The chief Palestinian legislative body will hold its first meeting in nearly a decade next month to elect a new leadership, officials said Wednesday, a step that could pave the way for a future successor to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
According to Ahmad Majdalani, a top Palestinian official, the nearly 700-member Palestine National Council will meet on April 30 in Ramallah.
Although the meeting is not meant to choose a successor, the composition of the new executive committee could give a strong indication of who the front-runners will be.
During a trip to the United States last month, Abbas was briefly hospitalized for what officials downplayed as routine tests. Nonetheless, it drew attention to the looming leadership gap and what is expected to be a fierce power struggle in the future.
Usually, the No. 2 in the executive committee succeeds the president when he leaves for any reason. That spot is currently held by Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat. But Erekat recently underwent a lung transplant, which raised questions on whether he would remain on the job.
The two front-runners are believed to be Jibril Rajoub, a former security chief and current head of the Palestinian football association, and Mahmoud al-Aloul, a former terror chief in the Palestine Liberation Organization in Lebanon. Both men are on the executive committee.
The April meeting will come at a difficult time for the Palestinians, who remain — 25 years after interim peace accords were signed with Israel — nowhere closer to their dream of establishing an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. Israel captured those territories in 1967, though it withdrew from Gaza in 2005.
The last round of peace talks collapsed four years ago, and relations with Israel are poor.