If Abbas dies, the PLC speaker, a Hamas man, could take over

Abbas says he’ll soon dissolve PA parliament, which hasn’t met in a decade

Move seen as bid to undermine Hamas, with whom 74 of 132 Palestinian Legislative Council members identify, and which claims Ramallah would be acting illegally

Adam Rasgon is a former Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas chairs a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee at PA headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah September 15, 2018. (AFP / ABBAS MOMANI)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas chairs a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee at PA headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah September 15, 2018. (AFP / ABBAS MOMANI)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the Palestinians will soon dissolve the PA parliament, the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC).

Hamas, which controls a majority of the seats in the PLC, has long expressed its opposition to dissolving the legislative body, asserting Ramallah does not have the authority to make such a move.

“In a legal manner, we will dissolve the [Palestinian] Legislative Council and this will occur soon,” Abbas told a conference at the PA presidential headquarters in Ramallah Saturday evening, according to two persons who attended the event and spoke to The Times of Israel.

Reuters and Ma’an, a Palestinian news agency, also reported the comment.

Shortly after Hamas ousted the Fatah-dominated PA from the Gaza Strip in 2007, the PLC stopped convening, essentially becoming defunct.

In the West Bank, some PLC members have continued to meet to discuss drafts of laws proposed by the PA government, but they have been unable to exercise legislative powers including those related to oversight.

Meanwhile, in Gaza, a number of Palestinian parliamentarians have continued to meet to discuss political developments. However, Ramallah-based Palestinian officials have strongly opposed those meetings, with some calling them “illegitimate.”

74 of the 132 PLC members are affiliated with Hamas; the last elections for the PLC were held in 2006.

Ramallah-based Palestinian officials have contended that the West Bank and Gaza must be ruled by one government before holding legislative elections.

Palestinian lawmakers attend an emergency parliament session at the Legislative Council in Ramallah, on July 11, 2007. (Ahmad Gharabli/Flash90)

Jihad Harb, a Palestinian researcher and analyst, said that the PA president would like to dissolve the PLC to undermine Hamas lawmakers and Fatah parliamentarians loyal to Muhammed Dahlan, who frequently criticize his rule.

Dahlan is a top rival of Abbas, who fled the West Bank in 2011 after PA security forces raided his home near Ramallah. In 2017, a PA court sentenced Dahlan in absentia to three years in prison on corruption charges, which he has vehemently denied.

Harb added that Abbas would also like to dissolve the PLC to undercut Hamas’s position that one of its members should become acting PA president if he dies in office.

Palestinian law says if the PA president dies, the speaker of the PLC should become the acting PA president for a period of no more than 60 days, during which presidential elections should take place.

Palestinian parliament speaker Aziz Dweik. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

The current speaker of the PLC is Aziz Dweik, a Hebron-based Hamas member.

Hamas officials have argued that PA law requires that Dweik become acting PA president if Abbas dies in office.

However, some Fatah officials have contended the Palestinian Central Council, a top PLO body, should appoint an acting president ahead of elections, if the 83-year-old PA president dies.

They maintain that the speaker of the PLC should not become acting PA president because elections for the legislative body have not occurred in several years.

In October, the Fatah Revolutionary Council called on the Central Council to dissolve the PLC.

The Central Council has recently made a number of decisions related to Palestinian-Israeli and Palestinian-American ties, but many of them have not been implemented.

Abbas must give a final approval for Central Council decisions to be enforced.

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