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Reports Abbas may step down

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Questions remained on Tuesday whether Mahmoud Abbas is planning to step down as Palestinian president in the coming months, with PLO officials strongly denying the claims, while sources close to the embattled president did not deny the possibility.

On Sunday, Israel’s Channel 1 cited unnamed Palestinian Authority sources as saying that Abbas is planning to quit in two months due to “fatigue.”

PLO officials quickly dismissed the report as rumors circulated by Israel, but sources close to Abbas did not deny the report, saying that “important, and maybe dangerous, decisions” are likely to be made in September, coinciding with the UN General Assembly’s 70th session.

They said that Abbas is likely to address his future at the UN summit.

However, they noted that the Palestinian president has in the past faced difficulties attempting to step down, with the US in particular pressuring him to stay on, as it views him as a partner in peace negotiations.

If Abbas does resign, Fatah is likely to select a new leader at their seventh congress, currently scheduled for October, the sources said.

They added: “The new leader of Fatah is the president.”

If Fatah selects Marwan Barghouti — widely recognized as Palestine’s most popular presidential candidate — the question will be whether Israel chooses to release him from prison, where Barghouti is serving multiple life sentences, the sources said.

Earlier this month, senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat took office as secretary-general of the PLO, prompting speculation he is being lined up to succeed Abbas as president.

The position of secretary-general is second only to that of chair — held by Abbas — within the PLO Executive Committee, and media reports suggested that the promotion was a vote of confidence in Erekat as a future leader.

‘Political chaos’

However, PLO officials have publicly dismissed the report of Abbas’ future departure, accusing Israel of circulating rumors in a bid to create “political chaos” in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Fatah spokesperson Fayiz Abu Eita said it was a “miserable and desperate attempt” by Israel to make it appear as though Israel has no partner among the Palestinians to hold peace talks with.

Jamil Muzhir, a leading figure in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine accused Israel of trying to “mix up cards” in the Palestinian leadership.

Meanwhile, a member of the Palestinian People’s Party politburo, Walid al-Awad, said that Israel had made the claims encouraged by ongoing confusion in Palestinian politics.

“The state of uneasiness in the Palestinian arena stimulated the appetite of Israel to add fuel to the fire and keep the Palestinians busy with internal disputes.”

Anwar Zboun, a Hamas representative of the Palestinian Legislative Council, told Ma’an that he did not believe the claims, as “since 2009, it has been claimed more than five times that Abbas would be resigning.”

Abbas was popularly elected as president in 2005, but in the absence of elections he has remained in power long after his term ended in 2009.

According to an opinion poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey last month, 44 percent of Palestinians are satisfied with Abbas’ presidency, while 55 percent are not.

The poll found Marwan Barghouti was the most popular candidate for Palestinian president.

While the US has backed Abbas, viewing him as a partner for peace talks, negotiations have made little progress under his leadership.

The latest round of US-led peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians reached an impasse in April 2014.

Zboun said: “Even if Abbas resigns, this will not make any change, as they will appoint another man that will follow his strategy.” MAANNEWS

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