Saeb Erekat, Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the chief peace negotiator for the Palestinians, died of organ failure exacerbated by COVID-19 on Tuesday, November 10. He was 65. Born in 1955 in Abu Dis, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, Erekat resided in Jericho, just north of the Dead Sea in the West Bank.
Over the past decade, Erekat’s health took a downward turn. He suffered a mild heart attack in 2012 and underwent a lung transplant in 2017 in the United States, having suffered from pulmonary fibrosis, a disease that leaves the lungs scarred and inefficient. In mid-October, after contracting COVID-19, he was admitted to the intensive care unit of Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. Due to his respiratory conditions, the prognosis for his recovery was dim.
Erekat was greatly angered by the recent US sponsored agreements to normalize ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. He thought this approach would bring an end to his dream of a two-state solution.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Erekat’s passing was that of “a brother and friend and a huge loss for Palestine and our people.” “Saeb Erekat spent his life as a fighter and a steadfast negotiator defending Palestine, its cause, its people, and its independent national decision,” Abbas said in a statement.”
Hadash MK Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List faction in the Knesset, said, “Saeb won’t get to see his people freed from the occupation. But generations of Palestinians will remember him as one of the giants who dedicated his life for their independence.” Hadash MK Ofer Cassif (Joint List) was among the first Israeli public figures to comment on Erekat’s death, calling him “a true fighter for peace” and sending his condolences to Erekat’s family and the Palestinian people. The Peace Now movement said it was “a sad day for all supporters of peace in Israel and the Palestinian Authority. We shall remember his dedication for the vision of peace and the two-state solution.”