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Staging a sit-in in a peace tent


Briefing PLO leaders about Yitzhak Rabin
Uri Avnery Social activist
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אז ככה בילינו עם ערפאת עד לאוסלו. האחרון לפני אוסלו, האחרון בטוניס למעשה, הייתה לנו פגישה עם ערפאת פעם אחת שהוא הוזמן ע"י האו"ם לנאום בז'נבה והוא הזמין אותי לבוא לפגישה בז’נבה. כמובן טסתי והוא נאם, אני ישבתי ביציע, שני כיסאות הלאה ישב פארוק קדומי, שהיה שונא בנפש שלי ושל כל הפגישות, ושל סרטאווי, ולא נתן לי יד, לא אמר שלום. ויש תמונה אחת נהדרת יש לי שאני עובר על פניו, לפניו, והוא מסתכל לצד אחד ואני לצד שני. אז הייתה פגישה בז'נבה עם ערפאת, הפגישה האחרונה הייתה אחרי שרבין כבר נבחר לראשות הממשלה. מתי זה היה? 92' אני חושב. אז זה היה 92' באוגוסט וכרגיל בפגישות האלה ישבתי אתו והיה אבו מאזן כמובן, ואני חושב אחדים. היה נציג אש"ף בבירות שהיה מאוד פעיל בעניינים אלה ושמו היה, שכחתי, אבו, אני צריך להסתכל. ועוד איזה שניים-שלושה מראשי אש"ף, וכולם מלאי סקרנות מי זה יצחק רבין? לא ידעו עליו שום דבר. ואני נתתי להם הרצאה על רבין, אמרתי להם שהוא איש שלא משקר והוא דבק באמת ככל שפוליטיקאי יכול לדבוק באמת. כולם פרצו בצחוק, מפני שלערפאת עצמו לא היה שום בעייה לשקר למען המולדת ואני ידעתי מתי להאמין לו ומתי לא. לגמרי. ואמרתי: "הוא איש אמת, אפשר לסמוך עליו, היה נץ קיצוני אבל עכשיו לאחרונה הוא התמתן מאוד”. שאלו אותי, ממש חקרו אותי על רבין וזה, ולא היה לי מושג שבאותה עת מתנהל המו"מ באוסלו. איש לא גילה לי. סוד זה סוד. הם כולם היו מאוד טובים בשמירת סודות. וזאת הייתה למעשה הפגישה האחרונה עם ערפאת בטוניס.‏

So that's how we spent time with Arafat until we reached Oslo.  At the last stop before Oslo, in fact the last in Tunisia, we had a meeting with Arafat when he was invited by the UN to speak in Geneva, and he invited me to come to this meeting in Geneva. Of course I flew there, and he spoke. I sat in the gallery. Two places away from me sat Farouk Kaddoumi, who hated me and all the meetings, and Issam Sartawi, and did not shake my hand, did not say hello. I have one great picture where I am passing by him, in front of him, and he is looking one way and I am looking another. Then there was a meeting in Geneva with Arafat. The last meeting with him had been after Rabin was elected Prime Minister. When was that – 1992, I think. So it was 1992, in August, and as usual at these meetings I was sitting with him and with Abu Mazen, of course, and I think a few others. There was the PLO representative in Beirut who had been very active in these matters − I have forgotten his name, Mahmoud something, I would have to look it up – and another two or three people who were among the leaders of the PLO. Everyone was full of curiosity: who is Yitzhak Rabin?  They didn't know anything about him. I gave them a lecture about Rabin and told them that he was a man who never lied and that he stayed as close to the truth as any politician can. Everyone laughed, because Arafat himself had no problem lying for his country, and I knew when to believe him and when not to. Completely. And I said: 'He is an honest individual, he is dependable, he was an extreme hawk but recently he has become much more moderate'. They asked me, actually interrogated me about Rabin, and I had no idea at that time negotiations were being conducted in Oslo. No one told me. It was all very hush-hush. They were all very good at keeping secrets. This was, in fact, the last meeting with Arafat in Tunis.

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: Geneva, Oslo, Yasser Arafat, Yitzhak Rabin

Duration: 3 minutes, 40 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2015

Date story went live: 26 June 2017