Choosing Mahmoud Abbas successor will trigger struggle, report says

Middle East Monitor  /  February 5, 2022

Israeli journalist Nadav Shragai expects that choosing a successor to Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas will trigger a fierce struggle among Palestinians.

In a lengthy report published by Israel Hayom on Friday based on the interview with Pinhas Inbari, who has been researching and documenting Palestinian society for the past 50 years, Shragai shared that there are several anticipated successors to Abbas.

Two likely candidates close to the PA president are Majid Faraj, head of the Palestinian General Intelligence Service, and Hussein al-Sheikh, the PA’s civil affairs minister.

According to Inbari, Shragai said that these two men: “May be strong in the media, and for the moment they are benefiting from the support provided by Abbas, but on the ground, they are not they are not so strong.”

The Israeli journalist reported Inbari indicating: “From the point of view of the Israeli defence establishment the possibility that the two will act together as Abass’s heirs following the departure of the Rais – who is now 86 and suffers from ill health – is the optimal scenario.”

Both attended Abbas’s meeting with Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid. Shragai noted that the US had granted Faraj an award for information he handed over, which led to the capture of a senior Al-Qaeda operative.

“Recent months have seen a major development with Abbas beginning to divide up the pie of power among his confidantes, and he has promoted Faraj and Sheikh ahead of the day when he descends from the political stage and hands over his powers,” Shragai reported PA sources saying.

Meanwhile, Shragai said that Mohammed Dahlan, whom Abbas dismissed from Fatah: “Has been buying himself – literally – influence in the refugee camps in the West Bank and Lebanon for years.”

He claimed: “Dahlan’s money serves primarily to buy arms and, in that way, he has succeeded in building up power bases in Jenin, in the Balata refugee camp, the Qalandia refugee camp near Jerusalem, the Al Am’ari camp near Ramallah, and elsewhere in the West Bank.”

At the same time, he reported Inbari explaining: “There will be a civil war here. Sometimes I feel sorry for the Palestinian security officers, everybody who was involved in the shedding of Palestinian blood… They [Palestinians] are waiting for the right moment to eliminate these people.” Shragai referred to incidents in Jenin that happened last November when PA security failed to crack down on Jenin fighters.

Shragai also noted that Marwan Barghouti is another strong possible heir, pointing out that he: “Has enormous influence over the goings-on in Israeli jails and security sources believe that the inheritance battles over the inheritance will also impact the situation inside the prisons.”

He noted: “It is possible that against such a backdrop, we will see strikes, riots, and various protests by the prisoners.”

At the same time, Shragai shared that “Hamas is not sitting idly by either,” noting that Hamas insisted that Barghouti be among the prisoners to be released in a prisoner swap with Israel.

Shragai reported Inbari concluding that “the gun will talk” in the battle to choose the PA president’s successor.