If there is a God, he surely has a sense of humor. The career of Shimon Peres, who is about to finish his term as president of Israel, is clear evidence. Here is a life-long politician, who has never won an election. Here is the world-renowned Man of Peace, who has started several wars and never done anything for peace. Here is the most popular political figure in Israel who for most of his life was hated and despised.
Tag Archives | Yitzhak Rabin
In the middle of the 70s, Ariel Sharon asked me to arrange something for him - a meeting with Yasser Arafat. A few days before, the Israeli media had discovered that I was in regular contact with the leadership of the PLO, which was listed at the time as a terrorist organization.
I told Sharon that my PLO contacts would probably ask what he intended to propose to the Palestinians. He told me that his plan was to help the Palestinians to overthrow the Jordanian monarchy, and turn Jordan into a Palestinian state, with Arafat as its president. “What about the West Bank?” I asked. “Once Jordan becomes Palestine, there will no longer be a conflict between two peoples, but between two states. That will be much easier to resolve. We shall find some form of partition, territorial or functional, or we shall rule the territory together.”
My friends submitted the request to Arafat, who laughed it off. But he did not miss the opportunity to tell King Hussein about it. Hussein disclosed the story to a Kuwaiti newspaper, Alrai, and that’s how it came back to me. Sharon’s plan was revolutionary at the time. Almost the entire Israeli establishment – including Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Defense Minister Shimon Peres - believed in the so-called “Jordanian option”: the idea that we must make peace with King Hussein. The Palestinians were either ignored or considered arch-enemies, or both.
“It sounds to me like Arabian Tales from One Thousand and One Nights.”
– Moshe Yaalon, Israeli Vice Premier, Aug 29, 2012
It is the language of brutal indifference – words that are chewed, gnawed, spat out with derision. But when asked whether the Israeli authorities might have had a hand in the death of Yaser Arafat, the reaction is stubbornly predictable. “Israel did not have any hand in this,” claimed Dov Weisglass, the relevant chief of staff of then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2004. “We did not physically hurt him when Arafat was in his prime…so all the more so we had no interest in this kind of activity when he was politically sidelined.”
Indeed, at the point when Arafat was in his prime, it could be said that Israel was as well – at least its assassinated leader Yitzhak Rabin, whose reluctant peace feelers eventually found their mark. If painful realities are to be ignored, violence is often the only dumbfounded answer. Given that Arafat’s PLO was on the terrorist watch lists for years, and only brought out of the cool of diplomatic exclusion during Rabin’s period in office, harm was a permanent prospect. The suggestion that Israel had no intention of hurting him is caricatured nonsense.
What is easily avoided is the state of emergency that the Palestinians were placed under as Arafat lay dying. For one thing, the Ramallah compound was being besieged with unrelenting ferocity by the Israeli Forces. Death was a casual affair. The second Intifada was in full swing, and assassinating Arafat was always on the books, an option to be put on the meeting agenda when the well of ideas ran dry.
Today, September 23, Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Mahmoud Abbas submits to the UN the application for Palestinian statehood for the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967. What are the implications of this effort? Does it serve the Palestinian cause? And why do Israel and the U.S. oppose this action? What’s the alternative?
Paradoxically, this month marks the eighteenth anniversary of when Abbas stood alongside Bill Clinton, Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin on the White House lawn in a ceremony celebrating the signing of the Oslo Accords. As one of its architects, Abbas sold the Oslo agreement to the Palestinian people as the vehicle towards the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and the restoration of the rights of the Palestinian people.
But throughout the past two decades lofty promises were offered to the Palestinians, while endless negotiations across continents took place between Israel and the PA, which Abbas has headed since the death of Arafat in 2004: Madrid (1991), Oslo (1993), Wye River (1997), Camp David (2000), Taba (2001), Quartet’s road map (2002), Annapolis (2007), bilateral negotiations (2008), Obama’s promises for settlements freeze in Cairo (2009) and declaration of statehood within one year at the UN (2010).
When Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas decided to go to the United Nations to request the admission of Palestine as a full member, he appeared to have had an epiphany.
Had he finally realized that for the past two decades he and his party, Fatah, have gone down a road to nowhere? That Israel was only interested in him as a conduit to achieve its colonial endeavor in the remaining 22 percent of historical Palestine? That his national project – predicated on the ever elusive ‘peace process’ – achieved neither peace nor justice?
Abbas claims to be serious this time. Despite all US attempts at intimidation (for example, by threatening to withhold funds), and despite the intensifying of Israeli tactics (including the further arming of illegal Jewish settlers to combat possible Palestinian mobilization in the West Bank), Abbas simply could not be persuaded against seeking a UN membership this September. “We are going to the Security Council. We need to have full membership in the United Nations…we need a state, and we need a seat at the UN,” Abbas told Palestinians in a televised speech on September 16.
If you happen to be a Palestinian government employee, chances are you will receive only half your usual salary this month. The other half will only be available when international donors find it in their hearts to make up for the huge shortage of funds currently facing the Palestinian Authority.
With a deficit standing at around $640 million, the Palestinian Authority government of Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad is experiencing one of its worst ever financial crises. However, the Palestinian economy is not a real economy by universally recognized standards. It survives largely on handouts by donor countries. These funds have spared Israel much of its financial responsibility as an occupying power under the stipulations of the Fourth Geneva Convention. They have also propped up a Palestinian leadership that tries to secure its own survival by serving the interests of major donors.
The funds, however, are now drying up. This could be due to a political attempt to dissuade Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas from seeking recognition of a Palestinian state at the UN next September. Palestinian Authority officials have been greatly angered by the shift, blaming donor countries – including Arab countries – for failing to honor their financial commitments.