RAMALLAH — Saeb Erekat, Palestinian top negotiator with Israel, has passed away at an Israeli hospital, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohamad Shtayyeh announced Tuesday.
Erekat, secretary general of Palestine Liberation’s Executive Committee, was taken to Hadassah-Ain Karem hospital on Oct. 18 following his infection with the novel coronavirus.
Erekat, one of the Palestinian voices on world stage, carried out a liver transplant operation in 2017. Palestine Fatah movement mourned Erekat in a statement distributed to the press.
Erekat, 65, a tenacious negotiator who helped forge some of the few political gains for Palestinians over more than two decades of on-again, off-again talks with Israel but who was ultimately frustrated by the two sides‘ failure to achieve a final peace settlement, died from complications of COVID-19.
His death was announced by his family on Facebook, and confirmed to NPR by his spokesman, Xavier Abu Eid. Erekat served as chief Palestinian negotiator for decades, struggling to reach agreement with Israel for an end to the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
Erekat was deeply involved in peace negotiations since Israelis and Palestinians held their first conference in Madrid in 1991, serving as the deputy head of the Palestinian delegation.
Peace efforts peaked with the 1993 Oslo Accords, which led to the creation of the Palestinian Authority. In 1995, Erekat helped write the text of a follow-up agreement, known as Oslo II, mapping out areas where the PA would have limited self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza.
The Oslo process was supposed to lead to a permanent peace agreement in 1998. Instead, Erekat spent the rest of his life trying to keep the process alive as it stalled.
Born in 1955 and raised in the West Bank city of Jericho, Erekat was educated in the United States and Great Britain. He received his undergraduate and master’s degrees in international relations at San Francisco State University and a Ph.D. in peace studies at England’s University of Bradford.
At the time of his death Erekat was professor of political science at An-Najah National University in Nablus.