Arafat and Abbas

Portraits of Leadership in a State Postponed

September 2019 9781787381438 256pp
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This landmark volume presents vivid and intimate portraits of Palestinian Presidents Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas, revealing the impact these different personalities have had on the struggle for national self-determination. Arafat and Abbas lived in Palestine as young children. Uprooted by the 1948 war, they returned in 1994 to serve as the first and second presidents of the Palestinian Authority, the establishment of which has been the Palestine Liberation Organization’s greatest step towards self-determination for the Palestinian nation. Both Arafat and Abbas were shaped by earlier careers in the PLO, and each adopted their own controversial leadership methods and decision-making styles.

Drawing on primary sources in Arabic, Hebrew and English, Klein gives special attention to the lesser-known Abbas: his beliefs and his disagreements with Israeli and American counterparts. The book uncovers new details about Abbas’ peace talks and US foreign policy towards Palestine, and analyses the political evolution of Hamas and Abbas’ succession struggle. Klein also highlights the tension between the ageing leader and his society.

Arafat and Abbas offers a comprehensive and balanced account of the Palestinian Authority’s achievements and failures over its twenty-five years of existence. What emerges is a Palestinian nationalism that refuses to disappear.


‘Klein [has] authored a valuable comparative analysis of the only two presidents of the Palestinian Authority … [this] important monograph includes an especially pertinent and contemporary critique of the perceptions and attitudes of both Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, as well as the close role of the US in influencing them.’ — CHOICE

‘Klein provides rich insights into the psychological makeup of his two principals, the personal inclinations that have contributed to their successes and their failures.’ — Fathom

‘Menachem Klein, one of Israel’s foremost experts on the Palestinian issue, has written a superb comparative biography of Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas. This is a critical read for anyone interested in the Palestinian–Israeli conflict, for it dissects clearly the leadership challenges within Palestinian society.’ — Daniel Kurtzer, Professor of Middle East Policy Studies, Princeton University, and former US Ambassador to Israel (2001–05) and Egypt (1997–2001)

‘With so much attention devoted to how Israeli policies led to the collapse of the Oslo peace process, struggles and trends among Palestinians are often neglected. Klein builds on decades of research to illuminate the accomplishments and failures of Palestinian leadership, the political transformation of Hamas, and the disastrous decline of the Palestinian Authority.’ — Ian S. Lustick, Professor of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania

‘A trenchant, insightful and timely book on the leadership styles and records of two Palestinian presidents who for better or worse have shaped the strategy of the Palestinian national movement for more than half a century.’ — Aaron David Miller, former Middle East analyst and negotiator, US Department of State

‘Casts a more critical eye toward internal Palestinian politics, adeptly describing how limited institutions of Palestinian self-governance were created by Arafat and Fatah, later to be inherited and perpetuated by Abbas.’ — Bustan: The Middle East Book Review


Menachem Klein teaches in the Department of Political Science, Bar-Ilan University, Israel, and was a team member of the Geneva Initiative Negotiations in 2003. He has advised both the Israeli government and the Israeli delegation for peace talks with the PLO (2000) and was a fellow at Oxford University and a visiting professor at MIT. He is the author of The Shift: Israel-Palestine from Border Struggle to Ethnic Conflict, also published by Hurst.

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