Top PA official: Israel ‘is our main enemy, resistance is still our agenda’ | Arab states should put their money where their mouth is to ‘liberate’ Jerusalem, says Jibril Rajoub, a signatory to the Geneva Initiative who had pledged he was Israel’s peace ‘partner’Jibril Rajoub, in his words, deeds, history and public profile, personally embodies much of what makes the conflict between the Arabs and the Israelis so intractable.
Start with this. He is a perennial participant for the Palestinian Arab side in the negotiations for peace that have been part of the political landscape here for two decades. An ad campaign on behalf of the Geneva Initiative included him as one of its central media figures back in August 2010. Click below to view it - the Hebrew dialogue is translated via English subtitles:
Like the other high-profile Arabs who appeared in that very expensive media campaign, the words “I am your partner” are placed in his mouth and the mouths of other Arab personalities over and again. "There is a consensus in the Arab world", Rajoub recites, "to recognize the existence of Israel in return for an end to occupation”.
The purpose of the Geneva Initiative campaign - and keep this in mind as we take a closer look at this exceptionally unlovely individual - was expressed in the following terms by the campaign's spokesperson, Gadi Baltiansky:
The perception in the Israeli public is that there is no partner for peace on the Palestinian side... We all want peace, but don't believe there is anyone to talk to. We are trying to change this perception, to explain that there is a partner, and that the problem is actually with us. ["Shalom, this is Jibril" on Geneva Initiative website]
In reality, Rajoub rarely lets other people put words in his mouth. He actually appears much more comfortable spinning his own words and firing them off on cue, generally in the form of threats. Those threats have come with appreciable power accumulated via a series of publicly-funded roles he has filled over the years. He's a man with the rare ability to be in the right place at the right time in order to exercise serious power.
Today Rajoub is one of twenty members of the Central Committee of Fatah, the highest decision-making organ of the Fatah political party, and the innermost circle of the Mahmoud Abbas clique. He stands at the head of both the Palestinian Football Federation and the Palestine Olympic Committee.
But his past is much less sporty. He was the head of the Preventive Security Force until 2002, when Arafat appointed him national security advisor. As advisor, he knew where to place his loyalties: his tenure was marked by the use of force in harassing and quashing Arafat's political opponents by whatever it took, including resort to torture [Source: BBC]. When Hamas had to be taught lessons for being too religiously fundamentalist, Rajoub got the job of managing a crackdown and did it well enough [Wikipedia].
And before all of that, he was an ordinary terrorist who was sentenced to life in prison. Foreshadowing a process that has happened again and again, Israel released him and 1,150 other Arab prisoners in 1985 in order to win back the freedom of three Israeli hostages held one of the alphabet-soup factions of the Palestinian Arab terrorism industry. He was sent back to prison several more times for several more rounds of terrorism. He released exactly the same number of times, acquiring a smooth grasp of Hebrew and of Israeli culture along the way.
Now to Jibril Rajoub, 2013 edition. This prince of peace, this ambassador of the power of sport to build bridges across troubled waters, this recovered thug and reformed torturer, was interviewed on Lebanon's Al-Mayadeen television channel on April 30, 2013:
Resistance to Israel remains on our agenda... I mean resistance in all of its forms. At this stage, we believe that popular resistance - with all that it entails - is effective and costly to the [Israeli] side..." [Al-Mayadeen]
The Arabic-to-English media watchdog, Palestinian Media Watch, which translated and published [here] the contents of the Lebanese TV program for the benefit of people who think Rajoub is (or ever was) a peace partner, provides some useful interpretation. In saying “resistance in all of its forms”, Rajoub simply means violence against Israel. Israel is “the main enemy” of Arabs and Muslims. So why negotiate? Because, said Rajoub, the Palestinians still lack military strength:
"We as yet don't have a nuke, but I swear that if we had a nuke, we'd have used it this very morning."
Does this mean he has stopped being a partner for peace? No. Rajoub is a man of principle, one who says what needs to be said (depending of course on who is listening in). And one of the principles that has served him well throughout a successful career in public life is the expedient value of violence. And really, all he's doing is sticking to his guns.
But on the other hand, what are the salaried employees of the very well-funded Geneva Initiative (mostly by the governments of France, Belgium and Switzerland), those strategists who served up Rajoub as living proof that there actually is a partner for peace with beleagured Israel, saying now? Is "oops - sorry" even in their lexicon? Or is there a more subtle, peace-friendly way to interpret "If we had a nuke, we'd have used it this very morning"?