Mahmoud Abbas still remains the acting president of the Palestinian Authority, having started his four-year term back in 2005. He has refused to hold elections since then, fearing he would lose, and now, sixteen years on and 85 years old, the moment of truth is upon him.
In January 2021, Abbas said that he would hold presidential and parliamentary elections in 2021 even though he has always faired poorly in Palestinian polls. In a two-way race between Abbas (head of the Fatah party) and Ismail Haniyeh of the terrorist group Hamas, it is a toss-up as to who will win. According to the March 2021 PCPSR poll, Abbas would get 47% of the vote to 46% for Haniyeh but the December 2020 poll had Haniyeh with 50% and Abbas at 43%. Other questions in the poll indicated that Palestinians believed that there would be negative ramifications if Hamas was elected which may have helped Abbas’s numbers.
The majority of Palestinians think Abbas is corrupt and want him to step down. Their preferred candidate to replace him is a convicted terrorist named Marwan Barghouti who is serving five life terms in an Israeli jail for the murder of five people during several terrorist attacks. From his cell, Barghouti declared that he is considering a run for the presidency of the Palestinian Authority, and if Abbas doesn’t name him as his heir apparent of Fatah, he will run on his own ticket and put forward his own slate for legislative elections.
According to the same Palestinian poll, should Barghouti run on his own, he gather 48% of the vote, Haniyeh would net 29% and Abbas just 19%.
The polls leave Abbas with a choice: 1) he can run for president and hope that Barghouti doesn’t run and be in a neck-and-neck race with Hamas; 2) run for president and show up last in a three horse race with Barghouti and his slate being victorious; or 3) name Barghouti as his successor and retire.
It seems that Abbas will pick the fourth choice: delay the elections again. That’s an option likely to appeal to the Biden Administration which is trying to donate American taxpayer dollars to the Palestinians, which would likely get complicated if Abbas names a convicted terrorist as head of the Palestinian Authority. But Abbas is 85 years old and should he opt to name a wild card like Mohammad Shtayyeh (who refuses to recognize Israel and endorses the pay-to-slay program) he will likely both be retired and watch Fatah get ousted by Hamas.
The world must ponder what to make of a society that will soon be headed by either a convicted jailed terrorist or the leader of a terrorist organization. Regrettably, it is still unlikely to internalize the reason of why there has been no progress in “peace talks” with Israel.
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