RAMALLAH, West Bank – With paths to Palestinian statehood blocked, President Mahmoud Abbas, 80, is warning he's fast-tracking his retirement and hinting he will announce dramatic policy changes at the United Nations this month, including a more confrontational relationship with Israel's right-wing government.
The leader's comments have unleashed a swirl of questions. If he is serious, who would succeed him? If he's not, what's his agenda? And would any of it bring the Palestinians closer to statehood as Washington and the rest of the world now appear transfixed by the war against ISIL, the Iran nuclear deal and the Syrian refugee crisis? Here is a look at what is shaping up to be a tempestuous fall.
Abbas holds three top positions — head of the Palestine Liberation Organization, leader of the Fatah Party and president of the Palestinian Authority.
Formally, the PLO chief is the most important, but actual power rests with the authority's presidency.
Abbas told the PLO Executive Committee last week that he won't seek PLO and Fatah leadership positions in upcoming internal elections.
"Now the question is whether he really means it," said Hanan Ashrawi, an Executive Committee member. "I'm afraid the only person who really knows is Abu Mazen."
The extent of despair
Driving Abbas is a deep sense of frustration.
He was elected a decade ago on a promise to deliver Palestinian statehood through negotiations with Israel. Hopes were dashed when Benjamin Netanyahu became Israel's prime minister in 2009 and rejected the internationally backed premise favoring such a state, with some modifications, in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem.
A mediation mission by Secretary of State John Kerry collapsed in 2014, and the U.S. appears to show little interest in reviving peace efforts.
Abbas addresses the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 30.
He told PLO leaders that he will declare he is implementing previous PLO resolutions, including potentially explosive moves such as suspending security coordination and rethinking economic ties with Israel.