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Analysis

Palestinian politics after Abbas: the next Palestinian strategic direction

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Introduction

With reports speculating that the Palestinian Authority (PA) is on the brink of collapse and questions remaining over the future of Israeli-Palestinian security coordination, the direction Palestinian politics will take after the succession of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s is shrouded in uncertainty. The post-Abbas era in Palestinian politics is likely to result in the end of the old guard, formerly Tunis-based political leadership; as a result, there are several different long term strategies that Abbas’s successors could choose to implement.

Our new Strategic Assessment is the second in a two-part series analysing Palestinian politics in the post-Abbas era. Part one explored institutional and constitutional challenges related to Palestinian succession. This report, part two, examines different strategic options for the Palestinians in the post-Abbas period, including the long term viability of the PA and future security coordination with Israel.

Key Points:

  • Those who assume leadership of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) after Abbas will be forced to contend with a constituency that has grown disillusioned with the promises of the Oslo process. Abbas’s successor is likely to reject the bilateral negotiation track towards establishing two states as represented by the Camp David summit in 2000, Annapolis process in 2007-2009 and Kerry talks in 2013-2014. In its stead may come the continuation of the internationalisation agenda, a sustained campaign of nonviolent resistance, or the emergence of a one-state option.
  • Israel, Jordan and Egypt remain wary of the looming succession crisis and are concerned that a leadership vacuum and a prolonged succession battle could undermine stability in the West Bank and cripple the already weak PA, if not result in its collapse.
  • Given how unpopular security coordination with Israel is for many Palestinians, those vying to succeed Abbas may feel compelled to suspend it. Moreover, whoever succeeds Abbas may move toward a more rejectionist platform regarding final status issues in order to compensate for his potential legitimacy deficit.
  • The Israeli government is weighing the implementation of a series of recommendations proposed by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), to prevent the collapse of the PA. Included among the proposed measures are steps to bolster the Palestinian economy.
  • Short of advocating for national unity, the international community has limited options at its disposal, though there are measures it can implement toward revitalising Palestinian civil society. Doing so will assist the Palestinians with resuming a broader national dialogue aimed at reviving the focus on governance reform and putting the Palestinians on a path towards more representative leadership.

 

Download the full Strategic Assessment below.

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