Severe Crisis of Palestinian Representation

The internal crisis in the Fatah movement illustrates the depth of the current crisis on the issue of Palestinian representation. This crisis stems from disagreement regarding the identity of the legitimate representative and from other internal power-struggles.

Dani Rubinstein reports on the power-struggle taking place inside the Fatah movement between Abu Mazen, chairman of the PLO and the Palestinian Authority (PA), and Farouk Kadoumi, Fatah secretary-general and head of the political department of the PLO.

Reut Institute analysis indicates that the Palestinian national movement suffers from a deep crisis of representation. This crisis stems from disagreement regarding the identity of the political entity that should represent the Palestinians, power-struggles between the central political movements, and internal weakness within these movements.

  • Who is the representative: the PLO or the PA? - The PLO is officially the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. However, since 1994, political leadership has gradually shifted to the PA. The PLO has thus turned into a "political shell company", holding the title of representation, but lacking any real capacity.
    Since Hamas' electory victory, elements inside the Fatah have been trying to revive the PLO, in order to bypass the Hamas government. Simultaneously, efforts are being made to "update" the structure of the PLO and to include Hamas in it.
  • Who controls the PA: Fatah or Hamas? – The executive authorities and powers in the PA are divided between the presidency, held by Abu Mazen, and the government, which is controlled by Hamas. Since the elections the two movements have been engaged in a political and military struggle for control of the PA.

  • Who controls Fatah? – Two main power-struggles exist within the Fatah movement today. The first – between "external" Fatah, the Fatah leadership that controls the PLO, and "internal" Fatah; the second – between the "old guard", identified with Abu Mazen and Abu Ala, and the "young guard" which is identified with Marwan Barghouti. This struggle became evident prior to the last parliamentary elections of the PA.
    In addition, there are several armed organizations identified with Fatah, but which function as separate bodies (Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, Tanzim and others).
  • Who controls Hamas? – Even though Hamas maintains a united façade, it consists of two main factions. The first one, which is commonly regarded as the more pragmatic one, is identified with PA Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh. The second faction, identified with head of Hamas' political bureau, Khaled Mash'al, opposes any kind of compromise in the movement's ideology towards Israel.
    The tension between these two factions has become evident due to Israel's policy of the "three demands".


  • Rubinstein, Haaretz, 10/18/06 (in Hebrew). Click here.