"I think we are witnessing the last gasps of violence by those Palestinians who want to block this accord," Yosse Beilin told Jerusalem Post reporter David Makovsky. Way back on November 30th, 1993!
Labor MK Yosse Beilin has never been big on Palestinian violations. When he was Deputy Foreign Minister he even asked AIPAC to stop compiling reports on PLO compliance. And today he is doing his best to minimize their significance.
Beilin and his fellow travelers have a problem now with Netanyahu. As of this writing it appears that the PM may actually insist on some measure of Palestinian compliance before continuing down the Oslo path. In fact, the Ministers' Committee for National Security set some clear requirements, including the confiscation of illegal weapons and action on Israel's requests for the transfer of terrorist suspects. Something which few observers believe the Palestinians will ever do.
Days before the signing of the Declaration of Principles, Amos Oz wrote in the Jerusalem Post that "Once peace comes, Israeli doves more than other Israelis, must assume a clear-cut 'hawkish' attitude concerning the duty of the future Palestinian regime to live by the letter and spirit of its obligations."
Since then Oz, Beilin and the rest of the Left have done just the opposite.
If Oslo was truly just an "experiment", as Beilin and others originally presented it, then it wouldn't be such a disaster if it failed. But as Beilin now readily admits, Oslo was not a test but instead an attempt by the Labor-Meretz coalition to create permanent Palestinian facts on the ground before the 1996 elections. Forget about all the talk about "mandate" and "democratic process". The Left was determined to make the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza unstoppable, regardless of what the Israeli people should decide when given their first chance to vote since "Oslo" became more than a city in Norway. So here we are after the elections and Netanyahu is finally starting to do the little that he can under the very agreement which Beilin and his colleagues drafted. Under the agreements which they negotiated, Israel can build settlements, set the extent of each of the further redeployments (FRD) and require strict controls on Palestinian ports. These same agreements require the PLO to break up and disarm Palestinian militias, transfer terrorists to Israel for prosecution and refrain from incitement.
Got the score? Israel is acting legally and the PLO isn't. So instead of talking about violations of the agreements, Beilin talks about violations of some amorphous "spirit of Oslo", giving equal footing in his "five point plan" to legal Jewish construction and illegal Palestinian arms smuggling. And instead of calling straight out for an end to Palestinian terror, Beilin opts to sap it of meaning by making it a mutual call against terror and violence, knowing full well that this means bolstering the Palestinian equation that a bomb in Apropo is no more violent than a bulldozer on Har Homa or the imposition of temporary restrictions on the entry of Palestinian workers.
It's bad enough that Beilin and his ilk are doing everything they can to deny Israel its moral advantage in the court of world opinion. But this isn't the only reality which they have distorted.
Labor leaders assured the public that everything was under control since the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin had a "map in his mind" of the final agreement. Beilin, a key player in the negotiations, recently admitted that Rabin never let him take a peak at the map. After he was murdered, Leah Rabin explained to Beilin that Rabin had no plan.
The "Beilin-Mazen plan" may also not be what Beilin has been telling the public. When Dr. Khalil Shikaki, the Columbia University educated head of the Center for Palestine Research and Studies (CPRS) in Nablus, released his most recent poll, he surveyed support for what he terms "a Palestinian version of the so-called Abu Mazen-Beilin Permanent Status Plan."
When I asked Dr. Shikaki how he came up with the idea that there were different Palestinian and Israeli versions to Beilin-Mazen, he explained that there are "two readings of the same document...There is no such thing as an accurate reflection of the document. It's a question of how people see it. Both sides tell the people what they want to see in it." Shikaki's version is "based on newspaper reports and conversations with various people."
It would be easy enough to clear the air on this question if Beilin would make the document public. But as Orit Shani, MK Beilin's Legislative aide, explained, "Beilin and Peres are the only Israelis who have seen it."
Beilin's spokesman, Amir Abramowitz, also hasn't seen the plan. But that doesn't stop him from denying Palestinian claims that the plan includes an understanding that the Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem will ultimately be under Palestinian sovereignty.
Likud MK Michael Eitan, whose Beilin-Eitan plan is touted by Beilin as an extension of Beilin-Mazen, also hasn't seen the plan. "Out of all the hours we spoke, Beilin gave an oral presentation of the Beilin-Mazen plan which took between a quarter hour and twenty minutes."
Eitan himself claims that the Beilin-Mazen plan doesn't matter to him. But if the plan does not exist, or is subject to radically different interpretations, then the compromises made by those who endorsed it in the belief that this was the last step towards an agreement were nothing more than a weakening of what at best may be Beilin's idea of Israel's opening position.
What drives Yosse Beilin to do this? I'll leave that to the psychologists. But don't expect a purely logical explanation. After all, here is a man who, instead of dealing with the world as it is, insists on "convincing himself that 'yihyeh tov' [it will be good]...I simply am not prepared to live in a world where things can't be solved." ("Haaretz" 7 March, 1997).
We all share Beilin's hope that our problems can be solved. But that doesn't mean ignoring reality to get there.
Dr. Aaron Lerner,
That He Pushed For Sinai Withdarwal
When President Bill Clinton won his second term, Rowland Evans and Robert Novak joined forces to put out a column urging him to follow the example of President Dwight Eisenhower to "stand up to Bibi Netanyahu."
"Remember what Eisenhower did to Israel in Sinai!" is embedded in American middle east policy. For Zionists it is a reminder of the U.S. at its roughest. For Israel's opponents, it is the optimal standard. In Israel's 1956 joint military undertaking with Britain and France, Eisenhower warned Israel of severe consequences were she not to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and Sinai. All U.S. assistance would end and financial contributions to Israeli institutions would lose their tax exempt status. There would be serious U.N. declarations and the U.S.S.R. might intervene. After only two days of these warnings Israel complied.
Peter Golden in his "authorized biography" of Max M. Fisher "Quiet Diplomat" (1992) relates that in October 1965 Fisher met with President Eisenhower in Gettysburg to get agreement to accept the U.J.A. medal for his role in the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps twenty years earlier. French General Pierre Keonig leader of the French Resistance and British Field Marshall alexander were also to be honored.
Golden reports that toward the end of the visit Eisenhower "wistfully commented 'You know, Max, looking back at Suez, I regret what I did. I never should have pressured Israel to evacuate the Sinai'" (all references are to pages xvii and xvix). Eisenhower's remark astonished Fisher.
Fisher was not the only one who was told of Eisenhower's change of mind. Nixon told Golden: "Eisenhower...in the 1960s told me -- and I am sure he told others -- that he thought the action that was taken (at Suez) was one he regretted. He thought it was a mistake."
Although Fisher knew this for 27 years before publication of his "authorized biography" he evidently never sought to give it publicity beyond the biography. It is still essentially unknown. Had Eisenhower's rethought position been known in 1965, it might well have been helpful to Israel.
After reading the biography, I wrote Fisher asking why he hadn't publicized this change in Eisenhower's thinking. Unfortunately, he canceled our scheduled meeting in Jerusalem.
The Gettysburg visit brought a change in Fisher's life aspirations. Golden relates that Eisenhower "almost as an afterthought" as they started to depart said: "Max, if I had a Jewish advisor working for me, I doubt I would have handled the situation the same way. I would not have forced the Israelis back." Fisher was "struck...with the impact of epiphany. If Fisher had been unsure of the of the extent of power an unofficial advisor could wield with a president, he now had his answer, and from an unimpeachable source: the influence exerted could be decisive. It was exactly the role Fisher hoped to play."
Author Peter Golden regarded Fisher's 1965 Gettysburg visit with Eisenhower so crucial that he related it in biography's introduction titled "Eisenhower and the Revelation of Sinai". Yet, somehow that revelation escaped the attention it deserved.
Dr Lerner was a white house economic advisor from 1952 until 1986. He now lives in Jerusalem and works with IMRA, Independent Media Review and Analysis
Palestinian political prisoners held in PA prisons and interrogation centers have been refused the right to see their lawyers. At the Interrogation Center for the General Intelligence in Jericho, 24 political prisoners are being held and denied the right to see their lawyers and, in many cases, their families.
In one typical example, Attorney Hossam Arafat, 35 years old and from Rami near Tulkarem, has been held in the General Intelligence Interrogation Center in Jericho since 8 February 1997. Security officials informed him at the time of his arrest that he had been arrested for political reasons. The 24 political prisoners held here have not been formally charged nor tried for their activities. Mr. Arafat, after languishing two months without a formal charge or trial, went on hunger strike on 22 April. After he was informed him that negotiations were underway with President Arafat, he ended his hunger strike on 26 April. Nothing has changed for him yet.
In addition, the General Intelligence services only allowed his family to visit him once, on 24 April. His family reported that he was weak after two days of hunger strike. His lawyer has not once been allowed to visit him in his formal capacity as a lawyer, but only as if on personal visits.
A lawyer from LAW visited Mr. Arafat on 30 April and was refused permission to see him as a lawyer and as a representative of LAW. He was admitted for a personal visit only.
Twenty of 24 political prisoners at the Interrogation Center are listed below:
Local law guarantees the right of prisoners to a lawyer and international law protects the freedom of speech and opinion. LAW believes continued incarceration without a right to a lawyer, and continued arrests for political activities, undermine democratic principles and the rule of law. These policies, in contravention of accepted principles, further highlight the dangerous and illegal practices of a Palestinian Authority struggling to control its political opposition.
LAW - The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment is a non-governmental organization, dedicated to preserving human rights through legal advocacy. LAW is also an affiliate member of the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights.
IMRA interviewed Marwan Barghouti, Secretary General of Fatah in the West Bank, in English:
IMRA: The English translation we have of the Fatah decisions from the March 23rd meeting includes a "call on the masses of the people to go out against the settlements via all legal means..." Is that an accurate translation - "legal".
Barghouti: Yes. By "legal" we mean "peaceful."
IMRA: What kind of "peaceful" activities do you have in mind. Can you give some examples?
Barghouti: Peaceful activities. Demonstrations, marching.
IMRA: Rock throwing?
Barghouti: You mean stone throwing.
IMRA: Stone throwing?
Barghouti: Yes. Including stones. I don't think that stones are violence. It is peaceful to throw stones.
IMRA: You also call on the people to "close the bypass roads before settler traffic." How do you see closing the roads?
Barghouti: With stones.
IMRA: Throw stones at the cars?
Barghouti: Close the roads by putting stones in the road.
IMRA: This is legal?
Barghouti: Of course it is legal
The following are the decisions passed at the end of a meeting of the Supreme Council of Fatah on 23 March in the evening at Beit Sahour:
To place the responsibility for the serious breakdown in the peace process and all developments which result from it on the Israeli government. To consider the decision of the government of Israel regarding the establishment of new settlements, as an act of terror and aggression against the Palestinian people, the Arab nation, and international legitimacy.
To emphasize the support of Fatah in the Palestinian Authority and president Abu Amar in the struggle with this policy. To emphasize the strengthening of unity among all political, national, Islamic forces and the masses of the Palestinian people. To call on the PLO and the Palestinian Authority to stop the negotiations with the Israeli side and stop all measures of coordination with Israel, principle among them security coordination.
To call on the masses of the people to go out against the settlements via all legal means and close the bypass roads before settler traffic.
To declare a condition of general alert among the ranks of the Fatah movement throughout the homeland. To call on the peace camp in Israel to fill its role and increase its activities within Israel in order to put pressure on the government of Israel, which is drawing the region again into violent turmoil.
To punish the land agents.
To consider Land Day a Palestinian day for popular processions in all the cities, villages and camps in the homeland and camps in the diaspora under the slogan "Jerusalem eternal capital of Palestine" and "No peace with settlements".
To call on the Arab public throughout the Arab homeland to hold demonstrations as a sign of solidarity with Palestine and in the defense of the Arabness of Jerusalem.
To denounce the position of the U.S. which leans completely in favor of the Tel Aviv government.
To praise the decision of the Palestinian Authority to free many prisoners from Palestinian Authority prisons, and call on it to free everyone.
To call for the branch committees to hold conferences of the movement in every district with the participation of all activists, public structures and movement offices, in preparation for popular conferences with the participation of all Palestinian forces. To praise the popular action in the Hebron district, Bethlehem, Jerusalem and the rest of the homeland and in particular the general strike held by the people in the camps in Lebanon on 23 March.
To call on the masses to boycott Israeli products which have a substitute in Palestinian markets.
(Al-Hayat al-Jadida - 24 March, 1997)
Editor's note: Marwan Bargouti has been suggested as the liason between the Israeli settler population and the Palestine Authority
Dr. Aaron Lerner,
PLO Covenant Remains
Like a cat with nine lives, the PLO Covenant refuses to die, leaving doubts about the seriousness of the fledgling Palestinian entity's acceptance of Israel's right to exist.
That is the message of a panel discussion consisting of journalists and academics, in which a video of the famous PNC vote was shown, sponsored by the Middle East Forum at the Beit Agron Press Center last night.
Speaking before a packed audience, Professor Yehoshua Porat of Hebrew University, an expert on Palestinian nationalism, said the Palestinian National Council has failed to make the changes required by the Oslo Agreement, which calls for the PNC to remove all articles in the Covenant calling for Israel's destruction.
This accusation comes just over one year after the historic PNC voting session in Gaza, after which Shimon Peres proclaimed that Arafat had fufilled his promise to amend the thirty two year old charter.
Porat countered Peres's claim, pointing out that the resolution adopted by the PNC that day only declared the PNC's willingness to change the Covenant, legally leaving it unaltered. Porat also noted that the resolution, which calls for abrogating those articles which stand in contradiction to Oslo, did not specify which articles were to be changed, leaving the Covenant in a state of ambiguity.
Porat revealed that Peres's belief that the PNC had cancelled the Covenant resulted from a misunderstanding between him and his legal advisor, and Nabil Sh'ath. The day before the vote, Sh'ath told the legal advisor that he would submit to the PNC the next day a resolution calling for the cancellation of the Covenant. However, Sh'ath presented a different resolution, which would then send the matter to the Central Council. He did not relay this change to his Israeli counterpart. When Peres heard the next day that a resolution had been adopted, he assumed that the PNC had fulfilled its mission.
While not disagreeing with Porat's claim that the Covenant was not legally altered, Joel Greenberg, Jerusalem correspondent for the New York Times, questioned whether this was a cause for concern. Recounting an incident between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators at the Madrid peace talks, Greenberg described how no one on the Palestinian team had a copy of the Covenant when the Israelis brought up the issue. The Israeli negotiators had to provide the Palestinians with one. By this time, Greenberg argued, the Covenant had become a dinosaur. A Palestinian researcher participating on the panel concurred, noting that Arafat had accepted UN Resolution 242, which recognizes Israel's right to exist, back in 1988. While not officially changing the charter, this change of direction on the part of the PLO made the Covenant obsolete. The legal process of abrogating the charter was completed in the fall of 1996, he said, but did not provide any evidence to verify it.
The showing of the video cast doubts on the claim that the Covenant had ceased to have any importance for the PLO. Speaking before the members of the PNC, Saleem al-Za'anoon, PNC chairman, stated:
"...if we amend those articles, whose amendment is demanded it will mean that we have paid a very high price. And if we prepare a new proposal, it will be less damaging than the 1st solution."
Porat asked why the PNC failed to change the Covenant in compliance with Oslo if by this time it no longer had any importance. He noted that Arafat has defended his apparent acceptance of Israel to Arab critics by basing it on the PLO resolution of 1974, which calls for the PLO to set up a state on any part of Palestine, and then use it as a launching pad from which to liberate the rest of Palestine. Porat said he does not know that Arafat is acting according to the "phased plan", but said that he is in doubt since Arafat has not changed the Covenant.
Porat further pointed out that besides not specifying which articles were to be annulled, the resolution did not say all articles that contradict Oslo would be changed. This is a crucial distinction, and it is unlikely that such a semantic error escaped the PNC's attention. After all, Resolution 242 calls on Israel to withdraw from lands occupied during wars, instead of from the lands or all lands. Israeli officials have argued on occasion that on this basis they have fulfilled their obligations under 242, and therefore do not have to cede more territory. Presumably Palestinians are familiar with this argument.
Where is the money? This question disturbed many people last week, following the publication regarding Yasser Arafat's secret account. "Where is the money?" asked the residents of the Palestinian Authority as they sought to clarify what exactly is being done with the taxes collected by the monopoly owners and those who control the crossings and loading zones. "Where is the money?" the Knesset Finance Committee sought to clarify, in March 1997, in a special discussion, which was convened following the findings>of the Ha'aretz "Weekend Supplement" (4.4.97), to which senior Israeli>Finance Ministry officials were summoned. "Where is the money" asks>Palestinian Legislative Council member Khosam Hadad, this time meaning the>PLO's overseas assets.
The size and worth of these assets -- which the Palestine Liberation Organization has accumulated in the 33 years of its existence -- are still mystery. "Nobody knows the truth about the PLO's assets abroad," says former Israel Police minister Moshe Shahal. "In the peace talks, we did not dare to raise the issue." Who controls these assets today?
The PLO remains a very powerful economic organization, having received billions of dollars from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states since 1967. A large part of the assets come from taxes levied by the Arab countries: approximately 5% of the salary of every Palestinian who worked in their areas was deducted at the source and transferred to the organization's accounts in Switzerland and Spain. This collection alone brought in approximately $50 million annually.
"In total, the PLO made profits of something like $50 million a day," said Eli Halachmi, who was head of the economic branch in the research arm of IDF Military Intelligence at the end of the 1970s. "The organization had astounding properties. They had many straw companies which aided their penetration of the European market. The Kuwaitis helped them buy shares of companies such as Mercedes. They exercised great economic influence in France, Switzerland, Italy, Holland and Scandinavia."
In order to rule over its economic operations, in 1970 the PLO established the organization "Samed", or by its full name "The Organization of the Sons of Palestinian Martyrs", which has been headed since then by Ahmed Kari'a (Abu-Allah). Samed conducted many investments in the name of the PLO and its management was highly secretive and directly reported to Yasser Arafat, who also personally signed its cheques. Part of Samed's activities the PLO was interested in revealing, from a public relations standpoint. The organization published a magazine, "Samed al-Iktzadi" (The Economic Samed), with many pictures of Palestinian women working at sewing and weaving and Palestinian men sowing fields in agricultural farms in Africa and Lebanon. According to the statistics given in Guy Bechor's "PLO Lexicon", Samed employed several thousand workers in Lebanon until Israel expelled them in 1982. They were considered Fatah activists in every way, including in the compensation tables, for example.
Under the umbrella of Samed a number of associations operate including the manufacturer's Association, the Trade and Marketing Association, the Agriculture and Agricultural Produce Association, the Research and Publications Department, and the Department for Disseminating Films and Propaganda. The latter initiated and distributed a number of propaganda films and films pertaining to the Palestinian struggle. At the end of the 1980s, it initiated the production of a full length film and invested millions of dollars, including the drafting of foreign actors and cameramen. The raw material was sent for editing in a laboratory in Rome. One night in July 1989, the laboratory was broken into and not a trace of the Palestinian's film was left.
The Samed magazine identifies its' branches economic activities and in general, reports on the organization's participation in a large number of economic exhibitions and its joint activities with the countries of the Eastern Bloc (until it fell apart) and with black Africa. Samed opened 20 Chambers of Commerce in various countries, such as Japan, Thailand and China in Asia, Guinea and Mali in Africa, Hungary and Poland in Eastern Europe, and France and Italy in the West. In its record years, Samed had 26 set exhibitions. The reports of Samed acknowledge its participation in weapons factories. The organization noted that it has a weapons factory in South Yemen and in Princedom of Brunei. Guy Bechor shows that at the end of the Iran-Iraq War in 1988, Arafat presented a gift of an RPG launcher manufactured by Samed to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. It is a little difficult because of this to take at face value the words of Dr Maher al-Kurd, the Palestinian Authority's Deputy Minister of Economics and Commerce. Dr al-Kurd absolutely and categorically denies everything. According to him, Samed's assets consisted of farms, for the most part farms in Lebanon which were destroyed by the IDF invasion in 1982. "After the war", adds al-Kurd, "they were left with a few projects in Africa, mainly in Somalia and Sudan. The civil wars and drought in those countries destroyed the farms. Samed had no property other than farms. No shares, no Swiss bank accounts. If only all the rumors were true."
It is difficult to estimate how much the PLO's assets are really worth. In an article published by Eric Lurun in "Le Figaro" he claims that hundreds of millions of dollars of PLO money was transferred from Lebanon to Switzerland at the beginning of the IDF siege of Beirut in 1982. Already in the 1970s, with the help of the Soviet Union, and in particular the "Moscow Narodny" Bank, Arafat and a number of his aides arranged investments on Wall Street, in the City of London, and in a number of Arab banks. The PLO also invested in large industrial concerns that were floated on the Frankfurt, Tokyo and Paris stock exchanges, as well as in real estate in the Mayfair area of London. Until the Gulf War in 1991, writes "Le Figaro", the cash reserves of the PLO came to $7 million. Arafat divided this mighty sum between a number of accounts in Zurich and Geneva, in such banks as Union of Suisse Bank, and Chemical Bank of New York. In Israel, the figures cited in "Le Figaro" are considered exaggerated, but the assertion that the PLO was in the 1970s and 1980s a very strong economic force is accepted. Its bank accounts were spread across the globe, including in eastern Jerusalem, and were registered in the names of various private individuals, [never in the name of the PLO] including that of Ahmed Kari'a (Abu Alla). If one considers the sums received by the PLO in the form of taxes and contributions, and subtracts from this its various outlays -- on strengthening its structure, on propaganda and on operations, the differential is hugely on the side of the earnings.
When Yasser Arafat ever sits down to write his economic memoirs, he will also be able to solve the question of the disappearance of Samir Najem A-Din. This mysterious man, a Palestinian resident in Saudi Arabia, is today in the seventh decade of his life, if he is still alive. A-Din has been portrayed in the Western press as one of the leading PLO money men, as the head of a secret arm concerned with the transfer of funds for confidential purposes. He led the "SAS" whose name came from the first initials of the names of its three managers: Samir Najem A-Din, Adnan Al-Kilani and Sakir Farhan. This triumvirate managed business interests straddling the world, via BCCI, the same institution at the center of scandal five years ago. It was founded by a group of Sheikhs from the United Arab Emirates, and was closed in 1992 in a joint operation of Interpol and the World Bank. The western media reported then that the bank was a giant launderer of illegal funds, including the funds of many underground and terror organizations. Its management sat in Pakistan, but the orders came out of Abu Dhabi.
Legal officers managed to confiscate 20 billion dollars, 75% of the assets of the Bank in 69 states. The closure of the bank also led to the discovery of account number 80820577, in the name of Samir Najem A-Din, from which money was taken for a variety of purposes. On 13th of March, 1984, for example, the owner of the account instructed the bank to transfer $17,000 to the Dafex arms factory in Portugal. Two weeks later he ordered the transfer of $100,000 to the account of Munzer Al-Kazar in Banco De Bilbao in Spain. Al-Kazar is a Syrian citizen close to the regime in Damascus, whose name has been linked in recent years to a number of illegal actions taken on behalf of Palestinian terror organizations, among them the bombing of the Pan-Am plane over Lockerbie.
In an interview with the BBC after the liquidation of the bank, Rasan Ahmed Kassem, manager of the branch in Sloane Street in London, related that A- Din opened the account with a deposit of $50 million, and that most of that money was used for arms purchases in Britain. The true role of Najem a-Din is made yet more elusive by the claim that he was the money man for the Abu Nidal organization, which split off from the PLO already at the beginning of the 1970s, in which case he could not be connected to the secret accounts of Arafat. A directive given by Najem A-din to the bank, in which he orders the monthly transfer of 10,000 pounds to the account of Amin al- Banna, apparently the cousin of Abu Nidal, is used as a basis for this claim. Al-Banna is suspected of involvement in the murder of Issam Sartawi, Arafat's political adviser.
According to various sources of information, the PLO participated in the establishment of the airline of the Maldive Islands, and afterwards was one of the owners of the airline of Guinea-Bissau. An Israeli official says that Fayez Zaidan -- head of the Palestinian Aviation Authority today -- managed this company in the past. Samed also acquired a duty-free shop at Tanzania's international airport in Dar e-Salaam. In 1986, the PLO representative in Zimbabwe, Ali Khalima, said that, "this is merely an investment," and that in the same period, Samed also dealt in purchasing additional shops in Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Last week, a western diplomatic official -- who requested that his name not be mentioned -- said that various Palestinian Authority officials have confirmed the existence of airlines and duty-free shops in Africa which belong to the PLO. Even so, the same Palestinians have claimed that many of these assets -- over the years -- suffered heavy losses for the PLO, with some of them in a state of bankruptcy.
The opposition to Arafat inside the PLO, and the various factions which quit the organization, such as that led by Abu Zaim (Attalah Attalah) in 1986, have uncovered a long series of financial transfers benefitting senior PLO officials and secret bank accounts under the Rais' direct supervision. In his book, Inside the PLO, journalist David Halevy describes a complex network of such secret accounts, which were designed for financing exceptional actions and special operations. According to Halevy, the PLO treasury disburses approximately $150 million annually to the chairman's network of private accounts. He points out that Arafat had so much money that he was able to lend money to countries such as [the former] North Yemen and Congo, [the former] Lebanese President Amin Gemayel and others.
Many Palestinians are sure that Arafat is not tainted by personal corruption, but nobody is sure that the many funds under his control are being utilized for goals known to, and accepted by, a majority of the Palestinian people. The policy of the PLO and its leader have also directly influenced both his economic and his political situation. His support for Saddam Hussein after his invasion of Kuwait brought about a cessation in the Gulf states' support for the PLO and the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian workers. The organization almost went bankrupt. It is known that part of Samed's assets were sold during that period in order to finance the PLO's regular activity; it is not clear what part. Approximately one year ago, the American Congress' oversight committee held a secret investigation into the subject and even collected testimony from private and official Israeli experts. The investigation's report was not published. Even so, it is known that the examiners did not succeed in unequivocally determining the worth of the PLO's overseas assets.
Khosam Hadad, a Palestinian Legislative Council member from Nablus, says: "One of the greatest disasters of our economy is that Arafat and his friends are not transferring the PLO's overseas assets to the ownership of the [Palestinian] Authority, a step which could greatly aid economic development here." After his expulsion from the territories in 1988, for Fatah activity, Hadad filled various posts at PLO headquarters in Tunis. "The PLO still has a great many assets in various countries," testifies Hadad. "We have companies, we have real estate, and we have investments in a range of areas. Over the years, the problem has been that the lack of a framework to supervise these assets. Private elements have exploited this for their [own] needs. The [Palestinian] Authority -- instead of becoming a proper body -- is continuing Arafat's own way and lacks supervision over everything related to money."
Abu-Allah, the head of Samed and Chairman of the Palestinian Parliament was not happy to cooperate. "I know nothing about the income of the PLO abroad," he said.
Q: Can we talk about Samed?
A: "I know nothing about Samed."
Q: But you are the organization's chairman?
A: "I know nothing about Samed. If you want to talk about the peace process which is going mad right in front of your eyes, please. Do you want to talk about the Palestinian legislative branch -- no problem. But about the PLO abroad or Samed, I know nothing, really nothing. Thank you and goodbye."
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