As head negotiator for the Arabs of Judea and Samaria, Saeb Erekat is rarely seen by the media unless either a suicide bomb goes off and the media needs a soundbite from the Arab side, or negotiations are actually going on between Israel and the Arabs. That being so, Erekat has not been seen much lately these last few years at all, as negotiations have been few and far between, as have been the bombings.

Suddenly, with negotiations having been kicked off September 2nd, Saeb Erekat has once again taken the headlines by storm with various quotes about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – “He is only interested in wasting time, not negotiations,” – and his thoughts about the Judea and Samaria building freeze. What the media has not noted, however, is how different the Saeb Erekat of today looks compared with that of only five years ago. His look has completely changed.

The Erekat of 2005 was a bit of a bloated man, visibly overweight with a very round face and rarely clean-shaven with a short buzz-cut, rounded thick black-rimmed glasses and a double chin. The Erekat who surfaced last week looks decidedly more Western, lost what looks to be 50-70 lbs. if not more so, has changed his signature frames and has suddenly grown tufts of white hair. He also looks more tired and less angry than he has in the past.

Is this the same Saeb Erekat, or has he been replaced by a similar, thinner, more western looking double?