Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas turns 80, looking back on bold moves to bring Palestinian statehood closer and a blighted decade of leadership.
No successor has been named, and behind-the-scenes maneuvering for his job is reported. The apparent front-runners include Marwan Barghouti, who is in prison in Israel, and Mohammad Dahlan, who lives in the United Arab Emirates and publicly challenges Abbas' leadership.
The continuing economic problems of the territories and Abbas' failure to deliver benefits from the perennially faltering peace process or to halt Israel's settlement building in Palestinian territory blight his legacy.
On December 30, 2014, the United Nations Security Council voted down a Palestinian statehood resolution that set a deadline for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Palestinian territories by 2017. The rejection led Abbas to sign papers in January 2015 for Palestinians to join the International Criminal Court, a move seen as a gamble. Sweden's recognition in 2014 of Palestinian statehood, with other European countries moving the same way, amount to bright spots in Abbas' legacy.
His newer challenges include the deaths of three Israeli students and the retaliatory killing of a Palestinian child in July 2014, among the triggers for Israel's military raid on the Gaza Strip in the same month. The shooting of an Israeli extremist and temporary closure by Israel of al-Aqsa mosque in November 2014, are taking the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to its most precarious point in nearly 10 years and threatening the fragile reconciliation between the PLO and rival Palestinian organization, Hamas.
Also known as Abu Mazen, Abbas is one of few surviving founding members of Fatah - the main political group within the Palestinian Liberation Organization.
Date written/update: 2015-01-23