An Op-ed in the Waterloo Record today by Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, makes the point that a succession plan for Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, is vital to future peace prospects.
Says Schanzer: “Alarmingly, there is nobody in that role now. Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, is 78 years old. He is a heavy smoker and a cancer survivor. In 2010, he reportedly was admitted six times to a Jordanian hospital for unspecified health reasons. It’s unclear how much longer he’ll be fit for office.
Should the unthinkable happen, according to Palestinian Basic Law, Article 37, “the Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council shall temporarily assume the powers and duties of the Presidency of the National Authority for a period not to exceed sixty (60) days, during which free and direct elections to elect a new President shall take place.”
But here’s the rub: The current speaker is Aziz Dweik, who ran on the Hamas-affiliated Change and Reform ticket. His history does not recommend him. In 1992, Dweik was expelled from Israel for his involvement with Hamas. He was among those the Israelis rounded up and arrested in 2006 after an Israeli soldier was captured in Gaza. He was arrested again in 2012 for alleged “involvement in terrorist activities.”
Should Dweik succeed Abbas, it would be the end of any possible peace process… The significance of naming a successor is something that Abbas understands very well. In 2003, Abbas became the first prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, upon the insistence of President George W. Bush. The position had never existed. And the timing was fortuitous. Longtime Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat died the following year. Abbas had resigned a few months prior, but he was positioned to assume leadership and guide the Palestinians away from the low-level war, or intifada, that had been raging since October 2000.
Of course, Abbas has a prime minister. Salam Fayyad has done an admirable job and is worthy of succeeding Abbas. But Abbas has not identified him as the next in line for reasons that only he knows.”
For the full op-ed, see below: