Peace still elusive
A final peace agreement has eluded the sides since and, in fighting that broke out in 2000, nearly 4,500 Palestinians and more than 1,100 Israelis have been killed.
The Quartet of negotiators on the Middle East this week announced their backing for a US-hosted conference in November they say they hoped would breathe new life into the peace process.
But already that conference is facing difficulties, with Palestinians wanting an outline for a peace deal and Israelis seeking declarations that are more vague.
Abdel Shafi was known as a die-hard critic of Yasser Arafat, the late Palestinian leader, and his concessions to the Israelis in peace talks.
In 1996, Abdel Shafi, a legislator at the time, walked out of a meeting of the Palestinian legislature to protest Arafat’s decision to amend the charter of the Palestine Liberation Organisation to recognise Israel when the Jewish state did not give the Palestinians independence.
He resigned from the legislature in 1998, saying it did not have enough teeth to effect real change. Saeb Erekat, the current Palestinian negotiator and Abdel Shafi’s deputy in the early 1990s, called him a man of “patriotism, decency, honour and vision”.
“To him, Palestine was bigger than any individual, any post, any title,” Erekat said. “He devoted all his life to serve his people and his country, a country that he wished to see in his lifetime, and he did not.”
Abdel Shafi was also a doctor and founder of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society.
Hundreds of people attended his funeral on Tuesday in Gaza City.