BETHLEHEM, West Bank — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday urged members of his aging and rivalry-ridden Fatah movement — meeting for the first time in two decades — to give peace talks with Israel a chance, despite many setbacks and few achievements.
Abbas hopes formal endorsement of his policies by Fatah will strengthen his hand against his Islamic militant Hamas rivals and Israel's hard-line prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
Many of the nearly 2,000 delegates seemed ready to back Abbas. "Armed struggle" against Israel, once a central Fatah tenet, was not formally dropped as an option, but emphasis shifted to negotiations and civil disobedience.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Fatah's program mattered less than its actions.
Israel permitted delegates from throughout the Arab world, including Lebanon and Syria, to attend the conference.
However, Hamas refused to allow more than 300 delegates from Gaza to leave the coastal enclave, underlining the persistent tensions.