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Problems surrounding contact with the PLO


Issam Sartawi, the peace advocate
Uri Avnery Social activist
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אז היה לסרטאווי עוד רעיון: עומדת להתכנס המועצה הלאומית הפלסטינית, המוסד העליון שבו כל התנועות שותפות, חוץ מהחמאס כמובן, שעוד לא היה אז ,”מה אם אנחנו נבוא לדמשק?” הכנס היה בדמשק, "מה אם תבוא משלחת מישראל ותברך את הכנס?" הוא טס לביירות להציע את זה לערפאת, אחרי שהוא שאל אותנו ואמרנו “בהחלט”. אנחנו שלושתנו - זה תמיד היה שלושתנו, מתי, ארנון ואני - "ברצון רב”. אם זה יהיה בקשת ערפאת, אז גם חאפז אל אסד, ישתף פעולה וייתן לנו להגיע. וגם זה "לא עכשיו, הזמן עוד לא בשל" וכו' וכו'. אחרי שקרה מה שקרה, אחרי מלחמת לבנון סיפר לנו סרטאווי שהוא אמר לכל הקבוצה הזאת: "לא רציתם את הגנרל פלד, אז קיבלתם את הגנרל שרון" אנחנו בילינו כמה שנים במגעים האלה. לא יודע כמה פעמים נפגשתי עם סרטאווי בווינה. זה התחיל בפריז. בפריז סרטאווי הקים משרד משלו בבניין מאוד מפואר, קומה בבניין מפואר המשקיף על הסן. ושם היה לו צוות משלו, שהקפיד לא לקיים שום מגע עם הנציגות של אש"ף בפריז. שם ישב איברהים סוס, לימים גיסו של ערפאת. הוא התחתן עם בת אחרת של רימונדה טאוויל. הוא פעל בממלכה משלו עצמאית לחלוטין באותה דירת פאר ושם היינו נפגשים.‏

So Sartawi had another idea: the Palestinian National Council − the supreme institute in which all of the movements were partners, apart from Hamas, of course, which did not yet exist − was about to convene. 'What if we go to Damascus?' The conference was in Damascus, 'What if a delegation comes from Israel and speaks at the conference?' He flew to Beirut to propose this to Arafat, after he had asked us and we had said, 'Absolutely'. It was the three of us − it was always the three of us, Matti, Arnon and myself – 'willingly'. If Arafat were to request it then even Hafez al-Assad would cooperate and let us go. And it was, 'a great idea, but for later, not now, the time is not yet right' etc., etc.

After what happened, after the war in Lebanon, Sartawi told us he had said to this entire group: 'You did not want General Peled, so instead you got General Sharon'. We kept these contacts up for several years. I don't know how many times I met with Sartawi in Vienna. It started in Paris. Sartawi established his own office in Paris in a very fancy building, an entire floor of a luxurious building overlooking the Seine. He had his own staff there and they were careful not to have any contact with the PLO representatives in Paris.  Ibrahim Souss, who later became Arafat's brother-in-law, was stationed there. He was married to another of Raymonda Tawil's daughters. I've already told you about Tawil.

[Q] She was called Hala.

The daughter that was married to Suess.

He operated his own completely independent outfit there in that same luxury apartment, which is where we would meet.

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, Yasser Arafat

Duration: 3 minutes, 25 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2015

Date story went live: 26 June 2017