The succession battle at the top of the PA has entered high gear, Hussein al-Sheikh, the designated successor of Palestinian Authority Chairman Abu Mazen, is working to politically eliminate his political rivals at the top of Fatah, led by Tawfik al-Tirawi and Marwan Albarghouti, both members of Fatah's Central Committee who see themselves as the successors of Abu Mazen.
Al-Sheikh plans to take over the leadership of Fatah by convening the 8th conference of Fatah which elects the movement's institutions.
Tawfik al-Tirawi, was the former head of Palestinian intelligence in the West Bank, and today is a member of the central committee , a report by the PA's commission of inquiry accuses him of acts of corruption and nepotism.
Another candidate is Marwan Al-Barghouti, the terrorist architect of the second intifada who is serving a punishment of 5 life sentences in an Israeli prison.
Barghouti is a member of Fatah's central committee and a 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 Al-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.
Deterring the rivals
Fatah officials say that Hussein al-Sheikh managed to convince PA Chairman Abu Mazen to first deal with Tawfik Al-Tirawi and make him an example for senior Fatah officials to anyone who dares to challenge the leadership of Abu Mazen and Hussein al-Sheikh and deter them.
The plan is to do to Tawfiq Al-Tirawi what Abu Mazen did to Muhammad Dahlan in 2011.
He accused him of corruption, ousted him from Fatah's central committee and wanted to prosecute him. Dahlan fled to Jordan and from there to the United Arab Emirates.
Abu Mazen had already taken several measures last week against Tawfiq al-Tirawi, he removed him from the chairmanship of the board of trustees of "Al-Istiklal" University and deprived him of his bodyguards.
To legitimize the removal of Tawfiq al-Tirawi from the leadership of Fatah in the Palestinian public opinion someone at the top of the movement leaked to the Saudi newspaper "Ilaf" the investigative report of the PA's special committee that was established to investigate suspicions of corruption by Tawfik Al-Tirawi.
The report deals with "Al-Istiklal " University, whose board of trustees was chaired by Tawfik Al-Tirawi until he was removed. It is a military and security academy where members of the PA 's security forces undergo training.
It was established in 2007 and Tawfik Al-Tirawi is suspected of professional and financial irregularities and nepotism.
The committee's recommendations were to dismiss him from his position as head of the university's board of trustees and to appoint a new board of trustees by Abu Mazen in consultation with his close associates Hussein al-Sheikh and Majed Faraj.
The report revealed that the university was also involved in real estate, building villas in the Jericho area, and building a farm for beehives.
The close associates of Tawfik Al-Tirawi deny all the accusations against him and claim that they are trying to frame him and that these are false accusations..
"Anyone who opposes Hussein a-Sheikh is removed from office", they say.
Will Tawfik Altirawi open Pandora's box
Tawfik Al-Tirawi also heads a committee that investigates on behalf of the PA the circumstances of Yasser Arafat's death, it has been receiving a monthly budget since 2004 without any results for the investigation , Hussein al-Sheikh initiates an examination of all the funds received by this investigative committee established by Abu Mazen and Tawfik Al-Tirawi He will be required to bring financial reports and receipts on what was done with the funds he received.
But sources in the Fatah movement warn that the ouster of Al-Tirawi might lead to the opposite result, Tawfik Al-Tiravi knows many of the hidden secrets of PA chairman Abu Mazen and he may go on a revenge mission if he is removed from the top of Fatah and open Pandora's box.
One of the hidden secrets he holds is the answer to the question of who is responsible for Yasser Arafat's death.
A few years ago, Abu Mazen and Muhammad Dahlan accused each other of being responsible for Yasser Arafat's death.
Now senior officials in Fatah say that the main suspect in Yasser Arafat's murder was his dentist, Dr. Sa'id Daras al-Tarifi, who was the head of the Palestinian Dental Association.
The investigation team's assessment is that he poisoned Yasser Arafat by injecting the poison into his body directly through one of his teeth or by inserting the poison into the toothpaste he used.
When the Palestinian security personnel came to his house to arrest him a few months after Arafat's death, they were told that he had died under mysterious circumstances, thus closing the door on the investigation.
Senior officials in Fatah gave exclusive details from the investigation into the death of Yasser Arafat.
Azzam Al-Ahmed, a member of the Fatah leadership, said in his investigation that Yasser Arafat's dentist used to come every day to Mukata'a in Ramallah, sit by Arafat's grave and cry, in his opinion, the doctor was assassinated to hide the truth about Arafat's death.
Nasser Ali Daras, the dentist's brother, said that his brother was perfectly healthy and that the cause of his death was a sudden hemorrhage in his brain. He added that his brother had close ties with Hussein al-Sheikh and with Abu Mazen.
Muntzer Moustafa Alhaj, known as "Abu Al-Rabia", who was in charge of Yasser Arafat's presidential guard, told the investigative committee that the closest to Arafat was his chief of staff, Ramzi Khoury, who would even enter Arafat's bedroom without anyone stopping him.
He is the one who brought the dentist to Yasser Arafat and made sure to bring his medical equipment into Mukata'a in Ramallah.
According to him, Ramzi Khoury is very close to Abu Mazen and after the death of Yasser Arafat Abu Mazen appointed him to the position of head of the Palestinian National Fund.
Does Tawfiq al-Tirawi know who sent the dentist to assassinate Yasser Arafat? Was it Abu Mazen or Muhammad Dahlan? Why was the dentist assassinated?
It is estimated that Tawfik Al-Tirawi holds very explosive information about senior PA officials, including recordings, and he may use this information at the most convenient time for him to settle accounts.
Yoni Ben Menachem
Senior Middle East Analyst