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The battle of Abbas' succession may cause the PA to collapse, report warns

February 1, 2023 at 4:38 pm

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas [Royal Court of Saudi Arabia/Anadolu Agency]

An international report warned, Wednesday, that the battle to succeed 87-year-old Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, could lead to “mass protest, repression, violence and even the PA’s collapse.“

The Brussels-based International Crisis Group published the report a day after talks were held on Tuesday in Ramallah. These talks included Abbas and US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, who called on the Israeli and Palestinian sides to reduce escalation.

There is speculation in the Palestinian street about the identity of the successor to Abbas, who has headed the PA since in 2005 for a term that was supposed to end in 2009.

The report considered that the best scenario would be “elections based on legal procedure”, however it said it was “seemingly the least likely”.

After the death of Yasser Arafat in late 2004, Abbas headed the Fatah Movement and the PLO, the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and was elected in January 2005 as President of the PA.

The report indicated that Abbas “He has hollowed out or disabled the institutions and procedures that would otherwise decide who will take his place” so, “it is unclear who will succeed him, and by what process.”

The Palestinians have not gone to the polls since 2005, i.e., since Abbas assumed power.

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After he announced the organisation of presidential and legislative elections in 2021, Abbas reversed this decision, justifying this with Israel’s refusal to allow them to be held in East Jerusalem, which it has occupied since 1967 and which the Palestinians consider the capital of their future state.

Analysts attributed Abbas’s move to his fear of a decline in the Fatah Movement’s popularity, which he leads, and the leader of Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip.

Tension has characterised the relationship between the two Movements since 2007, after violent clashes. This resulted in Hamas taking military control of the Gaza Strip and expelling Fatah from it.

All attempts at reconciliation between the two Movements over the past years have failed.

The report mentioned the names of two Palestinian officials who are possible candidates to succeed Abbas, namely, the Minister of Civil Affairs and Secretary-General of the PLO Executive Committee, Hussein Al-Sheikh, and the head of the Palestinian General Intelligence Service, Majed Faraj.

Although the two men are influential in the PA and are able to work with the international community, the report indicates that they do not have enough popularity among the Palestinians.

The report also mentioned both the President of the Palestinian Football Association, Jibril Rajoub, and the former head of the Preventive Security Service, Muhammad Dahlan, who moved to reside in the UAE after his dispute with Abbas, and the Prime Minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh.

The report said that “each of these men has his own network,” but that “neither could stand on his own.”

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