PA denies TV report Abbas suffering memory loss, limiting work day to 2 hours
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PA denies TV report Abbas suffering memory loss, limiting work day to 2 hours

After Channel 10 details alleged health woes of Palestinian Authority leader, 83, his office insists it’s ‘business as usual’

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, center, attends a meeting with top decision-making body the Palestinian Central Council, at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on August 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, center, attends a meeting with top decision-making body the Palestinian Central Council, at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on August 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s health has deteriorated rapidly lately, an Israeli report said Wednesday, prompting swift pushback from the Palestinian leader’s office.

Citing unnamed officials close to the PA chief, Channel 10 news reported that Abbas has suffered significant memory lapses in recent months and struggles to remember names and faces — including those of close associates.

Furthermore, Abbas has experienced disorientation and a general feeling of weakness, the report said, and has significantly reduced his work load, only showing up at his office for two hours a day. He has a doctor on hand at his Ramallah headquarters, and the doctor checks him at least once a day, the report also claimed.

An official in Abbas’s office swiftly denied the report.

“The president has been coming to work regularly. He has been coming to work for four hours in the morning and early afternoon and then again in the evening for five hours,” the official told The Times of Israel.

The official said Abbas had been ill when he spent 10 days hospitalized in the spring, but was re-energized when he traveled to Moscow for the World Cup finals.

“He fell ill in May. But since just before he went to Russia to meet President Putin in June, his health has improved tremendously. It has been business as usual in recent weeks,” the official said.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas shown recovering in a hospital on May 22, 2018, reading a newspaper (Wafa news agency)

Belying the report, Abbas has appeared to keep up a regular public schedule in recent days, meeting a Bosnian leader Wednesday and a group of Israeli academics on Tuesday.

Abbas, 83, was hospitalized for over a week in May for pneumonia, during which doctors refused to confirm a schedule for his release, fueling rumors about his health. He later blamed stress stemming from US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital for putting him in the hospital.

His extended hospitalization led to widespread speculation over his condition, particularly with no successor publicly in line for the PA presidency.

Abbas, who is a heavy smoker and overweight, has a long history of health issues, ranging from heart trouble to a bout with prostate cancer a decade ago.

In February, he underwent what were described as routine medical tests in the United States.

Abbas won a four-year term as PA president in 2005, but has since remained in office without further elections.

Abbas argues the split between his Fatah party and Islamist terror group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, has made elections politically impossible.

A relative moderate, he has been involved for decades in negotiations with Israel but is increasingly poorly regarded by Israelis, including because of several recent anti-Israel and anti-Semitic speeches. He is also unpopular among Palestinians, with the majority wanting him to step down.

Adam Rasgon and agencies contributed to this report.

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