Fateh (Palestinian National Liberation Movement)
Fateh is an acronym for Harakat At-Tahrir Al-Watani Al-Filistini, with the first letters in reverse order giving Fateh, which means opening, conquest, victory. It was founded in Kuwait in 1958 by members of the Palestinian diaspora – mainly professionals working in the Gulf States who had been refugees in Gaza. The founders included Yasser Arafat, Salah Khalaf, Khalil al-Wazir and Khaled Yashruti. Fateh was headed by Yasser Arafat until his death in 2004. It aimed to achieve Palestinian independence and advocated armed struggle to liberate Palestinian lands. It held the ideology that Palestine must be liberated by Palestinians themselves and not by relying on Arab states. Fateh advocates a democratic, secular, multi-religious state.
Initially a network of underground cells, Fateh reorganized in 1963 by forming a central committee. The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) joined the central committee in 1967 and Arafat became its chairman in 1969. Fateh became the central party of the PLO, which came to be recognized in the international community as the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinians. It adopted the principle of political pluralism within the PLO. Until the 1970s, it followed a guerrilla strategy with its military wing Al-Assifa and squads operating in the occupied Palestinian territories. They were known as Fateh Hawks and Black Panthers.
Fateh played a central role in the first Intifada and was a member of the United National Leadership of the Uprising (UNLU). On November 15, 1988, one year after the first Intifada broke out, Arafat announced the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with its territories occupied by Israeli military. In December 1988, Yasser Arafat publicly renounced terrorism on behalf of Fateh and the PLO.
In 1993, as a result of the Oslo Peace Process, Arafat signed the Declaration of Principles (DOP) with Israel and exchanged mutual renunciation of terrorism with Israel and mutual recognition between the PLO and Israel. Following this, he and other Fateh leaders were allowed to return to the occupied territories from exile in Tunisia. The signing of the DOP also led to the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, PA. The first Palestinian parliamentary elections were held in 1996, with Fateh winning majority of the seats in the legislative council. Hamas and other resistance factions boycotted the vote. As a result, Fateh members became the backbone of the PA dominating its bureaucracy and security forces.
After Arafat died in 2004, Farouq Kaddumi became head of the Fateh party while Mahmoud Abbas was endorsed by Fateh in the Palestinian presidential elections of 2005. Abbas was elected leader of the PLO and president of the PA and called the second Palestinian legislative elections in 2006. Fateh’s popularity had dropped amongst the Palestinians due to corruption and internal disputes. Consequently, Hamas that became increasingly popular won landslide victories in nearly all of the municipalities in which it contested.
Prior to the 2006 legislative elections a split occurred within Fateh. On December 14, 2005, Intifada leader Marwan Barghouthi announced that he had formed a new political party, al-Mustaqbal (the ‘Future’), mainly composed of members of Fateh’s ‘Young Guard’. These younger leaders expressed their frustration with the corruption in Fateh, which is predominantly run by the ‘Old Guard’. Al-Mustaqbal was to compete against Fateh in the legislative elections. On Dec 28, 2005, the leadership of the two factions agreed to submit a single list, due to fears of having to split the Fateh vote. Nevertheless, Fateh lost the elections to Hamas, ousting the movement from the helm of power for the first time in history.
After its 2006 election defeat, Fateh was been put on the defensive. Fears arose among leaders that Fateh would wield its political influence and military power to maintain predominance. The PA’s police and security forces who were mainly Fateh loyalists would likely assist in regaining ground. After months of factional fighting, Fateh and Hamas made a deal to form a national unity government with Fateh as a subordinate partner. In June 2007 Abbas dismissed the Hamas-led government, and an emergency cabinet was sworn into office in the occupied West Bank, led by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.