Top PA Negotiator Erekat in Line for Israeli Lung

Saeb Erekat (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Top Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat is on a “short list” for a lung transplant in an Israeli hospital. Erekat, who has led the PA negotiating team in discussions with Israel for the past 20 years, has been suffering from lung disease for the past year. He has signed up for a lung transplant in either Israel or the United States.

The 62 year old Erekat discovered he was sick a year ago, and has been undergoing therapy in an Israeli hospital. He was prescribed various medications which helped him for a time, but in recent months his condition has worsened. His Israeli doctors recommended that he seek a lung transplant, and they are actively seeking a donor for him.

As a result, PA chief Mahmoud Abbas has appointed Majad Faraj, head of PA intelligence, to take over for Erekat temporarily – or perhaps permanently if he does not get better. Yediot Achronot said that Faraj was well-known in Western diplomatic circles and good relations with Israeli interlocutors – but that he did not speak English well, unlike Erekat, who was fluent in English.

Israeli security officials are also becoming increasingly concerned with the health of Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas. The octogenarian Abbas was hospitalized Saturday for several hours in a Ramallah hospital, for treatment of “exhaustion,” the PA said, due to the “events of recent weeks.” In recent months he has been in and out of the hospital several times, and Israeli officials quoted by Ha’aretz believe that he is not well. Palestinian Authority sources told the newspaper the same thing, and that concern over Abbas’s health was prompting factions in the PA to prepare for a showdown of who will take over when he leaves the political scene.