Past Activities 

Gush Shalom Delegation Meets Arafat

A delegation of Gush Shalom met today (Saturday, 10.04.04) with the ‎‎Chairman of the Palestinian authority, Yasser Arafat, in order to protest ‎‎against Ariel Sharon's declarations about his intention to kill him.‎

‎"We appreciate not only your place in history as the leader of the ‎‎Palestinian National Movement, but also recognize you as the only ‎‎Palestinian leader who can make peace with Israel," said Uri Avnery.

‎The delegation included Rachel and Uri Avnery, Beate Zilversmidt, ‎‎Teddy Katz, Adam Keller, Yehoshua Rosin and Dan Shohet.‎

‎Answering a question of Adam Keller, the Gush spokesman, Arafat and ‎‎his Minister for Negotiations, Sa'eb Erikat, spoke about their ‎‎discussions with Hamas about its participation in the administration of ‎‎the Gaza Strip after an eventual withdrawal of Israel. Arafat said that the ‎‎precondition was that Hamas stops all attacks on Israeli civilians. As ‎‎long as there is no agreement about the political basis ("Two States for ‎‎Two Peoples"), Hamas cannot take part in the political process, he said.

‎Arafat and Erikat were both very sceptical about the seriousness of ‎‎Sharon's intention of leaving the Gaza Strip.

‎Among other topics:‎

Arafat reminded the delegation that he sat opposite Sharon and ‎‎Benjamin Netanyahu at the Wye-Plantation negotiations and reached ‎‎agreement with them. Saeb Erikat added: "Sharon, then Israel's Foreign ‎‎Minister, was the spirit of the Wye Conference. He came up with all kind ‎‎of creative ideas to help reach an agreement. Now he is paralyzing ‎‎negotiations totally and cutting off the channels of communication. A ‎‎month ago I met with his Bureau Chief Dov Weisglas. Since then, no ‎‎contact whatsoever. How does he intend to carry out a withdrawal from ‎‎the Gaza Strip without coordinating it with us? How does he evacuate ‎‎settlements without the Palestinian Security Forces on hand to prevent ‎‎attacks on the evacuating settlers? Does he want the Gaza Strip to ‎‎become the arena of a civil war, a chaos of gangs and militias? Look ‎‎what is happening now in the West Bank cities. Sharon has destroyed ‎‎the Palestinian police stations and disbanded our forces. Look what is ‎‎happening now in Nablus for example, total chaos. Is this to the benefit ‎‎of Israel?"‎

At the Wye conference, as will be remembered, Sharon did not shake ‎‎hands with Arafat. "He cannot forget Beirut," Arafat smiled.

In spite of this, Sharon send his son, Omri, several times to Arafat. ‎ ‎Sharon threatens to kill me, but he sent his son to meet me. Omri ‎‎Sharon sat and talked with me here in this room" said Arafat. "I rather ‎‎like Omri Sharon. He is good guy and open-minded. After Sharon put me ‎ ‎under siege in 2002 and his soldiers destroyed most of the compound ‎ ‎around here, he nevertheless sent Omri again."

Arafat revealed that the late Prime Minister Menachem Begin had ‎‎proposed to Egyptian President Sadat to hand over the Gaza Strip to ‎‎Palestinian rule. "Sadat phoned, and passed on Begin's proposal, but I ‎‎said that I would not agree to separate the Gaza Strip from the West ‎‎Bank." Saeb Erikat added: "The Gaza Strip cannot maintain itself even ‎‎for a short time separately from the West Bank. The Gaza Strip now ‎‎provides only 18% of the GNP, but 52% of our resources are invested in ‎‎it because it is the poorest and most neglected part of the Palestinian ‎‎Territory." In the Oslo agreements, too, the PLO agreed to accept the ‎‎Gaza Strip only together with the West Bank area of Jericho.

About Sadam Hussein: "He is not flexible." Arafat described several ‎‎episodes to illustrate this.

Arafat disclosed that last week he had asked former President Jimmy ‎‎Carter, who had supervised the last Palestinian elections, to be again in ‎‎charge of monitoring new Palestinian elections. Arafat intends to hold ‎‎elections for the presidency, the Legislative Council and municipal ‎‎councils, parallel to the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Erikat ‎‎added: "That is the only way to stop the chaos and the militia rule and ‎‎reestablish an effective and legitimate government. Of course elections ‎‎require the exit of the Israeli army from the Palestinian towns and ‎‎villages. How can you hold elections when a foreign army can go in at ‎‎any moment, arrest or kill candidates, break up election rallies, or just ‎‎prevent voters and election workers from passing from one place to ‎‎another?"