Arafat's nephew makes his move to succeed Abbas

Nasser al-Qudwa first rose to the upper echelons of the Palestinian leadership when he served as PLO ambassador to United Nations in the 1990s and early 2000s.

July 14, 2016 21:01
3 minute read.
Nasser al-Qudwa

Nasser al-Qudwa . (photo credit: REUTERS/KHALED ABDULLAH)


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Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has not made a significant move to signal whom he wants to succeed him as the head of the PA, the PLO or Fatah. Nonetheless, Palestinian leaders, vying for one or all three of the leadership roles, have launched their campaigns to garner support from the Palestinian public and international community.

Nasser al-Qudwa, known best as the nephew of Yasser Arafat, is one of those leaders.

Qudwa, born in 1953, first rose to the upper echelons of the Palestinian leadership when he served as PLO ambassador to United Nations in the 1990s and early 2000s. He gained a reputation as a shrewd diplomat with the ability to navigate the international scene. In 2005, after his uncle died, he returned to Ramallah and assumed the role of foreign minister in thenprime minister Ahmed Qurei’s government.

However, Qudwa, a strong personality, struggled with President Abbas, who had wanted to manage much of Palestinian foreign policy from his Mukata headquarters, and resigned from the position a year later.

In the following years, Qudwa receded from the Palestinian political arena and assumed a number of diplomatic positions including as the UN secretary-general’s special envoy to Afghanistan, deputy UN special envoy to Syria, and Arab League special envoy to Libya.

More recently, Qudwa returned to Ramallah and has made clear that he wants to participate in the race for succession. Most notably, he issued a 10-point plan for the future of Palestinian politics in early June.

In his plan, Qudwa makes a number of proposals. He calls on Hamas “to give up its dominance over the Gaza Strip in all aspects of life,” for Fatah “to concede its control over the current regime in the West Bank” and for the two movements “to build a new regime based on partnership.” He also proposes turning the PA into “service- oriented body” by putting the PLO in charge of all political matters.

In addition, he suggests that the PLO focus on raising the issue of settlement building at the UN and continue its international strategy, but also support local peaceful resistance.

Hani al-Masri, the director of the Palestinian Center for Political Research and Strategic Studies, told The Jerusalem Post in an interview in his office in Ramallah recently that Qudwa’s plan should be closely considered.

He added that he believes Qudwa has many attributes that make him a strong candidate. “He is a member of the Fatah Central Committee, his uncle is Yasser Arafat, he has a different political vision, he has a strong diplomatic background, and he is not entangled in corruption,” Masri said.

Ghaith al-Omari, who formerly served in a number of senior positions in the PA and is currently a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told the Post that Qudwa could serve as a compromise candidate for the Palestinian leadership.

“He has stayed aloof from the infighting in Fatah, which in some ways plays against him in the sense that he has not developed a strong constituency. But in other ways, it will play in his favor – he is not seen as threatening or taking sides,” Omari said.

“With the different candidates competing amongst themselves, Qudwa comes across as a potential consensus candidate,” he added.

Nonetheless, Omari cautioned that Qudwa’s relatively younger age may work against him. “He’s young enough to be there for a long time. I think that is the one thing that works against him in being a consensus candidate.”

Omari clarified that some Fatah and Palestinian leaders may not want to wait a long time until they can assume top leadership roles.

Qudwa and the many other aspiring Palestinian leaders may have to wait a long time to take over the top posts of the Palestinian leadership.

Abbas, 80, appears to be in good health, still works long hours, and travels internationally on a regular basis. He very well could stay at the helm of the Palestinian leadership for several more years.

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