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A palm-reader’s prediction comes true


Becoming the PLO’s conduit of their peace plans
Uri Avnery Social activist
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We met a few times that year and the next year − 1974 and 1975 − and made all sorts of plans. I sent letters to Arafat through him. He came with all manner of suggestions, but nothing much came of any of them. Arafat was not yet ready to take any openly public step, everything was absolutely confidential. At some point, it was at the second or third meeting, he said: 'Let us agree to keep this confidential, but each of us will inform the Prime Minister about these meetings'. Which of course was, how should I put it? Somewhat perverted since he was clearly representing Arafat and reporting to him, but the significance was actually that I would report to Yitzhak Rabin.  You have to understand that I had no illusions. These conversations were not for the purpose of entertaining Uri Avnery or to exchange views with Uri Avnery. They were held with the intention of making contact with the Israeli government and Uri Avnery was convenient for them to choose as the first person to be in contact with because, in the first place, I was already quite well known in the Arab world, and as it turned out later, Arafat had read quite a lot of my articles already and he believed in me. And I was an MK up until then − as it happened this occurred after the Yom Kippur War. During those elections on 31 December I lost my place in the Knesset, but I was still sort of an MK, it was still fresh in everyone's memory that I had been an MK. For Arabs in general… in the Arab world there is no difference between a member of parliament and a member of the government. The government appoints the parliament, more or less, in all the Arab countries. Therefore, the term MK in Israeli reality could mean, let me think, the joint list and the Communists – the Arabs understood it differently. They thought I must be close to the government in some way, so I was from the outset the link that led to Rabin. I was aware of this and it was the role that I took upon myself.

ואנחנו נפגשנו כמה פעמים, באותה שנה ובשנה הבאה – 74' ו-75', והצענו כל מיני תכניות. אני העברתי מכתבים לערפאת דרכו. הוא בא עם כל מיני הצעות, לא יצא מזה הרבה. ערפאת לא היה עדיין מוכן לעשות צעד הפגנתי פומבי, הכל היה סודי לגמרי. באיזשהו שלב, זה היה הפגישה השנייה או השלישית, הוא אמר: "בוא נסכים לשמור על החשאיות אבל כל אחד יודיע לראש הממשלה שלו על הפגישות האלה”. שזה כמובן היה, איך להגיד? קצת מעוות. מכיוון שהיה ברור לחלוטין שהוא בא בשם ערפאת והוא מדווח לערפאת, אבל הפירוש היה למעשה שאני אדווח ליצחק רבין. צריך להבין שלי לא היו אשליות, השיחות האלה לא באו בשביל לשעשע את אורי אבנרי או להחליף דעות עם אורי אבנרי, הכוונה הייתה להגיע לממשלת ישראל ואורי אבנרי היה נוח להם לבחור בו כאיש קשר ראשון מפני שאל״ף, הייתי כבר די ידוע בעולם הערבי, וכפי שהתברר אח"כ ערפאת קרא את מאמריי כבר די הרבה זמן והאמין לי. ואני הייתי ח"כ עד, כאמור, זה הרי קרה אחרי מלחמת יוה”כ. באותן בחירות ב-31 בדצמבר אני הפסדתי את המקום שלי בכנסת, אבל הייתי עוד כאילו ח"כ, זה עוד היה טרי בזיכרון. ובשביל ערבים בכלל ח"כ זה, בעולם הערבי בין פרלמנט לבין ממשלה אין הבדל. הממשלה ממנה את הכנסת פחות או יותר בכל המדינות הערביות. לכן המילה "ח"כ" שבמציאות הישראלית זה יכול להיות, אני יודע? "הרשימה המשותפת" ו"קומוניסטים", ערבים הבינו את זה אחרת. חשבו שאני מוכרח להיות קרוב לממשלה באיזושהי צורה, ולכן אני מלכתחילה הייתי הצינור שהוביל לרבין והייתי מודע לזה ובהחלט קיבלתי על עצמי את התפקיד הזה.

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: Yasser Arafat, Yitzak Rabin

Duration: 3 minutes, 29 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2015

Date story went live: 26 June 2017