Members of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) Central Council designated Mahmoud al-Aloul as the future – and temporary – successor to lead the Palestinian Authority (PA) during a meeting on Saturday. Aloul, a current deputy minister, would hold the presidency for three months until an election could be held to replace President Mahmoud Abbas, in the event of Abbas’s death. The announcement comes after reports of Abbas’s deteriorating health including leaked reports from medical officials that Abbas is fighting cancer.
Mahmoud Al-Aloul was appointed to be Abbas’s first-ever deputy in February 2017. Previously he served as the governor of Nablus and Palestinian Labor Minister. Analysts consider Aloul a close confidant of Abbas, who has been reluctant to promote other senior Fatah leaders over concerns of losing his grip on power.
Saturday’s announcement complements other reports that Abbas told members of the Fatah Revolutionary Council that Aloul was his preferred candidate to succeed him as chairman of Fatah. However, even after being anointed successor, Aloul’s status does not free the PA from instability. Elections, which the PA has promised and then canceled multiple times over the past decade, may not actually happen; meanwhile, rival factions within the Fatah conference will vie for power.
For Israel and the West, Aloul does not appear to depart from the status quo, and is also known by his nom de guerre, Abu Jihad – a tribute to Khalil al-Wazir, the mastermind of the 1978 Coastal Road Massacre in which 38 civilians, including 11 children were killed. In 2012, Aloul was quoted as saying “no one has dropped the armed resistance” supports the PA’s financial support to terrorist and their families.He has accused Washington of being “a partner of the Israeli occupation in occupying Palestine.”
Other top contenders to become PA president include Muhammad Dahlan, who has lead multiple failed attempts to reconcile Hamas and Fatah, and Jibril Rajoub, who compared Israeli policies in the West Bank to Nazi Germany.
Ultimately, while the leadership change in the PA might heighten factionalism and political turmoil, none of Fatah’s leadership seems interested in changing the status quo toward Israel. The Palestinians have created a political system that awards intransigence, whether in its own ranks or when negotiating with the Jewish State.