Dr Issam Sartawi (1935–1983) was a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). In February 1983, Portuguese socialist leader Mario Soares formally invited the PLO to send an observer to the April 1983 congress of the Socialist International in Sydney, Australia. The passionately pro-Israeli Australian Labour Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, strongly objected to the PLO's invitation, and the SI congress was hurriedly relocated to Portugal. Sartawi was selected by the PLO as its representative at this meeting in Portugal and, because the SI counted both the Israeli Labour Party and the PLO as members, it was hoped that such a meeting could promote the Middle East peace process.
On 10 April 1983, Issam Sartawi was shot and killed in the lobby of the Montechoro Hotel in Albufeira, Portugal. The gunman escaped. Sartawi's assassination was witnessed by SI secretary-general, Bernt Carlsson, and was assumed to have been carried out so as to frustrate Carlsson's peace efforts. Sartawi's funeral took place the following day in Amman, Jordan, and was attended by all factions of the PLO – including Abu Nidal Organisation members (according to Maxim Ghilan, founder of the International Jewish Peace Union).
Issam Sartawi attended university in Baghdad, graduated and studied medicine there, before specialising in cardiology and getting his Doctor of Medicine (MD) in the United States.
Dr Sartawi returned to Palestine in 1967, joined the Fatah movement and helped establish the Palestine Red Crescent Society. He quickly rose to become Yasser Arafat's adviser on Europe and North America. In the mid-1970s he participated with other moderate PLO members at meetings of the Israel-Palestine Peace Council. Sartawi and the senior Israeli negotiator, Lova Eliav, jointly received the Austrian Kreisky prize in 1979 for seeking an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict, and for securing the recognition of the state of Israel by the PLO.
Palestinian hard-liners were unhappy with Sartawi's peace efforts and induced him to resign from the Palestine National Council. However, Arafat would not accept Sartawi's resignation.