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Saeb Erekat, Chief Palestinian Negotiatior, To Join Harvard Kennedy School as Fellow

Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center will host chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat for a series of webinars.
Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center will host chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat for a series of webinars. By Michael Gritzbach
By Raquel Coronell Uribe, Crimson Staff Writer

Saeb Erekat, the Chief Palestinian Negotiator and Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organization, will join the Harvard Kennedy School’s Future of Diplomacy Project as a fellow for the 2020-2021 academic year.

Erekat has led Palestinian negotiations with Israel for decades. He was head of the Palestinian delegation at the Madrid Conference of 1991, and has served as Chief Negotiator during the Oslo Accords in 1993 and 1995, the Camp David Summit of 2000, and the negotiations at Taba in 2001.

His objective is to solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict with a two-state solution based on borders negotiated in 1967, according to a Kennedy School biography posted on the school’s website.

In a Tuesday statement to The Crimson, Shlomo Ben-Ami, former Israeli Foreign Minister and Minister of Security, wrote that Erekat “is a good man and an eloquent champion of the Palestinian cause.”

Ben-Ami served as the chief Israeli negotiator during the Camp David Summit and the negotiations in Taba, working opposite Erekat.

After recognizing his counterpart in a failed peace process, Ben-Ami said he believes Erekat “can offer students and faculty interesting insights on why Palestinian diplomacy failed in its central objective, reaching statehood and preventing the demotion of the Palestinian cause from being the epicenter of the region’s worries into its current status as a disposable item in the Arab regime’s priorities.”

Erekat has previously said that the peace deal among the United Arab Emirates, Israel, and Bahrain, signed Tuesday at the White House, was “an Arab dagger in [his] back.”

The agreement, the so-called Abraham Accords, entails new diplomatic and economic ties among the three countries.

The Abraham Accords, pushed by U.S. President Donald Trump and his son-in-law Jared C. Kushner ’03, fractured a long doctrine set by the Arab League that for years barred negotiations between the Arab states and Israel until Israel recognized the existence of a Palestinian state.

Erekat has said Trump is sending a political message with the deal and that the formation of an alliance is for Israel’s protection rather than for peace.

In his statement to The Crimson, Ben-Ami echoed Erekat’s past statements about the new agreement.

“Saeb is absolutely right to define Israel’s peace with the UAE and Bahrain as ‘peace for protection,’” Ben-Ami wrote.

Ben-Ami, however, maintained that the new peace deal, which he called a “sham state,” comes after the Palestinians rejected several peace offers.

“It is the serial Palestinian rejection of substantial peace offers that should explain why the Arab states today refuse to continue mortgaging their national interest to the Palestinian cause,” Ben-Ami wrote. “And today, the only peace deal that is on the table is the sham state offered by Trump’s peace plan.”

Erekat did not respond to a request for comment.

Erekat’s arrival to Harvard has not come without controversy. A Monday editorial from the New York Post claims that Harvard received a $2 million donation from the Palestinian Authority, which indirectly comes from American tax dollars through foreign aid.

Kennedy School spokesperson James F. Smith wrote in an emailed statement that the claims made by the New York Post were false.

“Harvard did not receive $2 million in donations from the Palestinian Authority,” Smith said. “The Kennedy School received a $150 000.00 gift from the Palestinian Monetary Authority in 2011 to establish an annual Graduate Public Service Fellowship to support a student from the occupied Palestinian territories for three years, through 2013.”

“The Kennedy School has received individual donations from Bashar Masri, a Palestinian businessman best known for building a major planned city in the West Bank,” he added. “These donations also fund fellowships for Palestinian students attending the School.”

StandWithUs, a nonpartisan Israeli education organization, also condemned Harvard’s decision to extend the fellowship to Erekat, citing his past statements as a Palestinian official against Israel. He once said he would “never recognize Israel as a Jewish state.”

Smith wrote the Kennedy School seeks to bring “diverse perspectives” to its campus. He noted that last year’s Fisher Family Fellow was Tzipi Livni, a former Israeli foreign minister.

“The Kennedy School is committed to bringing diverse perspectives to our community as part of our academic mission,” he wrote. “This fellowship appointment is consistent with that goal.”

—Staff writer Raquel Coronell Uribe can be reached at raquel.coronelluribe@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @raquelco15.

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