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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

The Battle for Succession in the Palestinian Authority

Filed under: Palestinians

The Battle for Succession in the Palestinian Authority
PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas leaned heavily on Majed Faraj, head of Palestinian General Intelligence, at a February 2023 meeting with Richard Moore, director of British Intelligence. (WAFA)
  • PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas changed the General Intelligence Law No. (17) of 2005 to allow Majed Faraj, the head of general intelligence, to remain in his post indefinitely.
  • His decision aroused anger at the top of Fatah that Abbas heads. It is interpreted as a move to strengthen Majed Faraj in the succession battle. Fatah sources claim that Israel, the United States, and the European Union are behind the decision.

The 88-year-old PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas continues his divide-and-rule strategy among Fatah leaders competing in the battle of succession after he departs from the political stage.

Mahmoud Abbas does not intend to retire soon from his post, but he is toying with the top Fatah officials so that they will stay loyal to him until he leaves the political stage.

The position of Hussein al-Sheikh, the secretary-general of the PLO’s executive committee, who was the leading candidate to become interim chairman of the PA until after presidential elections, was undermined after a recording was leaked to the media in which he defamed and cursed Mahmoud Abbas, according to senior officials in the Fatah movement. The publication of the recording severely damaged his chances of becoming the successor.

At the end of March 2023, PA Chairman Abbas announced a change to Section 4 of the Palestinian General Intelligence Law from 2005 allowing General Majed Faraj to remain in his post for an unlimited time.[1]

The new section states that the chairman of the PA will appoint the head of general intelligence, and his tenure will end according to the decision of the chairman of the PA, regardless of the number of years he has been in office.

In addition, the position of the head of general intelligence is defined as a senior position in the PA, and, like Egypt, he has the status of a minister.

Abbas’ new decision came as a surprise among Fatah leaders and members of the movement’s institutions and caused a lot of anger, but none of the organization’s leaaders is willing to take a risk and openly oppose the decision.

Majed Faraj, head of the Palestinian General Intelligence Service
Majed Faraj, head of the Palestinian General Intelligence Service

Sources in Fatah said that General Majed Faraj has recently managed to draw close to the chairman of the PA, who was severely disappointed by his close associate Hussein al-Sheikh. He is trying to strengthen his position in the battle for succession.

Majed Faraj was supposed to finish his term and receive an extension for only one more year, but he managed to convince the PA chairman to extend his term for an unlimited time so that he could compete in the battle of succession and the presidential elections from a position of strength.

According to the Palestinian Basic Law, each head of a security organization in the PA serves for four years with the possibility of an extension for another six months by the parliament, but the central council of the PLO dissolved the parliament at the initiative of the chairman of the PA Mahmoud Abbas.

Majed Faraj’s term of office ended about 10 years ago. He has served in the position since 2009 and replaced Fatah senior Tawfik Al-Tirawi. Before that, he served as the head of military intelligence and gained political power due to his connections with the Israeli Shin Bet and the CIA.  He is currently considered the most powerful man in the Palestinian Authority, and he sees himself as the successor of Mahmoud Abbas.

According to senior officials in the Fatah movement, the Abbas decision to extend Majed Faraj’s term indefinitely is resulted from a request from Israel, the Biden administration, and the European Union.

The Israeli and international concern is that the chairman of the PA, whose health is not stable, may unexpectedly enter a state of medical impotence, which requires the appointment of a temporary successor at the top of the PA who can take office immediately. Moderate Arab countries also support the candidacy of Majed Faraj as a possible successor because of his extensive security experience and desire to maintain regional stability.

Faraj is a figure accepted by international and regional players. He recently participated in the security meetings initiated by the United States in Aqaba and Sharm el-Sheikh. He supports the American plan of U.S. General Michael Fenzel to establish a Palestinian security force that will fight against the armed terrorist groups in the northern West Bank.

Today’s active players today in the succession battle are Hussein al-Sheikh, Secretary General of the PLO Working Committee; General Majed Faraj; Mahmoud Al- Al-Aloul, Vice Chairman of the Fatah Movement; Fatah Secretary-General Jibril Rajoub, and Palestinian Prime Minister Muhammad Ishtayeh.

Each of them has armed militias in the field.

It is possible that to prevent bloodshed after the departure of Mahmoud Abbas from the political stage, the Palestinian regime will be divided between some of the senior players in the succession battle until presidential elections are held.

The move taken by the PA chairman is a move to express support for Majed Faraj, which strengthens his position in the succession battle.

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