Two prospective successors to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, 86, were nominated to prominent positions in the Palestine Liberation Organization on Monday during a conference boycotted by his hardline foes.
The PLO’s 141-member Central Council named Hussein Al-Sheikh, 61, an Abbas confidant who acts as important contact with Israel and the US, to the PLO’s Executive Committee, according to the official Palestinian news agency WAFA.
He is expected to succeed the late Saeb Erekat as secretary-general of the committee.
For the first time in over four years, the council chose Rawhi Fattouh, 73, another Abbas loyalist, to lead the PLO’s top decision-making body, the National Council.
Both individuals were nominated by the Western-backed Abbas and his Fatah party and are widely seen as potential successors in the Palestinian territories. They are not anticipated to propose any policy shifts regarding the management of the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
The Hamas and other hardline organizations declined an invitation to the council’s two-day session, which began on Sunday, claiming that Abbas must first implement power-sharing changes.
“These appointments are null and unlawful, illegal, and devoid of (national) consensus.” It is simply a redeployment of (Abbas’) personnel,” claimed Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum in Gaza.
Abbas is the leader of the PLO and the Palestinian Authority, which has limited autonomy in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. His major adversary, Hamas, governs the Gaza Strip, which is likewise a conservative bastion.
Both factions have criticized Abbas, who has not conducted a presidential election since 2005, of not doing enough to mend Palestinian divisions. Abbas holds Hamas responsible for the present schism.
According to Palestinian observers, the selections to the Central Council may increase Sheikh’s and Fattouh’s chances of replacing Abbas, but internal disputes and other prospective challenges obscure the political picture.
Abbas, who has a history of cardiac difficulties, has not named a replacement.