Those close to Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas are going to great lengths to hide the true condition of his health. With his hospitalizations becoming more frequent, many expect him to face the music, declare he is unable to perform his duties and name a successor or, at the very least, delegate his powers in preparations for the future.
Abbas was re-elected as head of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee in early May and named former Nablus Governor Mahmoud Aloul as his deputy. Yet it is well-known that the nomination was a temporary stopgap as Aloul, who lacks charisma as well as mass support among the Palestinians, will be unable to stop the bloody race to power when the time comes.
Palestinian officials expect that the battle for power, in which Israel will strive not to intervene, will pit members of the P.A.’s “founders’ order” against the younger generation, as well as against Fatah’s own hawkish opposition, of which exiled Fatah strongman Mohammed Dahlan, former head of the Preventive Security Force in the West Bank Jibril Rajoub and head of the Palestinian Authority’s General Intelligence Service Majid Faraj have already emerged as the front-runners.
In these officials’ view, the risk of chaos is increasing because of the volatile involvement of Dahlan’s well-funded supporters in Gaza, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Fatah’s military wing and even Hamas, which has made no secret of its desire to overrun the West Bank and unite the Palestinians under its rule.
But why does Abbas so vehemently against naming an actual successor and ensuring an orderly transition of power? The answer lies with the murderous historical nature of the terrorist syndicate, which has no clear democratic procedures and where those closest to the leader may end up posing the biggest threat to him. The politically weak Aloul, however, poses no such threat, which is exactly why he was chosen.
The pantheon of aging PLO leaders still enjoys credibility as they all have Jewish blood on their hands, but the same can be said of Barghouti and Dahlan, who also enjoy the support of some of their elders as part of inter-Palestinian ploys.
Overall, however, the PLO is losing its credibility due to its political failures on both the global and Arab arena, culminating in the relocation of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. The PLO is also plagued by massive corruption, leading to increased support for Hamas, which is perceived as “corruption-free” despite its defeats in Gaza. As far as many Palestinians are concerned, Hamas is preferable to Fatah because the corrupt PLO’s recognition of Israel has done nothing to contribute to the formation of a Palestinian state.
Palestinian intellectuals believe that failure to create an agreed-upon political solution for the post-Abbas era will create a power vacuum and place whatever is left of the Palestinian unity in unprecedented danger. In their view, chaos will produce internal bloodshed and prompt terrorism against Israel, which will have no choice but to intervene and eliminate the remnants of that unity.
These intellectuals believe that this historic juncture will test whether the Palestinians have evolved into a people that has the political and social abilities necessary to join the family of nations or whether they are still little more than a corrupt terrorist syndicate.
Dr. Reuven Berko was the adviser on Arab affairs to the Jerusalem district police and a writer for Israel Hayom.