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November 18, 2016 No.
6684

Reports In Arab Press: 'Abbas Resisted Arab League Pressure To Appoint Successor - Despite Threats Of Sanctions Against Him

The Arab Quartet (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the UAE) is continuing its efforts to effect a reconciliation within Fatah and to have a successor to Palestinian President Mahmoud 'Abbas appointed. Recently, 'Abbas rejected a Quartet initiative for such an appointment, on the grounds that he would not accept Arab intervention in Palestinian affairs.[1]

Several Arab media reports stated that recently, in order to resolve this issue, a high-level Arab League delegation visited 'Abbas in Ramallah on November 9, 2016. The delegation, comprising Arab League Secretary-General Ahmad Abu Al-Gheit and his two predecessors, 'Amr Moussa and Nabil Al-Arabi, came to the city on the pretext of attending the opening of the Arafat Museum. According to the reports, the three attempted to pressure 'Abbas to choose a successor, and also tried to persuade him to reconcile with Muhammad Dahlan - who previously served as Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) member from Fatah and head of Preventive Security in Gaza, and who is now a proposed successor - as well as to allow him to return to the political scene after his 2011 expulsion from Fatah, and to stop persecuting him and his supporters.

The Arabi21 website, which is close to the Muslim Brotherhood, noted in a November 12 report that the delegation's visit to Ramallah and its meeting with 'Abbas had been conducted "far from the eyes of the media" in order to avoid the appearance of normalization with Israel, and also due to the sensitive nature of the meeting's goal - that is, appointing a successor to 'Abbas.[2]

On November 16, the independent Egyptian Islamic daily Al-Misriyyoun published a lengthy report on this matter, according to which Abu Al-Gheit presented 'Abbas with the names of three possible successors: former PA foreign minister and Arafat nephew Nasser Al-Qidwa; senior Fatah member Marwan Al-Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences in Israel for orchestrating terrorist attacks during the second intifada; and Dahlan. The newspaper explained that the Arab countries, and particularly Egypt, were so insistent on lining up a successor to 'Abbas because if 'Abbas left the political scene without naming one, the post of PA president could go to PLC Speaker and Hamas official 'Aziz Dweik, giving Hamas a foothold in the PA leadership.[3]

Both Arabi21 and Al-Misryyoun reported that 'Abbas had rejected the delegation's demands, despite its threats that he would face sanctions and would lose his legitimacy in the eyes of the Arab League.

It should be mentioned that in recent weeks there have been articles in the Egyptian press harshly criticizing 'Abbas for his response to the Arab Quartet's mediation efforts.[4]

The following are translated excerpts from the Al-Misriyyoun article.[5]


'Abbas and the Arab League delegation at the opening of the Arafat Museum (arabi21.com, November 12, 2016)  

Al-Misriyyoun: 'Abbas Determined To Prevent Dahlan's Return To Political Scene

The Al-Misriyyoun article stated: "Egypt's relations with PA President Mahmoud 'Abbas have entered a dark tunnel, after a visit by a high-level delegation, headed by Arab League Secretary-General Ahmad Abu Al-Gheit and also including two former secretary-generals of the Arab League, 'Amr Moussa and Nabil Al-Arabi, failed [to achieve the desired results]. The delegation discussed [with 'Abbas] ways to resolve the crisis within Fatah and pump new blood into the reconciliation between the West Bank and Gaza. Knowledgeable sources reported that Ahmad Abu Al-Gheit demanded that 'Abbas agree to the return of Fatah official Muhammad Dahlan to the political scene, and that he stop persecuting [Dahlan's] supporters in the movement and maligning him, after 'Abbas accused him of involvement in the assassination of the late Palestinian president Yasser Arafat. 'Abbas did not agree to the demands, and expressed his determination to convene the Fatah General Assembly that will consolidate [his position] as both Fatah chairman and PA president.

"The sources claimed that the high-level Egyptian delegation was surprised by 'Abbas's inflexible positions on all issues. Moreover, 'Abbas also criticized the Arab states' intervention in a Palestinian matter, while rejecting all the demands, especially the demand to appoint a successor for the role of PA president who will be acceptable to the Arab states, in light of his own failing health." 

Al-Misriyyoun: Three Candidates To Succeed 'Abbas Were Proposed - Nasser Al-Qidwa, Marwan Al-Barghouti, And Muhammad Dahlan

According to the Al-Misriyyoun report, "Ahmad Abu Al-Gheit proposed three candidates to succeed 'Abbas: former [PA] foreign minister and Arafat's nephew Nasser Al-Qidwa, Fatah secretary in the West Bank Marwan Al-Barghouti, and [former] head of Preventive Security in Gaza, Muhammad Dahlan. 'Abbas refused, and informed [Abu Al-Gheit] of his intention to remove Dahlan from all Fatah institutions so as to prevent him from attaining any political position in the future, and also [of his intention] to gain the support of Fatah's next [i.e. seventh] General Assembly for his decision. 'Abbas's stubbornness on the Dahlan issue enraged the Arab states, headed by Egypt, who are very interested in naming 'Abbas successor, so as to be prepared for a deterioration in the state of his health or any possibility of his disappearance from the political scene. [The absence of a successor] will enable [Palestinian] Legislative Council Speaker 'Aziz Al-Dweik, a Hamas leader, to take 'Abbas's place, giving Hamas a foothold in Palestinian decision-making, a possibility to which Egypt strongly objects." 

Al-Misroyyoun: Cairo Threatened Sanctions Against 'Abbas Should He Refuse To Appoint A Successor

The report stated further that "Cairo threatened to take sanctions against 'Abbas if he rejected its efforts to appoint a successor, and expressed willingness to reach an agreement with Israel in order to release Marwan Barghouti [from prison], should 'Abbas accept him as the successor - and this as a signal to 'Abbas that the successor does not necessarily have to be Dahlan, whom he still rejects...

"According to observers, 'Abbas's rejection of the Arab states' mediation in resolving the crisis with Dahlan or appointing a successor will lead to a deep crisis with the Arab Quartet (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the UAE). He will be bereft of Arab support and will be isolated, as [the late] Palestinian president Yasser Arafat was isolated before his death."  

International Relations Expert To Al-Misriyyoun: 'Abbas Is Irrelevant; Dahlan Is Popular

According to the daily, Sa'id Al-Lawandi, an expert in international relations at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, "believes that 'Abbas became irrelevant in the eyes of all Arab states after he refused every compromise proposed by the Arab Quartet regarding naming his successor, while Dahlan enjoys overt Arab support, since he is one of the few people able to restrain Hamas and keep it from taking over the [Palestinian] Authority. Al-Lawandi said in exclusive statements to Al-Misriyyoun that Dahlan has good relations with Israel, he is highly popular within Fatah, and he has close ties with the Arab states. In fact, he remains the top candidate to succeed 'Abbas should [the latter] vanish from the Palestinian scene. He noted that some Arab states were grooming Dahlan as 'Abbas's successor, and this was the cause of the crisis between 'Abbas and the Arab states that have influence in the Palestinian arena and have been long [pushing] Dahlan as an alternative to 'Abbas." 

Former Arab League Assistant Secretary-General To Al-Misriyyoun: There Are Indications That Dahlan Will Be PA President

The daily also presented statements by Sa'id Kamal, a former Arab League assistant secretary-general, who "revealed that PA President Mahmoud 'Abbas is expected to quit politics due to a deterioration in his health, and that Dahlan is slated to take his place due to his considerable popularity. In exclusive statements to Al-Misriyyoun, Kamal noted that there have long been indications that Dahlan will be the [next] PA president, but that he will face the same fate [as 'Abbas], namely the Gaza-West Bank conflict. [Kamal] noted that the next Fatah Assembly, scheduled to take place in a few weeks, will discuss various political issues, including 'Abbas's future and the future of Fatah and the PA, due to the Arab [states'] desire to settle matters to the satisfaction of the mother Palestinian movement [i.e. Fatah]." 

Former Egyptian Assistant Foreign Minister To Al-Misriyyoun: Barghouti Is Unlikely To Be 'Abbas's Successor

"In a different context, former [Egyptian] assistant foreign minister Ahmad Al-Qweisni [also] said that whoever succeeds 'Abbas as PA president will face the same problems 'Abbas faced. In exclusive statements to Al-Misriyyoun, Al-Qweisni stressed that, if 'Abbas dies, Fatah's policy will change, and many other aspects of the movement could change as well. He noted that there are several candidates for successor to 'Abbas, one of them Dahlan, despite the rivalry between the two. However, he rejected the possibility of Marwan Barghouti holding public office, [noting] that he will certainly not be [the PA president], unless the Palestinian people insist on this."


Endnotes:     

[2] Arabi21.com, November 12, 2016.

[3] Al-Misriyyoun (Egypt), November 16, 2016.

[4] See for example Al-Ahram (Egypt), October 27, 2016, November 13, 2016; Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), November 8, 2016.

[5] Al-Misriyyoun (Egypt), November 16, 2016.