Fatah Looks to Reinvent Itself

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One of two rival groups vying for control of the Palestinian movement is holding its first major conference in 20 years.  

Fatah, once led by Yasser Arafat, used to rule Palestinian Arabs with little resistance.  Now, Fatah is trying to rise from defeat and make a final push for Palestinian statehood.

Fatah delegates met, Tuesday, in Bethlehem. The party created by Arafat is no longer the dominant force it once was and is in desperate need of a makeover.

Palestinians see its leaders as out of touch and corrupt.  It lost elections to Hamas in 2006 and then lost control of Gaza. 

But Fatah is the more moderate Palestinian party, willing to recognize Israel and in favor of a two-state solution-- although not yet ready to completely lay down its arms as Israel has demanded.

Fatah's leader, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, expects the three-day convention in Bethlehem to boost his standing and strengthen his hand in dealing with his Hamas rivals and with Israel's hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The success of this conference is important for President Obama and the Israelis.  They need Fatah to reinvent itself, to become popular again and to lure people away from Hamas.

That's why exiled Fatah delegates from all over the world have been checking into Bethlehem hotels-- allowed back in by Israel-- greeting long lost comrades.

The delegates must approve a new political platform and elect new leaders.  Central committee members are mostly in their 60s and 70s, some have died

There is real pressure from the younger generation to have their say.  If they succeed, it could make Fatah more popular with Palestinians, but to compete with Hamas it's not likely to make too many compromises with Israel.

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