Abbas quits PLO executive committee

Recent internal developments in the Palestinian Authority as well as apparent instability among its leadership indicate that Chairman Mahmoud Abbas could be looking at the exit door.

By: Aryeh Savir, World Israel News

Palestinian Authority (PA) head Mahmoud Abbas has resigned as executive chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee Saturday and several others are set to step down, according to local sources quoted by the Palestinian Ma’an news agency.

The executive committee reportedly held a meeting on Saturday night and set a date for the Palestinian National Council (PNC) to discuss plans for filling the upcoming political vacuum.

Tayseer Qubaa, deputy Palestinian parliament speaker, listed six resigning executives, including – besides Abbas – Hanan Ashrawi, Ahmad Majdalani, Saeb Erekat, Ghassan al-Shakaa and Mahmoud Ismail, longtime prominent members of the PLO leadership.

Palestinian official Wassel Abu Yussef later said that more than half of the 18-member committee had also stepped down.

“The resignation of the president of the executive committee Mahmoud Abbas and more than half of its members has created a legal vacuum, and therefore the Palestine National Council (PNC) has been asked to meet in one month to elect a new executive committee,” Yussef told AFP.

The 740-member PNC is responsible for deciding on PLO policies and electing the executive committee, the PLO’s primary executive body.

The last PNC gathering was an emergency meeting held in 2009 to replace six vacant positions, while the most recent executive Committee elections were held in 1996 during a PNC session in Gaza.

The Fatah-dominated PLO executive committee has been criticized over recent months by several Palestinian factions, including Hamas, for unilaterally attempting to reshuffle the unity government initially formed in June 2014. The unity government established by the two rival Palestinian factions has experienced several crises since its inception.

Further Palestinian Radicalization?

Saeb Erekat

Saeb Erekat. (Miriam Alster/ Flash90)

Arabic media has speculated that the upcoming meeting could pave the way for Abbas’ resignation from office.

There have been several reports that the 80-year-old Palestinian leader intends to step away from politics completely, and this resignation could be a step in that direction.

Abbas made several recent changes in the Palestinian political leadership to secure Erekat’s position as his successor. If Erekat – who served as the chief PA negotiator for the past two decades in the failed US-led peace process with Israel – were to succeed Abbas, it could indicate further radicalization of the Palestinian leadership.