One of the first cracks in the unity of the leading PLO faction appears to have surfaced with Nasser al-Qudwa’s May 6 resignation from the powerful Fatah Central Committee.
Qudwa, a former foreign minister and longtime PLO envoy to the United Nations, had been seen by some as a possible successor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. However, Qudwa was not selected to the PLO’s Executive Committee on the last day of the Palestinian National Council (PNC) meeting on May 3.
Qudwa’s resignation caught many off guard and was rejected by the Fatah Central Committee. In a May 7 press statement, Mahmoud Alloul, the deputy head of Fatah, said that after consultation with Abbas, the Central Committee had decided to reject Qudwa’s resignation.
Secretary of Fatah's Central Committee Jibril Rajoub argued that the reasons behind Qudwa’s resignation must not be neglected, promising it will be discussed in the next meeting of the committee scheduled after Abbas’ return from his tour to Latin America.
Abbas has been on a tour of Latin America in a bid to block the attempts by some South American countries to transfer their embassies to Jerusalem.
“Nasser al-Qudwa is a huge figure in our movement — in national and organizational terms — and we see him as a central leader with huge political and diplomatic experience,” Rajoub was quoted as saying by Sama news website May 7.
In his resignation letter, Qudwa said he is protesting the “results of the last PNC meetings” in addition to “previous accumulations related to the works of the Central Committee that had led to the same conclusion.” However, he insisted that he will continue to be a committed and active member of the Fatah movement.
What Qudwa was referring to was the fact that the Fatah leadership had insisted that the makeup of the PLO’s Executive Committee be agreed to behind closed doors and presented as a package to the assembled delegates rather than in an open electoral process.
Nabil Amer, a longtime Fatah opposition figure and PNC member, also complained about the mechanism of choosing the Executive Committee members. Speaking May 7 on Al-Ghad TV station, Amer said he was “disappointed” that the PNC did not hold elections with ballots.
Najib Qadoumi, a Fatah leader and a member of the PNC in Jordan, told Al-Monitor that elections by ballot would have produced bad results. “If we had gone by the ballot route, we would have seen results in which Fatah dominated and received all the seats. We rather opted for consultations with the secretary-generals of all factions and came up with a consensual list that attempts to reflect the widest possible selection of our people,” he said.
Talal Abu Afifeh, a resident of Jerusalem's Shuafat refugee camp and the head of the Jerusalem Intellectuals Forum, told Al-Monitor that he is very disappointed with the way Qudwa was pushed out. “I believe that Mahmoud Alloul is well-suited to replace Abbas as the head of Fatah, and I was hoping that Qudwa would take the position of chairman of the PLO’s Executive Committee after Abbas,” he said.
A senior Fatah source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that the list of candidates for the powerful PLO Executive Committee was assigned to Abbas confidant Azzam al-Ahmad, who has his own ambitions of succeeding Abbas and therefore wants to exclude any qualified leaders who can compete with him for this position.
Various Palestinian media outlets suggested that Qudwa’s resignation was tactical. Amad Media, a website supportive of Abbas' exiled rival Mohammed Dahlan, suggested May 9 that Abbas might offer Qudwa the position of prime minister if he agrees to retract his resignation, in light of Qudwa’s public standing and popularity.
But Qudwa refuses to retract his resignation, saying to Al-Quds al-Arabi May 8 that his resignation is not tactical and that he will not withdraw it.
Qudwa’s resignation is seen as part of the internal struggle for power within the leading Fatah movement. While Qudwa, who is a nephew of the late Yasser Arafat, is not one of the top leaders expected to take Abbas’ position after his departure from the political scene, it was expected that he might be part of a post-Abbas leadership collective, and that he will have a senior position. Qudwa is well-liked and respected at home and abroad and has a clean record in terms of transparency and lack of corruption.
The making of the future Palestinian leadership is going through a difficult phase, with 82-year-old Abbas still in power while different individuals around him are preparing to succeed him.