TEL AVIV – The United States has been promoting former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as a potential successor to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a source in the Palestinian president’s office told Breitbart Jerusalem.
The source said Abbas’ aides are dismayed at Israel’s “relentless attempts” to spread rumors about his allegedly ill health, which have undermined his leadership and sowed divisions within the Palestinian administration.
At the behest of Israel and some Arab regimes, the source said, Palestinian Authority officials have called for the appointment of a vice president and in some cases for ousting Abbas entirely.
He also said that U.S. and EU officials have contacted PA officials to explore the prospect of a Fayyad presidency, even though he is not a member of the ruling Fatah party. Besides serving as prime minister from 2007 to 2013, Fayyad also functioned as the PA’s finance minister.
The Palestinian officials were told that Fayyad is the international community’s favorite candidate due to his uncompromising positions against violence and corruption, and for negotiations with Israel, the source said.
A spokesperson for the State Department did not immediately return a request for comment on whether the U.S. was seeking to promote Fayyad as a replacement for Abbas.
Meanwhile, a critical interview with top Fatah official Jibril Rajoub broadcast on the PA’s official television channel signals the decline in Abbas’ prestige at home.
“We expect our president to lead the Palestinians and tell us what’s his policy on the stalemate in the peace process with Israel and the continued split with Hamas, rather than fly around the world and make state visits to Brazil and other places,” Rajoub said in an interview on the occasion of the 51st anniversary of Fatah’s first terror attack.
“Fatah is the movement that led the Palestinian revolution, but today nobody knows where it is going, what its policies are, and how some people made it to the top,” he said, not mincing his words.
In November, Breitbart Jerusalem reported on what a source in Abbas’s office described as a significant deterioration in the Palestinian leader’s health, leading to the cancellation of numerous meetings.
This past summer, numerous media reports surfaced alleging that Abbas intends to resign before the next Palestinian elections, with some citing his health as a reason. Palestinian law requires elections every four years, but the last took place ten years ago. Abbas has remained PA leader by annually extending an “emergency rule” decree in order to delay elections.
In August, The New York Times cited two sources on the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) saying that Abbas intends to step down as chairman of the committee while retaining his position as PA President.
At the time, PLO official and Senior Negotiator Saeb Erekat denied that Abbas was planning to step down from his position as chairman.
Abbas has in the passed faced questions about his health. In December 2014, rumors circulated that Abbas had suffered a stroke, prompting the Palestinian president to make a rare public appearance at a Ramallah supermarket with a Palestinian television crew in tow.