PLO Central Council Elevates 2 Potential Successors to President Abbas
The Palestine Liberation Organization’s 141-member Central Council, meeting Monday for the first time in almost four years, elected two allies of PLO Chairman and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to key positions. Civil Affairs Minister Hussein Al-Sheikh, 61, was elected to the Executive Committee and is likely to replace the late Saeb Erekat as the committee’s secretary-general. Rawhi Fattouh, 73, a former speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council and interim president of the Palestinian Authority after Yasser Arafat’s death, was chosen to head the PLO’s highest decision-making body, the National Council. This puts both men in the running as possible successors to Abbas, who is 86 and not in good health. The Palestinian Authority has not held a presidential election since 2005. The meeting was boycotted by the Islamist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, who have long feuded with Fatah, Abbas’ party. Hamas and Fatah fought a mini-war in June 2007 that resulted in a de facto split in the Palestinian territories between the West Bank, governed by the Palestinian Authority, and the Gaza Strip, governed by Hamas. “These appointments are void, illegal and lack [national] consensus. It is nothing but a redeployment of [Abbas’] team,” said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum, denouncing the appointments from Gaza.