The Post-Abbas Era
The Fatah movement and the PLO leadership are experiencing a deep internal and external crisis. In retrospect, its leader Mahmoud Abbas has failed to achieve the establishment of a vital and sovereign Palestinian independent state according to the 1967 borders. Abbas, who is now in the final stretch of his term of office, has three goals: to leave a legacy, to put policy guidelines in place for the future, and to select his political heir.
To ensure that the issue of succession will not generate internal warfare in Fatah, the leadership must create a mechanism that will help the movement stabilize rivalry in its high command. We can assume that Abbas will do everything he can to influence the choice of his successor.
A second important point: It seems that in the new, post-Abbas Fatah, the leadership is going to be more focused on Palestinian domestic affairs. After the election of Abbas’ successor, one can expect Fatah leaders to try to find an answer to Hamas’ challenge to what they perceive as their historical birthright as leaders of the Palestinian national movement.
Hamas would like to see reforms and elections take place in PLO institutions that would allow it to integrate into the PLO and take it over from within. This would allow Hamas to replace Fatah as leader of the Palestinian national movement and gain inter-Arab and international legitimacy.
In the short term, a change in PA leadership will have only a small impact on its ability to move forward with the peace process. As long as the Palestinians are focused on their own domestic politics, the chances for progress on the Israeli-Palestinian track are slim.
Ido Zelkovitz is the head of the Middle Eastern Studies program at Yezreel Valley College, a policy fellow at Mitvim – The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies, and a research fellow at the Ezri Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies at the University of Haifa.