Top Palestinian Official Waiting for Lung Transplant in Washington Hospital

PLO Executive Committee head Saeb Erekat flew to New York in Abbas' private plane and attended the UN General Assembly before continuing to Washington

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat speaks during a joint news conference with Foreign ministers of Jordan Ayman Safadi, and Egypt Sameh Shoukry in Amman, Jordan, May 14, 2017.
MUHAMMAD HAMED/REUTERS

The secretary general of the PLO Executive Committee, Saeb Erekat, is in a Washington hospital waiting for a lung transplant. The former chief Palestinian negotiator flew to New York last week in the private plane of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and attended the United Nations General Assembly, before continuing to the U.S. capital with his wife and his eldest son, Ali.

In a video circulated Sunday morning responding to rumors of Erekat's death, Erekat said, "I have been examined and am on the transplant list, waiting for a new lung. My fate is in God's hands."

Erekat has used oxygen from a tank for a number of months. In an interview on Thursday with a Palestinian television station, he disclosed, in a weak and shaky voice, that he has had pulmonary fibrosis for five years and that his condition had deteriorated in the past five months. “I need oxygen and I can’t walk, and I’m waiting every day now for a transplant. I have given my fate over to God. I can’t say that I’m not afraid, but I believe in God and I hope that God will help me, and if God decides differently and he wants to take my soul than I’m ready,” Erekat said.

In the interview, with portraits of Abbas and former Palestinian President Yasser Arafat behind him, Erekat said he was proud to be a son of the Palestinian people and that he was sure that a Palestinian state would be established eventually. The entire Palestinian people must believe this, he added.

Erekat, 62, lives in Jericho. A member of the Fatah Central Committee, he was a senior member of the Palestinian delegation to the 1991 Madrid peace conference and has been in charge of negotiations with Israel since the 1993 Oslo Accords. In the latter role, he has met with many senior Israeli politicians and all the international figures involved in the peace process since the Oslo Accords. He became a sought-after interviewee on the Israeli and the international scene on account of his fluent English. Erekat is considered an international expert on negotiations and holds a Ph.D. in peace studies from the University of Bradford in Britain.