Top Palestinian official Saeb Erekat receives lung transplant in US
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Top Palestinian official Saeb Erekat receives lung transplant in US

Senior negotiator undergoes operation at Virginia hospital to treat pulmonary fibrosis

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Screen capture from video of secretary General of the PLO Executive Committee and senior Palestinian negotiator in peace talks with Israel, Saeb Erekat, during an interview with Palestinian television in which he revealed he is waiting for a lung transplant. (YouTube/Pal TV)
Screen capture from video of secretary General of the PLO Executive Committee and senior Palestinian negotiator in peace talks with Israel, Saeb Erekat, during an interview with Palestinian television in which he revealed he is waiting for a lung transplant. (YouTube/Pal TV)

Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat on Thursday received a lung transplant at a Virginia hospital.

Erekat, 62, was “in good condition and all tests were reassuring,” the official Wafa news agency quoted Hosam Zomlot, the PLO’s General Delegation in the United States, as saying ahead of the operation.

The surgery took place at the Inova Fairfax Hospital, according to Wafa.

Erekat, 62, suffers from pulmonary fibrosis, which causes scarring on the lungs that inhibits breathing and blocks the body’s ability to absorb oxygen.

In an interview broadcast in late September on Palestinian national television, Erekat, who is secretary-general of the PLO Executive Committee, gave what was seen as a farewell message to the Palestinian public.

“I got pulmonary fibrosis five years ago… and five months ago my situation deteriorated. I need oxygen, walking is very difficult for me, and I’m waiting for a lung transplant any day now,” he said in the interview.

“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 said at the time.

Erekat flew to the US on the private jet of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a September news report said. His wife and his eldest son, Ali, were with him.

Previously, Erekat had been receiving treatment in Israel.

In August the Health Ministry denied that Erekat was on a shortlist to receive a lung transplant from Israel’s National Transplant Center. The denial came after the Hebrew Ynet news site reported that Erekat was on wait lists for a lung transplant in the United States and Israel.

Ynet later reported, citing officials at Israel’s Health Ministry and the National Transplant Center, that only Israeli citizens may register on the national list. In addition, they said, the priority order on the list is determined solely according to medical criteria, without exceptions — transplants go to the patient in most dire medical need.

In cases where no Israeli patient is found suitable to receive an available donor organ, it may be transplanted into someone who is not a citizen of Israel, subject to agreement from the donor’s family. Such cases are rare, according to Ynet, and Erekat would come in at the bottom of the list as a non-citizen.

JTA contributed to this report.

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