An Israeli news outlet reported Wednesday that a specialist doctor provided by Israel helped save the life of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas last year.
The 83-year-old Abbas was hospitalized at Ramallah’s Istishari Arab Hospital in May 2018, with a severe ear infection that rapidly developed into pneumonia and other complications, placing Abbas for a time in a life-threatening situation, according to a Ynet news site report that did not name its source.
Fearful for his life, and for the stability of the PA if he were to die, Israeli officials quietly offered to hospitalize Abbas at an Israeli hospital, which has more advanced care possibilities than Palestinian hospitals, the report said.
After some consideration, Palestinian officials rejected the request, according to Ynet, because they feared an outcry from the Palestinian public.
Israel then sent a specialist doctor to Abbas’s hospital to join the medical team treating the Palestinian leader, Ynet said.
After two days of intensive treatment, Abbas’s condition improved and his life was no longer in danger. He was released a few days later, after being hospitalized for a total of nine days.
The Palestinian leadership at the time was working hard to cover up Abbas’s condition, according to multiple Israeli media reports.
Abbas suffered several health scares in 2018. He was hospitalized at the Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland, in February, for what unconfirmed media reports indicated were tests to determine if he had stomach cancer. The biopsy was negative.
Israeli media reported in August about another deterioration in the PA leader’s health, prompting swift pushback from Abbas’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. The report also said Abbas had experienced disorientation and a general feeling of weakness and had significantly reduced his work load, only showing up at his office for two hours a day.
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 at the time, adding: “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.”
Following Wednesday’s report in Ynet, an official in Abbas’s office told The Times of Israel he was unaware of an Israeli doctor treating Abbas when he was ill last year or an Israeli offer to transfer the PA president to a hospital in the Jewish state at the time. There was an American doctor on the team treating Abbas, the official said.
Israeli doctors are not an uncommon sight in Palestinian areas, especially clinics in impoverished towns that work with NGOs providing medical care. In general, the field of medical care is one of the few in which Israeli-Palestinian cooperation has continued unabated over years of conflict and strife.
Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.