CONSIDERING that the Fatah movement is one of the principal forces in Palestinian politics and that its Congress held in Bethlehem last week was the first for twenty years, it is surprising how little international attention has been given to its outcome. Yesterday the results of the election for Fatah's central committee, its highest policy-making body, were announced and showed a decisive move towards a new generation of leaders who have come to prominence in the past decade. A few of the “old guard” survived, among them the widely respected veteran peace negotiator Saeb Erekat, but prominent among the new faces are Mohammed Dahlan, a former Gaza security chief, and the former mayor of Ramallah Marwan Barghouti who is serving five life sentences in an Israeli jail. President Mahmoud Abbas was re-elected on a show of hands - a sign that he might not have survived in a secret ballot; his authority is likely to be diminished.

The membership of the new central committee is being analysed for indications of how negotiations with Israel, when they are resumed, will be affected.

Hamas issued a statement welcoming the new central committee but Mohammad Dahlan's presence on it is likely to make relations between Fatah and Hamas rather difficult since it was Dahlan's forces that were thrown out of Gaza by Hamas in 2007.