(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday appointed Saeb Erekat to the post of secretary-general of the PLO.
Erekat, who served as chief PLO negotiator for the past two decades, will replace Yasser Abed Rabbo, whom Abbas fired last week.
The move improves Erekat’s chances of eventually becoming head of the PA.
Erekat and several other Palestinian officials in Ramallah see themselves as candidates to succeed the PA president.
Abed Rabbo, a veteran PLO official and former information minister, was fired after falling out with Abbas.
Palestinian sources claimed that Abed Rabbo had joined forces with former PA prime minister Salam Fayyad and ousted Fatah leader Muhammad Dahlan to undermine Abbas. The sources claimed that Abed Rabbo had recently visited the United Arab Emirates, where he held secret talks with Dahlan.
Dahlan has been living in the Gulf country ever since Abbas expelled him from Fatah four years ago. Abbas has accused Dahlan of conspiring against the PA leadership, murder and financial corruption – charges the latter has strongly denied.
Two weeks ago, the PA announced that it has seized the bank account of a nonprofit group belonging to Fayyad in Ramallah. Sources close to Abbas accused Fayyad of money laundering and claimed the former prime minister had received large sums of money from the UAE.
The sources also claimed that the three men – Fayyad, Dahlan and Abed Rabbo – had formed an alliance in a bid to undermine or topple the PA president.
All three have repeatedly denied the allegations.
Abed Rabbo said last week that Abbas was not authorized to fire him from the PLO job. He said he had learned of the decision to dismiss him through the media.
Abbas’s decision to appoint Erekat to the top job is seen by some Palestinians as a significant promotion for the chief negotiator. They see it as an indication of Abbas’s full confidence in Erekat and that he considers him fit to serve as the next PA president.