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 massacre.

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 ( 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 entity."

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 said.

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:
What Will Occur After Three Months of the Hudna?
Alex Fishman
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 usual.

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 Washington recently?"

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 initiative.

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.

Holding Elections

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 Authority establishment.

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 temporary borders.

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 peace affairs.

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 for years.

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 the game.

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Arafat's Well Planned Ambush of Abu Mazen
Roni Shaked
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 and Israel.

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 threat."

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 Yediot Aharonot

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Camp David:
Three Years Later

Sever Plotzker
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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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 Yediot Aharonot

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Prisoner or Terrorist?
Terminology Counts

David Bedein

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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