Olmert on Erekat: He was a man of peace

Former PM: We were very close to achieving peace in 2008. Erekat was anxious to resolve the historical conflict.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Ehud Olmert
Ehud Olmert
Noam Moskowitz/POOL/Flash 90

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Tuesday hailed Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Secretary-General Saeb Erekat as "a man of peace, a man of honor".

Erekat died on Tuesday at the age of 65 from COVID-19. He had been treated in an Israeli hospital in recent weeks.

Speaking to i24NEWS, Olmert, who negotiated with the Palestinian Authority in 2008, said Erekat "was anxious to resolve the historical conflict between Israel and the Palestinians with a peace agreement."

Saying that negotiating with Erekat was not easy, Olmert asserted that "we were very close to achieving peace in 2008, when I negotiated on behalf of Israel, and Mahmoud Abbas and Saeb Erekat negotiated on behalf of the Palestinians."

He stressed that Erekat had nothing to do with the fact that the talks ended up bearing little fruit, pointing at PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas as the one who was supposed to make the ultimate decision.

Olmert argued that Erekat represented the Palestinian Arabs in "a much more moderate manner than many others," saying he had agreed to a demilitarized Palestinian state, one that would have no army -- only the law enforcement agencies.

Erekat was rushed to Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem last month, after he was infected with the coronavirus.

A survivor of pulmonary fibrosis, Erekat was at elevated risk for the coronavirus, and was listed in serious condition when he was admitted to the hospital.

The PLO Secretary-General had suffered from serious health problems in recent years, undergoing a lung transplant in Virginia in 2017.

Despite having been engaged in talks with Israel over the years, Erekat was a frequent critic of Israel, accusing Israel of “war crimes”, “massacres”, and “genocide”.

In 2013, Erekat accused Israel of applying a policy of apartheid in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem.