Palestinians to Hold Leadership Meeting on April 30

RAMALLAH (AP) -

The chief Palestinian legislative body will hold its first meeting in nearly a decade next month to elect a new leadership, officials said Wednesday, a step that could pave the way for a future successor to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

According to Ahmad Majdalani, a top Palestinian official, the nearly 700-member Palestine National Council will meet on April 30 in Ramallah.

The purpose of the meeting would be to discuss political issues and to fill positions on the Executive Committee, officials said.

The 18-member committee is the top Palestinian decision-making body. But it is dominated by an aging leadership and it has struggled to function properly in recent years. One member recently died, while at least two others have been weakened by health issues.

Pres. Abbas, who turns 83 this month, has never designated a successor, despite suffering from a number of health issues.

Although the meeting is not meant to formally choose a successor, the composition of the new executive committee could give a strong indication of who the front-runners will be.

The two front-runners are believed to be Jebril Rajoub, a former security chief, and Mahmoud Aloul, a former terrorist chief in the Palestine Liberation Organization in Lebanon. Both men are on the executive committee.