Hamas Leader Mashaal ‘Interested’ in Leading PLO

Jordan, Qatar Reportedly Back Mashaal as Replacement for Abbas

by Jason Ditz, January 29, 2013

The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) doesn’t even give Hamas a representative seat at the moment, but reports from London-based Arabic newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi suggest that Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal is not only planning to join up, but has designs on replacing Mahmoud Abbas as the PLO chairman.

Despite its leadership positions being closely held by the Fatah movement and a handful of smaller secular factions, the PLO is internationally recognized as the “representative body” for the Palestinian people, and a switch to Hamas leadership after 35 years of rule by Yasser Arafat and nearly another decade under Abbas would be an enormous switch.

It’s one that’s got some backing, however, as the reports say that Jordan’s King Abdullah, who has met with Mashaal repeatedly in recent weeks, and the Qatari Emir are both behind the change in leadership. With Hamas and Fatah in the midst of unity talks, such a move is no longer unthinkable, and sufficient international pressure could oblige Abbas to step aside, something he regularly threatens at any rate.

Israel’s reaction can only be imagined. Officials have condemned Abbas regularly as an enemy of peace, but have likewise condemned the unity talks with Hamas, insisting they are unacceptable at any level of Palestinian governance. If Hamas takes over the PLO, expect Israeli officials to rail against it loudly and long.

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