Saeb Erekat, a veteran peace negotiator and distinguished worldwide spokesman for the Palestinians for greater than three a long time, died on Tuesday aged 65, weeks after contracting COVID-19.

The US-educated Erekat was concerned in almost each spherical of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians going again to the landmark Madrid convention in 1991. Over time, he was a relentless media presence.

Erekat tirelessly argued for a negotiated two-state answer to the decades-old battle, defended the Palestinian management and blamed Israel — significantly hard-line chief Benjamin Netanyahu — for the failure to achieve an settlement.

As a loyal aide to Palestinian leaders — first Yasser Arafat after which Mahmoud Abbas — Erekat clung to this technique till his dying, whilst hopes for Palestinian statehood sank to new lows.

Within the weeks main as much as his Erekat’s dying in an Israeli hospital, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain had normalised ties with Israel, breaking with the long-held Arab place {that a} deal on Palestinian statehood should precede normalisation.

Abbas and members of his internal circle, together with Erekat, discovered themselves internationally sidelined and deeply unpopular amongst Palestinians. And a long time of unfettered Israeli settlement enlargement had made a statehood deal primarily based on the partition of territory more and more unlikely.

His Fatah get together introduced his dying in an announcement. A relative and a Palestinian official confirmed he handed away, talking on situation of anonymity out of privateness issues.

A spokesman for the Palestinians

Erekat was born on April 28, 1955, in Jerusalem. He spent most of his life within the occupied West Financial institution city of Jericho, a palm-studded desert oasis about 30 minutes from Jerusalem. As a baby in Jericho, he witnessed Palestinians fleeing to close by Jordan in the course of the 1967 struggle by which Israel captured the West Financial institution, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

In interviews, Erekat usually spoke about life and his household in Jericho, as a manner of explaining the influence of Israeli occupation to overseas viewers and to place himself as an peculiar Palestinian. His wit and grasp of colloquial American phrases made him common with interviewers.

Erekat studied overseas, incomes a BA and MA in Worldwide Relations from San Francisco State College and later finishing a Ph.D. on the College of Bradford within the U.Ok., the place he centered on battle decision. Erekat additionally held US citizenship.

When he returned to the West Financial institution he turned a professor at An-Najah College in Nablus and an editor on the Al-Quds newspaper. A self-described pragmatist, he invited Israeli college students to go to the college within the late 1980s and condemned violence on all sides.

He was nonetheless convicted of incitement by an Israeli navy courtroom in 1987 after troops raided the college and located an English-language e-newsletter he had authored by which he wrote that “Palestinians should discover ways to endure and reject and resist″ all of the types of occupation.

Erekat insisted he was advocating peaceable resistance and never armed wrestle, and he was later given an eight-month suspended sentence and fined $6,250. ″If they’ve reached the purpose of fining somebody like me $6,250 for 3 phrases written in English and despatched overseas, then the occupation is just not working and they’re actually getting nervous,” he later stated.

The Mideast peace course of

The primary intifada, or Palestinian rebellion, erupted later that yr within the type of mass protests, normal strikes and clashes with Israeli troops. That rebellion, together with U.S. strain on Israel, culminated within the Madrid convention, extensively seen as the beginning of the Mideast peace course of.

Erekat was a distinguished consultant of Palestinians residing contained in the occupied territories on the time, however turned an in depth aide to Arafat when the exiled Palestine Liberation Organisation returned to the territories following the 1993 Oslo accords.

In subsequent years Erekat routinely served as Arafat’s translator, and was typically accused of enhancing his remarks to melt the tough edges of the guerrilla leader-turned-aspiring statesman.

All through the 1990s, Erekat was a frequent visitor on information applications throughout the globe, the place he condemned violence on either side however warned that the peace course of was prone to collapse due to Israel’s refusal to withdraw from the territories.

Then, as now, the Palestinians sought an unbiased state in East Jerusalem, the West Financial institution and the Gaza Strip. The Oslo accords had been supposed to pave the way in which for such a settlement, however the course of stalled amid a wave of suicide bombings and different assaults by Palestinian militant teams and continued Israeli settlement building and failure to maintain pledges to show over territory to Palestinian management. With either side accusing one another of appearing in unhealthy religion, they had been unable to agree on closing standing points, corresponding to borders, safety, Jerusalem, and the destiny of Palestinian refugees.

Erekat was a part of the Palestinian delegation at Camp David in 2000, when President Invoice Clinton introduced the 2 sides collectively for marathon talks aimed toward reaching a closing settlement. The talks ended inconclusively, and some months later a second and much more violent intifada erupted.

By then Erekat had grow to be a senior Palestinian official and was seen as a attainable successor to Arafat, who died in a French hospital in 2004. Erekat accompanied Arafat’s physique on the flight again to the West Financial institution for burial. He continued as a high aide to Abbas and served as a senior negotiator in sporadic peace efforts within the late 2000s.

“I’m essentially the most deprived negotiator within the historical past of man,” he informed a reporter in 2007, the yr that the Islamic militant group Hamas seized management of Gaza from Abbas’ forces. “I’ve no military, no navy, no economic system, my society is fragmented.”

Erekat resigned as chief negotiator in 2011 after a trove of paperwork was leaked to the pan-Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera exhibiting that the Palestinian management had provided main concessions in previous peace talks that had been by no means made public. However Erekat remained a senior Palestinian official and an in depth adviser to Abbas, who later appointed him secretary-general of the PLO.

Erekat criticised Trump for favouring Israel in Mideast Plan

Israel and the Palestinians haven’t held substantive talks since Netanyahu — a hard-liner who opposes concessions to the Palestinians — took workplace in 2009.

However Erekat continued to name for a two-state answer primarily based on the 1967 strains, accusing the Israeli chief of placing a “nail within the coffin” of hopes for peace by persevering with to broaden settlements.

Whereas Erekat was welcomed in world capitals, he was extra controversial within the West Financial institution, the place he was seen as a part of an elite clique having fun with a jet-setting life-style however indifferent from the general public and clinging to an unrealistic purpose after years of failed peace efforts and Israeli settlement enlargement.

He was a strident critic of President Donald Trump’s Mideast plan, which overwhelmingly favours Israel and would permit it to maintain almost all of East Jerusalem and as much as 30 per cent of the West Financial institution. He derisively stated “actual property males” would by no means clear up the battle and accused Trump and Netanyahu of teaming as much as “destroy the Palestinian nationwide mission.”

“To reject this plan isn’t to reject peace however the opposite: rejecting it means rejecting the perpetuation of a system of apartheid,” he wrote in a Washington Submit op-ed in January.

He closed the column with the identical name to motion he had been issuing for almost three a long time.

“The worldwide group should determine: both it stands on the best aspect of historical past with the independence of the state of Palestine residing aspect by aspect, in peace and safety, with the state of Israel on the 1967 border — or it agrees to tolerate an apartheid regime.”

Erekat is survived by his spouse, two sons, twin daughters and eight grandchildren.


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