Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas has officially appointed Hussein al-Sheikh to be the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and head of the PLO negotiating team, the official WAFA news agency reported Saturday.
Al-Sheikh, a civil affairs minister in the Palestinian Authority and senior official in the ruling Fatah faction also headed by Abbas, recently hosted a US delegation to Ramallah. He led a series of meetings in preparation for US President Joe Biden’s upcoming Middle East trip.
The new PLO chief is known for maintaining ties with security and diplomatic officials in Israel as well and met with both Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz several times in the past year.
Al-Sheikh succeeded the late Saeb Erekat in his new roles, which together place him second only to Abbas himself as the top of the Palestinian Authority leadership.
Ultimately, it will be al-Sheikh who has the greatest chance of succeeding Abbas, given his current status – at least for now, until and unless Abbas forces him out and replaces him, as he has done with so many others he came to believe were a threat.