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Issam Sartawi did not have an 'Arab' mind


Diplomacy scuppered by a joke
Uri Avnery Social activist
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יעקב ארנון גם מילא תפקיד חשוב בעניינים אלה. יעקב ארנון היה איש חכם. הוא היה הולנדי, הולנדי מלידה מדורי דורות ובימי הכיבוש הנאצי הוא המשיך לחיות בהולנד כפקיד ממשלה תחת הסוואה נוצרית וחי כל המלחמה כפקיד ממשלה הולנדי, שזה היה ממשלה פרו-נאצית. ועבר את הכל בשלום, נבחר ליו"ר ההסתדרות הציונית ההולנדית, בא לארץ, ומכיוון שהוא היה פקיד בכיר בהולנד בעניינים כלכליים, אני חושב שלוי אשכול לקח אותו כמנכ"ל משרד האוצר והוא היה מנכ"ל משרד האוצר כמה שנים. יהודי קטן כזה, צולע על רגל אחת וכאמור מאוד חכם. והוא ומתי היו זוג מושלם. מתי היה איש נמהר. נמהר, נמרץ, לא מקבל עצות מאף אחד, אלוף בצה”ל. והאדם היחידי שיכול היה לרסן אותו קצת היה יעקב ארנון, שהיה מאוד חכם ומאוד זהיר ומאוד מלא הומור. ואחר-כך כשנוצרה השלישייה הזאת – מתי, יעקב ארנון ואני - זה תפקד, מפני ששלושתנו הזנו אחד את השני בצורה מושלמת. אני בדרך כלל הייתי בין ארנון ובין מתי מבחינת הזהירות וההרפתקנות, אבל שכל אחד היו לו תכונות מאוד שונות וזה עבד מצויין. הפגישה הראשונה שלי עם עיסאם סרטאווי הייתה גם כן בפריז, ברמבוייה, באותה הווילה. לפני שהפגישה התקיימה הוא הביא שני פלסטינים חשובים. אני חושב שהיה שמה סברי ג'ריס איש הגליל ולימים ראש המכון הפלסטיני – Palestine Studies – עיונים פלסטיניים. וקוריאל, או מישהו, מטעמו פגש אותנו בשדה התעופה, הביא אותנו לרמבוייה ואמר שמתי וסרטאווי קודם רוצים להתייעץ ביניהם באופן פרטי. אז כולנו נסענו לרמבוייה, וילה מאוד אלגנטית. היה לנו מאוד נחמד, והם לא באים, הם מאחרים. ומאיר פעיל, עם ההומור הפלמ”חניקי שלו, אמר: "הערבים בטח חטפו את מתי”. הם כל כך נעלבו, אי-אפשר לתאר. ומאותו רגע הם ממש ממש לא אהבו את מאיר פעיל. את ההומור המיוחד שלו לא כל אחד הבין. ואז הייתה פגישה והתייעצנו ותכננו תכניות.

Ya'akov Arnon also played an important role in these matters. Ya'akov Arnon was a wise man. He was a Dutchman – descended from generations of Dutchmen − and during the Nazi occupation he continued to live in Holland as a government official, living as a Christian, and got through the war as a Dutch government official in the pro-Nazi government. He lived through all of this safely, was elected Chairman of the Dutch Zionist Organization, came to Israel, and because he was a senior official in the Netherlands on economic matters, I think that Levi Eshkol took him on as Director General of the Ministry of Finance and he was Director General of the Ministry of Finance for several years. A small Jewish man, with a limp in one leg and, like I said, very clever. He and Matti were the perfect couple. Matti was impulsive, impetuous and energetic, and would not take advice from anyone, a general in the IDF. The only person who could rein him in a little was Ya'akov Arnon, who was very smart and very cautious and full of humour. Then we became a trio – Matti, Ya'akov Arnon and myself – and we functioned in harmony, because the three of us complemented each other perfectly. I was usually between Arnon and Matti in terms of caution and adventure, but each had very different qualities and it worked really well.

My first meeting with Issam Sartawi was also in Paris, in Rambouillet, at that villa. Before the meeting took place he introduced two important Palestinians. I think that one of them was Sabri Jiryis, someone from Galilee who was later the head of the Palestinian Institute − Palestine Studies. Curiel, or someone acting on his behalf, met us at the airport and brought us to Rambouillet and told us that Matti and Sartawi wanted to talk privately between themselves. So we all went to Rambouillet, to a very elegant villa. We had a very nice time; they did not come, they were late. Meir Pa'il, with his typical Palmach'nik humour, said: 'The Arabs must have kidnapped them'. They were so offended, it is impossible to describe. And from that moment they absolutely did not like Meir Pa'il. Not everyone understood his particular sense of humour. Then the meeting took place and we held discussions and planned programs.

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: Ranboillet, Ya’akov Arnon, Matti Peled, Issam Sartawi

Duration: 3 minutes, 56 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2015

Date story went live: 26 June 2017