UPDATED AT 7:45PM JERUSALEM TIME: Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator and senior PLO official who is close to President Mahmoud Abbas, is in “critical” condition, according to the official Palestinian news agency WAFA, and “his situation has worsened.”
His daughter, Dal, told WAFA by phone that an “international medical team is supervising his situation.”
Erekat has been battling the coronavirus in recent days, but has also developed pneumonia.
As his condition deteriorated, he was transferred to an Israeli hospital on Sunday, according to the Hebrew press.
Erekat, 65, is considered a high-risk patient because he underwent a lung transplant in 2017.
He was in stable condition when he arrived in Jerusalem on Sunday, but has worsened and is currently intubated at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem.
“Mr. Erekat had a quiet night but his condition deteriorated this morning, and is now critical,” according to a statement from the hospital. “Due to respiratory distress, he is in a coma and ventilated. Mr. Erekat’s treatment presents a significant challenge as, as the recipient of a lung transplant, he is immunosuppressed and suffers a bacterial infection in addition to the corona.”
“Mr. Erekat is receiving top-notch professional care like all serious corona patients at Hadassah and the staff will do everything to assist his recovery. At Hadassah, we treat every patient as if he were our only patient,” said Prof. Zeev Rothstein, the hospital’s director.
The PLO leader’s hospitalization in Israel has been clouded by politics on the PA side and anger in Israel. Ramallah and Israel do not have diplomatic ties.
A Fatah spokesman tried to minimize the damage.
“The hospital was chosen since it is the closest one [to Ramallah], with the right equipment and team needed for the treatment,” he added. “Erekat was transferred to Hadassah Medical Center because a treatment abroad is not possible during the pandemic.”
Several Israelis condemned the decision to allow Erekat into Israel for treatment saying Israel should have demanded something from the Palestinians.
“Again the opportunity to make a demand is clear: Medical assistance in return for the return of Hadar, Oren, Avrah and Hissam, who are held in Gaza for more than six years, in a clear violation of international law and moral order,” said Knesset Member Michal Cotler-Wunsh of Israel’s Blue and White political party.
Cotler-Wunsh was referring to Israeli soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul who were killed by Hamas which is still holding their bodies, and two civilians, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who both crossed into Gaza of their own accord in 2014 and 2015.
The mother of a 4-year-old victim of terror called the move “an outrageous and shameful decision.” Dr. Adva Biton, who’s daughter Adelle Biton was murdered in a rock-throwing attack in 2013 accused the Palestinian Authority of training terrorists rather than its own medical personnel.
“Israel is in the midst of a crisis and according to the data presented, Hadassah Hospital is fully occupied and yet we received him with open arms, because he deserves it, without any shadow of a doubt, he deserves it. What a shame and disgrace,” she wrote on Facebook.
She said this “a decision that harms the bereaved families and residents of the State of Israel. A person who encourages terrorism, a person who is a member of a terrorist organization is entitled to medical treatment in our country? At my expense?”
“I do not want to pay for his treatment,” Biton said.
Joel C. Rosenberg, the founder and editor-in-chief of ALL ARAB NEWS took the opposite view.
“As an Israeli, and an Evangelical, I believe we must love our neighbors,” Rosenberg said. “We are commanded in the Bible — both in the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament — to love our neighbors, and Saeb Erekat is our neighbor. It’s as simple as that.”
Rosenberg asked Christians around the world to pray for Erekat’s full recovery and for his family’s comfort at this difficult time.
“I sincerely ask Evangelicals here in the region and around the world to pray daily and faithfully for the Lord to show mercy and kindness to Erekat and his family, to give him a full and speedy recovery, and for his comfort in the meantime,” Rosenberg wrote on Twitter.
It was the Palestinian Authority that made the urgent request to get Erekat into an Israeli hospital.
He lives in Jericho.
Hanan Ashrawi, another senior PLO official, was diagnosed with the coronavirus earlier this month.