In its push to establish a Palestinian state, the Obama administration is counting on the Palestinian party known as Fatah to be Israel's partner for peace.
But judging by a major conference held by the group in Bethlehem last month, President Obama's vision is a long way from being fulfilled.
In Bethlehem, Fatah leaders reaffirmed their commitment to what they call "armed resistance." They refused to recognize Israel's status as a Jewish state. Fatah, which rules the West Bank, also restated its desire to take control of eastern Jerusalem and make it the capital of a Palestinian state.
Arafat Once His 'Hero'
These rigid views sound all too familiar to Tass Saada. The Palestinian native ran away from home and joined the movement when he was just 17.
"I joined the Fatah movement, basically, because (Yassar) Arafat was my hero," Saada told CBN News.
Israel's resounding victory over the surrounding Arab nations in the Six Day War of 1967 devastated young Tass. He was soon drawn to the militant views of Fatah founder and Saada family friend, Yasser Arafat.
"I used to sit right across from him and just stare at him, just mesmerized," said Saada. "He was such a charismatic character."
Saada believed the Jews had stolen Palestinian land. He was determined to help Arafat and Fatah push Israel into the sea.
"Our training was specialized, basically, in intense, marine-type fighting skills," he recalled. "We used to call ourselves guerilla fighters, commando fighters."
Saada became a Fatah sniper, picking off and killing Israeli soldiers. His nickname was "Butcher."
"My job was to knock off whoever was the commander of the unit," he said.
Saada took part in bloody battles against the Israeli army. He even attempted to assassinate the Crown Prince of Jordan, who he saw as unfriendly to Palestinians.
But his most prestigious job was as a personal driver for his hero: Arafat.
"Everybody knows I was a fierce driver," said Saada. "And so when it came a time and need for Arafat to be transported from one area of Jordan to the other, they called me to do that."
Life in the United States
Saada eventually made his way to the United States to attend school. By that point, he had given up on waging violent jihad, but he still hated Jews.
He became a successful restaurant manager, married an American woman and had two children. But he was miserable - living a fast lifestyle of mistresses and booze.
Until a longtime friend told him about Jesus Christ.
"He put the Bible in the middle, between the two of us. And I just got scared and I jumped away from the Bible," Saada recounted. "I said, 'I cannot touch that! It's got the name of God, the word of God in it!' He said, 'So you believe this is the word of God?' I said, 'Yes.'
"Why did I say 'yes,' when we as Muslims don't really believe that the Bible is valid as the word of God?"
He says he momentarily lost consciousness at that point.
"The next thing I know, I'm on my knees with my hands lifted up, inviting Jesus. And the rest is history."
Loving the Jew
When Tass told his Muslim family back in the Middle East of his conversion, his brother vowed to kill him.
In the meantime, his Christian friend threw him for yet another loop.
"He said 'Tass, to have the peace that I have, you must love the Jew.'" remembered Saada. "I literally froze, turned around and looked at Charlie. Charlie knew how much I hated Jews."
But Saada soon got past that lifelong hatred. He developed close friendships with Jews and began to look at Israel in a brand new light. His book, Once an Arafat Man recounts his transformation.
"I don't believe in the two-state solution," Saada told CBN News. "I don't believe in that. Because I believe that land belongs to the Jews. It doesn't belong to us."
"But, on the other hand," he continued. "I believe that we have the right to live in that land, as is recorded in the Book of Ezekiel, where the Lord redivided the land among the Israelites and told them to give the foreigners living among them an equal share of the land."
Seeds of Hope
Today, Saada spends much of his time in the West Bank and Gaza, helping provide modern necessities to Palestinians through his charitable organization, Seeds of Hope.
He says Muslims in the Middle East are turning to Christ in record numbers.
"Millions of Muslims around the earth--especially the Arabs in Saudi Arabia, in Qatar," Saada marveled. "In all these 12 nations of Ishmael, all of these nations, there is so much conversion in that land."
That's why Saada is confident that peace will one day come to the region--the kind of peace that politicians can never bring.
*Originally published September 3, 2009