After Abbas: A Special Report

By | May 05, 2023
Highlights, Israel

Mahmoud Abbas has skillfully maintained power in the West Bank ever since the death of Yasser Arafat in 2004. His critics say he’s corrupt, undemocratic and unable to maintain the basic dignity or security of Palestinians in the face of a violent Israeli settler movement and home-grown militias. His defenders say he’s managed to maintain a semblance of stability in the face of almost impossible odds.

Now 87, Abbas has no clear successor. Moment spoke to four analysts about possible scenarios in the post-Abbas era, and examined the legacy of his years of leadership of a fractured, occupied and armed Palestinian body politic.

Palestinian Unification or Into the Lions’ Den?

A collage of Mahmoud Abbas with many of his potential successors in front of a flow-chart.Is Abbas positioning someone from his inner circle to take over? Polls suggest Palestinians would prefer someone from Hamas or—most strikingly—a person who is currently serving multiple life sentences in an Israeli prison.

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Our interviewees

al Omari portrait

Ghaith al-Omari is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He is the former executive director of the American Task Force on Palestine and has held a variety of positions within the Palestinian Authority (PA), including as an adviser to Mahmoud Abbas.

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Menachem Klein is a professor of political science and senior lecturer at Bar-Ilan University. An expert in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Klein served as an advisor to Prime Minister Ehud Barak in 2000. Today he is a visiting professor at King’s College London and a senior fellow at the Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue. Klein’s books include Between Israel and Palestine: An Insider’s Account of the Geneva Initiative and Arafat and Abbas: Portraits of Leadership in a State Postponed.

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Khalil Shikaki is the director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Research and a professor of political science, currently serving as a senior fellow at the Crown Center for Middle East Studies at Brandeis University. An expert on Palestinian society, Shikaki has conducted more than 200 polls of Palestinians in the territories. He is the author of Arabs and Israelis: Conflict and Peacemaking in the Middle East.

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Itamar Marcus is a researcher and the founder of Palestinian Media Watch, which studies Palestinian society by monitoring and analyzing its media. He is a preeminent critic of Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. Marcus is the co-author of Deception: Betraying the Peace Process.

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Avi Melamed is a former Israeli intelligence officer and strategic consultant to some of Israel’s top politicians. A Middle East analyst and Fellow of Intelligence and Middle East Affairs at the Eisenhower Institute, Melamed currently serves as the chief education officer of Inside the Middle East, a nonprofit dedicated to non-partisan education on the regional complexities of Israel and its neighbors. His most recent book is Inside the Middle East: Entering a New Era.

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