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Palestinian Monies and Israeli Security

08 December 2002

By Yisrael Ne’eman

A major expose concerning corruption with Palestinian Authority monies appeared at the end of the week in the Hebrew daily Ma’ariv.  Some $340 million belonging to the Palestinian people and personally directed by PA Chairman Yasir Arafat was deposited in Swiss banks and invested in different private companies.  Most of the work was done by Arafat’s financial advisor Mohammed Rashid and former Israeli General Security Services official Yossi Ginossar who acted as a front man and took millions for his services.  Monies were then kicked back to Rashid for the business connection.  The story was blown open by Ezrad Lev, Ginossar’s partner who, once $65 million was gone missing and he suspected might be used for hostile activities against Israel, decided to make the matter public.

Ginossar disagrees however, saying it is none of his business where Palestinian monies went as long as he got his cut.  From the Israeli perspective this is the crux of the issue and not whether he gave kickbacks to Rashid or helped invest Palestinian monies.  Bribes to Rashid to handle Palestinian Authority funds is a matter for the PA to investigate and although unethical, is not covered by Israeli law.

The GSS and other security officials are searching for missing PA millions for quite a while, suspecting investment in terror, and Ginossar, a former GSS official, is not interested in ‘following the money’?  The whole issue is far from being ‘just business’ and involves overall national security issues.  From an ethical and moral point of view such a lack of interest may certainly be at the root of terrorist arms and suicide bombers and can only be described as treacherous if proven true.  But there does not appear to be a law to prosecute Ginossar for ‘looking the other way’.

Ginossar’s connection to the PA goes back quite a while and when former PM Barak wanted to invite him to Camp David 2000 to negotiate with Arafat and the Palestinians he was already over his head in Palestinian investments.  Government Legal Advisor Elyakim Rubenstein recommended against his participation in the Israeli delegation due to ‘conflict of interests’ despite sworn affidavits by Barak and his chief of staff Dani Yatom to the contrary.  Ginossar was placed in the American delegation and during the process constantly urged Barak to make more and more concessions.

Labor was apparently much less than ‘naïve’ in the Camp David 2000 negotiations, but understood they were dealing with a criminal leadership in the PA, something which has since been proven.  Did they really think they could buy peace by behaving in an unethical fashion and there would be ‘honor among thieves’?  Peace is a status, it is not a value.  How was that status to be enforced when the Palestinian side was stealing from its own people?  Did the Labor leadership not realize that a leadership which betrays its own people will certainly betray an agreement made with an adversary, especially one it continually declares it will destroy through demands for a withdrawal to the 1967 borders and the return of all refugees?

Ginossar continued his dealings after the violence broke out in September 2000. Why did Barak not call him in and demand a full disclosure of all he knew?  Why was the GSS not called in to investigate?  Ginossar was now a financial advisor to an enemy using physical violence against Israel. 

Is it possible Labor though it could buy peace ‘at all costs’?  With Barak in deep political trouble by September 2000, was winning the February 2001 election so important that he was afraid to confront Ginossar and force him to disenfranchise himself from all Palestinian dealings?

True, Rabin and Peres had also used Ginossar in dealings with Arafat, knowing of his close connections, but they were in a twilight zone of trying to stop terrorism and making peace, not in the middle of an undeclared war by Arafat himself.  On the other hand Netanyahu never trusted him and Sharon dealt with him only a trifle, quickly concluding he was untrustworthy.

The surface has only been scratched.  What if the missing $65 million is invested in Palestinian terrorism?  That would certainly become the greatest Israeli security scandal ever (even surpassing Soviet spy Yitzchak Ber in the early 1960’s) but would not particularly faze the international community.

And if the investment was made in El Quaeda?