The pending “succession crisis” among Palestinian politicians in the race to replace Mahmoud Abbas could have serious security implications for Israel, analysts have warned.
In a report published today, BICOM researcher Lauren Mellinger outlines how the ageing Palestinian Authority president has refused to anoint a successor and how this could have knock-on effects across the region.
The likelihood that a drawn-out succession crisis may destabilise the West Bank, possibly resulting in the collapse of the Palestinian Authority, is of growing concern to Israel, Egypt, and Jordan,” she writes in the new BICOM Strategic Assessment.
Given [Abbas’s] repeated extensions of authority and refusal to name a successor, combined with the Palestinians’ increasing frustration with the Abbas government and the moribund peace process with Israel, a chaotic battle for succession is the most likely scenario.”
Abbas, 81, was elected to a four-year term in 2005, but there have been no elections since, and the ageing leader of both the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) now wants to withdraw from frontline politics.
However, Palestinians remain divided between the secularist Fatah, which draws its power from the West Bank, and the Islamist terror faction Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip and has broad support elsewhere.
Chances of reconciliation remain slim since Marwan Barghouti, the only politician realistically able to unify the two camps, is currently serving multiple life sentences in an Israeli prison for coordinating terror attacks during the Second Intifada.
Public opinion polls over the last few years consistently show that, in a race between Barghouti, Abbas and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, Barghouti would win, but the chances of any Israeli leader releasing him are slim at best.
Instead, Mellinger says the next leader is far more likely to be an established Fatah figure, such as recent peace process negotiator Saeb Erekat, who was made secretary-general of the PLO last year, in a widely-analysed move.
Whoever takes over will have the monumental task of restoring faith in Palestinian politics, Mellinger says, with surveys suggesting that 95 percent of West Bank residents believe corruption is endemic in the Abbas government.