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Representing Israel at the Florence Conference


Florence Peace Conference ends in stalemate
Uri Avnery Social activist
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I'll come back to Florence. I think it started in the mid- or the late 1960s. Florence had a mayor named Giorgio La Pira. Giorgio La Pira was an absolutely exceptional individual. He was not a tall man, rather short, very religious, almost a hermit. He lived in a monastery but he was not a monk. However, he was head of the Catholic party and at some point he got it into his head to bring Israelis and Arabs together to make peace. How does one do that? He initiated a conference that would take place in Florence, with all the Mediterranean nations, the Mediterranean colloquiums. Within this conference Israel, which is Mediterranean, and the Arabs, who are Mediterranean, would sit side-by-side and make peace. And the Israeli government responded. There was a mysterious man named Reuven Shiloah. Reuven Shiloah was the head of the institution later known as the Mossad, but then it was still secret and officially he was known as the Head of the Middle East Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, something like that. And the government of Israel, Golda Meir, sent Shiloah to this meeting organized by La Pira and he reacted in a totally negative way to any talk of peace between us and the Arabs. In fact, the Israeli government decided: 'This is not for us' and boycotted it. One of the initiators of the conference apart from La Pira was an Israeli named Joe Golan. Joe Golan was also a very extraordinary individual. He was a one-man foreign ministry. He had a superb talent for making connections. I have come across several people like that during my life, people who were not intellectuals or great thinkers, but they simply knew how to make connections. Wherever they were immediately a network of connections generated around them. Special types of people. He was the king of kings of this art, and he was an advisor to the President of Senegal in Africa, who was a very important person; he was a French writer, and he managed businesses in his name. Politics, business, it was not clear where the border lay between them. 

אני אקפוץ בחזרה לפירנצה. אני חושב שזה התחיל באמצע שנות ה-60' או לקראת סוף שנות ה-60’. בפירנצה היה ראש עירייה בשם ג'ורג'יו לה פּירָה. ג'ורג'יו לה פירה היה איש לגמרי-לגמרי מיוחד במינו. היה איש לא גבוה, נמוך, דתי מאוד, כמעט נזיר, הוא גר במנזר אבל לא היה נזיר, אבל היה ראש המפלגה הקתולית והוא באיזשהו שלב הכניס לראש שלו להפגיש ישראלים וערבים על-מנת לעשות שלום. איך עושים את זה? הוא יזם שבפירנצה תתקיים ועידה של כל עמי הים התיכון, "ועידת הים התיכון”. בתוך הוועידה הזאת ישראל, שהיא ים-תיכונית, והערבים, שהם ים-תיכוניים, ישבו בצד ויעשו שלום. וממשלת ישראל נענתה. היה איש מסתורין בשם ראובן שילוח. ראובן שילוח היה ראש המוסד שלימים נקרא "המוסד" אבל אז הוא עוד היה סודי ובאופן רשמי הוא היה "ראש המחלקה המזרח-תיכונית של משרד החוץ", משהו כזה. וממשלת ישראל, גולדה מאיר, שלחה את ראובן שילוח לוועידה הזאת של לה פירה והוא התייחס בשלילה מוחלטת לכל דיבור של שלום בינינו לבין הערבים. למעשה ממשלת ישראל, החליטה "זה לא בשבילנו" והחרימה אותה. אחד מיוזמי הוועידה חוץ מלה פירה היה ישראלי בשם ג'ו גולן. ג'ו גולן היה גם כן טיפוס מיוחד במינו. ג׳ו גולן היה משרד חוץ פרטי. היה לו כישרון עילאי לקשור קשרים. נתקלתי בכמה אנשים כאלה בחיים שלי, שהם לא היו לא אינטלקטואליים ולא הוגי דעות, הם פשוט ידעו לקשור קשרים. איפה שהם היו מיד נוצרה מסביבם רשת של קשרים. טיפוסים מיוחדים. והוא היה מלך מלכי האמנות הזאת, והוא היה יועץ של נשיא סנגל באפריקה, שהיה איש מאוד חשוב, היה סופר צרפתי, והוא בשמו ניהל עסקים. פוליטיקה, עסקים, לא היה ברור איפה הגבול ביניהם.‏

Uri Avnery (1923-2018) was an Israeli writer, journalist and founder of the Gush Shalom peace movement. As a teenager, he joined the Zionist paramilitary group, Irgun. Later, Avnery was elected to the Knesset from 1965 to 1974 and from 1979 to 1981. He was also the editor-in-chief of the weekly news magazine, 'HaOlam HaZeh' from 1950 until it closed in 1993. He famously crossed the lines during the Siege of Beirut to meet Yasser Arafat on 3 July 1982, the first time the Palestinian leader ever met with an Israeli. Avnery was the author of several books about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including '1948: A Soldier's Tale, the Bloody Road to Jerusalem' (2008); 'Israel's Vicious Circle' (2008); and 'My Friend, the Enemy' (1986).

Listeners: Anat Saragusti

Anat Saragusti is a film-maker, book editor and a freelance journalist and writer. She was a senior staff member at the weekly news magazine Ha'olam Hazeh, where she was prominent in covering major events in Israel. Uri Avnery was the publisher and chief editor of the Magazine, and Saragusti worked closely with him for over a decade. With the closing of Ha'olam Hazeh in 1993, Anat Saragusti joined the group that established TV Channel 2 News Company and was appointed as its reporter in Gaza. She later became the chief editor of the evening news bulletin. Concurrently, she studied law and gained a Master's degree from Tel Aviv University.

Tags: Florence, Senegal, Mali, Giorgio La Pira, Reuven Shiloah, Joe Golan, Eli Lebell

Duration: 3 minutes, 42 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2015

Date story went live: 11 May 2017