BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AFP) - Palestinian President Mahmud Abbass Fatah faction was electing new leaders for the first time in 20 years on Monday, in the hope they can invigorate a party weakened by internal rifts and its rout from the Gaza Strip by its Hamas rivals. Ballot counting that had been scheduled to start on Monday morning was delayed to enable more Gaza member to call in their votes and was expected to start in the late afternoon or evening, officials said. About 2,000 delegates cast their ballots at a party congress in the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem, the first ever in Palestinian territory. But dozens of Fatah members had to vote by telephone as arch-rival Hamas, the rulers of the Gaza Strip, prevented them from leaving the Palestinian enclave to attend the gathering. Participants were anxiously awaiting the outcome of the vote to renew the 21-member Central Committee and the 120-strong Revolutionary Council, the main governing bodies of the party founded by iconic Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in the late 1950s. I am convinced there will be changes within the leadership and that the Palestinian people will feel this change in the near future, said Abbas aide Nimmer Hammad. Fatah today is no longer fractured and weak, he said of the once-dominant party that has been hit hard by infighting and corruption allegations. Fatah, which controls the Palestinian Authority, exercised undivided power among Palestinians before it was trounced by Hamas in a 2006 parliamentary election. Its power base has been limited to the Israeli-occupied West Bank since Fatah forces were routed from Gaza when Hamas violently seized power in the coastal strip in 2007 after days of deadly street battles. The congress has re-elected Abbas as head of the secular movement and renewed its charter, effectively endorsing his political programme. It underlined its commitment to a negotiated peace with Israel but stressed that the Palestinian people have a right to resistance to occupation. Inclusion of the clause prompted angry responses from Israeli ministers, who said the charter meant there was no real desire to reach a compromise with Israel. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that Fatahs platform buried any hope of reaching a full deal with the Palestinians in the coming years. The Palestinians radical and uncompromising positions on Jerusalem, the right of return and the settlement blocs create an unbridgeable gap between us and them, Lieberman told a delegation of US Democratic lawmakers. Therefore, Israeli policy must be based on reality and not illusion while maintaining the dialogue between us and the Palestinians, improving security arrangements and the economic condition of the Palestinians. This is the maximum we can reach in the coming years, Liebermans office quoted the ultra-nationalist minister as saying. The congress has been marked by bitter rows, with numerous delegates blaming the current leadership for the partys failures, and expressing anger at the lack of accountability over the past 20 years. But former Palestinian internal security chief Jibril Rajub was upbeat. This congress amounted to some kind of peaceful revolution as it will democratically bring radical change to the Fatah leadership, he told AFP. Rajub, top negotiator Saeb Erakat and Fatahs West Bank secretary general Marwan Barghuthi, who is in prison in Israel, are among the leading contenders for positions on the Central Committee which runs the partys day-to-day operations. Fatahs former strongman in Gaza, Mohammed Dahlan, is also a hopeful even though he has fallen into disgrace after the Hamas takeover of Gaza.