Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas gestures as he speaks during a meeting for the Central Council of the Palestinian Liberation Organization in Ramallah.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
His critics say he’s not serious. But Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas insists, at least in private conversations, that he’s determined to quit political life, “become an ordinary citizen” and spend more time with his family.
For the past few weeks, the talk about Abbas’s possible resignation has sparked a debate among Palestinians as to his true intentions.
Many don’t take the 80-year-old seriously, especially in light of his numerous previous threats to resign.
Others, however, maintain that Abbas is this time very serious and that the coming weeks will prove so.
All eyes are now set on the upcoming meeting of the PLO ’s parliament-in-exile, the Palestinian National Council, which is scheduled to hold an extraordinary session in Ramallah sometime this month. Abbas has told his confidants to expect a “surprise” at the PNC session, sparking speculation that he is planning to announce his resignation.
Those who believe he is serious about quitting say that his words and actions indicate that the man is indeed contemplating stepping down.
The strongest sign of Abbas’s intention to quit came last week, when he announced that he and 10 other members of the PLO Executive Committee had decided to submit their resignations ahead of the PNC parley. The resignations are aimed at paving the way for the PNC to elect new members of the executive.
Another sign of Abbas’s plans came during a meeting of Fatah leaders in Ramallah earlier this week.
At the meeting, Abbas said that he does not intend to seek reelection as chairman of the PLO Executive during the PNC session.
Abbas then flew to Amman, where, according to Jordanian sources, he told King Abdullah of his desire to quit. The sources quoted Abbas as saying that he is tired, that he feels that his legitimacy has been “worn out,” and that he wants to spend more time with his family as an “ordinary citizen.”
The sources claimed that the Jordanian monarch pleaded with Abbas to be patient and not to take any hasty decision.
But Abbas’s political rivals and critics continue to insist that he has no intention of departing the political scene. Some even claim that his true intention is to tighten his grip on power by getting rid of his political foes in the PLO and Fatah.
They note that if he really wanted to quit, there’s nothing stopping him from doing so. Abbas, they believe, is just seeking to send a message of “Hold me back” from resigning.
Abbas, meanwhile, seems to be enjoying the suspense and confusion that the talk about his purported plan to step down has created.
According to one theory, his real goal is to reach a situation where as many Palestinians as possible rally behind him and demand that he remain in power indefinitely.
Abbas, the same theory claims, is also hoping that the international community, first and foremost the Americans and Europeans, would join the bandwagon and appeal to him to abandon his plan to leave.
Whatever his intentions are, he has managed to stir a debate among Palestinians about his plans and the post-Abbas era. Moreover, he has managed to ignite a behind-the-scenes battle of succession among the top brass of the PLO and Fatah.
Some of the leaders of the two parties have made it known that they see themselves as potential successors to Abbas.
Now everyone is waiting for the PNC session to see what Abbas has up his sleeve. Only then will the world know whether his intention to quit was real or just another bluff.