Saeb Erekat had been the rumbustious voice of the Palestinian Authority for decades.
While his people suffer, lingering in poverty under the misrule of the PLO-PA, Erekat lived the comfortable life, globetrotting around the world as the face of the Palestinian cause, narrated by him as a tale of victimhood and oppression.
To a degree he succeeded in spinning his tale of woe. It earned him the sympathy of those in search of people they could add to their intersectionality club. The symbolism of the Palestinian suited the conditions of the Marxist match – a minority, non-white, a people subjugated by colonialists, Zionists doing the bidding of the imperialist and capitalist West. Or so this is taught in leftist campuses in America and Europe by radical lecturers with an anti-Western agenda.
This is why Saeb Erekat was touted to join the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center as a fellow in its Future of Diplomacy Project. They saw in him a symbol of the future of diplomacy.
As things turned out, Erekat and his fellow Palestinian diplomats were seen throughout the Middle East, and gradually in the West, as abject failures.
The growing list of Arab countries, lining up to recognize Israel and to sign normalization and trade deals with the Jewish State, have shunted the Palestinians to the sidings. They have become irrelevant, an obstacle to progress in the Middle East.
This is the legacy of Saeb Erekat and, quite frankly, an embarrassment to Harvard who now find themselves punting a narrative that is no longer relevant in the region. Perhaps it would be more fitting for Harvard to consider accepting Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz to replace Erekat.
Prince Bandar labelled the Palestinian leadership’s criticism of the peace agreements between Israel, the United Arab Emirate, Bahrain, and Sudan, with more Arab nation to follow, as “reprehensible.”
On consistent Palestinian diplomatic failures, the Saudi prince said that, “successive Palestinian leaderships historically have one thing in common. They always bet on the wrong side.”
It has to be said that one of the wrong sides, until very recently, have been the Arabs and the Arab League who, for decades, have sought to boycott, threaten and go to war against Israel.
The significance of the normalization deal with Sudan was that this country was the stage in 1967 from which the notorious Arab League anti-Israel ‘Three No’s’ resolution was passed in the capital Khartoum – No Peace with Israel. No Recognition of Israel. No Negotiations with Israel.
This reprehensible resolution gave rise to the false charges hurled against the Jewish State. Everything from the apartheid slur to the BDS Movement was based on this wholesale Arab boycott of Israel.
So it is highly significant that Sudan, whose country have failed through no fault of Israel but from lethally bad governance including being branded as a state sponsor of terror, in its search for a path back into the international league of nation, has come around to recognizing Israel and is ready to forge relations with the one country in the region that is able to help Sudan move into the 21st Century.
Sudan is just one Muslim country that now acknowledges that it got nothing out of supporting a Palestinian cause that is at war with itself as much as it is at war with Israel.
And so back to Saeb Erekat. Erekat’s health had been deteriorating for the last few years. Three years ago he underwent a lung transplant in the United States.
Earlier this year, Erekat was one of the Palestinian officials to propose severing ties with Israel when the issue of Israeli sovereignty over the Jewish towns in Judea & Samaria arose as part of the Trump ‘Prosperity to Peace’ proposal that would have led to the establishment of a Palestinian state. This symbolized the resistance of leaders such as Erekat that has prevented a solution to the Palestinian problem for over fifty years.
In May, the PA refused to accept two plane-loads of coronavirus aid from the UAE because the cargo landed at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport. Erekat accused the UAE of “promoting normalization” with Israel. He blamed Israel of “whitewashing” its corona crimes.
This is the way that Erekat practiced diplomacy, Harvard! Better to let his people die of Covid than receive it from a plane that landed in Israel.
A recent Erekat dishonest diplomatic lie was when he publicly accused Israeli soldiers of deliberately spreading the coronavirus to Palestinians coming into Israel to work by spitting deadly virus droplets onto Palestinian car door handles and windscreens.
Is this the level of diplomatic excellence you propose to add to your academic staff, Harvard?
But this may be irrelevant. The hypocritical Israeli critic came down with Covid.
After telling anyone willing to listen to him about how the Jewish State must be boycotted, the coronavirus caught up with Saeb Erekat, and not from a spitting Israeli soldier.
His condition worsened, aggravated by his physical vulnerability. King Abdullah of Jordan offered to receive him for treatment in Amman, but Erekat went against his own advice and principles and agreed to be received in Israel at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem where he was treated by the finest doctors and nurses in the Middle East, both Jewish and Arab.
His condition deteriorated and he was placed on a ventilator as the medical staff fought to keep him alive. But he died November 10, 2020.
Saeb Erekat is a metaphor for an ailing Palestinian Authority. They are increasingly seen as an unwanted plague in the Middle East, tolerated by Israel but heavily criticized by Arab nations who are fed up with their constant wailing about their poor condition but unwilling to take the necessary steps for peace that would lead them to healthy independence and prosperity.
Barry Shaw is the International Public Diplomacy Director at the Israel institute for Strategic Studies.
Updated by Editor November 14, 2020