PA leader 'not right in the head,' says potential successor

Top Abbas aide heard bashing Palestinian leader for mismanaging succession

Hussein al-Sheikh, one of the leading candidates to helm PA, calls Abbas ‘son of 66 whores’ for allowing issue to foment internal anarchy, in tapes leaked to Hamas-linked site

Secretary General of the Executive Committee of the PLO Hussein al-Sheikh at his office in Ramallah, June 13, 2022. (AP Photo/ Nasser Nasser)
Secretary General of the Executive Committee of the PLO Hussein al-Sheikh at his office in Ramallah, June 13, 2022. (AP Photo/ Nasser Nasser)

A top adviser to Mahmoud Abbas was heard insulting the Palestinian Authority president as “the son of 66 whores” and accusing him of stoking a chaotic succession battle, in leaked tapes published Tuesday, laying bare angry fissures within the ruling Fatah party.

In the obscenity-laced recording, published by the Hamas-affiliated Shehab news site, Fatah Secretary General Hussein al-Sheikh can be heard angrily venting frustration over the 88-year-old Palestinian leader’s handling of internal tensions over who will succeed him.

“The succession is at the heart of everything,” al-Sheikh is heard saying at one point during what was believed to have been a conversation from several years ago.

Abbas “is complicit in the anarchy and has an interest in maintaining it for his own survival,” he added, expressing frustration over the lack of consultation on the process. “It pains me to say these things, but this process is completely different from after the death of Yasser Arafat.”

It was not clear who al-Sheikh was talking to in the recordings, but he is heard speaking with open derision for the Palestinian leader’s governing style, describing him as testy and mercurial.

Abbas is the “son of 66 whores, he comes and gives his decisions without explanations,” he is heard saying. “He is not right in the head if he thinks we can do the right thing without explaining his intentions.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas gestures while speaking to Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting on the sidelines of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) summit, in Astana, Kazakhstan, Thursday, October 13, 2022. (Vyacheslav Prokofyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

A former minister in charge of liaising with Israeli authorities, al-Sheikh was appointed earlier this year to replace the late Saeb Erekat as head of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee and as point person on diplomatic negotiations. The promotion was seen boosting his chances to eventually succeed Abbas as head of the Fatah party, though several others are also vying for the job.

The aging Abbas, whose presidential term officially ended in 2009, has clung to power through successive health scares and serially canceled elections, and has never named a successor, though in the recording, al-Sheikh says Abbas has begun favoring Mahmoud Aloul, a former governor of Nablus.

In another leaked recording, al-Sheikh talks trash about other officials seen as contenders for the top spot, including spy chief Majed Faraj, whom he criticized for contacts with officials in Gaza.

“Fuck him in the ass,” he is heard saying.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meets with the heads of Egyptian and Jordanian intelligence, aided by his own intelligence chief Majed Faraj on January 17, 2021. (WAFA/Thair Ghanayem)

Airing dismay over the size of the field of contenders to succeed Abbas, al-Sheikh is heard claiming that the Hamas terror group was using the divisions to its own advantage.

“The current situation in which there are five people battling for succession is a disaster for the Palestinian Authority,” he said, adding in English that it was “the end of the game.”

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