The reports swirling around the Arab world over the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’s decision to quit disguise the octogenarian’s next plans. According to our Middle East sources, Abbas (known to all as Abu Mazen) has confided to his close circle that he has lost faith in President Barack Obama, whom he accuses of deserting the Palestinian cause, and in Secretary of State John Kerry, whom he has nicknamed “the tall liar.” He is now looking for new champions, possibly in Tehran, while at the same time shoring up his rule over the Palestinian Authority and designing his legacy.
Abbas joins the list of regional allies who feel abandoned by the Obama administration, like the Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz, Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi and, up to a point, Israel’s Binyamin Netanyahu. For the immediate future, Abu Mazen is developing a comprehensive plan for replacing his enemies on the PLO’s Executive Committee with young faces, chosen for their ability to preserve the Abbas clan’s majority in this key institution and uphold his guiding principles for the Palestinian movement.
Since the end of July, his henchmen, Saeb Erekat, Akram Haniya and Palestinian General Intelligence chief Mejad Freij have been working on this blueprint.
They are to complete their project by September, when Abbas plans to introduce his choice of new leaders to the Executive Committee. They will consist mainly of the sons of the founders of the PLO and his own Fatah party.
Some of their names are unknown outside the Palestinian Authority’s seat in Ramallah. debkafile reports that prominent among them are Sabry Shayden – son of the PLO’s first chief of staff; Maher Ghanem – son of Abu Maher Ghanem, the Fatah Party’s first organizer; and also Gen. Majid Freij, Ayman Makbul from Nablus and Fahmi Zar’ir from the Gaza Strip.
The most important new face will be that of Yasser Abbas – Mahmoud Abbas’ own son.
The new appointments will herald another change: the PLO Exective Committee is to be elevated as the supreme Palestinian ruling institution, with jurisdiction over the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian government.
Abu Mazen is shaping this reshuffle to guarantee that his immediate successor as PA Chairman – mostly probably Erekat, whom the West knows as the most public Palestinian negotiator – will give up his seat when the time comes to make way for Yasser Abbas.
In this way, Mahmoud Abbas hopes to keep control of the Palestinian movement in the hands of his dynasty. His son, aged 52, who was named in honor of the late Yasser Arafat, moved from Ramallah to Canada in 1997 and built a business career.
A civil engineering graduate from Washington State University, he owns a string of companies in Canada, the Gulf and the West Bank. Among them is Falco Tobacco, which holds the sole agency for the distribution of American cigarettes in the Palestinian territory.
There are many rumors about how he made his fortune, including corrupt practices in high Palestinian circles. Little is known about his politics. When interviewed on occasion, he prefers to dwell on how he made his money rather than expanding on public affairs that concern his people. His good connections in Washington will no doubt be useful for opening a new chapter with the US when he takes over.
No date has been set for an Abbas visit to Tehran. It will be interesting to see whom he picks for the party to accompany him if and when it takes place.