Column One by Caroline Glick.
The Jerusalem Post. Dec. 13,
In an interview
last year, former US Middle East envoy Dennis Ross responded somewhat awkwardly
to a question of mine about Palestinian corruption and authoritarianism.
I had asked him why the Clinton Administration did not raise an eyebrow when
it was clear that the Palestinian Authority was an authoritarian regime and
completely corrupt. After a brief pause and an embarrassed glance, Ross said,
"Well, it wasn't as if the Israelis were particularly concerned about the
In answering the question as he did, Ross was
behaving like the consummate diplomat that he is. The governments, who initiated
and went forward with the Oslo process, were actually very interested in
Palestinian authoritarianism and corruption. But what interested these
governments was encouraging this corrupt dictatorship.
Rabin, we recall, defended his
choice of PLO chieftain Yasser Arafat as the
Palestinian leader by explaining that under the dictatorship of Arafat, the
PA would fight terrorism unimpeded by "the Supreme Court and [the human rights
organization] B'tselem." Israeli encouragement of Palestinian corruption
was cut from the same cloth as our leaders' support for Arafat's dictatorship.
In the early years of Oslo, as the first inklings of Arafat's economic adviser
Muhammad Rashid's economic machinations began surfacing, far from discouraging
the trend, Israeli political leaders and security brass clamored for meetings
with Rashid. Rather than opposing the systematic terrorization of Palestinian
businessmen as Rashid squeezed them out of an ever widening swathe of economic
markets, (cement, gas and petroleum, cigarette and mobile telephone imports
come to mind most rapidly), Israeli officials dropped all connections to
these forcibly disenfranchised businessmen and concentrated all their charms
and favors on Rashid and his business partners Palestinian strongmen Muhammad
Dahlan and Jibril Rajoub as well as Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and from time
to time Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala).
The justification for Israeli encouragement of the undermining of any semblance
of financial order or legal system for the Palestinians under Arafat's regime
was the stability of the peace process. It was argued, or actually, it was
taken for granted, that the concentration of wealth in the hands of Arafat's
close associates would give them a vested and personal interest in making
peace with Israel.
The same men who enriched themselves at the expense of their own people were
considered by Israeli and US policymakers to be the best candidates for forcing
acquiescence to peaceful coexistence with Israel down the throats of rank
and file Palestinian society.
As the law of unintended consequences would have it, in the end just the
opposite occurred. These men, together with their boss and business partner
Arafat, increased their hold over Palestinian society as expected, but it
was the Israelis, not the Palestinians who developed vested and personal
interests in continuing with Oslo.
A number of months ago, this column discussed the corrupting impact of the
Shimon Peres Center for Peace on the decision-making capability of top Israeli
leaders. As I wrote at the time, the fact that the Government of Norway was
one of the center's principal contributors may have had something to do with
the $100,000 cash prize that the center presented to UN Special Middle East
Coordinator Terje Larsen and his wife, Norwegian Ambassador Mona Juul in
1999. And this fiduciary relationship may also have influenced then-foreign
minister Shimon Peres' lone defense of Larsen after he libeled Israel in
the immediate aftermath of the bloody battle in Jenin refugee camp during
Operation Defensive Shield.
As I also wrote in that column, Yossi Ginossar sits on the Board of Directors
of the Peres Center. In a tell-all interview with Ma'ariv last week, Ginossar's
business partner, Ozrad Lev gave a detailed account of Swiss bank accounts
that he and Ginossar managed for Rashid and Arafat. Lev told of the millions
of dollars that he and Ginossar received in kickbacks from Rashid and Arafat
for their handling of the funds.
While Lev's account is as disturbing as it is revealing, all it serves to
do is expose the worst kept secret in Israel. Since 1994, everyone who is
anyone in the top echelons of Israel knew full well that Ginossar, who served
as special envoy to Arafat for prime ministers Rabin, Peres, and Barak, was
Rashid's business partner. Everyone knew that Ginossar was a partner in Rashid's
cement and petroleum monopolies. Everyone knew that Ginossar was Rashid's
bagman for funds he siphoned off from the PA treasury accounts.
Everyone knew and everyone either stood by silently or actively supported
this situation. And Ginossar is far from the only Israeli official who has
accrued financial and professional benefit from his activities with the
Palestinian Authority. In his defense, Ginossar told Ma'ariv, "During the
entire period of my activities with the Palestinian Authority and other Arab
regional officials on behalf of the state, I acted in accordance with the
state's requests to me, using my special connections with the Palestinians
as a private citizen." This is a disingenuous statement. While Ginossar's
intimate relations with Rashid and Arafat may have made him attractive to
Israeli leaders, there can be no doubt that Ginossar's access to Israeli
leaders made him attractive to the Palestinian leadership.
Because of his official position, the Shin Bet, under Ya'acov Perry, Carmi
Gillon and Ami Ayalon, gave Ginossar not only free access to intelligence
information about the Palestinians, they also gave him free access to Arafat.
When Gaza was declared a closed military zone to which Israelis were prohibited
from traveling, Ginossar was chauffeured to Arafat's office in Shin Bet armored
In his interview with Ma'ariv, Lev also spoke of Ginossar's partner Stephen
Cohen. According to Ma'ariv's account, Cohen, who is deeply embedded in the
Jewish American peace camp, opened up Arafat's kingdom to Ginossar when Rabin
first appointed him point man with the PA in 1993. Together the two made
millions in kickbacks they received from Rashid for their role in the cement
and petroleum monopolies he built.
Americans are more familiar with Cohen than Israelis. For over a decade his
name has frequently appeared on the op-ed page of The New York Times as columnist
Thomas Friedman's in-house Middle East specialist.
According to a top former governmental official, Cohen made a name for himself
as an unofficial channel to Egyptian, Syrian, and PLO leaders as far back
as the 1980s. What we learn from Ma'ariv's disclosures is that Cohen's
impassioned defense of Israeli concessions to the PLO, which he voiced regularly
to key officials in the Clinton administration, like Ross' deputy Aaron Miller
and media stars like Friedman, may very well have been influenced as much
by pecuniary as ideological motivations. Then too, it has been reported that
during the Camp David summit, Ginossar was the most fervent advocate of Israeli
concessions to Arafat among the Israeli team.
Stephen Cohen has over the years also enjoyed financial backing from US business
tycoon Daniel Abraham. Abraham is also one of the largest backers of the
Peres Center. Then too, Cohen's close colleague Nimrod Novick was Peres'
chief of staff during the 1984-1988 unity government with Yitzhak Shamir
and a close associate of Yossi Beilin's.
Yossi Beilin himself has used his Oslo advocacy to draw large foreign
contributions to his think tank the Economic Cooperation Foundation. It has
been reported that in his capacity as a chief researcher at ECF, Beilin receives
a ministerial salary and an unlimited expense account for his world travels
during which he advances his radical views on the need for Israeli surrender
to Palestinian terrorism.
And there are many others as well. The sad fact that comes out of a study
of the financial interests of high ranking Israeli officials and international
peace activists is that while Arafat, Rashid and their associates pocketed
their monies and prepared for war against Israel, these top Israeli officials
became their chief advocates. These peace profiteers have for nine and a
half years made their personal fortunes by illogically arguing that Arafat
is both the problem and the solution - that without his dictatorial
consent, Israel will get no peace deal with the Palestinians.
In a column on the subject back in 1994, Friedman quoted Cohen as saying,
"Everyone is ready to tell Arafat how to shave his beard, but as long as
they treat him only as a problem and not a solution, the problem just gets
The truth is that the problem has gotten worse because so many so-called
peace advocates have made personal fortunes by dint of their close relations
with Arafat and his cronies. When we look around us, after two years and
three months of the PA terror war and wonder how it is possible that Oslo
and the corrupt terror regime it spawned still has domestic and international
support, we need only to look to the money for our explanation.
Rather than acting as the catalyst for Palestinian support of peaceful
coexistence with Israel, Israeli support for and participation in the emergence
of the PA as a wholly corrupt authoritarian regime has created a permanent
Israeli constituency for Arafat's regime.
In a column in last Friday's Ma'ariv, commenting on Lev's disclosures, prominent
Israeli media personality Dan Margalit called for the establishment of a
commission of inquiry into Ginossar's financial dealings with the PA. What
Margalit probably does not realize is that in calling for the formation of
such a commission he is adding his voice to those calling for an inquiry
into the entire Oslo process. Ginossar's double-dealings, corruption, and
borderline treason cannot be truly investigated without an impartial (whatever
that means) investigation into the entire history of Oslo. As one security
source put it to me this week, "Ginossar is never going to be a scapegoat.
If he goes down, he'll bring the entire Israeli establishment down ahead
of him." If we've learned anything from the past two years and three months,
we have learned that this will never happen.
Reported by IMRA - Independent Media Review