|Israel Resource Review
||11th July, 2003
A Profile of Mahmoud Abbas,
a.k.a. Abu Mazen
Dr. Kenneth R. Timmerman
Senior Writer for Insight Magazine.
There are allegations that Abbas funded the
terrorist attack at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich.
For Germany, the 1972 Munich Olympics were supposed to be "the Carefree
Games." There was to be no barbed wire, no Nazi spectacles, no storm
troopers. Mimes and street bands wandered through the Olympic Village, while
athletes and visitors chugged beer. The only guards, known as "Olys," were
armed with walkie-talkies and wore turquoise-colored blazers. The 1972 games
were intended as a sybaritic festival of repudiation of the last Olympics
held on German soil, the 1936 orgy of Nazi hate in Berlin. It was party time
for the new Germany.
But Mohammed Daoud Oudeh, more commonly known as Abu Daoud, had other plans.
In the predawn light of September 5, 1972, he helped the last of a dozen armed
Palestinian terrorists scale the wall of the Olympic Village, just 12 miles
from Dachau, and storm the compound where 11 Israeli athletes and trainers
were sleeping. Within minutes, the Palestinians had shot two of the
Israelis, and for 17 hours held the world on edge as they negotiated their
own release with the German authorities.
In the botched rescue attempt by the German police at a nearby airport, most
of the Palestinians were killed, but not before they murdered the remaining
nine Israelis in cold blood. Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir vowed
revenge, and Mossad "hit teams" were sent around the world to track down the
terrorists and kill them.
For nearly 30 years Daoud remained in the shadows as memories went dim and
passions cooled. At one point, after the 1993 Oslo Accords, the Israelis
even gave him a VIP pass that allowed him free passage between his home in
Amman, Jordan, and the West Bank and Gaza.
But recently all that has changed, and many Israelis and their supporters in
the United States are furious - less because of what Daoud did in Munich
than because of what he has revealed about his partners in that crime. For
among them, Abu Daoud says in a 1999 memoir published in French, and in a
more recent interview with Sports Illustrated, was Mahmoud Abbas, the man
President George W. Bush has called a "man dedicated to peace."
Daoud's book, Palestine: From Jerusalem to Munich, reaffirms what many
terrorism experts and Israeli officials long suspected - that the Black
September organization, which Yasser Arafat and the Palestine Liberation
Organization (PLO) always claimed was a renegade outfit, was in fact tightly
controlled by Arafat. Even more shocking, however, was the allegation that
Abbas, then a top Arafat deputy, provided the financing for the Munich
Daoud's revelations went virtually unnoticed in the United States until
recently, when an Israeli human-rights lawyer, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner,
cited them in a letter to President Bush and German Chancellor Gerhard
Schroeder that called for an investigation of Abbas' role in the Olympic
massacre and questioned whether he was a reliable partner for peace. Since
then, the revelations have been circulated widely.
In his memoir, Daoud points out that Abbas went to the White House Rose
Garden in September 1993 for the signing ceremony of the Oslo Accords with
Arafat, president Bill Clinton and Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. "Do
you think that . . . would have been possible if the Israelis had known that
Abu Mazen was the financier of our operation?" he wrote, referring to Abbas
by his PLO nom de guerre. "I doubt it."
Bitter that the Israelis had yanked his travel credentials while elevating
his partner in crime, Daoud contacted Sports Illustrated last year on the
30th anniversary of the attack and told his story once again. This time, he
revealed that Arafat and Abbas both had wished him luck and kissed him when
he told them his plans.
When Insight asked U.S. officials and Middle East policy experts in
Washington what they thought of allegations that the new Palestinian prime
minister had financed the 1972 Munich massacre, the reactions ranged from
shrugs to outright laughter.
"Terrorist? Who isn't?" one official remarked. "The Israelis don't need to
make peace with their friends."
Edward Abbington, a former U.S. consul general in Jerusalem who now works as
a paid lobbyist for the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Washington, tersely
dismissed the allegations as "not relevant." A senior aid to Abbas, Maen
Areikat, scoffs at the story and tells Insight in a phone interview from the
West Bank that Daoud's account "bears no relationship to reality." He adds:
"Since the mid-1970s, [Abbas] has been advocating contacts with Israelis,
even when it was considered taboo."
For radical Islamic groups in Gaza and the West Bank, such as Hamas,
contacts with Israelis other than violence still are taboo. After Israeli
helicopter gunships failed to assassinate him in a rocket attack in Gaza on
June 8, Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantissi told reporters that his movement
would continue to carry out suicide attacks "until not one Jew is left in
Palestine." Abbas met with Rantissi and other Hamas leaders shortly before
that attack, hoping to negotiate a temporary halt to the terror.
"Here's a guy who negotiated the 1993 Oslo Accords with Israel, whom the
Israelis say has put terrorism behind him," says Patrick Clawson, deputy
director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "Even the
Israelis say that he has changed his mind and changed his activities and is
a guy that they can live with. We can't really ask for more than that."
The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have captured more than 1 million pages of
documents from PLO and Palestinian offices in Gaza and the West Bank since
the fighting intensified as a result of the Passover massacre in March 2002.
The documents include checks from the PA finance ministry to militia leaders
and to family members of suicide bombers, many of them bearing handwritten
notes and detailed instructions from Arafat.
Israeli sources tell Insight the IDF also has identified documents linking
Abbas to recent terrorist attacks but are refusing to release them because
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and President Bush both have invested
too heavily in Abbas as a partner for peace. Areikat doubts such documents
exist. "This seems to be part of an Israeli smear campaign against Abu
Mazen," he says.
At the State Department, the past associations of Abbas are considered less
important than his present usefulness as a fig leaf or alternative to
Arafat. "President Bush and Prime Minister Sharon believe they have a
partner for peace in Prime Minister Abbas," a spokesman for the department's
Near East bureau tells Insight. "For the past 10 years, he has consistently
renounced terrorism within the Palestinian community."
Matthew Levitt, a former FBI counterterrorism analyst who now is with the
Washington Institute for Near East Policy, notes that Abbas is not the only
former terrorist who the Israelis have rehabilitated. "There are plenty of
others, including people who were directly involved in Munich, whom the
Israelis are willing to work with today," he tells Insight. "The history is
the history. Even recent history is history. Look at Mahmoud Dahlan," the
former Gaza security chief whom Israel and the United States now tout as a
"reformer" who can clean house in Arafat's stable of a dozen security
organizations. "As recently as two years ago, Mahmoud Dahlan had blood on
his hands. What matters is where he and the others stand today," Levitt says.
But ties to terror are not the only concerns regarding Abbas. There also is
the matter of a 1983 book he authored that claimed the Zionist movement "was
a partner in the slaughter of the Jews" during the Third Reich, and that the
Nazis killed "only a few hundred thousand" Jews, not millions. Such
Holocaust denial is a staple feature of anti-Semites worldwide and
frequently surfaces on state-run Palestinian Authority Television and
throughout the Arab world. Abbas reasserted his views on the number of
Holocaust victims in a May 28 interview with journalists from the Israeli
daily Yediot Aharonot: "What do you expect of me, as a historian? To accept
the numbers as they were written in the books?" But he claimed he was not
attempting to deny the Holocaust or in any way minimize its import. "It is
not a matter of numbers," he added. "Any murder is a heinous crime."
The Middle East Media Research Institute
(www.MEMRI.org) has compiled other
recent statements by Abbas that shed doubt on his alleged credentials as a
peacemaker. Instead, they reveal a skilled politician who has mastered the
linguistics of duplicity. Among them:
- The right of Palestinians to "return to Israel and not to the
Palestinian state . . . because it is from there that [the Palestinians] were
driven out and it is there that their property is found." Israel has offered
compensation to Palestinians who lost their land during the 1948 war but
believes that a comprehensive settlement also must include compensation for
Jews who were evicted from their homes in Arab countries. But Palestinians
such as Abbas claim that most of Israel, including parts of Tel Aviv and
Haifa, were built on Palestinian land that should be returned.
- No limit on the number of Palestinian refugees allowed to return to
Israel, "even if [the Israelis] proposed a number of 3 million refugees."
The Israelis argue that an open-ended return of Palestinians effectively
would put an end to Israel as a Jewish state because relocated Arabs soon
would outnumber Jews. Many Israelis believe this is precisely what Abbas and
other PA leaders want.
- Opposition to suicide bombings purely on practical, not moral, grounds.
"The militarization of the Intifada was a complete mistake because we
entered into war with Israel at its strong points," Abbas told a PA
newspaper. "The strongest thing Israel has is weaponry, which is the weakest
thing for us."
In a March 3 interview with Al Sharq al Awsat in London, Abbas made it clear
that any temporary cease-fire, such as the one he has been attempting to
negotiate with Hamas, was aimed at gaining a tactical advantage over Israel.
"We didn't talk about a break in the armed struggle. . . . It is our right to
resist. The Intifada must continue, and it is the right of the Palestinian
people to resist and use any [means] they can to defend itself and its
He went on to explain that Israeli settlements were fair targets of military
action, even during a period of temporary cease-fire. "I will add that if
the Israelis come to set up a settlement on your land, then it is your right
to defend [yourself] with anything you have . . . by all means and all
weapons, as long as they have come to your home. This is the right of
resistance. The prohibition [on using weapons] applies only to martyrdom
operations, and to going out to fight in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem." Abbas did
not denounce recent attacks on Israeli settlements.
Israeli journalist David Bedein points out that when the Palestinians use
the term "illegal settlement" they don't mean what most Americans, including
President Bush and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, think they
mean. To Palestinians, "Illegal settlements are Jewish cities and towns that
have been built where Arab cities and towns used to be," Bedein says. "They
include places such as Haifa."
"American and Israeli hopes that [Abbas] will fight against Palestinian
terrorism is paradoxical," says Itamar Marcus of Palestinian Media Watch in
Jerusalem, since terrorist attacks against Israelis in the disputed
territories "are all legitimate according to the Abbas doctrine."
Abbas has stated that in final settlement talks he would not seek to remove
Jews living in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, but that the
new Palestinian state would not tolerate any permanent Jewish presence at
the Western Wall, which is the holiest site for Jews. "We told the Israelis
[at the Camp David summit] that we would not agree with their maintaining
any presence at the Western Wall. In contrast, at the Wailing Wall [a small
part of the Western Wall], you can conduct your [religious] ceremonies," he
In addition to this threat to limit access by Jews to their holiest site was
his outright rejection that there had ever been a Jewish temple on the
Temple Mount. "Anyone who wants to forget the past cannot come and claim
that the [Jewish] temple is situated beneath the Haram," Abbas said,
referring to the Muslim shrine that was built more than 800 years after the
Second Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. by the Romans. "They demand that we
forget what happened 50 years ago to the refugees - and I speak as a living,
breathing refugee - while at the same time they claim that 2,000 years ago
they had a temple. I challenge the claim that this is so."
Kenneth Katzman, a former CIA analyst who works on Middle East issues for
the Congressional Research Service, believes that Abbas' past involvement
with terror and his Holocaust denial may be the least of the problems the
Palestinian prime minister faces. "I doubt that his political prospects are
solid because the most radical organizations in the Palestinian community
don't report to him and actively want him to fail," he tells Insight. An
official with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee agrees: "What
matters is not what he did 30 years ago, but what he does today. And he
can't do anything because of Arafat."
Shoshana Bryen, of the Washington-based Jewish Institute for National
Security Affairs, puts it bluntly: "The real Abu Mazen is the guy who
financed the Munich massacre and is a Holocaust denier and in later years
decided to try something else."
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A Simulation Game:
Occur After Three Months of the Hudna?
Senior Military Correspondent, Yediot Aharonot
[Most people have not noticed that the three
month "Hudna" was declared on June 29th, 2003, which is
precisely three months before Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year
which is celebrated this year on September 27th and 28th, 2003 - DB]
October 3, 2003 goes into the history books as "black Friday."
At 2:00 p.m., a group of soldiers that had just finished its
shift at the General staff headquarters stood on the road
passing through the Kirya in Tel Aviv, near "Victor Gate." A
suicide bomber, looking just like a reservist and carrying an
army backpack, blew up among them. A few minutes later, while
the sirens were still slicing the air, another suicide bomber
blew up at the entrance to the Azrieli mall.
A few days earlier, at the beginning of that same week, three months to
the declaration of the hudna, everything still looked different. The high
holidays had gone by quietly, and the level of terror attacks up until the
high holidays had been relatively low. On September 30 there had been
another meeting between Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Palestinian
Defense Affairs Minister Mohammed Dahlan. Just another meeting of the
leaders of the supreme security committee, which had become routine in the
course of the three-month old hudna. At that meeting Dahlan told Mofaz that
while the hudna was formally over, he has "an understanding with the
organization leaders that it is continuing, without being declared so
publicly." Later in the meeting the usual issues were raised: dismantling
the outposts and disarming the Palestinian opposition organizations. "By
January 2004," Dahlan said, "We will complete our confiscation of the
weapons." "By January 204," Mofaz told him sarcastically, "we too, most
likely, will finish dealing with the outposts." And as in every meeting,
Dahlan again raised the matter of releasing Islamic Jihad and Hamas
prisoners, and this was dropped by Mofaz. Everything projected business as
The next day, October 1, while the Egyptian newspapers quoted "sources
close to the defense minister" saying that in practice the hudna, is
continuing, there are two terror attacks in the West Bank. The first is a
shooting attack at the exit to Hebron. A family from Kiryat Arba, a father
and his five-year-old son, are killed. The mother and two small children
are wounded. Nobody claims responsibility. A few hours afterwards a grenade
is thrown at the Gvaot Olam outpost followed by automatic fire. One person
is killed and three are wounded. The terrorists flee uninjured. No
organization claims responsibility.
The prime minister urgently convenes the cabinet that evening. The right
wing ministers demand stopping all contact with the Palestinians and any
observance of the road map. The GSS and IDF Intelligence leaders present a
report indicating that the terror attacks were committed as a result of
internal differences in Hamas and Islamic Jihad over a return to terror.
Their report states that the most extreme wings, which contend that no
settlements were dismantled and no prisoners released, was responsible for
the terror attacks. The evening news speaks of an end to the hudna, but
nobody imagines that things will get much worse. In a consultation with the
prime minister, it is decided to make a "targeted killing" of those
responsible for the terror attack in Hebron.
It is already reported on the evening news that Abu Mazen is asking for
an urgent meeting with the prime minister. The meeting takes place late at
night on the night between October 1 and 2. Sharon, who is generally
meticulous about being polite, is very sharp and harsh and tells Abu Mazen
that Israel is not willing to wait until January for Dahlan to begin
disarming Hamas. He demands that he now enter areas controlled by Hamas,
make arrests, seize weapons and dismantle bomb labs. "There is nothing to
talk about if you do not come up with a concrete plan of action, even in
stages," he tells Abu Mazen. "We will respond in accordance with your
progress. There will be no prisoner release, no Israeli gestures, if there
is no concrete action of your against the carnage that took place today."
"And what will I tell my people," Abu Mazen asks. "After all, we've had
three months of quiet, and what have I actually received in exchange?"
Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom joins the conversation: "Hundreds were
released from prison, traffic in Gaza moves freely, people go to the beach
and play backgammon. And what do we tell our public? For us, what has
changed for the better?"
The next day Egypt announces that it sending a delegation to try and
conciliate between the Hamas factions and the Palestinian Authority and try
to maintain the hudna. Egyptian attempts to lower the tension are met with
frank disdain by the Palestinians. Egypt openly states that it is
considering abandoning the Palestinians to their own devices. Mubarak says
in a public interview: "I reminded Arafat of my phone number. He can look
for me when he needs me."
On Friday, two days after the Abu Mazen-Sharon meeting, the last shreds
of hope for the continuation of the peace process go up in smoke at Victor
Gate and at Azrieli.
Secret Message to the Quartet
The above scenario is the apex of a simulation game, "Middle East 2003,"
held last week at Tel Aviv University. This is the largest simulation game
ever held in an academic framework anywhere in Israel on a political issue.
Dozens of experts from the academic world, research institutes and
government institutions participated.
According to the game, three months after the declaration of the hudna, a
crisis takes place that obligates the three major players - the Israeli
government, the PA and the American administration - to shake off the sense
of standing in place and to begin moving towards an international
conference and implementing stage two of the road map. According to the
opinion of those who took part in the simulation game, implementing stage
two is in the basic interest of each of the major players and therefore it
will take place, despite what appears today to be a weak hudna with one
political or security crisis following another.
Other players, like orbiting satellites, revolve around the major
players - the European community, the western world and the terror
organizations - that either help or hinder reaching the goal: moving to
stage two of implementing the road map.
The simulation game begins at the beginning of August 2003. On August 7
The Washington Post leaks a secret message sent a day earlier by Abu Mazen
to the members of the Quartet in which he displays new Palestinian
positions. The Palestinians, the message states, will be willing to
relinquish the right of return and declare an end to the conflict in
exchange for an Israeli commitment to return to the 1967 borders and for an
arrangement in Jerusalem in the spirit of the Clinton plan. As a first step
to implementing the new outline, Abu Mazen demands the dismantling of all
the outposts established in the territories since September 2000 and
dismantling one of the larger settlements in Gush Katif. Regarding terror,
the message states: only after Israel begins making peace steps, can Abu
Mazen act determinedly to disarm the terror organizations. In any case,
dismantling the organizations will come after his victory in Palestinian
Authority elections. Therefore, until the elections, no pressure must be
placed on him in this regard.
The leak to The Washington Post causes regional shock. Syria requests a
special meeting of the Arab League. Hizbullah attacks the Palestinian
Authority and accuses it of abandoning the refugees. In discussions that
the prime minister holds with his close advisers on the day of the leak, it
is clear to him that if Israel responds affirmatively to the initiative,
this will break up the government. On the other hand, rejecting it is
liable to lead to a clash with the Americans. The prime minister orders the
defense minister to try and bypass the initiative and to reach an agreement
with the Palestinians on steps that are more gradual.
At this stage, neither side is ripe for accelerating the stages of the
road map. Israel is preoccupied with internal economic difficulties. While
there is a drop in the terror attacks, even "small" terror attacks means
imposing closures and occasionally carrying out active military activity.
In the meantime, nothing concrete happens. No outposts are really removed,
and no terror organizations are really dismantled. Treading water. The
opposition in Israel again states that Israel is losing the momentum.
On August 3 Secretary of State Colin Powell arrives in Israel. In a
meeting with the prime minister, the secretary of state states that if
Israel does not immediately begin implementing the road map, i.e.
dismantling inhabited outposts, releasing 500 prisoners, stopping the
policy of closures and sporadic IDF actions in the territories, then "the
US will consider changing its attitude toward Israel." In a cabinet meeting
on August 10, the NRP ministers threaten to quit if Sharon does not reject
the new Abu Mazen plan publicly and immediately. The Left puts pressure on
Sharon to have it join a national unity government.
The next day the media leaks Sharon's cry to the NRP ministers: "Brig.
Gen. Eitam, you won't teach the prime minister what patriotism is."
And What is Weissglass Up To?
The message left by Colin Powell is very upsetting. Due to concern of a
change in the US's attitude towards Israel, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom
is sent to the US to see if Colin Powell was stating an independent
position or that of the president. In the course of the meeting at the
White House with Dr. Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, the
secretary of defense and the president enter. Shalom reports to them that
the prime minister was surprised by the American remark. The mood is foul.
Secretary of State Colin Powell says with unconcealed cynicism: "And how is
Mr. Weissglass? Is he feeling well? How it is that we haven't seen him in
At the meeting, the Americans demand harshly that the closures and
roadblocks be removed to strengthen Abu Mazen. They also hint that they are
willing to accept a compromise raised by the Quartet. The president speaks
harshly about the outposts. Nevertheless, he repeats the slogan of the US
commitment to Israel and to the Jewish community.
The Palestinians publicly deny that there is any new initiative put
forth by Abu Mazen. Israel breathes a sigh of relief. In the meantime, a
new opposition element to the PA appears in Ramallah, calling itself the
"Islamic National Forces." This is a national organization and its
representatives say that it includes "both civilians and soldiers," and it
demands of the PA to retract all decisions that affect the right of return.
The uproar over Abu Mazen's initiative dies down. The situation reverts to
what it was.
In mid-September the prime minister attends the UN General Assembly in
New York. The real reason for his trip is to meet the American president.
This meeting does take place, and in the course of it Sharon manages to
dispel some of the misunderstandings between the two sides. He makes it
clear to the president that the delay in the road map is due to the
Palestinians' inability and lack of desire to address security issues.
Israel, Sharon tells Bush, recommends that a plan be worked out with a
precise timetable for battling terror that the Palestinian Authority will
have to adhere to. The president promises to respond to this plan in the
future. The prime minister explains that Israel continues to act, in
self-defense, against "ticking bombs."
In wake of the meeting, the Americans make it clear to Abu Mazen that
they do not intend to pressure Israel to remove outposts unless he begins
to dismantle the terror organizations.
Israel goes back to a feeling of business as usual. After a series of
terror attacks in the West Bank and in Tel Aviv, a tight closure is clamped
on the territories. Israel assassinates the members of the cell that
carried out the terror attack in Hebron. The security establishment comes
to a decision that from now they do not "target" only ticking bombs.
A sense prevails in the region that we've gone back to the days before
the hudna. A spokesman of al-Qaida appears on Al Jazeera and announces that
two of its people, George Smith and Steven Rose, two British citizens who
converted to Islam, were responsible for the terror attack at Azrieli.
The American president invites the Palestinian foreign minister to the
White House. The latter is given an ultimatum in the spirit of the
agreement between Prime Minister Sharon and the president: if you do not
dismantle terror, there will be no Palestinian state. President Chirac and
Chancellor Schroeder meet in Berlin, examine ways to promote the peace
process and come to a dramatic decision: the European Union will agree to
take on the task of settling the Palestinian refugees where they live,
promising to grant them rights of citizenship. The EU will also help the
Arab states in upgrading and rehabilitating their economies as part of the
solution to the refugee problem. The Russian president, Putin, joins the
The Palestinians arrest the Hamas leader in Nablus and dismantle an
explosives lab. The American ultimatum is still reverberating in the air,
when at the end of October, a bombshell is tossed: the Izzadin Kassam
organization announces that it is holding three Israeli soldiers that it
abducted in "southern occupied Palestine." Hamas demands the release of the
all the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails within 48 hours.
Israel and the PA are stunned. For the PA, this is a breaking point.
From this point Abu Mazen could collapse, along with his government. In
meetings in the Palestinian Authority there is a sense that if the PA tries
to rescue the hostages itself and the hostages are killed, it will not be
able to justify this move.
At this point there is exceptional cooperation, marking a turning point
in cooperation between the two sides. Mohammed Dahlan cooperates with
Israel to locate where the hostages are being held in the southern Gaza
Strip, and promises to kill those behind the cell that abducted them.
Israel gives the Palestinians an ultimatum of six hours to rescue the
soldiers. Dahlan provides the information and Israel successfully rescues
the hostages. Dahlan does his part and kills the members of the band behind
the abduction. This is the first time that the PA actually uses force
against a terror element.
Following this drama, Abu Mazen is invited to meet with the president
and top-ranking administration officials. After the meeting he takes three
major steps: he declares that anybody dealing in terror is outside the law.
He passes a law that anyone bearing arms who is not a policeman is to be
imprisoned. Dahlan's men raid a weapons warehouse in the southern Gaza
Strip. In the course of a battle against former Fatah men, who are also
responsible for the smuggling from Egypt, 24 of them are killed.
In November, the PA comes out with a constitution. The constitution is
more akin to Israel's declaration of independence and is not given much
attention, either hostile or favorable, by Israel or the US. Everyone is
waiting for elections in the PA, scheduled to take place in January 2004.
Until that time Israel completes transferring security responsibility over
Areas A and B to the PA, so as to enable free elections. Armored forces
are removed from these areas. The level of warnings drops thanks to the
determination displayed by the PA security organizations. Hamas, Islamic
Jihad and other opposition elements take part in the elections. The orders
relayed by their political echelons are to lower the level of violence
against Israel to a minimum and to focus on getting support in the elections.
Arafat, who is running for president, can leave the mukataa and go out
into the sunshine. Ever since security responsibility is transferred to the
PA, he has been going about Ramallah and getting himself interviewed on any
media getting anywhere near him.
57% of those eligible to vote take part in the elections to the PA,
which are held in January. The results are astounding. Arafat, as
expected, is elected president by a 78% majority. Fatah, headed by Abu
Mazen, earns a decisive majority, 55%. Hamas receives 25%, Islamic Jihad
receives 6%, and the independent candidates get the rest. Hamas is
disappointed, but for the first time finds itself part of the Palestinian
On election day there is a terror attack attempt against a convoy that
Dahlan is riding in on the Karni-Netzarim road. A leaflet is circulated at
a-Najah University showing Dahlan's picture and saying, "every dog has his
day." In Lebanon, Palestinian refugees seize control of the German and
French embassies in protest that the Palestinian exiles are left out of the
elections. But the protest ends with this.
In his victory speech, Abu Mazen demands that the sides move on quickly
to the second stage of the road map. Israel and the US make a secret
decision: to continue to ignore Arafat even though he was elected in
democratic elections and to hold talks only with Abu Mazen and Dahlan.
Ever since the publication of the constitution in November, and up until
April 2004, both sides make efforts to fulfill their commitments as stated
in the road map. Israel releases over 700 Palestinian prisoners. The
government passes a decision and dismantles outposts, including inhabited
ones, clashing violently with settlers. A resignation of the right wing
ministers appears imminent. The Palestinians begin to register and
confiscate weapons, clashing violently with radical groups. A joint
Israeli-American-Palestinian agreement enables money to be sent to the PA
so that it can purchase the weapons held by Palestinian civilians.
Although the first stage is not carried out completely, the reports sent
by John Wolf convince the US that there is a basis to hold an international
conference that will discuss the establishment of a Palestinian state in
Peace Affairs Minister
On March 10, 2004 a mass protest is held in Rabin Square calling on the
Israeli government to get out of the impasse, to dismantle outposts and
respond to the democratization process happening in the Palestinian
Authority. Ministers Tommy Lapid and Avraham Poraz speak. Lapid says that
he is very worried about the continuing impasse. Senior American
representatives are sent to Israel to coordinate positions on the
international conference. The Israeli government decides to accede to the
invitation. The right wing ministers quit the government on the
understanding that an international conference means the recognition of an
independent Palestinian state, albeit in temporary borders. The Labor Party
joins the government. Minister Shimon Peres is appointed minister for
The right wing holds rowdy demonstrations in Jerusalem even before
quitting the government. This is in wake of a leak to the press that the
Planning Branch in the General Staff has already prepared a position paper
on a territories swap: Israel is prepared to swap territories for villages
in Wadi Ara. The leak is an Israeli ploy meant to prevent the Palestinians
from demanding areas beyond Areas A and B in stage two. As planned, the
publication of a territories swap immediately generates tremendous turmoil
among Israeli Arabs. This makes it clear to the Americans that any
discussion on areas beyond A and B is liable to make the process drag on
The international conference takes place in early May 2004 in New York,
under the auspices of the Quartet. The chairman is the American president.
Also attending, alongside the Quartet leaders, are the leaders of the Arab
states. Israel comes to the international conference fairly well
coordinated with the Americans regarding handing over Areas A and B to the
Palestinians, plus a few percentages more, creating territorial contiguity,
making it possible for the Palestinians, in temporary borders, to have
around 50% of the territories. Israel will continue to control air space
and the sea, and the Palestinian state is to be demilitarized. The
Palestinians demand all of the Gaza Strip, 90% of the West Bank and
responsibility for all the "non-Palestinians" in these territories. The
establishment of a Palestinian state in principle is decided at the end of
the conference, although there are differences over its borders. President
Bush notes that there is a basis for beginning negotiations, which will
take place in secret.
There is one minor crisis at the conference that threatens to make it
fall apart. The Palestinian president, Yasser Arafat, demands to go to the
conference as the senior Palestinian representative. Intervention by the
Arab world and the Europeans leads to a compromise: Arafat announces that
he is delaying his arrival for medical reasons.
The conclusion of the participants in the simulation game is: Despite
the problematics of the first stage of the road map, all the sides are
interested in reaching the second stage. For this reason they will overcome
the obstacles. The big test of the road map will be in the course of the
negotiations that will be held in the second stage. This is where the
interests of both sides diverge. Israel will have an interest in dragging
out the second stage for as long as possible, until a relationship of real
trust is created between the two sides.
The simulation game was held under the sponsorship of Tel Aviv
University's School of Administration headed by Prof. Zeev Maoz, the Jaffee
Center for Strategic Studies and the Program for Security Studies at Tel
Aviv University. Prof. Zeev Maoz, Prof. Aluf Yitzhak Ben Yisrael, Col.
(res.) Dr. Ephraim Kam, Dr. Yehuda Ben Meir, Haim Assa and Boaz Munak built
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Arafat's Well Planned Ambush of
Senior Intelligence Correspondent, Yediot Ahronot
Arafat planned his ambush of Abu Mazen meticulously. On Monday
he convened about 40 members of the Palestinian leadership at
the mukataa. There were members of the PLO Executive Committee,
the Fatah Central Committee and other organizations, but all of
the participants were from the inner circle of Arafat's supporters.
Even Dr. Saeb Erekat, who was ignominiously expelled from the
Abu Mazen cabinet, was invited to take part in the discussion.
Officially the meeting was to discuss policy on the talks with
Israel with a view to the upcoming meeting between Abu Mazen and
Sharon, but the real business was to submit Abu Mazen to a hazing.
Arafat laid the ambush well. He asked Abu Mazen to submit a report on
the achievements of his government in the talks, especially on the
sensitive issues of release of the security prisoners and lifting the
siege on the Palestinian cities. Abu Mazen delivered a brief report,
concluding with the words "Israel has not implemented any of its
commitments." Even before he had finished speaking, the signal for the
attack was given. "Resign from the government," shouted the former interior
minister Hani el-Hassan. "Why were you not ashamed to allow two ministers
to meet the Israeli justice minister in occupied Jerusalem?" cried Sahar
Habash, one of Arafat's closest supporters. "Even foreign ministers from
Europe avoid holding meetings there."
From another corner someone shouted: "The prisoners are rotting in jail
and your ministers are visiting luxury hotels," and Abu Mazen was even
accused of being an emissary of the Americans and the Zionists.
Throughout the tirade Arafat was silent. He had supplied his cohorts
with the ammunition in prior conversations, and had no need to try hard.
The feeling among the Palestinian public and the leadership is that Abu
Mazen has not succeeded in changing the daily conditions in the
territories, nor in bringing political gains. The Palestinians have paid
the price but Israel is not giving anything in return.
Abu Mazen tried to keep cool. He said nothing. When the shouting got
louder he walked out of the mukataa, went home and wrote two letters. In
one of them he wrote: "If the Fatah Central Committee does not like the
policy of my government, I wish to resign from that committee."
The second letter, which was addressed to Arafat, was caustic. "I will
thank His Excellency the President to instruct us on precisely what policy
he desires, so that we in the government can consider whether we can
fulfill the task, and if not I will resign from my office."
Abu Mazen seized the opportunity not only to settle accounts with his
domestic opponents, but also with his friends in Israel and the United
States, who had wanted his appointment so much. His threat to resign from
the Central Committee was aimed at his internal enemies, but the threat to
resign from the post of prime minister was a message to the United States
Arafat did not accept the resignation. The rais, who has gone from
crisis to crisis all his life, knows how to exploit them to promote his
aims, but he also knew this time that he should not go too far. Hazing yes,
resignation - not yet. And in the meantime, when the prisoners are
released, he will try to take credit for it. Abu Mazen also knew he must
not resign from the prime minister's office because that would mean the end
of the cease-fire, the collapse of the road map and a return to terrorism,
suicide bombings and war.
The threat to resign is Abu Mazen's most effective weapon. He is the
champion of quitters. He used this threat on the eve of his appointment as
prime minister, when Arafat was against admitting Dahlan to the cabinet.
This time Abu Mazen's aides stressed that he will not resign because of
Arafat. "If Israel causes him to fail, and he is unable to continue with
his policy, he will resign. So long as there is hope, he will continue."
Commenting on Abu Mazen's threat to resign, Fares Kadoura, a Fatah
leader in Ramallah, member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and a
close associate of Marwan Barghouti, said, "I know people who submitted
their resignations, but I don't know one Fatah member who carried out the
By threatening to resign from the Central Committee, Abu Mazen was
trying to obtain its support. His aides say he was also in a sense shaking
off the committee, which was elected in 1988 and has long outlived its
usefulness. "The members of the Fatah Central Committee are from the
generation of Tunis, and for them the reality in the territories is still
foreign. The only representative from the territories, Dr. Zakariya Alaga
from Gaza, is a rubber stamp for Arafat. If elections for the committee
were held today, nobody would vote for these people," an aide said.
"I am the prime minister of all the Palestinian people and its mission,
and my loyalty is to the Palestinian people, not to the Central Committee,"
Abu Mazen himself has already said.
With his threat to resign, Abu Mazen was sending a message to the
Israelis. "If you don't help me, if you don't release more prisoners, if
you don't ease conditions at the roadblocks - you will find yourselves
stuck with Arafat back again," and he backed up his threat by cancelling
the meeting with Sharon which was to have taken place on Wednesday. "It's
not the right time," he told the Israelis.
This article appeared on the July 11th issue of
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Correspondent, Yedioth Ahronot
Three years ago today, on July 10, 2002, the
Israeli prime minister at the time, Ehud Barak, flew to a summit
with Yasser Arafat at Camp David. Upon leaving Israel, Barak
spoke of an historic mission with the goal of ending the
100-year-old conflict with the Palestinians. Arafat left for
Camp David that same night from Gaza, via Cairo. He made no
speeches. His mood was angry and depressed. His associates told
the media: "The summit is doomed to fail." President Bill
Clinton,a few months shy of ending his second term and still
tainted by the Monica Lewinsky affair,put on an optimistic face
but admitted candidly: these will be the hardest negotiations of my life.
The Camp David summit ended two weeks later in frustration and failure:
no agreements were reached. Barak returned to Israel disappointed and
prepared for the worst; Arafat returned as a popular hero who could not be
extorted, and Clinton went back to his business bitter and prepared to
continue to the end attempts to persuade Arafat what is good for him.
The question "what really happened at Camp David" has been discussed and
debated since in books, articles, speeches and memoirs. In the wisdom of
hindsight, three conclusions rise from the confusion:
- Arafat never had any intention of reaching an agreement at Camp
David; even if the State of Palestine had been handed him on a silver
platter, with all the territories captured in 1967, he would have evaded
accepting it. He didn't want a separate Palestinian state, he wanted (and
still wants) a continuous Palestinian revolution. Arafat has never doffed
his military uniform, has not dropped the mentality of the "national
liberation organization" and has never become a civilian in his land.
- At Camp David, Ehud Barak did not have a mandate from the people to
propose the compromises he proposed and that is why they rang in
Palestinian ears as non-committal theoretical statements, as hypothetical
phrases without the ability to implement them on the ground. Barak did not
clash with the settlers, he did not go to the Israeli public to receive a
minimum of support before leaving. His isolation was his weakness. He
should have gone to Camp David after elections, not before them.
- Bill Clinton was not willing to put real pressure on Arafat. And so
it happened that the head of the little Palestinian Authority, dependent
for its existence on the good will of America, gave the US president the
finger, left the room, slamming the door behind it, and did not only go
unpunished for this, but even was privileged to be invited to the White
House again and again for a prolonged begging campaign.
The Palestinians concluded from Clinton's soft and confused reaction to
their rejectionism that one could snub the US, that one could lead the
president by the nose and still enjoy American money and support and
enormous international and internal-Arab prestige. It was only the Bush
administration that put Arafat in his place once and for all.
Three years to Camp David, it is obvious that no such summit will be
held again. There is no sane Israeli statesman who would give a kashrut
certificate and a guarantee to Yasser Arafat; as Israel sees it, Arafat is
finished. His presence only gets in the way and is harmful. Israeli Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Mazen-courageous
statesmen, honest and truthful-met and will meet in the Middle East, with
no need to go far afield to the cabins of Camp David.
Fear of the "Palestinian state," which was the avowed reason for holding
the Camp David summit, has faded as if it never was. And as for the role of
the US: its current president, George Bush, does not see himself as the
servant of two masters, Israeli and Palestinian, who must satisfy their
conflicting wishes. The reverse is true: it is vigorously demanded of them
that they satisfy his wishes.
Jews and Arabs were not within "touching distance" of an agreement at
Camp David, they were a war's distance away. Only after the Camp David
illusion died completely, in the thousand days of fire, blood, terror and
prevention, has the time now come to begin a new and realistic political
discourse between the two stiff-necked peoples.
This piece ran on July 10th, 2003 in
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Prisoner or Terrorist?
The US demands that Israel release Arab
terrorists from its jails.
6,256 Arab terrorists have been apprehended by Israel murdering people or for attempting to murder people in the 18,546 Arab terror attacks which have occurred in less than three years.
822 people have been murdered by Arab terrorists since September 28, 2000.
The media may wish to reconsider describing Arab terrorists who sit in Israeli jails as "prisoners", a term which connotes "prisoners of war".
Cold-blooded murder and the premeditated murder of civilians represent the definition of exactly what terrorism is.
Last week, I covered the one year ceremony which marked the murder of a grandmother and five year old grandchild who were murdered one year ago this week.
Every journalist should consider whether their killer should be referred to as a "prisoner" or a "terrorist".
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