While he may have had deep personal ties to Hamas through his relationship with the family of al-Rantissi, Dahlan stands as a polarizing and aggressively ambitious figure. Internal unity will be vital for any Fatah success, and I think that will largely be defined by the dynamic between these two men.

Next major question tomorrow . . .

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