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Despite Denial of Cancer, Concern for Abbas’s Health Grows

Although those close to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas firmly deny rumors that he has cancer, serious concerns about the PA President’s health continue to grow. Most ominous among those concerns is the probable chaos brought on by the fight to fill a power vacuum that would follow the sudden-death of Abbas. That cardiac specialists are in near proximity to President Abbas 24/7 is seemingly common knowledge on the Palestinian street as is the reality that recent polling indicates some 68% of Palestinians want Abbas to step aside. The speculation about Abbas’s health has, in turn, triggered the traditional speculation about “who is next?” Most entries in the guessing-game are less-than-exciting to most voters. Of concern to young Palestinians is the dearth of new names on the speculative list which is so far limited to the “usual suspects.” They are topped by Mohammad Dahlan, the former Gaza security chief for the Palestinian Authority before the enclave was taken over by Hamas, who has been living in exile in the Gulf, and who has been considered the preferred candidate by Western nations; and the presumed leading vote-getter Marwan Barghouti. Although he regularly tops the polls, the former head of the Fatah faction’s Tanzim terror team is in an Israeli prison where he is serving five consecutive life terms for murder. Despite Barghouti’s predicament, many believe the Israelis could strike a deal that would allow him to serve.