I have had ongoing contact with current Fatah leaders since the Oslo peace process began in 1993. I have rarely heard exclusionary language used in considered discussion with anyone from the Fatah mainstream. Mr. Abbas’s negotiations with former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert could not have progressed so far had it been otherwise. Understanding the distinctions between the rhetoric of a political party conference and the positions of a duly constituted government is imperative.
Relative stability, occasioned and reinforced by the Fatah conference, could prove nothing more than a flash in the pan, however, if settlements and borders are not soon addressed. Only in facing these thorny issues can needs be satisfied and dignity assured for both Palestinian and Israeli.
Michael Bell is former Canadian ambassador to Israel, the Palestinian territories, Egypt and Jordan.