What hasn’t been suspected up till now was that Mahmoud Abbas, the quisling head of the Palestinian Authority, was also involved in the plot. But this is the allegation made by Farouq Qaddoumi, the PLO’s second-in-command and de-facto Foreign Minister under Arafat. Qaddoumi has provided a transcript which shows the involvement of Abbas and his security henchman Dahlan. Whether the allegations are true or not is impossible to discern, but coming from Qaddoumi it is clear that these are extremely credible charges.
Yet despite the explosive nature of these allegations, they have been given virtually no publicity, other than by Al Jazeera, which promptly got itself banned for 3 days by the PA in the West Bank.
But although the allegations are difficulty to prove there is no reason to believe that they are false. After all Mahmoud Abbas, chief of the Quisling PA, spent most of the time during the attack on Gaza condemning Hamas whilst ‘understanding’ Israel’s plight. In reality both him and the Egyptian dictator Mubarak were privy to Israel’s attack beforehand and they made it clear that though they couldn’t openly support it they wouldn’t lose any sleep if Israel did what it did.
And why murder Arafat? Was he too not someone who had given Israel most of it wanted at Oslo, not least the hideous creature that the Palestinian Authority has become? There is no doubt that Arafat was corrupt and dictatorial, setting up a number of different private militias as a result of Oslo and policing the Palestinians on Israel’s behalf. But the key difference between him and Mazen was that Arafat, for all his faults, and they were many, still retained his independence. He was still able to say ‘no’ to the Zionists.
Abu Mazen by contrast is putty in the hands of Netanyahu. Benjamin only has to cough and Mazen sinks to his knees. When given an order by the Israeli military or the CIA, Abu Mazen has but one response, which is to ask how they would like it to be carried out. Mazen has been in ‘negotiations’ with Israel for an eternity, he has even secured promises such as an end to the checkpoints or at least their reduction, he has been been promised prisoner releases, but he has secured nothing. And when, occasionally, a crust of bread is tossed his way, Mazen wags his tail in gratitude to the Zionists.
These days the United States effectively controls the Palestinian Authority security forces, with Israel being given a veto. The result is that the guns of the PA are directed at other Palestinians not the cause of their plight, the Zionists. It therefore comes as little surprise to find that Mazen was in on the murder of Arafat too.
Farouq al Qaddoumi, the current Secretary General of Fateh’s Central Committee held a press conference in Amman, Jordan on July 12, in which he disclosed information that constitutes a “heavy duty hydrogen bombshell” - to use his words - on the legitimacy of the current Palestinian leadership.
Holding up three typeset pages in Arabic, Qaddoumi claimed he had the minutes of a secret meeting between Abu Mazen, Mahmoud Dahlan, former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, former Israeli defense minister Shaul Mofaz, and an American delegation led by William Burns, then a State Department envoy. The meeting was presumably held in the run up to the June 4, 2003 Aqaba Summit where the Israeli and Palestinian sides declared their commitment to the Quartet-sponsored Road Map.
The document essentially recounts that Abu Mazen and Dahlan were privy to Israeli intentions to assassinate Arafat through poisoning. The need to get rid of Arafat and other Palestinian resistance figures is described as a means to facilitate an internal putsch within the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fateh so that a new class of leaders led by Abu Mazen and Dahlan, could take control. After the second Intifada began, large sections of the international community and the Israeli leadership looked to Abu Mazen and Dahlan as more compliant figures, in contrast to the more mercurial Arafat.
Qaddoumi claims the minutes were entrusted to him by Arafat before his death, though he did not disclose how he received them or how Arafat supposedly got them in the first place. Despite being a founder of the modern PLO, Qaddoumi refused to return to the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) after the 1993 Oslo Accords as many did in the PLO leadership, due to his opposition to the agreements. He is considered a thorn in the side of the current leadership of the PA because his high-ranking, yet oppositional Fateh stripes, gets him press time, and is less easily brushed aside. His local influence is nonetheless limited due to his non-presence in the OPT.
A little context is in order to understand the content of the meeting minutes, whose exclusively English language transcript is provided below.
At the time, the second Palestinian uprising had been going on for more than two years, and Israel had invaded the areas controlled by the PA in an attempt to liquidate the popular resistance there. Israel had surrounded Arafat’s headquarters (the Moqata’a) seeing him as a crucial factor in the national movement’s continued resistance and morale. Arafat had refused repeated Israeli and U.S. demands to crack down on the uprising himself. Furthermore the Palestinian leader’s defiant stance in the Camp David negotiations, where Arafat failed to sign on to U.S. and Israeli conditions for a peace deal which did not fulfill Palestinian national rights according to relevant U.N. resolutions, made him obsolete as far as U.S. and Israeli interests were concerned.
There were also increasing signs that Fateh as a party was unraveling. The Israeli invasions into Palestinian cities brought about heavy pressure for “reform” of the PA, both internationally as well as from within the Palestinian political arena, including Fateh, which held the majority of key positions in the government. Political, generational, and experiential differences divided the party, and an alliance appeared to take shape between Israeli, American and E.U. interests on the one hand, and Fateh reformers on the other, to sideline Arafat and his stalwarts within the government.
Under heavy pressure, Arafat was forced to create the position of Prime Minister in February 2003, as a form of power sharing, with Abu Mazen designated by the U.S. and Israel as the only viable candidate. Arafat saw this as a way he could buy time from what was his own political cornering, besieged in his headquarters and isolated by the West. Arafat would eventually apply pressure back on Abu Mazen in September 2003, rallying Fateh around him not to take Abu Mazen’s orders and ensuring the security services were under his influence. Abu Mazen took the hint and subsequently resigned both as Prime Minister and as head of Fateh’s Central Committee.
It is difficult to determine the authenticity of Qaddoumi’s allegations, though there is widespread belief in the Palestinian political arena that Arafat indeed was assassinated by poisoning when he died in November 2004.
The causes of Arafat’s sudden and mysterious illness have yet to be fully disclosed either by his family or the Palestinian political leadership. Presumptions of assassination have been raised before by figures like Arafat’s personal doctor, and other historic Palestinian figures like Bassam Abu Sharif, who personally warned Arafat of this potential. Qaddoumi claims that Abu Mazen refused to have an autopsy performed on Arafat to know the cause or type of the poison, and prevented an internal investigation within Fateh to try and root out conspirators.
The release of Qaddoumi’s document now appears to be not entirely random. Fateh is embroiled in internal discussions as it tries to convene its Sixth Conference - the major policy and leadership-setting convention of the party. Debates over when and where the convention will be held have hamstrung the party as internal conflict over power, leadership and direction appear to be ripping the party apart. This will be the first Fateh conference held in more than 21 years, a fact that has meant that two generations of party activists have been prevented from exercising real leadership.
Qaddoumi claimed he held onto the documents until now for an assortment of reasons to do with the inappropriateness of previous political moments.
The Executive Committee of the PLO has already responded by calling Qaddoumi’s allegations “nothing but the fabrications of a sick imagination of a leader who has lost all components of political and personal balance.” Abbas Zaki, a member of the Central Committee of the PLO in Lebanon said on Wednesday that the Central Committee will hold an emergency session to assess Qaddoumi’s allegations.
In any respect, the transcript reads like a couple of pages from the script of a Godfather movie, and are indeed shocking if proved true. Irrespective of what comes of the allegations or any investigation into them, the affair shows the extent to which the principle Palestinian political party, which has led the national movement for the past 40 plus years, is so deeply divided that it appears to be imploding on camera.
TRANSCRIPT translated by Toufic Haddad
Sharon: I insisted on this meeting before the [Aqaba] Summit so we can finalize all security matters and put the final touches so as not to encounter any confusion or discrepancies in the future.
Dahlan: If you didn’t ask for this meeting, I would have.
Sharon: To begin with, work must begin on killing all the military and political leaders of Hamas, the [Islamic] Jihad, the Popular Front [for the Liberation of Palestine - PFLP] so as to bring about chaos in their ranks, and to allow you to pounce on them easily.
Abu Mazen: In this way, we will inevitably fail. We won’t be able to get rid of them or confront them. Sharon: So then, what’s your plan?
Dahlan: We told you our plan and informed you of it. And to the Americans [the plans were sent] in writing. We need firstly to have a period of quiet so we can wrest control over all the [Palestinian] security services and all the institutions [of the Palestinian Authority].
Sharon: As long as Arafat is around in the Moqata’ [the Palestinian Authority headquarters] in Ramallah, you will certainly fail. This fox [Arafat] will surprise you as he did in the past. Because he knows what you intend to do. And he will work towards your failure and put inevitable obstacles. He’ll proclaim, as the [Palestinian] street does, that you are being used to do the dirty work of the era.
Dahlan: We’ll see who uses the other.
Sharon: The first step needs to be to kill Arafat by poisoning. I don’t want him exiled, except if there are guarantees from the concerned states that he will be under house arrest. Otherwise Arafat will return to living on a plane [a reference to Arafat's frequent travels before his return to the OPT to drum up support for the Palestinian position internationally.]
Abu Mazen: If Arafat dies before we are able to have control on the ground and all the institutions, and over Fateh, and [Fateh's armed wing] the Al Aqsa Martyr Brigades, then we will face great complications.
Sharon: On the contrary, you won’t control anything as long as Arafat is alive.
Abu Mazen: The plan needs to be where we pass everything through Arafat. This will be more successful for us and for you. During the period of clashing with Palestinian organizations and the assassination of its leadership and its member - these matters will bring with them consequences for Arafat himself. And he can’t say to the people that this is the work of Abu Mazen. But it is the work of the head of the PA. For I know Arafat well. He doesn’t accept to be on the margins. He needs to be the leader, even if he has lost all his options, and when he has no option but civil war. He prefers to be the leader.
Sharon: You used to say before Camp David that Arafat is the last to know and [then] Barak, Clinton and Tenet were surprised that he is the decider [i.e that Arafat feigned ignorance, but knew what was going on all along, engineering it as such.] Perhaps you do not learn from the past.
Dahlan: We have now gone about creating a [security] apparatus composed of the police and the Preventative Security [force (PS)- a wing of the PA security agencies created to prevent Palestinian attacks against Israel], numbering 1800 persons. This combination [is done] so that we are able to integrate those you nominated [to be included in the apparatus] on the basis that each party of the police and the PS, will believe that the members are from the other [security] apparatus. We can increase [personnel] where we want. We are now putting all the officers from all the agencies before difficult choices. We’ll squeeze them by all means so they follow us. And we will work to isolate all the officers who will be an obstacle for us. And we will not wait. We have started to work intensely. And we put the most dangerous figures from Hamas and the Jihad and the Al Aqsa Martyr Brigades beneath surveillance. So that if you were to now ask me the most dangerous five [of them], I would be able to tell you their location with precision. This facilitates your quick response for any activity that takes place against you. We are now working on penetrating the Palestinian organizations, forcefully, so in the coming period we will be able to dismember and liquidate them.
Sharon: You will find me supportive of you from the skies above for the targets that are difficult for you [a reference to Israel's aerial-borne assassinations.] But I fear that Arafat has penetrated you, and has leaked your plans to Hamas, the [Islamic] Jihad [party] and others.
Dahlan: This apparatus has no relation to Arafat - not from near, nor from far. With the exception that the followers of each apparatus get their wages from the Ministry of Finance. We were able to deduct for the apparatus a specific budget to be able to cover all the expenses. And Arafat is loosing control. We won’t let him be in this period.
Sharon: We need to make it easier for you to liquidate the leaders of Hamas by way of creating a problem from the get go, so we can kill all the military and political leaders. In so doing we will open the way for you to take control on the ground.
Abu Mazen: In this way we will fail entirely, and we will not be able to accomplish anything from the plan. Rather the situation will explode without control over it. The American Delegation: We see Dahlan’s plan is good. And we need to give them a period of quiet so as to achieve full control. And you need to withdraw for them from some of the areas to allow the Palestinian police to take over security. And if any [military] operation takes place, you return and you reoccupy the area harshly. So the people feel that those [who undertook the military operation] are a disaster upon them, and that they are the ones who force the Israeli army to return from the areas from which they have departed.
Sharon: Abu Mazen himself used to advise us that we shouldn’t withdraw before liquidating the infrastructure of terror. He needn’t be rewarded.
Abu Mazen: Yes I advised you of that but you did not succeed in that until now. I thought that you would succeed with this fast.
Dahlan: The levers of success are in our hands. Arafat has begun to loose control over matters bit by bit. And we have begun to take control over institutions more than in the past in addition to the joint security force from the PS and the police. It is under Colonel Hamdi Al Rifi. You know him well. And we sent you all the documents concerning these matters, in detail. What’s important here is that this force does not submit to Arafat, and takes no orders from him. And we will begin our work in the north of the Gaza strip as a beginning. As for the Al Aqsa Brigades, soon it will be like an open book before us. We have put in place a plan so that they will have a singular leader, and all those who impede us will be liquidated.
Sharon: I agree to this plan. And so that it quickly succeeds, and doesn’t take a long time, there is a need to kill the most important political leaders who are next to the military leaders. Like [Abdel Aziz al] Rantisi [Hamas political leader, assassinated in April 17, 2004], and Abdallah Shami [political leader of the Islamic Jihad, Gaza, still living], [Mahmoud] Zahhar [current top leader of Hamas in Gaza], and [Ismail] Abu Shanab [Hamas leader Gaza, assassinated August 21, 2003] and [Ismail] Haniyeh [current head of Hamas, elected Prime Minister in Jan. 2006, Gaza], Majdalawi [head of the PFLP, Gaza, still living] Mohammed Al Hindi [political leader of Islamic Jihad, Gaza - still living], Nafez Azzam [Islamic Jihad leader, Gaza, still living.]
Abu Mazen: This will detonate the situation, and will make us loose control over the whole situation. We need to start to work for a ceasefire, so we can control the situation on the ground. This will be more successful for you and for us.
Dahlan: Without a doubt, there is need for your support of us in the field. I support the killing of Rantisi and Abdalla al Shami because those, if killed, will create confusion and a large vacuum in the ranks of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. Because they are the operational leadership.
Sharon: Now you have begun to get it Dahlan.
Dahlan: But not now. It’s necessary for you to withdraw for us from large parts of Gaza so we can have the large excuse, before the people. And when Hamas and the Islamic Jihad violates the ceasefire, you can kill them.
Sharon: And if they don’t violate the ceasefire? Are you going to leave them to organize and prepare operations against us so that we will be surprised that this ceasefire worked against us…?
Dahlan: They can’t be patient during a ceasefire while their organizations are fragmenting. There upon, they will break the ceasefire. After that will be the chance to go after them. Then it’s your grace, Sharon. The American Delegation: This is a reasonable and logical solution.
Sharon: I will not forget when you used to say to the [Israeli] Labor party and even to us that you are under control of everything, and the reality proved the opposite. Allow me to guide the way, my own special way.
Abu Mazen: The first condition in the Road Map stipulates that you undertake steps supportive of us in confronting terror. We see that the best support you can give us is to give us a part of the Gaza Strip so that we will be able exercise control over it. And we told you that we will not accept any authority other than the [Palestinian] Authority to be present on the land.
Sharon: We told you more than once that supportive steps means that we will support you in fighting terror…either by planes and tanks.
Abu Mazen: That will not be supportive of us.
July 21, 2009 Toufic Haddad
The scandal surrounding allegations made by Farouq al Qaddoumi against the Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership continues to make waves across the Palestinian political landscape.
Qaddoumi heads the PLO politburo and Fateh's Central Committee. Last week he released a document that implicated current PA president Abu Mazen and his henchman Mohammed Dahlan in Israeli intentions to poison former PA president Yasser Arafat. The damning allegations were a frontal attack on the legitimacy of Abu Mazen and Dahlan, who remains a powerful, albeit controversial figure in its backrooms, despite not currently holding any
governmental position. Qaddoumi¹s allegations have weight to them because he is one of the last remaining, heavy-hitting Palestinian revolutionary figures from the era when the PLO was established, and one of a handful of surviving founders of Fateh. The allegations also cast a shadow over the upcoming August 4 Fateh Conference to be held in Bethlehem, raising
questions about the extent to which the matter will genuinely be investigated internally, and if needed, whether Abu Mazen and Dahlan will be held accountable by the party¹s base.
It is first necessary to update developments in this case to see where things have been heading.
The pan-Arab satellite channel Al Jazeera conducted a live interview with Qaddoumi on July 16 in which he reiterated that the document he presented was indeed genuine. Qaddoumi claimed he had hoped to release the document at the upcoming Fateh Conference but was forced to release it now because Abu Mazen decided - in an illegitimate and unilateral manner, according to Qaddoumi - to hold the conference in the West Bank. Qaddoumi argues that this essentially prevents members from Fateh who live outside of Palestine from participating in the conference. Elements of the diasporic Palestinian leadership, including Qaddoumi, refused to return to Palestine in 1993 after the signing of the Oslo Accords, because they fundamentally disagreed with them. Qaddoumi also objects to holding the conference in areas where Israeli occupation troops essentially do as they please - entering and arresting who they want - though nominally Bethlehem is under PA control. The concern over holding the conference in Bethlehem extends beyond Qaddoumi though, as elements of the movement are still wanted by Israel and fear arrest if the conference is actually held there. Rumors have circulated that Abu Mazen is
extending invitations and using his influence with Israel to have his loyalists who reside outside Palestine, return for the conference, as a means to consolidate his supporting camp within the party.
A couple of other pieces of information have also been thrown into the mix.
Qaddoumi still refuses to reveal how he obtained the minutes of the secret meeting in which the plan to poison Arafat was supposedly hatched. But he does claim to have spoken to Arafat about it, confirming receipt of the document. Qaddoumi apparently tried to convince Arafat to leave the country, but the latter insisted on dying like a martyr without turning back on his beliefs.
Other Arabic news sources are reporting separate interviews with Qaddoumi in which the latter has threatened to release more information, saying,
Now I say to them [the Fateh Executive Committee and the Central Committee, who have harshly criticized Qaddoumi for airing the document:] what would be your response if I released an audio recording in the voice of President Arafat based upon his [posthumous] request, in which he says the same things that I have said?Qaddoumi has yet to release any new evidence. But if he indeed has an audio recording of Arafat, it would certainly raise the stakes for all concerned, adding weight to his allegations, which by nature are difficult to substantiate. Rather than clarify matters, Qaddoumi's allegations have
tended to throw up a lot of other questions surrounding how he got the meeting minutes in the first place, why he waited so long to release them, and what he intends to get out of the whole affair.
In this regard, Qaddoumi's allegations appear to re-enforce pre-existing divisions in the Palestinian political theater, with PA stalwarts defending Abu Mazen, and the political opposition, primarily Hamas, believing they have credence.
Inside Fateh - where it really matters - the picture is murkier. Five branches of the Al Aqsa Martyr Brigades, Fateh's armed wing in the West Bank and Gaza, released a joint statement on July 18 in which they pledge allegiance to Qaddoumi and support maneuvers to remove Abu Mazen and Dahlan from the leadership of the party and the PA. But the party's main organs
remain in the hands of Abu Mazen, who has used them to paint Qaddoumi as a senile relic of a bygone era. The PA leadership has also been supported by more independent figures who defend the innocence of the current Palestinian leadership.
Mahmoud Damra, one of Arafat's personal body guards during his besiegement in the Muqata'a and currently a prisoner in Israel, and Arafat's former political adviser Bassam Abu Sharif, have both rejected the claim that Abu Mazen had anything to do with Arafat's death.
Abu Sharif suggested the intriguing theory that Arafat was indeed poisoned, but the work was all Israel's. He claims that Israel knew Arafat was taking medication at the time and at one point stopped an ambulance headed to deliver his serum. After briefly detaining the ambulance staff, Israel replaced Arafat¹s authentic medication with one that contained poison, eventually leading to its ingestion by the leader and his eventual death. Abu Sharif has referenced similar Israeli assassination methods in the past, including the killing of the legendary Palestinian guerrilla figure Wadi Haddad in Iraq in the 1977 with a box of poisoned Belgian chocolates, passed
through an Israeli collaborator. The poison resulted in a degenerative blood illness, which eventually killed Haddad in similar mysterious circumstances. There is also the well-known case of how the Israeli Mossad tried to use poison to kill Hamas chief Khaled Mishal in Jordan in 1997. Mishal survived the assassination only because the Israeli operatives were embarrassingly
caught, and Israel was forced to provide an antidote in exchange for their release.
The volley of PA counter attacks against Qaddoumi has been incessant. Al Jazeera reports that Abu Mazen is preparing to gather the existing members of the PLO Executive Committee to remove Qaddoumi from his post in the PLO. Further preparations are underway to use the convening of Fateh¹s conference to remove him from Fateh¹s Central Committee. There are even reports that the PA pressured Jordan to expel Qaddoumi from the country, to Syria.
The PA also ordered Al Jazeera closed for three days for publicizing the Qaddoumi affair, though it was by no means the only television station to do so. It seems that Abu Mazen wished to send Al Jazeera a message not to use its broad and powerful reach to sway opinion in the run up to the
conference, while also sending a forceful message to local Palestinian media, not to investigate and report on the affair. Most local media (besides those associated with Hamas) have toed the line, resulting in much of the Arabic media discussion on the matter deriving from outside the
borders of territorial Palestine.
Indeed Abu Mazen, together with his Prime Minister Salam Fayyad (a former World Bank and IMF official) are trying to run a tight ship in the West Bank, cracking down on any buds of dissent to their control over the territory. They are aided in their task by a new PA crack force trained in Jordan under U.S. General Keith Dayton. Each member is vetted by Israel to make sure they have a 'clean' resumé. Hamas claims that more than 1100 of its members are currently held in PA detention facilities - about a tenth the number of prisoners held in Israeli jails.
The content of Qaddoumi's document is indeed difficult to verify. Many of the basic elements of the document are not in fact new: we know the PA leadership meets on high levels to discuss 'security matters', and that this issue became of primary importance to the Palestinian leadership after the Intifada began, and especially since Hamas took control over Gaza in June
2007. 'Security' is a euphemism for the PA monitoring Palestinian political factions and ensuring that no militant activity takes place against Israel and its occupation. Many Palestinians already see this as a form of collaboration with Israel, not only because Israel fails to recognize any
Palestinian national rights, while continuing its occupation, building Jewish settlements, demolishing homes, confiscating land etc., but also because Israel has simply killed over 6000 Palestinians since the Intifada began, and it is hardly the time to cooperate on 'security matters' with those who are killing the Palestinian popular leadership.
One way to parse what's going on is to read Qaddoumi's document carefully. Abu Mazen's participation in the discussion is not actually as incriminating as one might think.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is the one who raises the issue of killing Arafat and other resistance leaders. Abu Mazen plays a kind of restraining role to Sharon, essentially arguing that neither the marginalization of Arafat nor brute force will deter the resistance or help anyone. The only way to control the situation is to have Palestinians control their affairs and to get the Israeli army out of Palestinian cities.
This raises the possibility of tactics in negotiations, which could be playing out here as well, if the document is genuine.
The PA was most interested at the time in winning time, and hopefully an Israeli withdrawal on the ground. Dahlan and Abbas' interventions in the discussion, though cynical and seemingly treasonous, are consistent in pushing for this end. Perhaps they presumed that Sharon anyway would act as he pleased, defending what he saw as Israel's interests. The PA needed to bring about an Israeli withdrawal, so they could reorganize their ranks, which were severely fragmented by Israel's blows. I don't even see it as beyond Arafat to have sent Abu Mazen and Dahlan to the meeting with these directives in the first place, allowing them to say what needed to be said to bring about this desired result. He couldn't have done so himself. But Dahlan and Abu Mazen could. Such short term opportunism characterized Arafat's leadership style, as long as the movement (and his leadership over it) was able to survive.
In any respect, Israel's strategy to extinguish the Intifada relied upon shaking the Palestinian leadership, showing them who's boss, eliminating any rebellious nationalist figures through assassination or imprisonment, and simply playing on the contradictions that emerged within the Palestinian elite as it struggled for its survival.
In this regard, it is difficult to assess how seriously Abu Mazen and Dahlan aspired to take advantage of Israeli maneuvers to prepare the ground for taking power from Arafat. No doubt Abu Mazen and Dahlan both had interests in pushing Arafat out of the way. And the tension did spill over to the extent that Abu Mazen in fact did resign as Prime Minister, because he
believed he was not getting enough power from Arafat. But the question remains whether the duo would go the length of cooperating with Israel towards that end. Israel's maneuvers - including the assassination of resistance leaders from other factions, as well as from within Fateh - no doubt make Abu Mazen and Dahlan passive benefactors of Israel's policies. But this is also not the same as participation in murder.
Time will tell what comes of the affair, and all eyes are set on what happens at Fateh's conference. If Abu Mazen and his crew are able to assert leadership and control over the party, Qaddoumi and his allegations will be buried in history. But if elements of the party are determined to raise what happened in the waning days of Arafat 's rule, sticky questions will remain that threaten to split the party. Much will depend upon the composition of the conference itself, and to what extent Fateh opposition figures are allowed to participate. Additionally you have the movement¹s most popular figure (Marwan Barghouti) sitting in an Israeli prison serving out a five-life term sentence, whose opinion is likely to have substantial weight in determining the trajectory of coming developments.