J Street mourns the loss of Dr. Saeb Erekat, the long-time Palestinian Chief Negotiator who dedicated his life to serving his people at the highest levels of politics and diplomacy, and to pursuing Israeli-Palestinian peace. Our thoughts and deepest condolences are with his family, his colleagues and his people.
Dr. Erekat was renowned and respected by leading diplomats in Israel, the United States and around the world as a fierce but also friendly advocate for Palestinian rights and for a comprehensive two-state solution. He played a leading role in virtually all high-level negotiations between Israel and the PLO, striving to both defend Palestinian interests and also reach the compromises needed for peace, all the while building innumerable bridges and friendships with his intermediaries and even ostensible adversaries on the other side of the negotiating table.
Dr. Erekat frequently spoke with and built connections to American Jewish audiences. He was a true friend to J Street and the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement, gave major addresses to several national J Street conferences and events, graciously met with countless congressional and leadership delegations to Israel and the Palestinian Territory and built warm personal relationships with members of J Street’s staff and leadership. He never shied away from dialogue and never let disagreement stand in the way of building greater mutual trust, empathy and understanding.
We also remember him as a family man — a warm husband, father and grandfather who wanted nothing more than to ensure his grandchildren would live in a country of their own where peace, human rights and the rule of law would prevail. He was among the first Palestinians to send his children to a Seeds of Peace camp, where they could live out in learning and play the values to which he devoted his life.
The outpouring of grief and warm remembrances that we have already seen just in the short time since his passing was announced is a testament to the important historical figure and unique, well-respected person he was. His passing is a great loss to the cause of peace, but we can take solace in the knowledge that, at the future date when an independent State of Palestine at long last exists, in peace and security alongside the State of Israel, Saeb Erekat will be one of the people most credited with laying the groundwork for that better future.