Senior Palestinian Official Saeb Erekat Dies of Coronavirus at 65

Saeb Erekat
AP/Amr Nabil

Senior Palestinian official and veteran negotiator Saeb Erekat has died in an Israeli hospital after contracting coronavirus. He was 65.

Erekat was in critical condition and put on a ventilator at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital last month, as Breitbart Jerusalem reported.

“Fatah mourns its great national son, Dr. Saeb Erekat,” a social media post by his ruling Fatah faction read.

One of the most prominent Palestinian politicians, Erekat led several rounds of peace negotiations over the last few decades, including those that led to the doomed 1995 Oslo Accords. He was extremely close to later PLO leader, Yasser Arafat, and considered one of his most trusted advisors.
For many Israelis, Erekat cut a controversial figure. He charged Israel with “war crimes,” “massacres,” “genocide” and accused it of apartheid. He targeted Gulf states over their recent U.S.-brokered normalization deals with Israel, calling them Zionist Arabs.
Erekat notoriously instigated a false 2002 report accusing the Israeli army of massacring 500 Palestinians in the West Bank town of Jenin. More recently, he compared Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of the Islamic State terror group.

For many years, he considered himself to be the leading candidate to succeed an ailing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas but a 2017 lung transplant hindered those aspirations.

Born in 1955 in Abu Dis on the outskirts of Jerusalem, Erekat was educated in the UK and U.S. and spoke eloquent English. He was often interviewed on Israeli television and international networks, a rarity for Palestinian leaders.

Former U.S. Envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt offered his condolences to Erekat’s family.

“My deep condolences to the family of Saeb Erekat. Saeb and I were worlds apart in our views of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it’s history and how to resolve it. But he tried hard to represent his people. Wishing his family much comfort and strength during this difficult time.”

MK Ahmed Tibi (Joint Arab List), also a former advisor to Yasser Arafat, tweeted: “Dr. Saeb Erekat passed away. A friend and courageous leader.”

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO’s Executive Committee who worked alongside Erekat for decades, tweeted: “The passing of Saeb Erakat is a significant transition in Palestinian history and reality. He was firmly committed to his people’s rights, unwavering in his pursuit of a just peace, and totally undaunted in his quest for freedom and rights. Rest in peace and power my friend.”

Erekat also led the failed talks at Camp David in 2000 and Taba in early January 2001, which was followed by the Second Intifada, a Palestinian uprising which saw hundreds of terror attacks against Israelis for a number of years.

According to Israeli negotiator Yossi Beilin, Erekat had always been against the use of violence. Arafat was the mastermind behind the terrorism.

Erekat was harshly critical of President Donald Trump’s policies in the region, including his Vision for Peace between Israel and the Palestinians, which he said ignored even the the most basic of Palestinian demands.

One of those demands, which Erekat espoused, is the so-called “right of return” to Israel for Palestinian refugees and their descendants, numbering in the millions — effectively eliminating the Jewish state by demographics.

He is survived by his wife Nimeh and his four children: Dalal, Ali, Salam and Mohammad.


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