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May 9, 2018 8:36 am

The Battle Over Abbas’ Successor Will Entail Conflict and Instability

avatar by Hillel Frisch

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Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Photo: Reuters / Mohamad Torokman.

At present, the issue of any leadership change in the Palestinian Authority (PA) is hypothetical.

Mahmoud Abbas shows no sign of either abdicating or designating a successor, or to take a leap forward on either the issue of Israel as the state of the Jewish people or the Palestinian “right of return.”

In the long-term, of course, an alliance between pragmatists such as Jibril Rajoub, the former head of preventive security in the West Bank, and Majid al-Faraj, the chief of general intelligence (provided they prevail over other candidates), could pave the way for a Jordanian-Palestinian federation, which is the only feasible option for the PA.

Rajoub and Faraj share a common security background, and have both cooperated with the Israeli security structure. They share a commitment to governance at the expense of ideology, as well as a mutual hostility to Hamas, and particularly to Mohammed Dahlan and jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, who would be their chief rivals for Abbas’ position.

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The succession will entail conflict and instability. Consolidation will initially take priority over peacemaking.

Despite this, instability might have its virtues, as the more unstable the situation, the more palatable a federation between Jordan and the PA will become.

Hillel Frisch is a professor of political studies and Middle East studies at Bar-Ilan University, and a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. BESA Center Perspectives Papers are published through the generosity of the Greg Rosshandler Family.

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