Abbas recited the litany of names as if lamenting his party's failure to deliver a unifying leader since Arafat to guide Palestinians through exceptionally
troubling times: a moribund peace process, dire economic circumstances brought about by dwindling international aid, mushrooming Israeli settlements, and a
political and geographical rift with the Gaza Strip.
Besides the marching band and the rally, few people in town seemed aware, let alone interested, in the festivities. Discussion of the economy and the E1
Israeli settlement plan dominated TV and radio station talk shows and café conversations. On the domestic political front, Fatah hasn't been faring as well
as should be expected on its home turf. During last October's municipal elections, only 54 percent of eligible voters turned out to cast their ballots.
Despite a Hamas boycott, Fatah was unable to present a unified front and many of its members broke with the party line by running on independent platforms.
During that election season, few running candidates spoke of resistance and liberation, instead focusing mainly on economic issues, services, and
development. Palestinians have increasingly become frustrated with their volatile financial situation, which sent them pouring into the streets in protest
a few months ago, only to be met by baton-wielding PA police officers. Many demonstrators report being detained for questioning by security services before
they even reach Israeli checkpoints or military bases, prompting some to label the PA a tool for crushing internal dissent at best -- and Israel's security
guards at worst.
There are several other issues on the table that Fatah has to address besides an angry constituency, but none as pervasive and urgent as the discord with
Hamas. The feud has been lingering since 2007, punctuated by several attempts at reconciliation with Egyptian and Qatari mediation, all of which have
failed to materialize. The recent between Hamas and Israel has ushered some conciliatory steps between the two Palestinian groups that so far only secured
the release of many incarcerated members and loosened restrictions on public visibility. As a direct result of this, hundreds of thousands of Fatah
supporters rallied in Gaza City earlier this month to commemorate the group's 48th anniversary. This was the first time since 2007 that Fatah has been
allowed to publicly celebrate its founding in the coastal enclave, in a move some attribute to Hamas' newfound confidence in light of redefined regional
dynamics in favor of political Islam.
But aside from authorizing festivities on each other's turf, the split has so far proved irreconcilable. Hamas still retains hold of the Gaza Strip while
Fatah controls the West Bank, and the two maintain different visions of how to resist Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory. Without a unified
Palestinian front or a future strategy, Fatah has been going it alone, using whatever means it has available outside of armed resistance. Each of its
strategies has failed, calling into question its viability.