A nephew of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has reportedly been tapped to lead the Palestinian Authority as a successor to the aging Mahmoud Abbas.
Nasser al-Kidwa, the son of Arafat’s sister, has been emerging as next-in-line to lead the Palestinian Authority, according to a Channel 2 report Wednesday, as a number of Arab states have been urging Abbas to name a successor so as to avoid chaos in the Palestinian governing body in the event of his resignation or inability to lead.
According to a Channel 2 report, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and Jordanian King Abdullah II are at the head of the initiative and have spoken to Abbas personally while Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates sent representatives to discuss the issue with the PA president, who celebrated his 81st birthday this year.
The four countries’ leaders reportedly assured Abbas that his children would be protected when the transition occurs.
Kidwa, 63, is a member of Fatah and has served as a former Palestinian foreign minister and a former deputy UN-Arab League envoy to Syria. He is head of the Yasser Arafat Foundation, established after Arafat’s death in 2004.
According to the report, Mohammad Dahlan, who has sometimes been touted as the successor and was once regarded as one of Fatah’s most prominent figures, will not take over the PA. Long at odds with Abbas, he was expelled from Fatah in 2011 following allegations of corruption and murder and now lives in the United Arab Emirates.
Dahlan, a former strongman in the Gaza Strip before Hamas’s violent takeover in 2007, has routinely criticized Abbas’s policies and has funded projects in the West Bank and Gaza in a bid to strengthen his own status, moves seen by Abbas’s supporters as a continuing effort to one-up the PA president.
In recent months Abbas and Dahlan have been attempting to mend their ties ahead of local elections in the West Bank and Gaza, in a bid to encourage unity in Fatah and prevent a victory for Hamas.
On Tuesday, the Palestinian Authority suspended municipal elections until further notice, a day after the PA’s High Court ruled that the upcoming vote could only go ahead in the West Bank and not the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
In the wake of the court decision, the Palestinian Central Elections Commission on Monday had urged Abbas to delay the municipal elections by at least six months.
The commission said a delay would be “in the Palestinian interest” in light of the ruling, which ended hopes of the first municipal elections since 2006 that included both Hamas and the Fatah-dominated PA. Hamas won those elections, sparking a conflict that led to near-civil war in Gaza the following year when Hamas seized control of the Strip.