Next week, some 1,400 people will gather in Ramallah for the Fatah party’s Seventh General Congress. Fatah dominated the PLO for decades under the leadership of Yasir Arafat, and now controls the Palestinian Authority. But the organization, writes Elliott Abrams, has alienated most of the Sunni Arab countries that were once its patrons—and that have recently been improving their ties with Israel. It is also unpopular with its own people, and is poised to fade into irrelevance:
The apparatchiks gathered [for the congress] will elect members of the movement’s two most powerful bodies, the Central Committee and the Revolutionary Council. . . . [J]ust reflect for a moment over those names. . . . The terms are relics of the movement’s pro-Soviet past and of its birth during the cold war. And Fatah has completely failed to make the change to becoming a modern political party. The old Arafat machine remains a corrupt system dominated by a few aging figures, with Mahmoud Abbas, now age eighty-two—Palestinian Authority president, PLO chairman, and Fatah chairman—at the top.
Moreover, Fatah and the Palestinian Authority are completely at odds with the Arab world’s most important governments, in part over Abbas’s banning of his rival Mohammed Dahlan. . . .
Abbas, despite his age, has no plans to lay down the reins—ever. . . . Meanwhile, in the West Bank, the PA-PLO-Fatah system is increasingly repressive, destroying freedom of the press and using the PA security forces against perceived enemies.