Top Palestinian Official Saeb Erekat Undergoes Lung Transplant in Virginia

Erekat, the secretary general of the PLO Executive Committee and a former chief negotiator, 'is in good condition,' Wafa reports

Saeb Erekat speaks during a press conference in Cairo, Egypt, August 11, 2014.
Saeb Erekat speaks during a press conference in Cairo, Egypt, August 11, 2014. Amr Nabil/AP

Saeb Erekat, the secretary general of the PLO Executive Committee and a former chief Palestinian negotiator, underwent a lung transplant in Virginia on Thursday, the official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.

Erekat "is in good condition and all tests were reassuring in terms of his readiness and the readiness of the specialized medical team to conduct the operation," PLO's chief representative in Washington, Husam Zomlot, said. 

Awaiting the surgery, Erekat had flown to a hospital in Washington in the private plane of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas after attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September.

Erekat has used oxygen from a tank for a number of months. In an interview with a Palestinian television station in September, 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.

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.