PA chief Abbas owes life to Israeli doctor, reports say

When Mahmoud Abbas was hospitalized last May, his condition deteriorated until Israel sent in a specialist.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas could have died last May had it not been for Israeli intervention, Ynet News reported Wednesday.

Admitted to a private Ramallah hospital for a serious ear infection, the PA leader’s health went downhill quickly as he contracted pneumonia. Despite the efforts of his doctors, including foreign specialists, it was feared that the 83-year-old would not recover, the report said. That’s when the Israeli government stepped in.

First the offer was made to transfer Abbas to an Israeli medical center, whose advanced facilities outstrip those in the PA. This was refused, according to Ynet, because PA officials feared an angry response from the Palestinian street should the news leak.

Instead, Israel sent a specialist to Abbas who worked together with his medical team and managed to stabilize him after two days of intensive treatment. He was released from the hospital a week later.

The PA first claimed that the president had been admitted for minor ear surgery, and then returned for medical tests. A few days later they admitted that Abbas had a lung infection, but that he was “responding to the treatment quickly and is recovering.” The president’s office released pictures showing him walking unaided in the hospital hallway and sitting reading a newspaper, to convey a reassuring picture to the public.

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Abbas, a heavy smoker, reportedly quit the habit following this scare, but health issues have continued to dog the aging leader. In August, Israel’s Channel 10 News cited unnamed Palestinians who said that when they visited him during the Eid al-Adha holiday, he did not remember who they were. Officials in the president’s office immediately rejected the claims of mental disorientation, saying that Abbas is on a full work schedule.

Ynet appears to confirm this. The site reports that Abbas spent 109 days last years flying to 17 countries, including two trips each to the United States and Russia. Last week he flew to New York to take over the chairmanship of the G77, the largest U.N. bloc.

The octogenarian’s health is of great concern to Israel, as he has groomed no particular successor and there are many in the PA who will spar for the leadership when he leaves office or dies. It is feared that this scenario will be a bloody and protracted one, and Israel has no interest in having the relatively stable security situation in the PA come apart at the seams as a result.