Friday, September 14, 2007

Why Abbas is desperate for a "deal'

Fatah Faces Succession Battle [ANALYSIS] Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud ‘Abbas’ recent decision not to run for office again when his current term ends in a year and a half has sparked a succession crisis within the ruling party. The decision has left Fatah with the dilemma of finding a suitable successor, who will not only be a moderate, but also reform the party ahead of the forthcoming elections.

Encouraged by his popularity among the people, ‘Abbas selected Marwan Barghouthi, currently serving five life terms in an Israeli prison for murder and terrorist activities, as the Fatah candidate in the coming presidential elections. Barghouthi, considered by most Palestinians as a popular grassroots leader, is widely regarded as the figure most able to rebuild Fatah, reform the security forces and remove Hamas from power in Gaza. Doubting whether his nomination would change the extreme ideological stand that he showed during the period of increased violence, which began in 2000, Israel and the United States has refused ‘Abbas’ demand for Barghouthi’s release. Barghouthi, however, is not the favorite choice of most Fatah officials, who prefer candidates from members of the party’s old guard – the officials identified with the establishment of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) – and not from the younger, homegrown leaders. The old guard, accused of corruption and misuse of power, is in dispute with the younger generation which is fighting to reach influential positions within the party.

To head off a brewing succession battle, ‘Abbas has suggested ceding power to Maher Guhniam, also known as Abu Maher, the head of Fatah’s mobilization office. Abu Maher, 70, who served in Lebanon as Arafat’s deputy for military affairs, decided to stay in Tunisia along with other PLO officials in protest against the signing of the Oslo peace accord with Israel in 1993. According to Palestinian sources, the Amman meeting held two weeks ago between ‘Abbas and Abu Maher for this purpose, ended in failure. Maher refused the offer to run for the presidential post. He also refused to back the decision to expand the Fatah central committee by adding new members, such as Nabil ‘Amru, and ‘Azam Al-Ahmad. This refusal angered ‘Abbas and caused him to leave the meeting, the source confirmed. The U.S. administration prefers the moderate Prime Minister Salam Faya’d to run for the post of president and to lead the P.A. to a peace deal with Israel. For the U.S, the 54-year-old Faya’d, who successfully concluded a 10-year mission to clean up the Palestinian administrative house, is the one to replace former Washington darling, Muhammad Dahlan, who failed to prevent the Fatah collapse in Gaza last June. Faya’d heads the emergency cabinet that ‘Abbas appointed after sacking the Hamas-led government following the group’s defeat of Fatah loyalists in Gaza.

"Undoubtedly, Faya’d is the best choice," said the political analyst, Abdul Hafiz Muharib. "The Americans know him and trust him a lot." During the 2006 elections, Faya’d refused an offer to join Fatah and instead formed a new political party called The Third Way and won two seats in the parliament. Despite the U.S preference, Fatah will never accept Faya’d for president, Muharib added. “Politically, this means the end of the party. I don’t think they will agree on someone from outside Fatah.” Meanwhile, interference from Farouq Qadoumi, the hard-line head of the PLO’s political department and an opponent of the Oslo peace deal, has also escalated the ongoing partisan power struggle within the ruling party. Qadoumi, a founder of Fatah, views himself as ‘Abbas’ legitimate successor. Recently, ‘Abbas banned him from heading P.A. delegations to official Arab meetings, especially the Arab League’s meeting in Cairo last month, which was attended by Prime Minister Salam Faya’d. This action has inflamed the sharp dispute between ‘Abbas and Qadoumi, who has become a stinging critic of the P.A. chairman’s policies, especially the decisions to abandon armed struggle and dismantle militant factions. Regardless of who will succeed ‘Abbas, Fatah officials have admitted that after the Gaza defeat, the party has much to accomplish to regain the trust of the people and win in the coming elections. Moreover, if ‘Abbas fails to name a successor within the coming few months, the partisan power struggle will further weaken Fatah’s position in the West Bank, political analysts warned.

Copyright © 2007 The Media Line. All Rights Reserved.

No comments: