The succession battle in the PA entered high gear, Hussein al-Sheikh, a close associate of Abu Mazen, whom he designates to become his successor, began an important move to take control of the Fatah movement in the territories.
A-Sheikh plans to take over the leadership of Fatah through the convening of the 8th Fatah conference which elects the movement's institutions, A-Sheikh intends to depose through the internal elections some of his opponents in the leadership of the movement and thus pave his way to be, after Abu Mazen retires from the political stage, the official position of the Fatah movement candidate in the presidential elections.
Yesterday, Hussein al-Sheikh met with all the general secretaries of the Fatah movement in the West Bank to discuss the urgent need, from his point of view, to convene the 8th conference of the Fatah movement to create the necessary political changes.
In recent days, senior activists in the Fatah movement, who are considered to be close to Hussein al-Sheikh, pressured Abu Mazen to set a date for the convening of the 8th Fatah conference which was supposed to convene last March but was postponed due to various constraints due to the internal debates over the composition of the delegates at a conference
The 7th conference of Fatah, which was the last, was convened in 2016.
Ahmed Hiles, a member of the central committee of Fatah from the Gaza Strip, says that the issue of convening the conference will be on the agenda of the central committee of Fatah that will convene soon and that the conference will take place this year because which is a a national need.
He actually repeated Hussein al-Sheikh's public call from a few days ago, Hussein al-Sheikh is mobilizing the younger generation of the Fatah movement in the territories to help him and promises promotion in the movement to the leaders of the younger generation in order to gain their support.
PLO chairman Abu Mazen has recently taken several steps to strengthen Hussein al-Sheikh as his future successor, he appointed him as secretary general of the PLO's executive committee and appointed other associates in the executive committee to strengthen support for Hussein e-Sheikh.
Abu Mazen appointed his close associate Rouhi Fatouch to the post of head of the PNC and he is supposed to obtain additional legitimacy for Hussein al-Sheikh in the PLO institutions.
Hussein al-Sheikh is considered to be the closest and most loyal person to Abu Mazen and according to senior officials in Fatah, he has pledged to take care of Abu Mazen and his family members after his retirement, Abu Mazen's two sons have a huge economic empire, part of which is in PA territories, and Sheikh has pledged that it will not get hurt
According to sources in the Fatah movement, Hussein al-Sheikh intends to weaken two main rivals in the succession battle by removing them in the internal elections from the movement's power centers.
One is Tawfik al-Tirawi, the former head of Palestinian intelligence in the West Bank, who is a member of the central committee, A report of an investigation committee by the PA accuses him of acts of corruption and nepotism.
The other candidate is Marwan Barghouti, the terrorist architect of the second intifada who is serving 5 life sentence in an Israeli prison..
Barghouti is a member of Fatah's central committee and the bitter rival of Abu Mazen and Hussein al-Sheikh , in the Palestinian public opinion polls he gains great popularity as a possible successor to Abu Mazen.
During last year, Marwan Barghouti announced his intention to run in the upcoming elections in the Palestinian Authority, Abu Mazen and Hussein al-Sheikh worked with the Biden administration and with Israel to ensure that he would not be released as part of the new prisoner exchange deal with Hamas on the grounds that he is a terrorist who would sabotage the security coordination of the PA with Israel and the USA.
Another move that Hussein al-Sheikh intends to lead through Fatah's 8th conference is the appointment of his associate General Majed Faraj as a member of Fatah's Central Committee and the appointment of other associates such as Adnan Alreith Governor of Jerusalem District and Ahmed Assaf, Palestinian Minister of Communications for key positions in the Fatah movement.
The estimate in the Fatah movement is that Hussein al-Sheikh will soon be able to convene the 8th Fatah conference, Abu Mazen has already given his consent in principle, which will throw the succession battle in the Palestinian Authority into a major turmoil, on the Palestinian street there is a fear of an increase in the phenomenon of internal assassinations in the West Bank because the political opponents of Hussein al-Sheikh have militias of armed men in various places in the West Bank.
The Israeli security establishment follows from afar and does not intervene in the succession battle, but Fatah claims that it supports the moves of Hussein al-Sheikh.
Yoni Ben Menachem
Senior Middle East Analyst