Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is set to resign within two months, according to a report Wednesday.
Abbas told Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi that he intends to announce his resignation at the next Fatah convention, Channel 2 reported, citing Egyptian journalist Mohamed Hassanein Heikal. Abbas also reportedly said that he will soon appoint a deputy, who would apparently be a hand-picked successor.
Last month, Abbas appointed former Palestine Liberation Organization chief negotiator Saeb Erekat to serve as secretary-general of the organization, replacing Yasser Abed Rabbo, who was fired after reports that he was trying to undermine the prime minister. Erekat’s appointment was seen as a positive signal for his future as Abbas’ possible replacement.
Swirling rumors of Abbas’s impending resignation grew stronger after last month’s firebombing attack on two homes in the Palestinian village of Duma, which authorities suspect was committed by Jewish extremists. Eighteen-month-old Ali Dawabsha was killed in the attack, and his father, Saad, died Saturday from his injuries. His mother and brother are still hospitalized in serious condition.
When members of Israel’s left-wing Meretz party visited Abbas at the PA’s Muqata’a headquarters in Ramallah to express their horror at the attack and offer their condolences, a grim-faced Abbas vaguely commented, “If the situation continues as it is over the next month, we will have a different position,” without elaborating.
Oded Granot, Channel 1’s Arab affairs commentator, reported even before the Duma attack that the 80-year-old Abbas was threatening to resign from his position in September.
The PA chief’s close associates at first denied that report. Later, officials from his Fatah party were dispatched to the media to claim that his comments had been taken out of context and that he had merely tried to threaten Fatah’s leadership due to organizational problems with Fatah’s seventh general convention. One of his closest associates said that “everything would be changing” next month.
Elected in 2005, Abbas is now in the eleventh year of what was supposed to be a four-year term. He has threatened to resign or dissolve the Palestinian Authority several times since becoming President of the PA.
Presidential elections in the Palestinian Authority were scheduled to take place by the end of 2014 and were a central part of a unity government deal between Fatah and Hamas, signed in May 2014. The elections were indefinitely postponed after Operation Protection Edge.
Avi Issacharoff and Stuart Winer contributed to this report.