Senior Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) official Saeb Erekat, who has long served as the chief negotiator in "peace talks" with Israel, was named the secretary-general of the PLO on Monday, in a move possibly signifying he will soon replace PLO and Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
Erekat took the post of secretary-general which is second only to Abbas's position as chairman on the PLO Executive Committee, reports the Palestinian Arab Ma'an News Agency on Tuesday.
Abbas's term as chairman officially ended in January 2009, but he has remained in the role despite the lack of elections or a popular mandate.
Erekat was appointed secretary-general in place of Yasser Abed Rabbo, who was fired two weeks ago reportedly for being involved in a conspiracy against Abbas with Mohammad Dahlan, Abbas's exiled rival.
Ma'an reported on speculation that Erekat may replace Abbas in the near future, but Ashraf Khatib, a senior adviser in the PLO's negotiation department, claimed to the paper that there is "no fact behind" the speculation.
According to Khatib, Erekat in his new role will focus for now on "restructuring" the PLO, saying it is "up to the decision of the Palestinian leadership and Fatah" whether Erekat will later run in presidential elections, if they are ever held.
If Erekat is to replace Abbas, what can be expected?
His past statements have indicated that his positions include strengthening ties with Hamas and supporting terrorism more directly, and he has also called on the PLO to retract its limited recognition of Israel.
He has called for full forced Israeli withdrawals from Judea and Samaria, justified the murder of Israeli babies, equated the Islamic State (ISIS) with Israel, and revealed that the point of the negotiations with Israel that he led from mid 2013 to early 2014 was simply to release terrorists, of which 78 were eventually freed in "gestures."