On October 8, Saeb Erekat, a high-profile Palestinian diplomatic negotiator and Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee, announced that he tested positive for COVID-19. When his health worsened, Erekat was rushed to Hadassah Ein Kerem Medical Center, an Israeli hospital located in Jerusalem, reports Reuters.
According to Al Jazeera, Erekat, now 65-years-old, is considered high-risk because of a lung transplant he received in the United States in 2017. The PLO’s Negotiations Affairs Department stated that Erekat was brought to the hospital because of “chronic health problems” in his respiratory system. Reuters reports that Erekat’s doctor announced on Oct. 18 that Erekat was in a “serious” but “stable condition,” was being treated in the intensive care ward, and “needed high-flow oxygen support.”
Protestors gathered outside of Hadassah Medical Center several hours after Erekat’s arrival in opposition to his admittance. Protestors and social media users voiced objections to Erekat’s treatment on the basis that Erekat has worked against Israel, while others have criticized the protestors. Gilead Sher, an Israeli negotiator, tweeted that calls for Erekat’s death are “despicable,” and he said that even though he disagreed with Erekat, “I always respected him as a remarkable human being,” reports The Washington Post.
The Jewish News Syndicate details instances in which Erekat is believed to have spread lies and worked against peace with Israel. Opinion columnist David Weinberg argues that Erekat is hypocritical for making “a run for the best medical care Israel can offer” while “cynically and cruelly denied the same opportunity to his own people.”
According to an additional story by The Washington Post, Palestine “cut off long-standing security, financial and civil ties with their Israeli counterparts in May” because Israel would not explicitly commit to halting annexation of territory in the West Bank. This prevented Palestinians from being able to apply for work or travel visas and even from receiving medical treatment. At the time, Saeb Erekat defended Palestinian actions on the basis of Palestine needing its “independence” and “freedom.”
Erekat is known for opposing Israeli settlements in West Gaza. The settlements were established by Israel in the aftermath of the Six-Day War in 1967 and are regarded as illegal by most of the international community, including the UN, under international law.
In November 2019, the Trump administration reversed decades of U.S. policy opposing these Israeli settlements. In response, Erekat stated that the Trump administration’s action “constitutes a major threat to international peace and security,” according to BBC News.
In his career, Erekat has advocated for the a two-state solution which would create two separate territories of Palestine and Israel, says The New York Times. According to Bloomberg, the “two state solution” has been a point of on and off negotiations for decades. AP furthers that it was endorsed by the UN in February of this year.
In September , Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Bahrain signed the Abraham Accord, an agreement to formally normalize relations on the condition that Israel will stop plans to annex parts of the West Bank. The accords were brokered by the United States, reports The Wall Street Journal. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, Palestinian leaders withdrew representatives from the UAE and rejected the accord.
In response to the Accords, Erekat condemned the Trump administration for its role in the deal. which was praised by Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden and led to President Trump’s nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. Referring to Trump, Erekat stated that “this man and this administration, what they did so far have managed to set Palestinians and Israelis at least 50 years back.” Erekat further asserted that the deal was made in bad faith against Palestine and would, ultimately, not solve relations between Israel and Palestine.
Saeb Erekat has been a chief Palestinian negotiator for many years, leading negotiations and delegations at the Madrid Conference, Oslo Accords, Camp David Summit, and 2001 Taba negotiations, reports The Harvard Crimson. His role as one of Palestine’s chief negotiators and representatives in shaping the past, present, and future of the country will be determined in the coming times.