Palestinian National Council to Elect New Leaders Amid Abbas Health Rumors

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, center, speaks during a meeting with the Palestinian Central Council, a top decision-making body, at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed,l)
AP /Majdi Mohammed

TEL AVIV — The Palestinian National Council will hold its first meeting in nearly a decade next month to elect new leaders — possibly paving the way for a successor to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas — and discuss U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, officials said Wednesday.

“The Palestinian National Council (PNC) will convene on April 30th, to discuss challenges to the Palestinian cause, especially after the U.S. decision against Jerusalem,” PLO official Wasel Abu Youssef told Reuters.

The PNC, which is the legislative arm of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), has some 700 members. Other officials said the meeting would also elect individuals to the powerful 18-member Executive Committee, the Palestinian leadership’s top decision-making body, since members have either died or Abbas wants to see them replaced. Abbas’ number two in the committee is chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who recently underwent a lung transplant.

The news comes as rumors swirl that Abbas, who turns 83 this month, is suffering from cancer. Last week, journalists were banned from filming the Fatah revolutionary council due to his health, sources told i24NEWSAbbas reportedly told members at that meeting that it was possibly his “last session” with them.

The PNC meeting next month, while not intended to select a successor to Abbas, will give a good indication of who is in the running. Two of the front-runners are said to be Jibril Rajoub, a former security chief and current head of the Palestinian football association who glorifies terror and has referred to Jews as “Satan,” and Mahmoud al-Aloul, a former terror chief in the Palestine Liberation Organization in Lebanon.

Rajoub, himself a former terrorist who has served time in Israeli jails, has vowed to “work with the Arab countries to thwart the deal” for peace formulated by the Trump administration, which the Palestinians have said can no longer be a broker in the negotiations process. He has also said the deal was designed to “liquidate” and “end” the Palestinian cause.

The PNC last held what it calls a “regular session” in 1996, with then-President Bill Clinton in attendance. Back then, it voted in favor of amending clauses in the PLO’s charter calling for Israel’s destruction. However, the changes were never implemented.

A Palestinian general election has not been held since 2006 since the Hamas terror group won and seized control of the Abbas-run government in Gaza.

Last month, Abbas was briefly hospitalized while in the U.S. for what officials insisted were routine tests. 20 years ago, the ageing leader underwent surgery for prostate cancer.

The PNC earlier this month reacted with anger to the news that the U.S. embassy would move to Jerusalem to coincide with Israel’s 70th anniversary, saying it was a “blatant defiance towards the international, Arab and Islamic will” and “an intensification of the aggression.”

“The Council emphasized that the American administration’s insistence on carrying out the aggressive decision proves again that it has chosen isolation and to distance itself from peace in favor of the occupation, and has made it responsible for the consequences of this,” a news report on PA TV said.

The Council also urged the Arab world to use all its resources to prevent the embassy relocation from happening.

“The Council demanded that the Arab and Islamic nation defend Jerusalem and its holy sites, and harness their full abilities and connections in order to prevent the execution of this decision,” the report translated by Palestinian Media Watch said.



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