Abbas Meets With World Jewish Congress President Ron Lauder in Ramallah

Lauder arrived in Ramallah in a Jordanian helicopter, sparking rumors on social media about health of Palestinian Executive General Saeb Erekat, who has tested positive for COVID

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Abbas speaks at a meeting of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, January 22, 2020.
Abbas speaks at a meeting of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, January 22, 2020.Credit: Majdi Mohammed/AP
Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas held a three-hour meeting at his office in Ramallah on Saturday with World Jewish Congress President Ron Lauder, an aide to the president has confirmed.

Abbas’ office provided no details about the talks and barred Palestinian officials from discussing them. His aide, Hussein Asheikh, confirmed the meeting was held in a tweet posted on Saturday evening, but did not provide any further details.

The World Jewish Congress said in a statement that Lauder met the Palestinian leader on Saturday "for a private visit at Abbas' invitation, to discuss a range of issues regarding Palestine and the Middle East."

Ramallah had a hard time concealing the presence of the foreign visitor as Lauder landed at Abbas’ headquarters in a Jordanian helicopter.  

World Jewish Council President Ron Lauder speaks at the Jerusalem Post annual conference in New York, May 22, 2016.Credit: מארק ישראל סלם

Civilians documented the chopper taking off on social media, spawning rumors regarding the condition of PLO Executive Secretary General Saeb Erekat, who announced Thursday that he had contracted the coronavirus.

Footage of the helicopter taking off from Ramallah was posted along with a caption claiming that it was a Jordanian gesture to transport Erekat to a hospital in Amman. Erekat’s daughter, Delal Erekat, was forced to publish a denial, explaining that her father was feeling well at home in Jericho and that there were no plans to take him to Amman. 

Lauder’s visit comes a few weeks out of the November 3 U.S. election. Lauder participated in the signing ceremony for the Abraham Accords between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in Washington in September, and spoke at length with Bahraini representatives at the ceremony.

In Washington, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters that Lauder's visit was not coordinated with or on behalf of the Trump administration but was in a strictly private capacity.

In Ramallah, as previously reported by Haaretz, there are no plans to initiate any significant diplomatic moves before the U.S. election. The expectation is that if Biden wins the election he would take steps to rebuild confidence, restore economic aid, reopen the consulate in East Jerusalem and reestablish full coordination between the Palestinian Authority and the administration in Washington.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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