The conflicting messages coming from Fatah cast serious doubts about the faction's true intentions. Moreover, these messages create the impression that there is not much of a difference between the Western-backed Fatah and Hamas.
Fatah's double-talk is not a new phenomenon. Anyone who speaks Arabic and English can easily notice the conflicting messages made by the faction's leaders and representatives. Fatah's strategy has always been to tell the outside world one thing and Palestinians a completely different thing.
Perhaps the most disturbing statement, however, came from Abbas Zaki, who is also a senior member of the Fatah Central Committee and the former PLO ambassador to Lebanon. On the same day that Mahmoud Abbas delivered his speech at the UN on September 23, Zaki declared on Al-Jazeera that "the greater goal cannot be accomplished in one go..If Israel withdraws from Jerusalem, evacuates the 650,000 settlers and dismantles the wall, what will become of Israel: It will come to an end. If we say that we want to eliminate Israel, it's not acceptable to say this. Don't say these things to the world. Keep it to yourself."
So while the Palestinian president was telling the world that the Palestinians support the two-state solution, one of his representatives was telling Palestinians and the Arab world that Fatah has not given up its dream of destroying the Jewish state.
The latest example was provided by Tawfik Tirawi, member of the Fatah Central Committee and a former commander of the Palestinian Authority's General Intelligence Force.
Tirawi told university students earlier this week that Fatah has never "thrown aside the rifle" – an indication that the faction could resume the "armed struggle option" against Israel.
His statement contradicts assurances by other Fatah leaders that they have completely abandoned the path of violence and seek a peaceful solution with Israel.
Tirawi also told the university students that the Palestinians consider the US their number one enemy because of Washington's ongoing support for Israel.
Again, this remarks stands contradicts declarations by Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas and his aides to the effect that the Palestinians do not want a clash with the US and seek to continue working with the US Administration to achieve peace in the Middle East.
Other Fatah leaders, including Nabil Sha'ath, Abbas Zaki and Mohammed Dahlan, have also gone on record as saying that their faction has never recognized Israel's right to exist. They argue that it was the PLO, and not Fatah, that accepted the two-state solution when it signed the Oslo Accords in 1993.
These officials are ignoring the fact that Fatah is the largest faction of the PLO. Statements by some top Fatah leaders suggest that the Palestinian faction continues to speak in more than one voice
Fatah leaders have yet to distance themselves from the statements made by Tirawi, Sha'ath and Zaki. Failing to do so will not only damage the faction's credibility, but also put into question its credibility as a true partner for peace.