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Rumored Successor to Abbas 'Would Be Death to Peace Process'

A Saudi paper reports that Abbas wants Muhammad (Abu Maher) Ghneim, and not Marwan Barghouti, to replace him. US sources: death of peace process.
By Dalit Halevy and Gil Ronen
First Publish: 11/19/2009, 7:48 PM / Last Update: 11/19/2009, 8:24 PM

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PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas is serious about retiring from political life and wants senior Fatah official Muhammad (Abu Maher) Ghneim to replace him, according to the Saudi newspaper Al Jazeera. Relying on “Palestinian sources,” the newspaper reports that Abbas's statement that he wishes to retire was not a bluff aimed at pressuring Israel.

Ghneim, 72, was a founding member of the Fatah terror group in 1954 and participated in the founding of the PLO in 1964. He is a member of the militant stream inside the organization and played an important role alongside Khalil El Wazir (Abu Jihad) in initiating the First Intifada in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Ghneim opposed the Oslo peace agreements.

Israel allowed Ghneim to enter Judea and Samaria earlier this year to participate in the Fatah general convention, but it did not grant him permission to stay permanently and he had to leave after three months.

Ghneim is considered the second most important man in Fatah today due, among other reasons, to his appointment as Abbas's deputy in command of “Palestinian armed forces.” His main rival for leadership is Marwan Barghouti, who is in jail in Israel.

American sources quoted by the Al Jazeera newspaper said that “if Abu Maher Ghneim is appointed chairman of the Palestinian Authority this would mean the death of the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.”