President Trump's backpedaling on the U.S. commitment to a two-state solution shines a spotlight on the Palestinians’ looming leadership crisis. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, now 81, has yet to cultivate a successor, and his administration faces growing concerns about its credibility twelve years after the last national elections. How should the next generation of Palestinian leaders approach such complex issues as Israeli settlement expansion, a Fatah-Hamas reconciliation, economic troubles, and engagement on the international stage?
On March 3, MEI scholar Yousef Munayyer was joined by Gabriel Mitchell (Mitvim), Omar Shaban (PalThink), and Sarah Yerkes (Brookings) for a discussion about the question of succession and the future of Palestinian politics. What is the likelihood of a new leadership emerging? How can diaspora communities have a voice in the process? And what are the options for a new Palestinian leadership to better address these mounting challenges?
Barbara Plett Usher, BBC correspondent at the State Department, moderated the discussion.
U.S. Representative, The Mitvim Institute
Gabriel Mitchell is the United States Representative of the Mitvim Institute. His research interests include energy politics, Israel-Turkey relations, Israeli foreign policy, and defining the national interest. Before coming to the Mitvim Institute, Mitchell was a research fellow at the Shalem Center and an editor at the Times of Israel. His work has appeared in publications that include The National Interest, The American Interest, Turkish Policy Quarterly, and The New Republic. Mitchell holds an MA in political science from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and is currently completing his PhD in Government & International Affairs at Virginia Tech.
Yousef Munayyer is executive director of the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights and executive director of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. Previously he served as executive director of the Jerusalem Fund and Palestine Center, and has worked as a Policy Analyst for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. He frequently writes on matters of foreign policy in the Arab and Muslim world, civil rights, and civil liberties in the United States. His writings have appeared in every major metropolitan newspaper in the United States and many others internationally as well as online. He has frequently appeared to comment on national and international media outlets including CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, NBC, CBS, Al-Jazeera English, C-Span, among others.
Director, PalThink for Strategic Studies
Omar Shaban is an independent researcher and analyst on political economy of the Middle East specializing in Palestinian affairs and the founder of PalThink for Strategic Studies. He was born to a Palestinian refugee family and grew up in Gaza. He was a candidate for the 1st Palestinian parliamentary elections in 1996. Omar regularly writes for various international magazines and has been interviewed by many well-known international newspapers. He occasionally participates in conferences on political and economic issues, as well as Palestinian affairs such as the reconstruction of Gaza, the reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the Euro-Med cooperation.
Nonresident fellow, Brookings Center for Middle East Policy
Sarah Yerkes is a nonresident fellow in the Brookings Center for Middle East Policy and a Council on Foreign Relations international affairs fellow. She is a former member of the State Department’s policy planning staff, where she focused on North Africa. Her research focuses on the relationship between the state and society in the Middle East. Previously, she was a foreign affairs officer in the State’s Department’s Office of Israel and Palestinian Affairs. Yerkes also served as a geopolitical research analyst for the U.S. military’s Joint Staff Strategic Plans and Policy Directorate (J5) at the Pentagon, advising the Joint Staff leadership on foreign policy and national security issues.
Barbara Plett Usher, moderator
Barbara Plett Usher is a correspondent with the BBC. Prior to her appointment to the United Nations in mid-2009, she was based in Pakistan. She joined the BBC as a freelancer from Cairo in 1995, after reporting on the start of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the Islamist militant campaign against the rule of then President Hosni Mubarak. She moved on to postings in Amman and Jerusalem, from where she followed stories across the Middle East and was involved in co-presenting BBC World TV programmes from the field.While in Jordan she monitored the sanctions years in Iraq. Barbara was also on hand for key events in the second Palestinian intifadah, reporting under siege in Ramallah for one month in 2002 during the Israeli re-occupation of West Bank cities. Two years later she covered the illness and death of the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.