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  • Author: Ghaith al-Omari, Ehud Yaari
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Throughout his tenure as leader of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas has studiously avoided grooming a successor, instead consolidating his control over numerous Palestinian entities and sidelining officials he perceived as threatening to his rule. When he eventually exits the scene, Abbas will leave many leadership roles to be filled—including in the PLO, Fatah movement, and national security agencies. The Washington Institute has been sponsoring a series of discussions about sudden succession in the Middle East. Each session focuses on scenarios that might unfold if a specific ruler or leader departed the scene tomorrow. Questions include these: Would the sudden change lead to different policies? Would it affect the stability of the respective countries involved, or the region as a whole? What would be the impact on U.S. interests? Would the manner of a leader's departure make a difference? The discussions also probe how the U.S. government might adjust to the new situation or influence outcomes. This essay, eleventh in the series, looks at the Palestinian Authority, led by Mahmoud Abbas since 2005. Throughout his tenure, Abbas has studiously avoided grooming a successor, instead consolidating his control over numerous Palestinian entities and sidelining officials he perceived as threatening to his rule. When he eventually exits the scene, Abbas will leave many leadership roles to be filled—including in the PLO, Fatah movement, and national security agencies. The coronavirus pandemic appears to have altered the political dynamic somewhat, elevating Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, who has earned strong reviews for his management of the crisis.
  • Topic: National Security, Politics, Mahmoud Abbas
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Palestine
  • Author: Michael Singh, Ehud Yaari
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Jakarta’s domestic politics make normalization unlikely despite years of positive signals, but the United States should nevertheless urge it to consider incremental, mutually beneficial steps toward rapprochement with Jerusalem. On October 29, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will briefly visit Jakarta for discussions with Indonesian president Joko Widodo—popularly known as Jokowi—and Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi. Topping Pompeo’s agenda will undoubtedly be the U.S. effort to organize Asian allies around resisting China’s increasing assertiveness in and beyond the region. But Jakarta is also relevant to another Trump administration foreign policy priority, one that has taken on an increasingly high profile in the run-up to the U.S. election—normalization with Israel. Indonesia is one of thirty countries worldwide that do not recognize the state of Israel, and one of three in Southeast Asia. But unlike Malaysia, whose leaders have espoused virulent anti-Semitism, and tiny Brunei, Indonesia has a history of positive (albeit inconsistent) signals toward Israel, raising hopes that movement toward normalization may be possible even if it is not imminent.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Politics, Normalization
  • Political Geography: Indonesia, Israel, Palestine, Southeast Asia, United States of America
  • Author: David Makovsky
  • Publication Date: 06-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas conducted an unprecedented sequence of three public events during his visit to Washington last week, during which he articulated his positions on a range of issues. The events included an on-the-record dinner hosted by philanthropist Daniel Abraham, a television appearance with PBS host Charlie Rose, and a speech at the Brookings Institution.
  • Topic: Politics, Peacekeeping
  • Political Geography: United States, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Stephen Hadley, Michael Herzog
  • Publication Date: 07-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The two-state solution is widely accepted as the ultimate outcome of any Middle East peace process. Despite this consensus, progress toward a solution has slowed to a near halt. The difficulty Israel's right wing coalition faces in making concessions on key issues has proven a major obstacle to negotiations, while the split between a Palestinian Authority-controlled West Bank and Hamas in Gaza further diminishes the probability of reaching a solution in the foreseeable future.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Politics, Peacekeeping
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Hassan Barari
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In early September, three senior leaders of Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood (MB) resigned from the organization's executive bureau after it voted to dissolve the MB political department -- one of the few remaining components of the organization controlled by moderates. The resignations were a protest against not only the executive bureau's decision, but also the MB's increasingly close affiliation with Hamas. Today, the Jordanian MB is facing an unprecedented internal crisis, pitting the traditional moderate East Bank leadership -- Jordanians who are not originally Palestinian -- against the powerful pro-Hamas Palestinian-led element. Lately, these divisions have been aggravated by Hamas political bureau head Khaled Mashal's apparent efforts to exploit the shifting balance of power within the MB to further his own organization's agenda in Amman. Ironically, Jordanian authorities -- who have long prided themselves on managing the Islamist issue -- have done little to stem the tide.
  • Topic: Security, Political Violence, Islam, Politics, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Palestine, Arab Countries
  • Author: David Makovsky
  • Publication Date: 09-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In the wake of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's narrow Kadima party victory over Shaul Mofaz last week, Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert resigned on Sunday night. The following day, Israeli president Shimon Peres asked Livni to form a new governing coalition, but if she is unable to do so in the next six weeks, Israel will head for new elections. Regardless of the coalition's makeup, prospects remain bleak in the short term for a breakthrough on either the Palestinian or Syrian track.
  • Topic: Politics
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Syria
  • Author: Ben Fishman, Mohammed Yaghi
  • Publication Date: 10-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Since the breakdown in talks over the formation of a unity government in mid-September, the Palestinian political environment has become more dangerous and dysfunctional. Paralyzed by ongoing international economic and political isolation, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has essentially ceased to function as tens of thousands of public sector employees continue to strike in protest against unpaid salaries. Factional violence assumed a new level of intensity on October 1 when the Hamas interior minister, Sayed Siam, ordered Hamas's security force to break up demonstrations by the mainstream Fatah-dominated security services, who were protesting after not receiving salary payments. The resulting gun battles left twelve people dead and dozens injured. Fatah loyalists responded to the incident in Gaza by targeting Hamas interests in the West Bank, burning offices, kidnapping officials, and threatening to assassinate Hamas leaders.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security, Economics, Environment, Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: Palestine, Gaza
  • Author: Samer Abu Libdeh
  • Publication Date: 07-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Even while Israelis and Palestinians are locked in deepening conflict over the kidnapping of a young Israeli soldier and the future of the Hamas government, political life on the East Bank of the Jordan River is increasingly focused on internal Jordanian concerns.
  • Topic: International Relations, Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Jordan
  • Author: Christopher Hamilton
  • Publication Date: 06-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Taken together, the kidnapping on Sunday of an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldier and the signing on Tuesday of an agreement among Palestinian factions to create a unity government for the Palestinian Authority (PA) suggest that significant seismic forces may be developing within Hamas that may have a decisive impact both on the organization's solidarity and on the future course of Israeli-Palestinian relations. While the unity agreement itself has little significance beyond internal Palestinian politics—it is a nonstarter for the Israelis and represents a major retreat from previous Palestinian positions—its importance lies in the fact that it highlights the possible emergence of a fissure within the Hamas organization between its internal leaders, headed by Palestinian prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, who experience the brunt both of popular concerns and Israeli reprisals, and its external leaders, chief among them Damascus-based Khaled Mashal, who are free of these constraints and therefore able to insist on more maximalist positions. However, in signing this agreement—apparently without full consultation with, or the approval of, the Damascus contingent—the Hamas leaders in the territories have signaled both their independence and their intention to embark on a more pragmatic path than that preferred by Hamas's more ideological external elements. Indeed, the timing and nature of the attack seems to have been specifically intended to disrupt the effort to agree on a unity government with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, and thereby, the possible emergence of a more moderate Hamas strategy.
  • Topic: International Relations, Defense Policy, Politics
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Mohammad Yaghi, Ben Fishman
  • Publication Date: 05-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas's surprise May 25 announcement that he would call for a national referendum should Palestinian factions fail to reach agreement during their national dialogue was wrongly interpreted as a peace plan by many in the press. The document Abbas threatened to put to a popular vote is intended to quell the daily gun battles, kidnappings, and assassination attempts among rival armed groups in Gaza. However, since each party will interpret the document to affirm its own interests, the vague language on relations with Israel could be interpreted either as advocating a one-state solution that would eliminate prospects for peace or as recognizing a two-state solution. Abbas and Fatah may view the “national accord,” negotiated earlier in May among prominent prisoners in Israeli jails, as a means of forcing Hamas into a corner on negotiating with Israel, but the text of the document much more closely resembles Hamas's own political program. (Read an English translation of the national accord in PDF format).
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Peace Studies, Politics
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Gaza