Tue, 21 Jul 2009 19:30 CDT
The world is abuzz with the accusations made by senior Fatah member Farouk Kaddoumi (Abu Al Lutf), against Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and former security minister Mohammad Dahlan for having allegedly conspired with former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon to get rid of Yasser Arafat in 2004.
The meeting was aimed at eliminating Arafat and Hamas leaders Abdul Aziz Rantisi (assassinated by Israel in April 2004), Esmail Haniya and Mahmoud Zahar.
Kaddoumi said he advised Arafat to flee Ramallah, seeing that the death threat was serious, but the ageing Arafat, who had been confined to his office in Ramallah since 2001, curtly refused. Kaddoumi accused Abbas of "deserting Fatah" and "collaborating and conniving with Israel".
Responding to the accusations, which spread like forest fire throughout the Palestinian areas, Abbas said, "Kaddoumi claims to be in possession of five-year-old documents that prove [his allegations], so why did he not reveal them immediately?"
Abbas, who shared a close relationship with both Kaddoumi and Arafat since the 1960s, claimed that the accusations were "lies" intended to show him in poor light at the upcoming sixth Fatah General Congress, scheduled for August 4, 2009.
"He knows full well that his information is false; he has released it to undermine the convention," he said.
Abbas loyalists were naturally furious, and so were regional Abbas allies like Jordan and Egypt. Some members of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) even demanded that Kaddoumi be put on trial for defaming the Palestinian president, while others argued that because of his age (Kaddoumi is 78) the man was hallucinating.
By all accounts, even Kaddoumi's opponents agree that the man is not known for lying. He has an exceptionally unblemished financial record, and despite his age, still manages to capture the minds and hearts of young Palestinians because he is committed to military resistance against Israel, unlike Abbas.
Despite having worked together since he joined Fatah in 1960, Kaddoumi never really got along with Abbas. He constitutionally succeeded Arafat as chairman of Fatah in 2004 and challenged Abbas from day one, trying to wrest control of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) which is chaired by Abbas. The latter hit back, retiring all ambassadors and officials loyal to Kaddoumi.
Abbas has made it clear; anything official from Palestine comes from two sources only - the presidential office, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (which is completely independent from Kaddoumi's control).
Kaddoumi is famed for having refused to return and live in Ramallah or the West Bank so long as the Palestinian state is not announced, and often mocks the limited statehood granted to the Palestinians by the Oslo Accords of 1993.
Recently, he tried organising an armed force loyal to him to "save" the loyal elements of Fatah - an initiative that was strongly suppressed.
Shortly after Arafat's death, Kaddoumi tried ousting Dahlan by claiming that his Preventive Security Bureau was persona non grata in Fatah. His loyalists claim that he was bypassed as chairman of the PLO by Abbas and affectionally call him 'Mr President', a title that symbolically challenges the authority of Abbas.
Whether Kaddoumi's accusations are true or not is unknown, but clearly the statement creates an unprecedented crisis for Fatah ahead of its much awaited congress.
Kaddoumi is furious that Abbas has called for the Congress in the Occupied Territories, arguing that it is illogical for a national liberation movement to convene its most important convention under Israeli occupation.
He claims that Israel, rather than Abbas or the PNA, will have the final say on who will attend the event. Abbas loyalists argue that Kaddoumi is trying to play spoilsport because he doesn't plan to attend the conclave.
In recent years, Kaddoumi has asked for an international tribunal to investigate Arafat's death, similar to the one created to probe the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.
Kaddoumi's accusations are not new, having been first levelled by Hamas in July 2007, shortly after their takeover of Gaza purportedly on the basis of official correspondence found at the Fatah security headquarters in the enclave.
Reportedly, Hamas discovered a hand-written letter, dated July 13, 2003, addressed to Shaul Mofaz, the then-Israeli minister of defence in the Sharon cabinet.
The Lebanese weekly, Al Kifah Al Arabi, claimed that the Dahlan-Mofaz correspondences reveal a statement made by the Palestinian security chief saying: "Be sure that Mr Yasser Arafat is now counting his final days but let us slaughter him our way - not yours!"
That statement, if it proves to be correct, topped with Kaddoumi's latest accusations, mean that probably, Abbas will have a lot of explaining to do at the upcoming Fatah Congress.
The PNA's democratic character allows for challenging the head of state but while it doesn't look likely that the allegation will lead to Abbas's impeachment, his record may lie tainted, especially with many of his opponents more willing to believe that Kaddoumi is saying the truth.