Abbas’s deteriorating health has triggered speculations that the era of Mahmoud Abbas is ending.
The 83-year-old and ailing Mahmoud Abbas has been heading the Palestine Liberation Organization since Arafat passed away in 2004. Now it’s Abbas’s deteriorating health that has triggered speculations about his replacement.
While Ramallah officially claims business as usual, there is intense rivalry among possible claimants to the PA’s throne, as Abbas suffers from heart problems, prostate cancer and has been hospitalized several times. He’s a heavy smoker to boot.
Who are the potential successors?
One of the main candidates to emerge is Saeb Erekat. Based in Jericho, PLO official Erekat served for many years as a chief negotiator in negotiations with Israel. While officially advocating the two-state solution, Erekat embraces anti-Jewish historical revisionism and rejects Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.
Erekat makes the ridiculous claim that his family lived in Israel for 10.000 years. In reality, Erekat’s family immigrated to Israel approximately 100 years ago from the area that is now Saudi Arabia.
Erekat also created headlines by telling Nikki Haley, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. to “shut up” when she criticized Ramallah for undermining peace with Israel. Part of the inner Abbas circle, Erekat is actually considered more extreme than the current PA leader.
Another potential successor is senior Fatah official Mahmoud al-Aloul. During the First Lebanon War in the 1980s, al-Aloul participated in terrorism against the Jewish state. During the Second Intifada, his oldest son Jihad was killed in clashes with IDF soldiers.
Mahmoud al-Aloul is said to share the political outlook of Mahmoud Abbas. Like Abbas, he rejects Washington as a peace mediator and advocates a boycott of Israeli goods.
Majid Faraj is another possible successor. Faraj is the head of the Palestinian General Intelligence Service. He enjoys American and Israeli support. But this puts Faraj at risk of being branded a “collaborator,” diminishing his chances of replacing Abbas.
Mohammed Dahlan stands out among the contenders struggling to replace Abbas in that his main power base is not in Ramallah, but the Gaza Strip, where he enjoys close relations with the Hamas regime. He is therefore not popular with the PA and less likely to take over after Abbas.
The jailed terrorist leader Marwan Barghouti is often mentioned in the ongoing power-struggle in Ramallah. Barghouti was imprisoned for murdering Israeli civilians during the Second Intifada. He rejects Israel’s right to exist within any borders. While popular among radicals, it is unlikely that he will be released from Israeli prison.
Jibril Rajoub is another name floated as the next PA leader. He currently heads the Palestinian Football Association and created international headlines by advocating a sports boycott of Israel.