Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, 81, was reportedly given a clean bill of health on Thursday following an emergency heart procedure. Despite his advanced age, he has ignored calls to choose a successor.
Although Abbas was expected to be discharged, the health scare drew attention to the chaotic leadership situation in the Palestinian territories — where there is no succession plan for the aging leader and which are divided between two rival governments.
Dr. Mohammed al-Batrawi, a heart specialist who treated Abbas, said he ordered the president to go to the hospital for testing after Abbas felt tired and experienced chest pains at his office. He said Abbas went through a number of routine tests, including a cardiac catheterization, a procedure that can detect and treat heart problems, and that everything looked normal.
“His arteries look great, and there is no need for him to stay in the hospital,” al-Batrawi said. “He is leaving shortly.”
Abbas, who has a history of health issues, was elected president in 2005 for what was supposed to be a four-year term. But in 2007 the rival Hamas terrorist group seized control of the Gaza Strip, and Abbas has remained in power in the Palestinian Authority (PA)-administered territories.
The Palestinians are now divided between two governments. Attempts at reconciliation have repeatedly failed, and this week the Palestinians called off plans to hold municipal elections.
Abbas, who is a heavy smoker and is overweight, was treated years ago for prostate cancer and has had a stent inserted to treat artery blockage.
He also is under great pressure as his popularity has plummeted. The Palestinian public is frustrated over years of failed peace efforts with Israel. Over the past week, he also has come under heavy criticism at home for attending the funeral of the late former Israeli president, Shimon Peres.
Over the years, Abbas has ignored calls to appoint a successor, setting the stage for a bitter power struggle if he is incapacitated.
A long list of senior officials and security chiefs would likely covet the job, though there is no clear front-runner. Arguably the most popular potential successor, Marwan Barghouti, is serving multiple life sentences in an Israeli prison for his role in deadly terror attacks on Israelis. Hamas would also likely demand a say in choosing a new leader.
Even choosing a caretaker leader ahead of future elections would be a difficult task. Under Palestinian law, the parliament speaker is supposed to take over if the president is incapacitated or dies. But the current speaker, Aziz Dweik, is a member of Hamas.
Abbas’ Fatah party has argued that since parliament has not functioned in nearly a decade, Dweik would not be eligible to lead the Palestinians.
Some reports indicate that Abbas, widely accused of corruption, had recently refused a request from four Arab states to name a successor because he will only pick someone who will preserve his sons’ business empire.
By: AP and United with Israel Staff
Sign the Petition to Stop Funding the Palestinian Authority
Petition to the United States and European Union