JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Palestinians’ chief peace negotiator, Saeb Erekat, is in Washington, D.C., waiting for a lung transplant.
Erekat, 62, who also is secretary-general of the PLO executive committee, has pulmonary fibrosis, a serious lung disease. He requires oxygen and can no longer walk.
On Thursday, Erekat delivered a nationally televised message to the Palestinian people.
“God has blessed us by making us Palestinians. We are soldiers for Palestine,” he said, The Times of Israel reported.
“I want to tell everyone to be proud; I am proud of every year I spent as a soldier for Palestine. Know that Palestine’s independence is surely on its way. A Palestinian state in 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, this is coming; it is a historical imperative.”
Erekat flew to the United States on the private jet of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
He was diagnosed about five years ago with the disease, in which scar tissue forms in the lungs and makes it impossible for them to function properly, including preventing the absorption of oxygen. Erekat had been treated in an Israeli hospital, Ynet reported.
His condition worsened dramatically in recent months, leading his Israeli doctors to tell him that he needs a lung transplant to survive.
Erekat reportedly also was placed on a waiting list for a lung transplant in Israel but was too far down on the list to realistically receive an organ in time, since non-citizens come after Israeli citizens on the waiting list.