Aging And Ailing, Who Will Succeed Current Palestinian Leaders? | 3/16/2017 | Staff
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JERUSALEM/RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) – Palestinian politics is a relentless and often fruitless pursuit: after more than two decades of on-off negotiations, a state remains out of reach. Now add to the mix rising age and failing health.

President Mahmoud Abbas, who will be 83 in March, has been in hospital for frequent check-ups in recent months and received treatment abroad. His chief peace negotiator, Saeb Erekat, is 20 years younger and a keen runner, but he is suffering from pulmonary fibrosis and needs a lung transplant.

Aides - Abbas - Erekat - Tireless - Oxygen

Aides to Abbas say he remains strong and those who work with Erekat describe him as tireless, even when having to use an oxygen tank to aid breathing. In an email, Erekat declined to discuss his health in detail, calling it a private matter.

“I would like to keep it this way,” he said.

Fact - Palestinians - World - Stage - Erekat

The fact that two of the most prominent Palestinians on the world stage are aging and, in Erekat’s case, in need of life-saving surgery has prompted questions in both Israel and the Palestinian territories about what comes next.

If the president of the past 12 years and his chief negotiator leave the scene, who would take over? And given the deep divisions in Palestinian politics, with Abbas’s Fatah party at sharp odds with Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls Gaza, what are the risks of internal armed conflict?

Analysts - Observers - Affairs - Chances - Fighting

Most analysts and observers of Palestinian affairs see the chances of full-on fighting between Fatah and Hamas as remote, especially with Israel, which keeps Gaza under a tight blockade and occupies the West Bank and East Jerusalem, having an interest in preventing it.

And at the same time, while Abbas may have dominated the scene since Yasser Arafat’s death in 2004, it is not as if the Palestinians are without the political structures or wherewithal to find a...
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