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My contacts with the PLO


Israeli Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace
Uri Avnery Social activist
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פרסמנו מנשר, זה לא הלך כל כך פשוט. זה היה אנשי שמאל. אז עברנו על המנשר שפרסמנו מילה במילה, פסיק פסיק, נקודה נקודה, עשינו שינויים, בעקרון נשאר אותו מנשר אבל נכנס השמאלץ הזה של לובה אליאב. לובה אליאב היה טיפוס מיוחד, מלא שמאלץ מפא”יי. ולכן לא כתבנו "ירושלים תהיה בירת שתי המדינות" כמו שהיה כתוב במנשר המקורי, אלא "ירושלים בירת הנצח של עם ישראל" בלה, בלה, בלה. ולא היה כתוב "לפתוח מו"מ עם אש”ף", אלא "לפתוח מו"מ עם גורמים פלסטיניים ולא להוציא מן הכלל את אש”ף". ערבב את זה עם הרבה מים, אבל בסה"כ נשאר אותו הדבר. אבל גם השם הם שינו: "ישראל-פלסטין" זה נראה להם קיצוני מדי, במקום ״ישראל-פלסטין״ נכתב "ישראלי-פלסטיני", שזה קצת פחות חד. "המועצה הישראלית למען שלום ישראלי-פלסטיני”. וככה יצאנו לציבור. עשינו מסיבת עיתונאים והדברים התחילו להתגלגל. ואז קרה עוד משהו. היה פרופ' עמית שישב בפריז והיה מקורב לנו. לא היה שייך אלינו אבל היה מקורב לנו. אני גם לא בטוח שהוא חתם על המנשר. היה בפריז, והוא כתב לנו: "אני במגע עם”… כל הזמן שאני מדבר אתך אני מנסה לא לערבב תאריכים, לשמור על רציפות, זה לא קל. הוא דיווח לנו: בא לפריז איש בכיר של אש"ף בשם עיסאם סארטאווי, והוא קיבל ייפוי כוח מערפאת והוא רוצה לפתוח במגע עם המועצה הישראלית. ומבקש שתבוא משלחת לפריז ותיפגש עם משלחת מאש"ף. אושר גדול בצד שלנו. ואז קרה דבר שאני מספר עליו בהיסוס, מפני שזה היה דבר שמאוד הרגיז אותי. כשהקמנו את המועצה הזאת המשופצת, בחרנו באליהו אלישר, שהיה איש מכובד וחשוב, כנשיא המועצה, ומתי פלד, אלוף במילואים, כיו"ר. וכמובן התחלנו בישיבות שבועיות בביתו של אלישר. וכשקיבלנו את ההזמנה לפריז, מתי כיו”ר, קיבל על עצמו להרכיב את המשלחת. והוא הרכיב משלחת יפה מאוד, אבל בלעדי. הוא אמר: "אורי אבנרי כבר נפגש אתם כמה וכמה פעמים, צריכים לשתף אנשים חדשים”. והרכיב משלחת שבה היה לובה אליאב, מאיר פעיל, יוסי אמיתי והוא. והם נסעו לפריז. וזה הרגיז אותי מאוד, והרגיז את רחל עוד יותר. אבל העניין היה נראה לי יותר חשוב מאשר דברים אישיים, אז אני הבלגתי.‏

We published a manifesto and it wasn't quite that easy. These were people from the Israeli left. So we went over the manifesto that we had published, word by word, comma by comma, point by point, and we made changes. The principle of the manifesto remained the same − but this schmaltz that Lova Eliav liked was added. Lova Eliav was a special person, full of the Mapai Party schmaltz. And therefore we did not write, 'Jerusalem will be the capital of the two states' as the original manifesto had declared, but instead we wrote 'Jerusalem − the eternal capital of Israel' blah, blah, blah. And it did not say, 'to open negotiations with the PLO', but rather, 'to open negotiations with the Palestinian entities and not to exclude the PLO'. It needed to be diluted somewhat, but generally speaking it remained the same. But they changed the name, 'Israel-Palestine'. They perceived that as being too extreme, and instead for Israeli-Palestinian Peace'. And that is how we went public. We held a press conference and things started rolling. Then something else happened. Professor Amit, who was based in Paris and was close to us − he did not belong to us but we were close; I'm not sure he signed the manifesto - was in Paris, and he wrote us: 'I am in contact with…' When I speak to you I'm trying to keep the dates correct and to keep the sequence, its not easy...
He continued, 'A senior person in the PLO named Issam Sartawi came to Paris, with Power of Attorney from Arafat, and he wants to connect with the Israeli Council. He is asking for a delegation to come to Paris and meet with a delegation from the PLO'.  There was great joy on our side.

Then something happened that I hesitate to recall because it was something that really annoyed me. When we'd established this remodelled Council we had chosen Eliyahu Eliashar, who was a respected and important person, as the President of the Council, and Matti Peled, a retired general, as the Chairman. And of course we started weekly meetings at the home of Eliashar. And when we received the invitation to Paris, Matti, as the Chairman, took it upon himself to put together the delegation. He composed a very nice delegation, but without me. He said: 'Uri Avnery has already met with them several times; we need to include new people'. And he assembled a delegation which consisted of Lova Eliav, Meir Pa'il, Yossi Amitai and himself. And they went to Paris. And it angered me a lot and upset Rachel even more. But the matter itself seemed to me more important than personal issues so I controlled my anger.

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: Issam Sartawi, Lova Eliav, Eliyahu Eliashar, Matti Peled, Yossi Amitai, Matti Peled

Duration: 4 minutes, 50 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2015

Date story went live: 26 June 2017