Palestinian Authority chief negotiator and secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization Saeb Erekat has a serious lung disease and is currently on the waiting list for a transplant in Israel and the US, according to a report Tuesday on the Ynet news site.
Erekat, 62, was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis over a year ago and had been on medications that were effectively treating the disease. However, the drugs stopped working several months ago, and his condition has since deteriorated dramatically.
The chief PA negotiator has been receiving additional treatment at a hospital in central Israel, but doctors have warned that his condition cannot improve without an immediate transplant, the report said.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas has appointed his intelligence chief, Majed Faraj, to replace Erekat temporarily in the capacity of chief negotiator if his condition worsens, or if he undergoes a transplant.
Faraj is known for his good relations with diplomatic officials in Western and Arab countries, though he does not speak English fluently as Erekat does.
In the meantime, Erekat has continued to operate in both of his roles, albeit in a considerably limited capacity. On Sunday, he was interviewed by the Jewish Insider news site, where he criticized the Trump administration’s handling of its mediation efforts between Israelis and Palestinians.
“We don’t understand how no US officials came out with any word of sympathy for the Palestinian people that have been attacked and killed by occupation forces, including settlers,” he said.
Trump’s special envoy for the Middle East peace process, Jason Greenblatt, had issued separate condemnations of the July 14 killing of two police officers outside the Temple Mount compound by three Arab Israelis who smuggled weapons onto the site, as well as the July 21 terror attack in the Halamish settlement in which a 19-year-old Palestinian stabbed to death three members of the same family.
In light of the condemnations, Erekat took issue with the US administration’s silence regarding the five Palestinians killed in clashes with Israel Defense Forces soldiers while protesting the installation of metal detectors outside the Temple Mount that have since been removed.
The reports on Erekat’s deteriorating health come in the midst of similar concerns regarding Abbas’s well-being after the 82-year-old was hospitalized in Ramallah Saturday due to exhaustion. The PA leader was released later that day, but the stay sparked resurgent rumors regarding his health as well as speculation over the identity of his eventual replacement.