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Is time running out for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas?

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has stayed relatively quiet amid the war in Gaza, but this approach is only further eroding his popularity with the Palestinian population.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends an observation of the 75th anniversary of the Nakba in the General Assembly Hall at the United Nations on May 15, 2023 in New York City.

Mahmoud Abbas holds many titles. He is the chair of the PLO’s executive committee, head of the leading national liberation movement Fatah and President of the the Palestinian National Authority.

But holding those titles has done little to improve his political standing or his popularity with average Palestinians. Public opinion polls have all shown Abbas doing badly in any head-to-head competition with other potential Palestinian leaders. But such competition for his titles through a democratic process is unlikely in the short term.

Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack and the ensuing war in Gaza haven't much changed Abbas' preexisting positions and efforts to move away from the status quo. He continues to command control over the Palestinian security forces and the Palestinian government based in Ramallah. 

Despite his lack of popularity, foreign leaders continue to engage with him as a key interlocutor and likely leader in a "day after" scenario in Gaza. In addition to the international legitimacy bestowed on him, Abbas continues to hold clout because he controls the Palestinian security apparatus in the West Bank and the purse strings of the respective institutions he oversees. 

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