Mahmoud Abbas
Mahmoud AbbasFlash 90

A top aide to Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas was heard in newly released recordings on Tuesday cursing the PA chairman and insulting other members of the PA leadership, The Associated Press reported.

The purported remarks by Hussein Al-Sheikh, a senior official who is seen as a potential successor to the 87-year-old Abbas, gave a glimpse of the bitter infighting inside the PA leadership as several hopefuls try to position themselves for the post-Abbas era.

The recordings were released by a news website run by Hamas, the bitter rival of Abbas' Fatah party.

The exact context of the conversations also wasn't clear, but Al-Sheikh is repeatedly heard complaining about Abbas and denigrating other potential contenders for the PA chairmanship.

Throughout the recording Al-Sheikh refers to Abbas with a series of profanities, according to AP.

In another section of the more than 3-minute audio, al-Sheikh says Abbas "is a partner in the chaos and has an interest for it to remain."

The sounds of the audio rewinding and forwarding are heard, suggesting they were edited and perhaps be taken out of context. Neither Abbas nor Al-Sheikh's office responded to inquiries for comment.

While Abbas has not designated a successor, Al-Sheikh is a senior PA official who holds the powerful position of overseeing day-to-day relations with Israel. Earlier this year, he met with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.

Al-Sheikh, 61, was recently named to the PLO’s Executive Committee, raising speculation that he is being groomed as a potential successor to Abbas.

Despite meeting with Lapid and overseeing relations with Israel, Al-Sheikh referred to Israel as an "enemy" of the Palestinian people a month after the meeting with Lapid.

Abbas’ rule is seen as illegitimate by his rivals, as elections in PA territories have not been held since 2005. Abbas' term as PA chairman was meant to expire in 2009, but he has remained in office in the absence of elections.

Abbas officially announced last April that the Palestinian legislative elections would be postponed. While he cited Israel’s refusal to allow Arabs residing in eastern Jerusalem to vote as the reason for the postponement, many believe that the real reason is Abbas’ fear that he would lose the elections to Hamas.

Hamas, which opposed the postponement of the elections, in turn threatened a confrontation with the Palestinian Authority in response to the move.