President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday named Hussein Al-Sheikh secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) Executive Committee.
Al-Sheikh has served as the Minister of Civil Affairs and member of the Fatah Central Committee.
Abbas’ decision is effective as of May 25.
The position had been held for years by the late Saeb Erekat, who was also the PLO's chief negotiator in talks with Israel.
Al-Sheikh enjoys close ties with Abbas and his appointment comes as no surprise. He was first handed a seat on the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee at a February conference the organization.
Renewing leadership was one of the most important outcomes of the conference, setting a prelude to a future stage related to who will succeed Abbas.
Before this meeting, the Fatah movement had determined its options and decided to push Hussein al-Sheikh to the Executive Committee to succeed Erekat and to keep Azzam al-Ahmad in his position alongside Abbas.
Fatah, formerly the Palestinian National Liberation Movement, is a Palestinian nationalist social-democratic political party and the largest faction of the confederated multi-party PLO and the second-largest party in the Palestinian Legislative Council.
Al-Sheikh’s appointment was Abbas’ personal decision and it brings him closer to succeeding the Palestinian president.
One of Abbas’s closest aides, al-Sheikh has long played a key role in Palestinian politics. In recent years he has taken over various diplomatic duties, often meeting with American and European diplomats, and flying to summits in Cairo with Abbas.
He also enjoys close ties with his Israeli counterparts. Along with PA intelligence chief Majed Faraj, al-Sheikh attended every meeting between Abbas and senior Israeli officials over the past year.
However, Sheikh also has little public legitimacy, having never been democratically elected to a senior position.