RAMALLAH, West Bank — For beleaguered Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his aging coterie of loyalists, this was showtime.
Over the past six days, their Fatah political movement convened its long-overdue party congress, hoping to halt its slide in popularity at home and abroad by assuring people that the octogenarian Abbas and the old guard can lead the Palestinians toward a better future.
Abbas emerged Sunday night in firm control of his party, which nominally rules the Palestinian villages and towns of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. He nimbly sidelined rivals and blocked renegades who supported an exiled challenger.
Abbas and his allies took 16 of 18 seats up for election on the Fatah Central Committee. Abbas will appoint three more of its 21 members.
The delegates in their leather jackets and gray suits waved checkered scarfs and sang revolutionary songs for the Palestine TV cameras, but Abbas’s success means a continuation of the status quo.
In a two-hour speech to the delegates Wednesday, Abbas said that the way to achieve Palestinian aspirations is by international diplomacy, not armed struggle.
Although he praised Palestinian prisoners jailed for attacking or killing Israelis, he called for an “intifada of brains.”
Whether this will be enough to satisfy the younger generations who have grown tired of Abbas and the stalemate of almost 50 years of Israeli military occupation is unclear.
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