Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas pushed Mideast peace prospects into unknown territory Thursday, announcing he doesn’t want another term and opening the way to a succession battle that could play into the hands of his rival, the militant Hamas.
But it also could boost the prospects of a popular candidate who reportedly wants to run for the presidency from his Israeli prison cell.
Abbas blamed his decision on the stalemate in peace talks, but the wording of his televised speech raised speculation that it was not final and could be a tactic for pushing Israel and the U.S. toward a larger compromise.
He said only that it was his “desire not to run in the upcoming elections,” which are set for January but could be delayed, extending his current term indefinitely.
Abbas took over after the death of Yasser Arafat in 2004, and Western leaders have come to see him as a symbol of moderation.