On Sunday, the Central Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) appointed two loyal followers of its chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, to key positions within the organization, and ensured the continued dominance of his Fatah faction. Abbas is eighty-six years old, in the eighteenth year of his four-year term as president of the Palestinian Authority (PA), and faces declining popularity. Yohanan Tzoreff explains that these appointments signal to Palestinians that Abbas is “giving up on public legitimacy and nullifying it as a source of authority for his camp,” by shutting out his political rivals and, by extension, their supporters.
The decisions will also be interpreted as tying his fate and the fate of his rule to Israel and the international community—or some part thereof—and with Arab countries that for a while now are eager for quiet from the direction of the Palestinians. This would in effect be opening a broad new front vis-à-vis the Palestinian public, which is disillusioned and yearns for change, and with respect to the Palestinian factions that are part of the opposition. These could be joined by the factions of Mohammed Dahlan, Marwan Barghouti, and other disheartened Fatah figures, who are harmed by the decisions, which in effect leave them without a political home.
In such a reality, the pressure exerted on the West Bank by Hamas from the Gaza Strip and from within the West Bank itself could increase, with the aim of stirring up the population and increasing the protests against the Palestinian Authority and Israel. If many disillusioned figures and factions join this effort, it could arouse a large portion of the public, full of antagonism toward the PA and its security apparatuses. This would test and gradually erode the loyalty that these forces currently display toward the Palestinian Authority, as they would be accused of collaborating with Israel.
In this case much pressure would fall on Israel’s shoulders, not only as the ruler of the West Bank but also the patron of the Palestinian Authority. The use of attacks and terrorism could increase and the security of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank would require reinforcements and control of territories for the purpose of security and defense. Such a development could return Israel to the places that it left before the Oslo process and in certain areas even to go back to ruling over Palestinian populations.