The Shahab news agency, which is affiliated with Hamas, published recordings on Tuesday in which the Secretary General of the PLO Executive Committee, Hussein al-Sheikh, was heard cursing the chairman of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, while talking about his succession struggle, seemingly interested in getting rid of Abbas.
The recordings led to a political storm in the PA, where there is already high tension amid an ongoing security situation and a struggle between various parties of interest.
In the recordings, al-Sheikh seemed furious with Abbas and with Majed Faraj, the head of the Palestinian General Intelligence Mechanism. Al-Sheikh was heard harshly criticizing the chairman, blaming him for chaos in the PA.
“Mahmoud Abbas is complicit in the chaos, he is complicit in it and has an interest in its continuation, and I regret saying these words,” said al-Sheikh.
“Mahmoud Abbas is complicit in the chaos, he is complicit in it and has an interest in its continuation, and I regret saying these words.”Hussein al-Sheikh
Al-Sheikh is also the head of the General Authority for Civil Affairs and a member of Fatah's Central Committee. He is informally considered to be Abbas's successor, but the Israeli security establishment fears that after the PA chairman's death there will be a bloody struggle between the various Palestinian factions over the succession.
"عباس شريكٌ بالفوضى وله مصلحة في بقائها"وكالة شهاب تنشر تسجيلات مسرّبة لحسين الشيخ يُهاجم ويشتم فيها محمود عباس وقادة متنفذين في السلطة ضمن "حرب الخلافة على منصب رئيس السلطة" pic.twitter.com/MSASQ6knU9— وكالة شهاب للأنباء (@ShehabAgency) December 27, 2022
The battle of Abbas's succession
Al-Sheikh described what is currently happening in the Fatah movement as “the battle of Abbas's succession,” in which many parties are involved. He emphasized that “the security forces are also involved in his succession battle.”
However, he said that “the day after Mahmoud Abbas will be under an orderly plan,” and that Abbas intends to appoint Mahmoud al-Alul, a member of Fatah's Central Committee and Abbas's deputy, as his successor.
Al-Sheikh also referred to the tensions between the terrorist organization Hamas to the PA's security forces and said that Hamas is taking advantage of the current situation.
Later, Al-Sheikh is heard talking to another person about the next steps in the succession battle against Abbas and is heard cursing the chairman. al-Sheikh told the other person heard on the recording that “Abbas is scrambling his brain.”
He also accused Abbas of starting battles against Jibril Rajoub, Azzam al-Ahmed, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Tawfiq Tirawi, security adviser to the chairman of the Palestinian Authority, and Mahmoud Alalul.
Regarding the succession struggle, al-Sheikh said that “there is a succession battle for Abbas and the intelligence is part of the game. A part of the PLO is also a part of this story.”
As for his competitor for the succession, the head of Palestinian intelligence Majed Faraj and the confidant of Abbas, Al-Sheikh said “What is Faraj's connection to the dialogue between Egypt and Fatah? Why would the intelligence chief come? No one pays any attention to him in all of Gaza.” He then uttered a series of curses against Mahmoud Abbas and Faraj.
Al-Sheikh and Abbas met on Tuesday in the office of the chairman of the Palestinian Authority. Abbas's office stated that he believed it was a fake recording, and al-Sheikh's spokesman wrote on Twitter that “Fatah is a stronghold and it will remain an impenetrable fortress that will preserve the ability of the Palestinians in the face of the brutal Israeli occupation and their agents.”
He also hinted that Hamas, which leaked the recordings, is trying to sabotage relations between Abbas and al-Sheikh.