Palestinian leader Abbas says ‘Jerusalem issue’ put him in hospital

After nine days of treatment for pneumonia, PA president, 83, says he is in full health and will return to work Tuesday

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, flanked by his two sons Yasser, left, and Tarek, right, gives a short statement before leaving a Ramallah hospital on May 28, 2018. (AFP Photo/Abbas Momani)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, flanked by his two sons Yasser, left, and Tarek, right, gives a short statement before leaving a Ramallah hospital on May 28, 2018. (AFP Photo/Abbas Momani)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday blamed the stress of  the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital for his ill health after he was discharged Monday after being hospitalized for nine days.

Flanked by his two sons and Palestinian officials, and speaking in a steady voice, Abbas said he would quickly return to work and thanked supporters around the world for checking in on him while he was in the hospital.

“Thank God I’m discharged from the hospital today in full health, and will return back to work from tomorrow,” Abbas said.

But he hinted that the heavy workload and stress of the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, as well as the transfer of its embassy there, had affected his health.

“The health of the state is good, we will achieve our goal which is an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital,” Abbas said. “If the story of Jerusalem put me in the hospital, then I leave and say that Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine.”

The Palestinians strongly objected to the US decision on Jerusalem, and the subsequent relocation of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem earlier this month. The Palestinians believe the US move undercuts their claim to parts of Jerusalem as the capital of a future state, and Abbas froze ties with the Americans after US President Donald Trump announced the move.

Israel welcomed the decision of US President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as its capital.

The United States has denied prejudicing the final status of Jerusalem. But the standoff with the Palestinians has complicated US plans to unveil a proposal for Mideast peace. US officials have not said when the plan will be unveiled.

Abbas, 83, had been hospitalized with pneumonia during which doctors refused to confirm a schedule for his release.

Pictures and video of Abbas walking around the wards and reading a newspaper were published last Monday, in an apparent attempt to calm rumors that his condition was worse than officially reported.

Abbas was admitted on May 20 to the Istishari Arab Hospital near Ramallah in the West Bank with complications following an ear operation, including high fever.

Officials later confirmed he was being treated for pneumonia.

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

“Some are using the president’s illness for political gain. Shame on them,” said Jibril Rajoub, a former security chief who is considered to be one of the would-be successors.

Palestinian Football Association head Jibril Rajoub delivers a speech during the 67th FIFA Congress in the Bahraini capital Manama on May 11, 2017. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)

Abbas Zaki, a top official in Abbas’ ruling Fatah party, dodged the question of succession, saying the Palestine Liberation Organization, an umbrella governing body, “will be in charge if the president’s post is empty.”

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 he 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 in decades of 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.

Avi Issacharoff contributed to this report.

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