Israel prefers Hussein al-Sheikh as a successor

The succession battle in the PA is in full swing and Israel sees Hussein al-Sheikh, Secretary General of the PLO Executive Committee, as the leading candidate from its point of view to be the next PA Chairman. An effort by Marwan Barghouti who is detained in an Israeli prison to establish his international status in order to be released and become the successor of Mahmoud Abbas.


The Hamas movement launched a media campaign against Hussein al-Sheikh, the secretary general of the PLO’s executive committee, following a profile article published a few days ago in theForeign Policynewspaper in which Hussein al-Sheikh is described as “a man of Israel in Ramallah.”  


The article was translated into the Arabic language and became the talk of the day on the Palestinian street and on social networks, Hussein al-Sheikh has very low popularity on the Palestinian street and is considered by many Palestinians as corrupt and as someone who was involved in sexual harassment. 


 Hussein al-Sheikh’s associates deny the popular accusations that are attributed to him and claim that the source of the defamation lies with Palestinian officials who face him in the succession battle in the PA. 


 However, senior officials in Israel confirm that in terms of the political and security echelon, Hussein al-Sheikh is Israel’s preferred candidate to become the successor of Mahmoud Abbas after his departure from the political stage 


A senior security source says that Hussein al-Sheikh is the best option as far as Israel is concerned, and that the main problem is how to ensure that he is elected to the position of chairman of the PA in general elections that will be held in Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip, the Palestinians will not agree to any successor to Mahmoud Abbas without being legally elected in the general elections and therefore there is no escaping from holding general elections so that the successor of Mahmoud Abbas will receive Palestinian and international legitimacy. 


 Officially, Israel claims that it does not interfere in the PA succession battle and that this is an internal matter for the Palestinians, but every Palestinian child knows that no Palestinian personality can become the chairman of the PA without the clear consent of Israel. 


 From this point of view, Hussein al-Sheikh’s situation is good, he enjoys great support from Israel and from the US and the European Union. 


 Arab countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar also support him. 


 Hussein al-Sheikh has close ties with the head of the national security council Tzachi Hanegbi, with the head of the Shin Bet Ronen Bar and with the coordinator of operations in the territories Rasan Aliyan and also close ties with the CIA. 


 Hussein al-Sheikh is close to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and is part of the corrupt gang that surrounds him, called in ArabicSahija“. 


 A senior Israeli security official defines Hussein al-Sheikh as a moderate and very cunning personality who specializes in public relations and flattery to those in power in the Israeli regime who prefers dialogue with Israel over a military confrontation with it 


He sees the establishment of the PA as a national achievement for the Palestinians. 


 The rivalry with Marwan Barghouti 



 According to senior PA sources, the main opponent for Hussein al-Sheikh at the top of Fatah is Marwan Barghouti who is serving a sentence of 5 life sentences in an Israeli prison for murdering Israelis, there is a great competition between the two since Hussein al-Sheikh defeated Marwan Barghouti In the elections for the position of Secretary General of the Fatah movement many years ago 


Barghouti leads the Palestinian public opinion polls as the Palestiniansfavorite to be the successor of Mahmoud Abbas 


Sources  in the PA claims that Hussein al-Sheikh helped Mahmoud Abbas prevent the release of Marwan Barghouti from prison as part of theShalit dealin 2011 


A senior official in the PA claims that even today Hussein al-Sheikh is working to torpedo the release of Marwan Barghouti as part of the new prisoner exchange deal with Hamas. 


 The political echelon in Israel opposes the release of Marwan Barghouti in any prisoner exchange deal because he is considered the terrorist architect of the second intifada. 


 In recent weeks, the wife of Marwan Barghouti has been working for the release of her husband from Israeli prison, she met with senior officials in the Arab world and with diplomatic officials in the US and Europe and asked them to work for her husband’s release, according to her, she has a promise from the Hamas leadership that it will demand from Israel his release as part of the next prisoner exchange deal 


She is trying to establish international support for her husband so that he will head the PA after Mahmoud Abbas stepped down from the political stage 


As mentioned, Israel strongly opposes his release, which strengthens the position of Hussein al-Sheikh as Israel’s preferred successor. 

Yoni Ben Menachem Senior Middle East Analyst

About Yoni Ben Menachem

Yoni Ben Menachem is a Middle East senior analyst ,a journalist and
the former CEO of the Israel Broadcasting Authority(IBA). He has
decades of experience in written and video journalism. Ben
Menachem’s path in the media world began as a producer for
Japanese television in the Middle East. After that, he held many key
positions in the media The Israeli: CEO of the Israel Broadcasting
Authority, director of “Kol Israel” Radio, reporter on West Bank and
Gaza Strip affairs, political reporter and commentator, commentator
on Middle East affairs and editor-in-chief and presenter of the
program “Middle East Magazine”. 

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