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It is possible to understand the future of the Palestinian issue through the study of three dimensions: the future prospects of the Palestinian Authority (PA), the Palestinian state project and the orientations of the Palestinian society at home and abroad. There are two main prospects for the PA after ‘Abbas: the first is represented in the assumption of power by a figure involved in Oslo (as Saeb Erekat), who will enjoy international and regional support, which prospect might lead to inter-Fatah conflict.

The other prospect is the transfer of leadership to Hamas, especially that the historical trend of any leadership legitimacy depends on its commitment to the resistance track and Palestinian fundamentals. As for the Palestinian state, the odds for it to have the specifications set by the PA are weak, for there are no supporting indicators except for the legal achievements at the United Nations (UN), which are accompanied with the continued settlement expansion across the West Bank (WB), including Jerusalem, in a way that makes such achievements worthless.

During the next five years, the Palestinian society will face competition between the “Gaza Model” and the “West Bank Model” that were presented over the past years by different forces. However, the Israeli policies in the WB, especially the continued settlement expansion and the failure of the Oslo track, make the Gaza Model more attractive than that of the WB despite the harsh conditions governing the Gazan Model.

The chances are high for the transfer of leadership from Fatah to other forces that are more practicing of resistance and holding on to Palestinian fundamentals. But it remains important for these forces to patiently study deep international and regional changes affecting the constants of contemporary international world order, and the ways to deal with these changes effectively.   


First: The Palestinian Authority

Second: The Palestinian State

Third: The Palestinian Society

The Palestinian Society outside Palestine

Interaction of the Three Dimensions (Authority, State and Society)



The Palestinian political structure, in its three dimensions: the authority, the state and the society, is difficult to understand according to traditional schools. As futures studies schools are concerned with historical orientation and mechanisms of change and transformation, the study of this structure must be based on the rhythm and pattern of change in the Palestinian political structure (authority, state, society), and the mutual influence among these dimensions on the future scene.

First: The Palestinian Authority

Without delving into historical details, it is possible to say that the assumption of authority on the Palestinian arena “individually and organizationally,” since 1964 (the founding of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)), is linked to a central variable represented in the level of commitment to “armed resistance to liberate Palestine and commitment to Palestinian fundamentals.”

When this variable is missing in the orientations of a Palestinian figure or organization, the legitimacy of their assumption of a leading position is shaken.

From Ahmad Shuqairi to Yahya Hammuda and then Yasir ‘Arafat and ‘Abbas, the adoption of “armed resistance” was the only way to gaining legitimacy for assuming power. This was true for Fatah emergence at the expense of the PLO (Shuqairi), which was accused by Fatah of coping with Arab policies in the second half of the sixties of the last century.

In addition, the rise of Hamas since the 1980s at the expense of Fatah was after the latter’s deviation towards peaceful settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict and giving up on some Palestinian fundamentals.

This means that the continuation of occupation, displacement and settlement (the historic feature of the Zionist enterprise) will demand that any new leadership respect the historical Palestinian relation between “the leadership of the national Palestinian movement,” and the adoption of armed resistance and respect of the Palestinian fundamentals.

Since the current leadership (PA and PLO) is facing subjective and objective dilemma because of its giving up on the aforementioned historical trend, the future scene suggests the following:

Disappearance of President Mahmud ‘Abbas from the Palestinian scene within short time (whether due to old age -81 years- or resignation he has threatened to put forward, or even an accident prepared by his opponents within or outside Fatah or by the Israeli side, in addition to not appointing his deputy until now). This will give rise to the issue of ‘Abbas “succession,” and the parameters of the impasse will become clear:

1. The most important candidates, whether supported by Fatah or enjoying regional or international backing are: Saeb Erekat, Marwan Barghuthi, Muhammad Dahlan, Muhammad Ishtayyah, Salam Fayyad and Majed Faraj.

A look at the possible candidates shows that Barghuthi is in prison, Dahlan was expelled from Fatah in 2011 and referred to the judiciary, while Fayyad has been accused of financial corruption despite his long tenure as premier (2007–2013).

In addition, Ishtayyah has a limited role due to his recent membership in Fatah Central Committee (2009), and in the Palestinian Central Council (2014), whereas Faraj is in relation with security institutions in contradiction to the Western trend to avoid militarization of the authority and with wide Palestinian mood which rejects the security role of the PA. Accordingly, Saeb Erekat is the candidate widely acclaimed on the regional and international levels

[1],  in addition to his political position as Secretary General of the PLO Executive Committee after exclusion of Yasir ‘Abd Rabbo[2].

Moreover, he is likely to receive more organizational support from ‘Abbas in the coming stage on one hand, and the backing of important segment of Fatah who would want the Secretary General of the PLO Executive Committee to assume the position of the president in case of vacancy on another hand. This might be facilitated through resignations from the Executive Committee that were provided in August 2015[3].

Although there is constitutional frame for the political succession, Article 37 of the Basic Law, whereby “the Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council shall temporarily assume the powers and duties of the Presidency of the National Authority for a period not to exceed sixty (60) days, during which free and direct elections to elect a new President shall take place,” the traditions of commitment to constitutional provisions in Palestinian political history are not enough to predict commitment this time. This is especially that the current Speaker Aziz Dweik is a Hamas affiliate while the parliament is almost paralyzed and the Central Council of the PLO lacks participation from Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ).

2. The problem with Fatah and Erekat in particular lies in the fact that both of them are not in harmony with the historical trend (adoption of armed resistance and the Palestinian fundamentals), which might mean the outbreak of a revolution within Fatah where youthful cadres from al-Aqsa Brigades or other factions might rise to compete with the current leadership and oppose the settlement track. Such a movement might find support from historical leaders in Fatah such as Faruq al-Qaddumi and other Palestinian factions including Hamas, PIJ and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), besides regional support from some forces. Such a prospect is enhanced by the failure of Fatah in student elections in Birzeit in April 2015, which caused a moral shock within the Movement.

3. Based on the above, it is not possible to exclude the possibility of an inter-Fatah conflict (after ‘Abbas), especially that the Movement includes several currents undergoing tensed relations as was revealed in the recent conflict between their leaderships leading to violent confrontations. Some may seek help from the occupation and regional and international forces to enhance the interests of each trend.

4. Based on the aforementioned, the role of the “historical trend” (armed resistance and fundamentals) becomes clear, as it opens the way for other forces clinging on to these two dimensions, especially Hamas and PIJ. Yet, these two movements would not be allowed by the occupation or by regional powers, particularly Arab states, and international powers, to play such a role unless they could find a supportive base outside the occupied territories. This would ultimately mean diminishing the role of internal leadership for the benefit of outside leadership and the return of the PA to exile, or complete transfer to Gaza Strip[, which means a complete change in the scene related to the PA.

Second: The Palestinian State

Ignoring the lack of spatial embodiment of the Palestinian state, what remains is only the “state project” recognized legally by the UN and most of the contemporary international community. Nonetheless, the political boundaries of this state are still subject to “negotiation,” which means that it is the post-’Abbas PA which will define the geographic boundaries of the state.

Thus, if authority is assumed by Oslo players (from Fatah), negotiations would extend over another period of time accompanied with continued settlement expansion in the WB and the Judaization of Jerusalem. However, if authority is assumed by Palestinian leadership, especially in exile, by those holding on to the historical trend, the project of the Palestinian state will be subject, on the legal level, to huge diplomatic pressures, and the balance of international, regional and Palestinian forces would be the decisive factor in determining the future status, an issue that needs detailed study (the possibilities of shifts in balance of internal, regional and international powers).

This means that the Palestinian dilemma will be in the emergence of a leadership that would proceed with futile negotiations with continued settlement construction, or the emergence of a new leadership that holds on to the historical trend (resistance and fundamentals) while having to face immense international and regional pressures.

Third: The Palestinian Society

While authority is the political manifestation of the will of the society and mechanisms of its organization, and the state is the legal representation of the material presence in the international society, society is their subject. Thus there is a need to observe the extent of the society’s clinging to the historical trend (resistance and fundamentals) in defining who rules where.

Notwithstanding the difficulties appertaining to geography, resources, as well as international and regional environment, it is possible to consider the Gaza Strip (GS), with its leadership and the majority of its society, as the actual embodiment of the historical trend, which has contributed –besides other factors– to liberating this Palestinian geography. Accordingly, the Palestinian society will face 4 models:

a. A Palestinian society most of which tends to adopt the current Gaza Model.
b. A Palestinian society most of which tends to adopt the WB Model as in its current situation.
c. The continuation of the current geographic division during the coming period (5 years).
d. The complete reoccupation of both regions by the Israeli forces.

The Palestinian Society outside Palestine

The Palestinian society outside Palestine, especially in neighboring countries, represents an environment which embraces all Palestinian organizations. However, “political turmoil” in the Arab environment since the end of 2010 has diminished (even if temporarily) the margin of action for some factions, especially Hamas. While the Palestinian society within Palestine is more submissive to the PA, it is more able, outside Palestine –especially in neighboring countries, to “resist” the policies of Palestinian factions due to objective conditions surrounding both sides (the society and the factions). This, ultimately, allows regional environment to have an impact on the structure and orientations of Palestinian factions abroad.

Interaction of the Three Dimensions (Authority, State and Society)

The previous analysis shows that the possible scenarios for the three dimensions involve a number of points each of which merits separate study to understand their possible repercussions:

First: The Authority

The related scenarios are:

1. The continuation of the Oslo negotiations track.
2. Conflict within Fatah.
3. Transfer of leadership to Hamas.
4. PA dissolution.
5. Transfer of leadership to outside Palestine.
6. Transfer of leadership headquarters to GS.

Second: The State

Related scenarios include:

1. Expansion of areas subject to the PA.
2. The Israeli authorities minimize the PA regions for security reasons.
3. The continuation of the current duality of GS and the WB.
4. The complete reoccupation of the 1967 territories.

Third: The Palestinian Society (At Home and Abroad)

Related scenarios are:

1. Growth of the trend holding on to resistance and fundamentals.
2. Backing away from resistance and Palestinian fundamentals.
3. The increased difference in orientations between the GS and WB.
4. Drowning in a state of chaos and increased wave of immigration from Palestine.


 Given the huge complications in the Palestinian scene, every point related to the authority, state and society, needs separate study which is beyond the scope of this assessment. In addition, the interaction between previous clashing indicators demands the following:

1. The formation of a research team to study international and regional transformations in the next five years, whether the transformations that enhance the growth of the resistance current and fundamentals or those that augment the advancement of the current embracing abandonment of resistance and fundamentals. It is also necessary to work on the possible ways for enhancing the former transformations and weakening the latter ones as it is most probable for the Zionist movement to invest the current wave of international war against “terrorism,” especially religious terrorism, in order to include Hamas and PIJ in this context. This might put the GS in an extremely complicated situation, especially with the current state of brusqueness between GS and neighboring Arab environment.

2. Putting the Palestinian house in order according to well-established legislative and executive structures, which respect organizational work and effectively practice it, without being susceptible to persons’ resignation or death.

3.  Resistance factions and forces holding on to fundamentals have to communicate with all national powers to enhance this trend, including those who focus on resistance within Fatah.

4. It is probable for hostility towards Zionism to increase in international public opinion as a continuation to a development that started since the first Intifadah and continued in al-Aqsa Intifadah, and is still growing[4].  This issue is worth of attention and care from resistance forces, which need to work on developing it.

5. It seems that the trend of US retreat from the Arab region will continue, albeit slowly and waveringly, along with the growth of role of China, Russia, and some European powers. This means the need of the resistance and fundamentals current to address the policies of these major emerging powers with extreme care and political realism.

6. To not get involved in internal Arab issues and to pursue objective and clearly neutral positions regarding these issues.  

[1] It is known that the international and regional environment played a major role in carrying ‘Abbas to the center of Palestinian decision making despite great hesitance of Yasir ‘Arafat, as it appears in US President Bush speech on 24/6/2002, which mainly focused on this point. For full speech, Click Here
[2] Despite several statements expressing his unwillingness to assume the position, Click Here
[3] Abbas and nine members of the PLO Executive Council tendered their resignation.
[4] See the orientations of international public opinion in Al-Zaytouna’s annual Palestinian Strategic Report, from 2010 till present (Chapters of  the international situation). 

* Al-Zaytouna Centre thanks Dr. Walid ‘Abdul Hay for authoring the original text upon which this strategic assessment was based.

The Arabic version of this Assessment was published on 7/10/2015