A key Palestinian decision-making body will convene on Sunday for the first time in nearly four years, in a session that could be a stepping stone for two potential successors to 86-year-old President Mahmoud Abbas.
The Palestine Liberation Organization's (PLO) Central Council last met in 2018, where progressions were hampered by internal divisions among Palestinians. The upcoming meeting on Sunday could yield significant advancements, yet Hamas and Islamist Jihad terror groups turned down the invitation, saying that Abbas had to institute power-sharing reforms first.
Abbas is head of the PLO and the Palestinian Authority (PA), which exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank. His main rival, Hamas, runs the Gaza Strip, which also has strong Islamic Jihad influence.
The elderly leader has a history of heart problems, and has yet to propose a successor. Both Islamic groups have accused Abbas, who hasn't held a presidential election since 2005, of not mending Palestinian divides and putting off a ballot. Meanwhile, Abbas blames Hamas for the disputes.
The 141-member Central Council, scheduled to meet on Sunday and Monday, is expected to appoint two of Abbas's confidants, Hussein Al-Sheikh and Rawhi Fattouh, to senior posts, Palestinian analysts said.
Abbas, scheduled to speak at the opening session, wants 61-year-old Sheikh, a key Palestinian liaison of Israel and the United States, to fill the post of secretary-general of the PLO's Executive Committee, replacing Saeb Erekat, the analysts said.
Fattouh, 73, another confidant of Abbas, is his choice to head the PLO's National Council, it's strongest decision-making body. Both men are close to Abbas and are not expected to drastically change policies regarding the handling of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Even if the appointments are ratified by the Central Council, replacing Abbas could prove to be complicated. "There is a long list of successors to (Abbas) and there is a clear internal conflict," said West Bank-based political analyst George Giacman. "If something happened to (him) there will be disputes."
Relations with Israel are also supposed to be discussed at the council session.