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October 3, 2018

Mahmoud Abbas: Assessing Thirteen Years of Reign and the Question of Succession

Rouhana Marc-Antoine

The Occupied Palestinian territories are on the verge of facing a decisive crossroad with the area’s stability being challenged by crucial events, among which the bloody feud between Hamas and Fatah, Fatah’s internal fragmentation and loss of popular support, Israel’s continuous colonization activities, Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, etc. However, the world’s focus is today drawn towards another pressing matter: President Abbas’ critical health and the succession dilemma. It would be interesting to assess the characteristics and outcomes of Abbas’ self-extended rule: From an anti-Arafat pragmatist, the Palestinian president moved to centralizing/solidifying personal power, preventing the democratic rise of potential candidates, in addition to ineffectively grooming the grounds for his succession. Special attention will be dedicated to this last point as the paper analyzes its repercussions on the Palestinian internal scene, affected by numerous factors among which external interventions.

This article presents itself not as a general analysis of the potential candidates for succession and their prospects, but as an attempt to decode the complexity of the succession process, affected by several inter-connected conflicting factors-actors-interests-dynamics namely: The Internal Palestinian context encompassing mainly the Fatah-Hamas rivalry and President Abbas’ contributions; the dynamics of the International context; popular Palestinian interests/opinions; the overwhelmingly large pool of competing candidates; as for the internal Fatah crisis and its repercussions.

Therefore, the following question begs addressing: To what extent would the Fatah-Hamas rivalry, external involvements, popular Palestinian polls, in addition to the Fatah party’s internal rifts affect the presidential succession and vice-versa? The paper will be divided into two main parts. The first will analyze the shift in Abbas’ Presidency; from endorsed moderate to rebuked authoritarian. The second part, will overview the struggle over succession and how the process is influenced by conflicting and intertwined factors.

A Shift in Presidency: From Endorsed Moderate to Rebuked Authoritarian

An evaluation of Mahmoud Abbas’ lengthy rule seems inevitable for discerning the manifestations of the current succession crisis. In the lights of Pr. Abbas’ feeble health condition, it is of key importance to assess the contributions more than 13 years of extended reign had on the transition dilemma.

When Mahmoud Abbas, a co-founder of the Fatah Party, was elected as President of the Palestinian Authority in 2005 following the death of Yasser Arafat, many believed this simultaneously marked the end of an autocratic rule as well as the beginning of a promising era for the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks[1]. Abbas was first perceived, in opposition to his predecessor, as an intellectual, an advocate for peace, a pragmatist, a reformist, and as the ideal leader to achieve breakthroughs in the negotiations[2]. Although lacking Arafat’s symbolic charisma, Abbas was endorsed by both external and internal actors as the leader who could put an end to the armed struggle between the antagonists. Abbas was looked upon with favor by the Americans and the Israelis due to his praised moderate stands among which: initiating a peace-dialogue with left-wing Jewish groups on the two-State solution as a basis for peace, coordinating and signing the Oslo peace accords in 1993, denouncing the illegal possession of weapons by Palestinian groups; hence, confronting with Arafat, president of the PA back then, who was calling for a militarized Intifada[3]

However, more than a decade of tremulous reign deluded those aspirations with Abbas reenacting the same mistakes of his predecessor, becoming increasingly authoritarian, unstable in his positions and isolated as a president[4]. Under this authoritarian shift, the main policies, strategies and measures taken by Abbas to solidify his personal power played a tremendous role in shaping the current problematic race for the presidency. In an attempt to centralize power into his own hands and prevent the rise of potential challengers, Abbas went on monopolizing all main political – security titles appointing himself concurrently leader of Fatah, leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization and president of the Palestinian authority[5] in addition to being the supreme commander of several security services. Abbas’ dramatic authoritarian turn cost him his credibility and endorsement at almost all levels; a loss aggravated by consequential external and internal complications.

Nationally, Palestinians are growing wary-displeased of Abbas’ rule criticized as unilateral, corrupted, disengaged from the public, and increasingly authoritarian[6]. Fourteen years of unaccountable presidency have left Palestinians disillusioned with the reign of the once mild-reformist, with the majority of the population wanting him to resign. Nonetheless, in order to restrain public dissent, the President adopted repressive legal measures and undermined the integrity of the judiciary by imprisoning citizens who dared to contest his government on online platforms[7]. The cruel attack on journalists and freedom of expression has led to a deeper alienation of the public. An additional point of popular discontent relies in the absence of young fresh actors inside the Palestinian political sphere, dominated by aging politicians making decisions behind closed doors. Dissatisfaction encompasses furthermore the politically segregated Hamas partisans who defeated Fatah in the national elections of 2006 as well as the contesting Fatah members (discussed below). 

Regionally, Abbas, once a moderate bureaucrat capable of reducing through diplomatic means tensions with Arab States, lost the support of most Arab regimes because of his hostile statements and opposing stands. In a speech given in front of the PLO’s central council, Abbas issued antagonistic accusations against Arab leaders, strongly rejecting any inference in Palestinian national affairs and questioning the intentions of Gulf States in helping the Palestinian people: “If they really want to help the Palestinian people, support us, and give us a real hand. If not, you can all go to hell”[8], he said. Furthermore, some reports have stated that Arab countries, in particular Saudi-Arabia and Egypt, are putting pressure on Abbas to accept President Trump’s “Deal of the Century”, strongly rejected by the PA leader despite the communicated threats[9]. Another manifestation of the regional detachment from the Palestinian side resides in the absence of a unified pragmatic Arab resolve and coordinated counter-measures for protesting against Trump’s decision to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem, leaving the Palestinians as the sole actor struggling for its cause.

Internationally, Abbas’ controversial impulsive statements tightened his relation with decisive western actors such as the United-States, already enacting policies more inclined with the Israeli interest since Donald Trump took office. President Abbas openly cursed high US officials including President Trump himself and the US ambassador to Israel David Friedman, a supporter of the settlement activities in the West Bank, whom he called a “son of a dog”[10]. The already tensed relations faced additional complications when Abbas’ declarations have been judged of conveying anti-Semitic connotations. The antagonistic statements in which Abbas refuted the Jewishness of the State of Israel, accused Jews of fabricating history, all brought out again his rebuked PhD thesis in which he allegedly exposed the secret relationship between Nazism and Zionism while questioning the accuracy of the proclaimed victims of the Holocaust. 

Finally, Abbas’ undeniable contribution to the actual succession crisis is the purging of potential political rivals affiliated to Fatah or other political parties. While this effectively consolidated Abbas’ political control, it has nonetheless weakened the national Palestinian scene in regards to adequately managing the political transition. The absence of a consensual choice intensified by unresolved internal feuds have complicated the succession process, with the eventual successor reciprocally affecting and being affected by several complex issues among which the devastating Fatah-Hamas rivalry, the growing internal discontent reflected also from within the Fatah party, and the dynamics of external policies and pressures. 

The Struggle over Succession in a Context of Internal and External Tensions

The absence of either a consensual successor or of a functional consistent Palestinian political scene which characterize the current succession crisis are to be unquestionably associated with President Abbas’ authoritarian rule. Political relapse/disarray in the West Bank has been significantly the result of Abbas’ increasingly inaccessible leadership as well as his suppression of political rivals or his purging of internal Fatah members deemed to be too challenging for his rule[11]. Throughout this second part, the paper will examine the complex dynamics that the post-Abbas era would engender by assessing the influence generated by major uncertainties namely, the internal Fatah schism, the tensed Hamas-Fatah rivalry, various external interferences based on interest, and the ascendency of independent political rivals on the succession’s choice and vice-versa.

In a context of rising popular discontent, fierce antagonism with Hamas, ousting of political rivals and inner-Fatah fragmentation, president Abbas amplified the succession dilemma by not enacting a clear succession plan, officially designating an heir to the presidency, or allowing the natural emergence of a successor to the title[12], as Palestinian affairs expert, Grant Rumley, explained: “He [Mahmoud Abbas] doesn’t have a protégé, he hasn’t facilitated a system in which people feel they can rise to the top.” Therefore, the instability threatening the post-Abbas phase is related to the approach/modus operandi adopted by the current Palestinian President and which resulted to a devastating one-man rule, a purposed strategy with long-term disadvantageous implications, in addition to not naming a definite successor and failing to prepare the grounds for elections[13].

One of the most prominent issues fueling the internal Palestinian feud and complicating the succession matter is the Hamas-Fatah rivalry. A once-leading political party, Fatah has been losing preeminence in favor of the Islamist fundamentalist Hamas that won the 2006 parliamentary elections, subsequently taking effective control of the Gaza Strip and generating a bloody division between the two opposing parties[14]. According to the Palestinian Basic Law, in case of a vacancy in the Presidential office because of death or resignation, the legal framework permits the Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council to assume the President’s responsibilities for a provisional period of time not exceeding sixty days, pending that free Presidential elections would be held[15]. This legal procedure presents two main challenges: The dysfunctional Palestinian Political scene following the Fatah-Hamas schism has resulted in the Parliament not meeting since 2007, with the two antagonists not willing to risk their respective territorial control by organizing national elections[16]. Moreover, the current speaker of the Parliament is Hamas member Aziz Duwaik residing in the West Bank. Hence, laws regulating political transition put aside, it’s highly improbable that Fatah would allow the presidency to be held by its arch rival even if it was for a temporary period[17]. In order to avoid strengthening Hamas’ political power in the Palestinian Authority, Fatah motivated legal amendments are envisaged to ensure the party’s preeminence by altering the legal process of succession, making sure that the next president of the PA would hail from Fatah. 

President Abbas’ alleged statement during the Fatah Revolutionary Council conference held in March 2018 shows that he firmly intends to determine the choice of his successor while he is still able to[18]: “It’s possible that this is my final meeting with you … No one can force a political plan upon me that I don’t want. Only what I want will happen; I will not end my life with betrayal!” Actually, it seems that Mr. Abbas has been boosting the chances of a specific candidate in the succession race by enacting advantageous measures to facilitate the latter’s ascension to power. Mahmoud Aloul, a long militant from within Fatah’s armed wing and a strong promoter of “popular resistance” against Israeli imperialist policies, was appointed back in February 2017 as deputy-chairman of Fatah, a position that had not existed previously. Although this calculated designation made Aloul the second leading figure of predominant party Fatah and significantly favored his prospects of succeeding Abbas as chairman of the PA even if for a provisional period of time, the process of having Fatah’s vice-chairman fill in for President Abbas as interim acting leader would still require legislative revision/amendment[19]. A resolution targeting this precise matter has already been passed by the Fatah Revolutionary Council in an attempt to sideline Hamas affiliated Aziz Duwaik from the succession process[20].

Nonetheless, in what might be mistaken for self-contradictory behavior, some reports, officials and Fatah sources alternately reported that President Abbas’ favorite candidate to succeed him is the head of the General Intelligence Service in the West Bank, loyal confidant General Majed Faraj[21]. This apparently conflicting strategy is not unfounded, as explains Ehud Yaari, a political commentator and journalist at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy: “Mr. Abbas understands, and I think rightly so, that once someone is appointed as a deputy president or designated as heir apparent, then he loses most of his authority and becomes a lame duck.”[22] Whereas Abbas might back the chances of potential candidates through the means of favorable statements or appointments, the race for succession is too complex to be solely defined by the plans and intentions of a critically-ill dictator.

The choice of President Abbas’ successor is affected by several intertwined factors portraying the complexity of the matter, with each factor/actor divided into multiple positions/opinions. The succession crisis being not exempted from external interventions, assessing the international context’s dynamics is pivotal, especially the interests of the United-States, Israel and the Arab Quartet namely, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi-Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. The United States, a leading power historically involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, could under Trump’s presidency try to reconstruct entirely the Palestinian political arena regardless of Fatah leadership’s objection. While its content has not been officially publicized, Trump’s “deal of the century” has been firmly refused by President Abbas who denounced the plan as an attempt to promote Israeli interest, topple the Palestinian Authority and widen the rift between Palestinians by reducing the Gaza-West Bank political feud to merely a humanitarian issue focusing on rehabilitation and humanitarian aid in the Gaza strip[23]. Quoting the official Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat: “The goal behind this is to sustain the coup [by which Hamas seized Gaza from Abbas in 2007] and keep Gaza separated from the West Bank on the way to creating a mini-state in Gaza while bringing down the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.”[24]

With Trump’s looming deal of the century ahead, said to be implemented with or without the Palestinian consent, the reported news of a potential truce between Israel and Hamas[25], in addition to Fatah party’s loss of internal and external support, an interesting post-Abbas scenario related to the Fatah-Hamas power struggle presents itself for analysis. While the succession crisis constitutes a decisive test for the disillusioned ruling Fatah party, it contrarily provides rival Islamist party Hamas with an exceptional opportunity to reset the Palestinian political hierarchical structure. If Fatah were to collapse and deteriorate into competing factions, this eventuality would certainly advance Hamas’ position to the most prominent Palestinian party. Already benefiting from increasing popular support, the challenge would remain for Hamas to penetrate national politics, gain regional and international endorsement, and arrive to a functional agreement with Israel. The ideas presented in this part are based on an article published by al-akhbar in 2016 targeting the post-Abbas era dynamics[26].

Another external actor whose personal interests undoubtedly affect all aspects of Palestinians’ lives is Israel, the number one concerned stakeholder when it comes to Palestinian leadership. Israel’s clear interest resides in a President capable of maintaining stability, ensuring security, and preserving a level of cooperation despite the progression of official peace talks[27]. Those prerequisites can be found in 56 years old General Majed Faraj who has gained respect from both the Israelis and the Americans for his involvement in peace negotiations, active commanding of the war on terror, and efficient cooperation with Israel on the intelligence level in prevention of armed attacks on the latter.

The last external interest to assess is that of the Arab Quartet which reflects the duality in their respective foreign policies divided between pursuing their independent plans and aligning their policies to that of their supporting international forces namely the United States. The Arab Quartet’s most flagrant foreign policy can be characterized by the concept of “Bandwagoning”, meaning that they promote the vision and interest of the US in the region in exchange for a certain protection against looming threats. Nonetheless, each country still seeks to develop its own distinct foreign policy without openly antagonizing the patron power. Returning to the succession dilemma, it appears that Mahmoud Aloul does not enjoy the support of the Arab Quartet due to his hawkish tendencies and opposition to the two-State solution[28]. Instead, the four concerned Arab countries tend to favor Mohammad Dahlan as the next President of the Palestinian Authority[29]. Dahlan, who represents the younger generation of Fatah, got exiled by Abbas in 2011 after tension mounted between the two following reciprocal accusations. Since then, Dahlan, a successful businessman with growing ties with Hamas’ military leaders who even financed anti-Abbas protests in Gaza, has won over the favor of influential regional actors and has increased his popularity among Palestinian citizens[30]. Despite his intensive campaign to succeed President Abbas, Dahlan’s insufficient popular support drives analysts to think that he is most likely to become the “puppet master”, or in other words, the one pulling the strings behind the presidential throne[31].

Nonetheless, The Arab Quartet’s endorsement of Dahlan comes in opposition to the US’s position towards him. The United States which consider Dahlan as detrimental to their management of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, accusing him of disseminating declarations questioning the validity of the Oslo agreement and considering the Palestinian territories as occupied lands, have previously refused his entry to US soil[32]. Last but not least, some sources revealed that Qatar has been following its personal interest regarding the PA succession, supporting the president of the Palestinian Football Association Jibril Rajoub in the race for succeeding Mahmoud Abbas. Rajoub’s hostile calls for violence against Israel, declaring in 2013 his determination to nuke Israel if he had the means, which morphed to an innovative strategy of mixing politics with sports attracted the interest of Qatar supposedly aiming to destabilize Israel[33]. Rajoub, elected to the post of Fatah Secretary General, strategically allied himself with rival Mahmoud Aloul to neutralize the menace constituted by other candidates, such as current PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and most importantly by Mohammad Dahlan[34].

Complicating the succession dilemma even further, accumulates to the internal (Abbas/Fatah-Hamas) dynamics and the external interventions for interest are the conflicting popular Palestinian interests/opinions. Although public opinion has rarely influenced the course of politics in Palestine, its contribution should not be neglected. Uniformly to the other factors, Palestinian polls reflect a divided society struggling to agree on a strong successor to lead the PA. Recent opinion polls indicate that: almost 95% of Palestinians living across the territories correlate corruption with the Abbas government[35], and that 60% of Palestinians are opposing Abbas’ domestic policies and calling for his resignation[36], aspiring furthermore for internal Palestinian reconciliation and a deeper integration of Hamas within the PLO as well as the domestic political sphere. Indisputably, Palestinians are disillusioned with Abbas’ practices, entourage, and legacy, to a point where the appointment of a candidate perceived as a continuation of Abbas’ strategies or judged as an Abbas loyalist especially if free elections were to be substituted with a hand-picked successor, would definitely entail severe popular discontent. Even a military figure such as General Faraj, appointed head of General Intelligence Service in 2009, was victim of grassroot Palestinian criticism in 2016 because of his intense security cooperation with Israel[37]. Two interesting actualities are to be highlighted from a public poll on whom should succeed Abbas conducted by a Palestinian research center on 2150 citizens living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank[38]. The first consideration is the people’s support of Marwan Barghouti as their favorite choice to replace President Abbas, scoring the highest percentage of 30%. Barghouti, one of the masterminds behind the two Palestinian Intifadas, considered a terrorist by Israel, is convicted of orchestrating numerous deadly attacks and is currently facing several life sentences in an Israeli prison. Depicted as the Palestinian Nelson Mandela, Barghouti received the largest number of votes with Jibril Rajoub in the second place in the election of the Fatah’s central committee during the party’s Seventh Congress[39]. Some sources related to Marwan have expressed their concerns of a calculated marginalization of the latter within the Fatah decision making circle, denying him any significant appointment in comparison to Mahmoud Aloul’s novel position. In this regard, Barghouti’s reply seems predictable when asked about his probabilities as a potential candidate: “The Palestinian leadership has so far failed to achieve freedom, the right of return and independence. It’s the people’s right to choose whom they deem appropriate to achieve their will according to free, fair and democratic elections.”[40] The second observation concerns the next most popular candidate for the election according to the public poll, which happens to be Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh with 23% of the votes. This poll adequately reflects the clash that accompanies sensible issues such as the Palestinian succession crisis between popular opinions, domestic political leaders’ visions, and regional/international interest.

Finally, the last complicating criterion that need assessment is the exceedingly large pool of competing candidates in addition to the threats of an internal Fatah rivalry. As stated in the introduction, the overall objective of this analysis is not to enumerate the list of potential candidates and their respective prospects in succeeding Mahmoud Abbas, but merely to try and elucidate the complexity of the succession process with all its determining affecting factors. Nonetheless, the list of likely candidates surpassing by far the couple of names stated throughout this paper, it would be useful to briefly mention some of the other contenders’ names. On the one side, there are those who were marginalized/removed from Fatah by President Abbas because they constituted a political threat such as former Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. Despite being a reformer and building a grass root Palestinian support base (still feeble), the technocrat’s biggest weakness remains his political independence[41], which leaves him defenseless against politicized harassments. On the other side, there are several candidates member of the highest Fatah ranks, such as: 56 years old Mohammad Shtayyeh, a well measured politician who has become a leading driver of Palestinian economy. Another choice is Secretary General of the PLO Executive Committee and chief negotiator with Israel, Saeb Erekat. His prospects are linked to the scenario in which interim presidency goes to the PLO’s deputy (namely Erekat) until internal elections are held by the Executive Committee to select the next leader[42]. The third contender is the nephew of Yasser Arafat and high ranking Fatah official, Nasser al-Kidwa. Ambiguity prevails his odds for succession as the rumors concerning the Arab Quartet’s support to Nasser are uncertain and the Israeli/US blessing is probably not assured due to the hostility towards Israel stated when he served as ambassador to the United-Nations[43]; additional candidates are Tawfik Tirawi, Nabil Shaath, and the list goes on. Curiously enough, the majority of the contenders are actually member of the leading Fatah party. This indicates the acute level of fierce rivalry and suspicion between senior Fatah officials, which destabilizes the party’s front preventing the rise of a natural leader. Fatah is the victim of a severe internal crises, with the absence of internal democratic procedures and the growing generational rift between the young contesting Palestinians and the elderly leadership. Moreover, with some of those candidates controlling local armed militias across the West Bank, there were fears that political opposition would mutate to a full-fledged violent street confrontation between various militias[44]. The expected bloody fight for succession becomes more alarming with reported news on people purchasing weapons in preparation for a potential clash[45].  

In conclusion, in the light of persistent antagonism prevailing over inter-twined influential actors/scenes concerned with the succession crisis, namely the Palestinians’ opinions, the internal Hamas-Fatah rivalry and the inner Fatah divisions, regional, and international scenes, it is feared that challenging predicaments would arise from the political transition. Regardless of its outcomes, the succession crisis is undeniably linked to President Abbas’ authoritarian rule, eliminating capable popularly endorsed candidates which left the electoral battle in disarray.

Moreover, in political practice, having multiple choices for an elected function is a positive sign of a healthy pluralistic democratic system. However, despite the large number of potential candidates for the Palestinian Presidency, the upcoming Palestinian elections are not a promising example of this theory. When it comes to critical complex issues such as the Palestinian dossier, external interventions, regional accords, popular support and convenient strategic choices are ought to be considered before a choice is made.

Furthermore, this unfortunate situation might be best explained by the fragility reigning within the Palestinian side, marked mainly by a general dual-fragmentation: The military-ideological differences opposing Fatah and Hamas in addition to the strategic-egocentric competitiveness inside the ruling Fatah party, not to forget the encompassing external influence trying to shape the turn of events in addition to the para-Fatah backed individuals. Therefore, the plurality of choices won’t be reflected in national democratic free elections; instead, the final choice will most probably be the result of either closed-doors negotiations between local political figures influenced by external pressure for interest or violent confrontations between the Palestinian antagonists.

Foreign actors should seek to limit their interference in Palestinian internal affairs while aiming to support the most suitable strategic choice to preserve peace and stability in the region without antagonizing too much popular demands. That being said, the International scene should balance between two factors: favoring the most suitable candidate while avoiding to alienate the most popular choices. Both Palestinian as well as external players should adopt an analytical approach when it comes to determining Abbas’ successor if they wish to salvage any progress made in terms of empowering the Palestinian Authority, neutralizing the Hamas-Fatah relation or re-opening peace talks with Israel. Although difficult to predict, concerned actors should try to study the repercussions following the choice of each candidate over the other. Indicators would vary from the contender’s previous political stands, willingness to engage in negotiations with the State of Israel, the interests of his internal/external supporters, etc.

However, reality proves to be much more complicated than pure theory and favorable hypothetical scenario. With Fatah’s hegemonic grip on the politics of the PA, it is far likely that Abbas would stand back and allow power to slide in the hands of undesirable contenders. Expectations’ predict the current PA president utilizing all his influential cards, including constitutional/legal amendments, undemocratic methods, bias policies, and political oppression, to guarantee succession belonging to a favorable candidate. Assuming that free elections were to happen, impediments are also anticipated with the Gaza/Hamas-West Bank/Fatah rivalry hindering the achievement of free elections through the imposition of reciprocal blockages or restrictions on candidates/voters.

Amidst all the unpredictability surrounding the succession dilemma, one thing is certain: whoever picks up the flambeau of leadership, it would be practically impossible to satisfy all concerned actors/interests. To which extent each factor/context will influence the choice of succession to suit its own interests, and how each choice will reciprocally affect the progress of sensible issues remains to be seen.

[1] Aaron D. Pina, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas: Overview of internal and External Challenges, March 1, 2005, Order Code RS22047 Available at: https://www.everycrsreport.com/files/20050301_RS22047_41de1654bcbead6c6a638f573b35931f0c0226ba.pdf
[2] Al JAZEERA, Profile: Mahmoud Abbas, 6 Dec 2017, Available at : https://www.aljazeera.com/focus/2009/11/2009115154854751132.html
[3]PBS NewsHour, Key Player: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Available at: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/middle_east-jan-june06-mahmoud-abbas
[4] The Last Palestinian: The Rise and Reign of Mahmoud Abbas, a moderated conversation, Available at: http://www.defenddemocracy.org/content/uploads/documents/Transcript_TheLastPalestinian_July2017.pdf
[5] Peter Baker and Rami Nazzal, Mahmoud Abbas, re-elected as Fatah Leader, Moves to Solidify Power, Nov. 29, 2016, Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/29/world/middleeast/mahmoud-abbas-fatah-palestinian-authority.html
[6] Agencies and Toi Staff, Palestinians vote this week on PLO’s aging leaders, as Abbas tightens grip, 29 April, 2018, Available at: https://www.timesofisrael.com/palestinians-vote-this-week-for-plos-aging-leaders-as-abbas-tightens-grip/
[7] Roger Cohen, it’s time for Mahmoud Abbas to go, Jan. 27, 2018, Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/27/opinion/sunday/mahmoud-abbas-resign.html
[8] Grant Rumley, The Tragedy of Mahmoud Abbas, Jan 21, 2018, Available at: https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/01/mahmoud-abbas-palestine-israel-speech/551072/
[9] Yoni Ben Menachem, Arab Leaders Pressure Mahmoud Abbas, 18 Mar, 2018, Available at:  http://jcpa.org/arab-leaders-pressure-mahmoud-abbas/
[10] Mahmoud Abbas: US Ambassador to Israel is a son of a god, Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/mar/19/palestinian-president-mahmoud-abbas-us-ambassador-israel-david-friedman-son-of-a-dog
[11] Grant Rumley, thirteen years into the Abbas presidency, corruption and autocracy dominate the West Bank, 9th January 2018, Available at: http://www.defenddemocracy.org/media-hit/grant-rumley-thirteen-years-into-the-abbas-presidency-corruption-and-autocracy-dominate/
[12] Luke Baker and Noah Browning, After Mahmoud Abbas, who will lead the Palestinians? September 18, 2014, Available at: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-palestinians-successor-insight/after-mahmoud-abbas-who-will-lead-the-palestinians-idUSKBN0HD19720140918
[13] Abd Al-Rahman Nassar, Ma Baad Abbas (1): Ehtimalat Enhiyar Alsolta wa Tafakok Fatah, 2016, Available at:  https://al-akhbar.com/Palestine/221941
[14] OP.CIT. Al JAZEERA, Profile: Mahmoud Abbas, 6 Dec 2017, Available at : https://www.aljazeera.com/focus/2009/11/2009115154854751132.html
[15] Grant Rumley, The Race to Replace Mahmoud Abbas Understanding and Shaping Palestinian Succession, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Washington DC, September 2015, Available at: http://www.defenddemocracy.org/content/uploads/publications/Rumley_Understanding_Palestinian_Succession.pdf
[16] Lauren Mellinger, Palestinian Politics after Abbas: institutional and constitutional challenges, BICOM Strategic Assessment, September 2016, Available at: http://www.bicom.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/BICOM-Strategic-Assessment-After-Abbas-Sep-2016-Final.pdf
[17] Daniel Estrin, Palestinians wonder: who will be our next leader?, 13 Oct 2016, Available at: https://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2016/10/13/497535315/palestinians-wonder-who-will-be-our-next-leader
[18] Yoni Ben Menachem, Fatah looks beyond Mahmoud Abbas, April 5, 2018, Available at:  https://aijac.org.au/australia-israel-review/fatah-looks-beyond-mahmoud-abbas/
[19] Ibid.
[20] Yoni Ben Menachem, Fatah prepares to replace Mahmoud Abbas, 6 Mar 2018, Available at: http://jcpa.org/fatah-prepares-replace-mahmoud-abbas/
[21] Ibid.
[22] OP.CIT. Daniel Estrin, Palestinians wonder: who will be our next leader?, 13 Oct 2016, Available at: https://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2016/10/13/497535315/palestinians-wonder-who-will-be-our-next-leader

[23] Jack Khoury and Amir Tibon, Abbas rejects Trump’s plan for Gaza: an attempt to divide Palestinians, Jun 18, 2018, Available at: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/abbas-rejects-trump-s-plan-for-gaza-an-attempt-to-divide-palestinians-1.6192208
[24] Times of Israel, Reaching out to Palestinians, Kushner says he’s willing to work with Abbas, 24 June, 2018, Available at: https://www.timesofisrael.com/reaching-out-to-palestinians-kushner-says-hes-willing-to-work-with-abbas/
[25] Times of Israel, Israel and Hamas reportedly near truce after days of relative quit, 14 August, 2018, Available at: https://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-and-hamas-reportedly-near-truce-after-days-of-relative-quiet/
[26] Abd Al-Rahman Nassar, Ma Baad Abbas (2): So’ud Alfasa’el wa Enfisal Gaza, 2016, Available at: https://al-akhbar.com/Palestine/221979
[27] OP.CIT., Daniel Estrin, Palestinians wonder: who will be our next leader?, 13 Oct 2016, Available at: https://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2016/10/13/497535315/palestinians-wonder-who-will-be-our-next-leader
[28]Shehab Al-Makahleh and Maria Al-Makahleh Dubovikova, a game of thrones for the Palestinian authority, May 22, 2018, Available at: https://www.fairobserver.com/politics/palestinian-authority-succession-fatah-mahmoud-abbas-gaza-west-bank-middle-east-news-76251/
[29] OP.CIT. Yoni Ben Menachem, Fatah looks beyond Mahmoud Abbas, April 5, 2018, Available at:  https://aijac.org.au/australia-israel-review/fatah-looks-beyond-mahmoud-abbas/
[30] OP.CIT. Grant Rumley, The Race to Replace Mahmoud Abbas Understanding and Shaping Palestinian Succession, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Washington DC, September 2015, Available at: http://www.defenddemocracy.org/content/uploads/publications/Rumley_Understanding_Palestinian_Succession.pdf
[31] OP.CIT. Luke Baker and Noah Browning, After Mahmoud Abbas, who will lead the Palestinians? September 18, 2014, Available at: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-palestinians-successor-insight/after-mahmoud-abbas-who-will-lead-the-palestinians-idUSKBN0HD19720140918
[32] Yoni Ben Menachem, Jibril Rajoub vs. Muhammad Dahlan to replace Mahmoud Abbas, 25 Feb, 2018, Available at: http://jcpa.org/jibril-rajoub-vs-muhammad-dahlan/
[33] Ari Yashar, Qatar backs Rajoub to replace Abbas, 11/16/15, Available at: https://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/196625
[34] OP.CIT. Yoni Ben Menachem, Fatah looks beyond Mahmoud Abbas, April 5, 2018, Available at:  https://aijac.org.au/australia-israel-review/fatah-looks-beyond-mahmoud-abbas/
[35] OP.CIT. Lauren Mellinger, Palestinian Politics after Abbas: institutional and constitutional challenges, BICOM Strategic Assessment, September 2016, Available at: http://www.bicom.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/BICOM-Strategic-Assessment-After-Abbas-Sep-2016-Final.pdf
[36] Bishara Bahbah, Replacing Mahmoud Abbas: Issues and Likely Candidates, July 30, 2018, Available at: http://arabcenterdc.org/policy_analyses/replacing-mahmoud-abbas-issues-and-likely-candidates/
[37] Jack Khoury, Palestinian intel chief – and Abbas’ potential successor – boasts of efforts to foil attacks against Israel, Jan 31, 2016, Available at: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-palestinian-intel-chief-boasts-of-efforts-to-foil-anti-israel-attacks-1.5397724
[38] The Daily Star, Public favor Barghouti as Abbas successor, Jul 5, 2018, Available at:  http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2018/Jul-05/455419-public-favor-barghouthi-as-abbas-successor.ashx
[39] BICOM, With no clear successor for Abbas, Fatah picks deputy leader for first time, 2/17/17, Available at: http://www.thetower.org/4591oc-with-no-clear-successor-for-abbas-fatah-picks-deputy-leader-for-first-time/
[40] OP.CIT. Luke Baker and Noah Browning, After Mahmoud Abbas, who will lead the Palestinians? September 18, 2014, Available at: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-palestinians-successor-insight/after-mahmoud-abbas-who-will-lead-the-palestinians-idUSKBN0HD19720140918
[41] OP.CIT. Grant Rumley, The Race to Replace Mahmoud Abbas Understanding and Shaping Palestinian Succession, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Washington DC, September 2015, Available at: http://www.defenddemocracy.org/content/uploads/publications/Rumley_Understanding_Palestinian_Succession.pdf
[42] OP.CIT., Daniel Estrin, Palestinians wonder: who will be our next leader?, 13 Oct 2016, Available at: https://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2016/10/13/497535315/palestinians-wonder-who-will-be-our-next-leader
[43] Ibid.
[44] OP.CIT. Yoni Ben Menachem, Fatah looks beyond Mahmoud Abbas, April 5, 2018, Available at:  https://aijac.org.au/australia-israel-review/fatah-looks-beyond-mahmoud-abbas/
[45] Aijac, who will lead the Palestinian authority after Abbas? /Bibi goes to Washington, 03/2018, Available at:  https://aijac.org.au/update/who-will-lead-palestinian-authority-after-abbas/#Article%201