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Saeb Erekat
Photo: Reuters
Palestinian chief negotiator waits for lung transplant in Israel
Suffering from pulmonary fibrosis, Saeb Erekat's health worsens and he is now on the waiting list for a lung transplant in either Israel or the US; PA's intelligence chief is appointed to replace him.

Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator with Israel for the past 20 years who also serves as secretary-general of the PLO's executive committee, suffers from a very serious lung disease and is on the waiting list for a lung transplant in Israel or the United States.

 

 

Erekat's temporary replacement has been announced as Palestinian intelligence chief Majid Faraj.

 

Saeb Erekat (Photo: Reuters)
Saeb Erekat (Photo: Reuters)

Erekat, 62, suffers from pulmonary fibrosis, which is characterized by the development of scars in lung tissue which makes it difficult for them to function properly. The disease manifests itself in shortness of breath, coughing and loss of the ability of the lungs to transfer oxygen to the body. He was diagnosed more than a year ago.

 

So far, Erekat has been treated with drugs, but a few months ago, drugs stopped being effective and his condition worsened dramatically.

 

Erekat began medical treatment in one of Israel's hospitals in the center of the country, but doctors made it clear to him that he had to undergo a lung transplant in order to survive. Since then, he has been on the waiting list for a lung transplant.

 

Erekat's Israeli doctors are optimistic about his chances of recovery if he undergoes a transplant.

 

L to R: Faraj, Erekat and PM Netanyahu (Photo: Amos Ben Gershom)
L to R: Faraj, Erekat and PM Netanyahu (Photo: Amos Ben Gershom)

 

In the meantime, Erekat has significantly reduced his public activity. He rarely holds daily work meetings, rarely interviews, and sometimes wears an oxygen mask that helps him breathe. He also has a hard time walking short distances and needs support even when he leaves the car at the entrance to the building where he works in Ramallah until he reaches the elevator.

 

Following Erekat's medical condition, PA President Mahmoud Abbas decided that Faraj would be appointed to replace him as head of the negotiating team from the moment he could no longer work—whether due to transplant surgery or further deterioration of his condition.

 

Faraj is known for his good relations with diplomatic officials in the West and in Arab countries. However, he suffers from an obvious disadvantage is that he is not fluent in English, unlike Erekat.

 

Meanwhile, Palestinian leadership is struggling with a wave of rumors about Abbas's medical condition after he spent a few hours on Saturday in a hospital in Ramallah.

 

PA President Mahmoud Abbas (Photo: AFP) (Photo: AFP)
PA President Mahmoud Abbas (Photo: AFP)

 

According to Palestinian sources, Abbas underwent a routine check-up, which he usually does when visiting Amman, but decided this time to avoid security coordination with Israel regarding his departure for Jordan. Other sources claimed that this was not a routine check and that he was rushed to the hospital after complaining that he was not feeling well.

 

Abbas, 82, is a heavy smoker with a history of cancer and heart problems.

 

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