Monday, February 10, 2014

Looking for successor to Abu Mazen

The attention of Ramallah polity is preoccupied now with the question of the "day after" of the prospects of failure of the current peace initiative led by the USA. On the rhetoric level there is consensus among the political echelons of PLO cadres in Ramallah that after April there will be no extension to the current talks and the PLO will apply to the international agencies to punish Israel with concert with the EU measures against the settlements. However, realistic examination of the PLO situation supports the assumption that after all, despite the rejection of Kerry's paper, Abu Mazen will agree to extension of the talks.
But, the dynamics on the ground tell us that this is not the main problem that Ramallah is going to face in "day after". Actually, among Fatah seniors a new trend popped up to the surface which is: a competition on Abu Mazen succession. Although Abu Mazen did not declare that he intended to retire—this is the common wisdom. He is already 79 old and declared that in case a date for new elections will be set to president elections. He aspired to retire with achievement: Either reconciliation with Hamas or realization of statehood on the ground but none of these is going to happen. So, his departure might be under the backdrop of leaving heritage of not yielding to foreign pressures.
On the same time we have to take into account that many in Ramallah believe that he will not retire and his ambition now is to prove that he succeeded where other Arab leaders – such as Mubarak – failed: to stick to power despite all challenges of Arab Storm.
In practical terms Fatah announced last weekend that it established a committee that would address the issue of nominating a deputy to Abu Mazen from the legal aspects. On other words: an attempt to find a successor to Abu Mazen in a smooth procedure. This is a very complicated matter and not going to end easily. Fatah is not disclosing who are the members of this committee in order to save them from pressures, but we learned from our sources that the head of the committee is the veteran Fatah senior, Salim Za'nun, who stays in Amman now—so the committee might convene there and not in Ramallah.
The first question will be- deputy of what capacity of Abu Mazen- president of state? Chairman of the PLO? Fatah leader? Each definition bears consequences about the future of the Palestinian struggle- if it is for the deputy of the president- it means that the PLO continues with the state concept that is connected to the negotiations and rejecting terror, but if the deputy is for Fatah or PLO- it means back to struggle. We believe that they will decide to make the position for all titles – that's to say—keeping all options alive.
But the ground cannot wait until the committee will give its definitions- and the war of succession already began. Before we begin to detail the struggle for succession we must give a remark about the USA that might be frustrated with the deadlock they reached with Abu Mazen and may understand that in this stage or another – Hamas must join the loop – otherwise all the efforts for the Palestinian state project will fail.
The PLO is aware of it and they suspect that Kerry is exchanging verbal messages with Gaza. For example through UNRWA director and last week through Munib al-Masri, the Palestinian tycoon who is close to Kerry that met last week Hamas Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyya, in his office in Gaza. Palestinian sources told us that the need to establish the committee emanates from the Egyptian experience – to block the succession from Hamas – contrary to the USA suspected intentions – because according to the current "basic law" Aziz Dwek of Hamas – the speaker of the PLC- Palestinian defunct parliament – is the legal successor.
But besides blocking the succession from Hamas there is real competition between Fatah seniors that erupted already. The main struggle is between Jibril Rajub on the one hand and Muhammad Dahlan on the other- but it is more diversified – and we shall return to it in another occasion. We can mention here the jailed Tanzim leader, Marwan Barguti; also Muhammad Shtiyya perceives himself as candidate like Saeb Areiqat, Azzam al-Ahmad, Tayyib abd a-Rahim that was expelled from the Muqata'a because his aspirations to inherit his boss, Abu Mazen and others.
Rajub's visit to Iran is related also to this issue, because the Gulf is supporting Dahlan, so Rajub tried to align with Iran.
Although Dahlan belongs to the Gaza polity he managed to collect also in the West Bank an impressive gallery of supporters and we can mention here Fatah Supreme Committee senior Tawfiq Tirawi and the revolting Jenin district such as Jamal Abu Rub- who punched Rajub on the face. We shall return to address this issue in future opportunity.

Sum up- Ramallah is preoccupied now with the dilemma what to do in the "day after" of Kerry's failure. We assess that Abu Mazen will agree to give some extension to the talks but the dynamics on the ground are of launching a coopetition on Abu Mazen's succession. First step is about blocking Hamas from succession- as Ramallah suspects that Kerry's real target is to bring Hamas to power in the West Bank. But Dahlan and Rajub are already in the middle of devastating competition and we shall return to it in near opportunity.