Ramallah, Occupied Territories: Veteran Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat is to be buried Wednesday following his death from COVID-19 complications, as hope emerges of new peace talks during Joe Biden’s presidency.
Erekat, who died Tuesday at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital, was praised worldwide for his enduring belief that negotiations could end the conflict with Israel and lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state.
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, who described Erekat as “a brother and friend” whose death was a “great loss” for the Palestinian cause, will host an official memorial ceremony at the presidential compound in Ramallah.
Erekat was born in Jerusalem in 1955, but later lived in Jericho. He will be buried there following the Ramallah ceremony.
Erekat was a lung transplant recipient who suffered from pulmonary fibrosis. After contracting the novel coronavirus, his prospects for recovery were dim given his history of respiratory illness.
“He was tireless, he was stubborn, he was always hopeful, always believed (peace) is achievable,” Palestinian analyst Nour Odeh told AFP.
In his later years, Erekat watched despairingly as the two-state solution he had long worked for was undermined by Israeli colony expansion, sporadic violence, stalled peace efforts and Palestinian divisions.
But Odeh said it “was admirable to see the kind of hope he always maintained”.
He believed “that this conflict will end and that this occupation will end”.
Hopes of a negotiated end to the conflict grew still dimmer under the administration of outgoing US President Donald Trump, who was ready to break with decades of international consensus to advance Israeli ambitions.
At the time of Erekat’s death, the relationship between Washington and the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority had collapsed.
Odeh said that “like all Palestinians” Erekat “would have rejoiced in the fact Donald Trump will be out of the White House”.
“Joe Biden is not Donald Trump so we expect sanity in the White house, civility, more balance,” she said.
“There is a measured optimism that the Biden administration will be the one that the Palestinians can engage with.”
Trump unveiled a controversial Middle East peace plan in January that was seen as capitulating to all key Israeli objectives. It was angrily rejected by Palestinians from across the political spectrum.