Saeb Erakat, a member of Yasser Arafat’s negotiating team, died from Covid-19 earlier this month. The fact that he died in an Israeli hospital tells us something about the man himself, but doesn’t explain anything about his advocacy on behalf of the kleptocrats he worked for, the disservice he may have done to the Palestinian cause, or the part he played in bringing about his own demise.
Erakat was held in esteem by many on the Israeli left and, of course, by the peace processors who controlled U.S. foreign policy during the Clinton and Obama administrations who believed then, and now, that Israel giving up land is the only way to bring peace to the Middle East.
I never met Erakat in person. I was told by the late Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 that Arafat, “was, is, and will always be a terrorist, and was surrounded by terrorists.” So I counted Erekat in that crowd and had no desire to meet him face to face. But I did get to “know” Erakat on Twitter.
Erakat’s repeated Twitter refrain was “two states 1967 borders.” Was he being nuanced? Was he inviting a reply from Israelis? No, that was simply his position.
Never once did Erakat say the Palestinians were ready to sit down with their counterparts in Israel to reach a negotiated agreement. And he never passed a chance to take a swing at Israeli policies or outright lie. A more recent anti-Israel slander from Erakat was his announcement on March 20 of this year that Israelis were “spitting on Palestinian cars and property in order to transfer the Corona disease to them.”
Before his hospitalization at Hadassah Medical Center, he became fixated on the death of his nephew Ahmed Erakat. Ahmed was killed following his attempt to kill Israeli guards at a Jerusalem checkpoint by ramming them with his car. Israeli policy is to not return the bodies of terrorists to their families. Erakat’s hypocrisy was on full display in one of his last tweets:
“For the 108th day Ahmed Erakat’s body remain held by the occupying power (Israel), not allowing us to bury him like what all humans do when their loved ones die. He was murdered June 23rd. This is not who we are as human beings. These are is not our value. They still jail 66 bodies.”
No mention from Erakat of the bodies of two dead IDF soldiers or two Israeli captives being held by Hamas in Gaza. No urging that his fellow Palestinians allow Israeli parents to bury their sons.
Erakat had previously suffered from pulmonary fibrosis and received a lung transplant in the United States in 2017. And when Erakat became ill with the Covid-19 virus, he didn’t seek treatment at a Palestinian facility. He wanted to go to Hadassah Medical Center.
No doubt, an Israeli hospital is better equipped than any of the PA’s hospitals. But the question is: Why?
It’s not because Israel prohibits the PA from training doctors. It doesn’t. And it’s not because some Israeli blockade prevents the PA from importing medical equipment. There’s no such blockade.
Rather, it’s because the PA prefers to spend its money on guns, not butter. Or, in this case, guns and terrorists’ salaries, not ventilators.
The PA has 65,000 policemen on its payroll. It has one of the largest per capita security forces in the world. According to one source, more than $1 billion on those forces was spent in 2018.
Another big chunk of the PA’s annual budget is used to pay imprisoned terrorists and the families of dead terrorists. In 2017, the PA paid $160 million to terrorists in Israeli prisons, and another $183 million to terrorists’ families.
Imagine how many Palestinian Arab lives might have been saved if the PA had spent even a fraction of that money on medicine and equipment to combat the novel coronavirus.
In the end, despite his treatment at Hadassah, Erakat died. He was done in as much by the policies of the Palestinian leadership of which he was a part as by Covid-19.