London, Asharq Al-Awsat- There is a prevailing conviction among Palestinian politicians, particularly in the Fatah Movement and the PLO factions, that there will be no change in the present situation and that Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas (Abu-Mazin) will remain in his position as PA president. Nevertheless, some names have been mentioned as possible successors to him in his position or his various positions if he insisted on his decision not to run. All the possible successors are members of the Fatah Movement Central Committee.
In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, the Palestinian politicians justified their positions by saying that in his speech last Thursday, Abu-Mazin made his situation, dependent on the decision of the Fatah Central Committee and the PLO Executive Committee. First, he did not say in his speech, “he had decided not to run for reelection under all circumstances. He left the door open by urging the two committees (which hastened to affirm that they support him as the sole candidate) not to exert pressure on him.” Second, he made his situation contingent on holding the elections. One Palestinian politician told Asharq Al-Awsat that elections would not take place in January, as stated in the presidential decree, nor even in June, as suggested in the Egyptian reconciliation document. Elections will not take place as long as the reconciliation does not take place between the Hamas and Fatah Movements, the division does not end, and unity is restored between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. If elections are not held, Abu-Mazin would remain the president of the PA and the chairman of the Fatah Movement and the PLO.
It should also be noted that at a meeting held last week Ramallah, the Fatah Central Committee affirmed for the third time in three days its support for Abu-Mazin as president and as sole candidate, as a Fatah source told Asharq Al-Awsat. Nevertheless, some names have been mentioned as possible successors. One of them is Muhammad Ghunaym (Abu-Mahir), his deputy in the leadership of the Fatah Movement and the last Fatah historical leader who returned to the West Bank to participate in the movement’s sixth convention last August. However, some say that he has no desire to run, and his age does not permit him to do so. He is over 75 years’ old. Another one is Nasir al-Qudwah, the nephew of the late President Yasser Arafat who served as PLO representative at the United Nations until his appointment as foreign minister. He won third place in the elections to the Fatah Central Committee in August. There is also Muhammad Dahlan, whose name has been mentioned on every occasion and was regarded as Arafat’s successor, and Jibril al-Rujub. Both were associated with the security establishment before their election to the Fatah Central Committee in the recent convention.
At the top of this list comes Marwan Barghuthi, the Palestinian Legislative Council deputy and member of the Fatah Central Committee who is serving five life prison sentences. There is hope that he would be released as part of a prisoner exchange deal that the Hamas Movement is seeking to conclude through a German mediator. However, a Fatah source who asked not to be named told Asharq al-Awsat, “The nomination of Barghuthi as a successor to Abu-Mazin, incase he insisted on not running for reelection, has no support in the Central Committee and perhaps is even facing resistance.”
Most of the names on the list have refused to get into details regarding Abu-Mazin’s successors, maintaining that it is too early to talk about it.
Meanwhile, Abbas accused Israel on Wednesday of trying to undermine an internationally backed two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Abbas, speaking on the fifth anniversary of the death of Yasser Arafat, said the Palestinians were committed to the two-state solution but Israel sought to derail it and was putting “obstacles” in the way of such a peace deal.
Abbas also said that his hand was extended to Hamas for reconciliation and called on his Islamist rivals to sign an Egyptian proposal to end their division. “We have agreed to the Egyptian document and we call upon Hamas to accept it without procrastination,” he said. “Our hand is extended for reconciliation.”