West Bank officials on Saturday insisted that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was in good health following last week’s health scare, but would travel to the Jordanian capital for further medical tests if his Ramallah doctors recommended it.
Palestinian sources emphasized the 81-year-old leader’s life was “not in danger at all,” according to Channel 10 News.
Abbas on Thursday underwent an emergency cardiac catheterization at the Istishari Hospital in Ramallah after suffering exhaustion and chest pains. He was discharged later that day and given a clean bill of health by heart specialist Dr. Mohammed al-Batrawi, who said the procedures he ordered for the president were routine.
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.
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 terror group seized control of the Gaza Strip, and Abbas has remained in power.
The Palestinians are currently divided between two governments, Abbas’s Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the Hamas government in Gaza. Attempts at reconciliation have repeatedly failed, and this week the Palestinians called off plans to hold municipal elections in the two territories.
Abbas, who is a heavy smoker and is overweight, was treated years ago with 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 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. Perhaps the most popular potential successor, Marwan Barghouti, is serving multiple life sentences in an Israeli prison for his role in deadly attacks on Israelis. Hamas would also likely demand a say in choosing a new leader.
Even choosing a caretaker leader ahead of future elections will 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’s Fatah party has argued that since parliament has not functioned in nearly a decade, Dweik would not be eligible to lead the Palestinians.