Name? Hussein al-Sheikh
Westphalian identity? Palestinian
Why is he in the news? Hussein al-Sheikh is not in the news but he was part of the meeting between Palestine’s President Mahmoud Abbas and US President Biden today.
Why do we care? Because al-Sheikh has recently been appointed by Abbas as secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO)’s Executive Committee, making him the second most powerful leader in Palestine and most likely successor to Abbas. Abbas is 87 years old and has been the President of Palestine for 16 years and postponed elections since. This gives the possibility to al-Sheikh of succeeding him, despite being hugely unpopular among the Palestinian population.
Why should you care? Because al-Sheikh is regarded as more pragmatic than the previous generation of Palestine’s politicians. He previously said that he does not think Israel is serious about ending the occupation, so Palestinians have no option other than to keep working within the current arrangement. His approach seems to reflect the concrete reality that Israel has created in the past years and the fact that solidarity from other Arab leaders has decreased in the past few years. Movement that could actually improve the lives of Palestinians instead of stagnation should make you care 8/10.
Who else cares? US President Joe Biden. Al-Sheikh has been described as “a serious person and someone that U.S. officials have found they can work with”. This could pave the way for Biden to have a decisive role in peace between Israel and Palestine.
Any further comments? Al-Sheikh was detained for eleven years by Israeli forces between 1978 and 1989; during his time in Israeli prison, he learned Hebrew. Over these connections, he served as Palestine‘s General Authority of Civil Affairs since 2007. In this capacity, he served as one of the primary contacts with Israeli authorities, a role that has made him unpopular with the public but has drawn him close to Palestine’s President Abbas.