Minister Dan Meridor: Good afternoon to all of you. For many years, in his activities, Mr. Arafat has been very careful not to leave fingerprints. And he has been successful in this for many years. But, apparently he made a mistake or two.
We see terrible scenes – in the restaurants and the cafes and the buses, in the streets; then we go to the funerals and see the families – these horrible acts of terror. Then we hear people assume responsibility, many of them in recent months are Tanzim people, Fatah people. One of the main groups that acts out of Tulkarm is the Ra’ad Karmi group. We know who is doing the terrorism, who are the people who do these things. But who orders them, who finances them, who pays them? This was left somewhat unclear. Today, you will hear Colonel Eisin from our Intelligence Corps who will show two documents that we found that may shed some light on the question: who is the person who finances those people who assume responsibility for killing our civilians?
Col. Miri Eisin: Good afternoon. I was here two days ago. I would like to remind you that at the end of last week and the beginning of this week, we entered into Arafat’s compound in Ramallah, the Mukata’a, and we entered into different offices within the compound.
Two days ago I showed you one document which we found in the office of Fuad Shoubaki, the chief financial advisor to Arafat. Someone asked me the question: did Arafat actually pay that money? It was asked if Fuad Shoubaki actually paid that money. And today, I have to admit, I answered then that I didn’t think we would find anything that actually had Arafat’s signature on it.
I’m going to show you today two documents. The documents themselves, both of them, have Arafat’s signature on them. I’m sure you’ll have questions about them as I go along – I’ll try to be as clear as possible about what these documents are, who is mentioned in them, what exactly Arafat’s signature means on them, and afterwards I’ll be open for questions.
The first document that you see here is from the office of the President; it’s an official document. The document itself was actually sent to the President. On the side – this is a note that was added onto the document, in Arafat’s handwriting, with his signature, and he wrote the date. So this is the document itself – this document that Yassar Arafat signed on the side, signed on the 19th of September, 8 days after September 11th, was a request for financial aid in the sum of $2500 to three people. Yassar Arafat allocated $600 to each one of them. The first one is Ra’ad Karmi, the second one is Ziad Muhamad Da’as, and the third Amar Qadan.
Ra’ad Karmi, who was killed on the 14th of January this year, 2002, was one of the heads, or ‘the’ head of the Tanzim in Tulkarm, personally involved in at least 25 different shooting attacks against Israelis; I’ll give afterwards details of all the different ones. Ziad Muhamad Da’as, who’s still around, is the one who planned and sent the suicide bombers into Hadera two months ago, where six Israelis were killed.
This was sent to them after September 11th.
Ra’ad Karmi, from June of 2001 – three months before this document – was put on the wanted list that Israel presented to the Palestinians as one of the people that had to be given to Israel.
I’d like to continue with an additional document. The document we see here now is in two pages – it’s actually a fax – and you’ll be able to see it at the end of the briefing: we’ll give you copies in English and Hebrew and the originals in Arabic. This fax actually has three parts. Think of it in the world of faxes today: you send a request to somebody by fax, somebody else adds onto it an additional note, and, at the end, Arafat adds his own private, I’ll call it his ‘chit’, or his check. The original fax is from Ra’ad Karmi, who I mentioned before, and it is sent to Marwan Bargouti.
I would like to go forward a moment. What we have on the front page is again Yassar Arafat’s own signature, together with the date that he signed it and the sum of money that he’s willing to give to 12 people. The second page is where Marwan Bargouti – I’ll explain in a moment who he is for those who don’t know him – sent Abu Amar/Yasser Arafat a request that he give this money to the people on the list before. And, as I mentioned on the first document, Arafat wrote down that he would send the money. We can go back to that first page because after Ra’ad Karmi sent it to Marwan Bargouti and Bargouti added on his own request, Arafat added on how many funds he was allocating to each one of these 12 people. What we’re talking about is a request from Ra’ad Karmi to Marwan Bargouti/Abu al Kassam.
Marwan Bargouti is the head of the Tanzim in the West Bank. I think you’ve all heard of him before – he’s the one who is running all the terror activities of the Tanzim in the West Bank. The list of people that you see here are 12 different people that the funds are being allocated to, that funds are being requested for. Afterwards, Marwan Bargouti requested from Arafat personally to allocate the funds. And Arafat added on to the fax – and here I want to remind you of the briefing two days ago about the treasurer, Fuad Shoubaki, the man who spends out the money – to give $350 to each one of these people.
I’ll give you three examples from this list:
The first one, Jamil Hamad Adwan, was killed on December 24 while he was trying to kill an Israeli in an attack near Shavei Shomron in which the Israeli was severely wounded. The fourth one on the list, Mansur Saleh Sharim, is personally responsible for the deaths of at least three Israelis and wounding six more; he initiated and planned the attack in Hadera at the bat mitzvah where six people were killed, as well as two additional attacks. Those are just two; afterwards, we’ll give biographies of the other people on this list.
Now, this is a little complex – it took us some time to understand what went on. Ra’ad Karmi requested the money from Marwan Bargouti; Marwan Bargouti, head of the Tanzim, requested the money from Arafat; Arafat himself – in his handwriting, with his signature – on January 7, 2002, agreed to pay the money. On the 14th of January, 2002, Ra’ad Karmi was dead. The fax itself that we found is dated the 20th of January, because after Ra’ad Karmi was killed, they wanted to know whether there actually was what I will call a chit saying that these people could be paid. The people that they were paying were all active terrorists, as I mentioned before, every single one of them was on our wanted list.
I’d like to add one more point, because I know that it’s very difficult to follow. What we tried to show here today is the connection – the direct connection – between Arafat who, on both documents, you can see his own signature which he dated. When I sign my name, I also have a little autograph which is sort of like a little signature, and I don’t always write my full name. So you don’t expect to see the signature and written next to that "Yassar Arafat"; he just signs it. I imagine you can find other documents where you’ll see his signature. His connection to Marwan Bargouti and to Ra’ad Karmi… Nassar Awiss is an additional figure who I will talk about, I think, in a day or two.
We have additional documents; we’re not holding them back, we are just trying to understand them, translate and bring them to you as soon as we can. We took out of the Mukata’a compound two truckloads of documents, and – as I mentioned the first time – these documents were being prepared to be destroyed. The Palestinians were not interested in our finding these documents, and if we find any additional ones, with Arafat’s signature, we’ll bring them out as soon as we can.
The bottom line is that we have here direct funding of money which was requested directly of Arafat, and by him, with his own signature, given to these people who are known terrorists here.
Questions and Answers:
Q: American officials in Washington have said that the document produced two days ago was a fake, and no doubt they’ll say the same about these documents. What’s your response to that?
Eisin: I’m a colonel in military intelligence; I wasn’t brought here to show fake documents. The sovereign State of Israel does not fabricate documents. We consistently face the different Palestinian lies, and what we’re doing now is trying to translate boxes of documents that we found in the Mukata’a compound which, as I mentioned, they were trying to destroy. I’m sure that they are trying to destroy other documents that we haven’t gotten to. I myself didn’t think that we’d find anything with Arafat’s handwriting, and we were surprised ourselves. These are real documents; we have no doubt about them whatsoever. I think maybe you should take them and look at them and take just the ones we brought today from Chairman Arafat’s office. Have him write his signature to compare. I don’t know how to forge things. We will bring them out as we find them, as we can translate them.
Q: What exactly were the payments being made for, what were they being paid for?
A: The requests themselves were to pay salaries to these different
men. In the first list, it was three highly wanted terrorists at the time of the request. Perhaps someone’s going to say now that Arafat didn’t know who Ra’ad Karmi was when he personally signed that check to give him money. As I mentioned, Israel presented to Arafat the demand for Ra’ad Karmi on its "highly wanted list" in June 2001 and the payment was for him in September. And the second list of the 12 are additional highly wanted terrorists – these aren’t policemen in the Palestinian Authority, these are Tanzim members, which is Arafat’s own party in the Fatah. And he was paying them the salaries. So someone could say, ah, it’s okay, they just paid them salaries but all that these men did, the entire time, was acts of terror against us.
Q: Are you saying that two days ago you didn’t know that among the truckloads of documents was something with Arafat’s signature on it?
A: Not only that, there’s a room around the size of this room, even bigger, full of boxes. We’re good, but we’re not that good. We are considered to be a good intelligence corps. You go through a box, start taking out the documents and looking at them. It took us awhile, even, to think of the idea at all of looking [inaudible] the office of the President, but we brought it to you as soon as we found it. It’s taking us time; this is not easy work and it’s taking us time. We’re sitting and trying to translate boxes, to understand them. It’s not that simple to understand these. The explanation I gave today is after we read them, we understood them and we then brought them out. Yes, I do think that we’ll have more, I know that we are trying as much as possible to get them as quickly as we can out to you. We have no interest in holding them back.
Q: What are the military and political consequences that we can expect from these documents, since it seems you are accusing directly
Mr. Arafat of being a terrorist, or of financing terrorism, so I suppose there should be political and military consequences.
Meridor: It’s interesting to note that when the second payment was made, on January 7th, a certain American general was here talking with Arafat about a ceasefire. At the same time that Arafat was talking with General Zinni about a ceasefire, he made payments to people who were carrying out terrorist attacks. It’s like the previous time when he talked to General Zinni and he allowed the ship coming from Iran with explosives. So the man always does two things: he talks in English one thing, and he pays in Arabic another thing. What it shows is his direct link to the terror attacks, to financing them, a direct link that does not allow for any deniability. It was strange, anyway, to say, ‘I don’t know what Fatah people are doing, I’m not in control of the Fatah,’ since he is the President of the Fatah, the head of the Fatah since its beginning, since 1964. It’s not credible anyway that Mr. Marwan Bargouti would do anything if Arafat says no to him. But here we have direct proof, evidence, that
Mr. Arafat is paying money to people whose names were given to him and he knows what Ra’ad Karmi and Bargouti are doing. The consequence is very clear: Mr. Arafat is running a terrorist organization. He’s the head of a terror organization and what we always thought would be the case, that he is never involved in detailed work, seems to be not entirely exact. He is quite deeply involved in paying checks and money to terrorists. Financing terrorists is one of the things mentioned by the Americans when they described those who are harboring terrorism. Financing terrorism is a very grave development in the building up of a terror organization. They cannot survive without the financing. And the financing comes from the money that the PA has, or that Arafat has, and here we see evidence. This is why we treat him as he is.
Q: Could you explain how a fax from Ra’ad Karmi to Marwan Bargouti gets Arafat’s signature on it? It’s not clear.
Eisin: I’ll try and give you a description – if you were sitting in an office. Somebody sends you a fax in your office with a request. You send it to somebody else in the compound, who adds on something else in his handwriting, and that arrives in Arafat’s office, where he adds on: you’re allowed to get $350 apiece. That’s what the one on that fax is. Afterwards, the fax…the two pages were faxed back to Tulkarm, to the offices of Ra’ad Karmi, who was already not among the living, but to his offices after his demise, four days after that. I can but imagine –
A: We found it as a fax that had been sent. It’s something that we had to try and understand ourselves. It had been sent on the 20th of January, which is almost two weeks after Arafat had signed on it. And what I understand from that is that they did send it, because what we found was the full fax after it had been sent. And the full fax after it was sent – meaning their request for money – was passed on as another request higher up, and then Arafat agreed to it. They kept those two pages and faxed those two pages back to show, ‘here, Arafat has agreed to give us $350 apiece’. And we found those two pages.
Q: It’s a follow-up question. If Mr. Arafat is the head of a terrorist organization, as you said, why doesn’t the IDF detain him?
Meridor: Well, I will bring this proposal to the [inaudible] Minister, in your name. We’ll see what he decides.
Q: If these documents show that the money is flowing directly from Arafat’s office, with the approval of Arafat’s office, to the operatives on the ground, and knowing that the UN and the US are providing the bulk of the PA’s budget, what are you going to demand, after finding these documents, of the EU and the US in terms of financing the PA?
Meridor: The fact that a lot of money came into the PA – some of it with our help, by the way – through the years, was to try to build the Palestinian Authority and their infrastructure, economically, to see to it that people live better lives. And that much of that money did not reach its destination has become known to everybody in the world. This is why many donors refuse to continue to give money, because there was no transparency. And this issue of transparency was a real stumbling block for the Palestinians to get money. Now we see that some of the money goes to those very wrong directions. That much of the money did not go to the purposes that it was meant to go to is not new to us. What should be done with the money is their business, but the donors should think twice before they give money, and they should see to it that they know where the money goes. This "black box" idea has not worked here.
Q: Mr. Meridor, given the conclusions that you’ve just described, can
Mr. Arafat ever be viewed as a peace partner by the government of Israel?
A: This is of course the major question that we have all been asking ourselves since 1993. The assumption underlying the Oslo Agreement was that we need a partner for peace, and Arafat was the only leader of the Palestinian people. Despite the known fact that he was an enemy, we said: he is the only leader, let’s talk with an enemy. It’s no good to talk to the nice people; we need to talk to the one who controls the shooting, controls the terror activities. This was the logic behind Rabin’s and Peres’ decision.
So, we spoke to Arafat. As you’re aware, he wasn’t here – we brought him here. This was done on one condition only – he got from us respectability, access to the White House, he got weapons, he got soldiers, policemen, or terrorists that he brought with him. We brought him to our doorstep. On one condition, which Rabin made a precondition before signing the Oslo Agreement. Rabin was not a stupid man, to bring an enemy here, knowing that there were many outstanding issues still to be resolved and the gap is very wide, very emotional. You don’t bring your enemy here with weapons and tell
him, all right, shoot me. So Rabin said one thing: you have to promise me – whatever happens, you will never use violence. We’ll sit and talk and discuss and talk again, and negotiate but no violence. And Arafat, of course, signed it. That signature is very similar to the one you saw here. And this was fundamentally breached; he uses violence day and night, especially after the collapse of the Camp David process, of which I was a partner.
And President Clinton, another American president who didn’t like very much what he saw, said very clear things about Arafat’s behavior. The result being that Arafat himself does not go for peace. Is he representing them? Presumably he does – they all speak of him as a leader. Does he want peace? We put him to the test several times recently. He doesn’t seem to want peace; he seems to want the opposite. Recently, when General Zinni came for the first time, General Zinni went back home and we all heard what he said when he came to Washington about Arafat’s behavior and his truthfulness and reliability, and trustworthiness, the Karine A. The second time Zinni came here, and he, not us, offered a ceasefire, a detailed ceasefire. And we, after some deliberation and some discussion amongst ourselves, said, yes, all right. And Arafat said no, no ceasefire under the Zinni agreement.
So is he a partner for peace? Camp David and Taba answer that. Is he a partner for a ceasefire? Ask General Zinni.
Q: Mr. Meridor, will you be offering the CIA to examine the documents to check if they’re authentic from an American point of view? Secondly, if they are authentic, would you expect the US to put the Fatah and Arafat on its list of terrorist organizations?
A: I must say that I know, as many people here know, that the intelligence cooperation between the Americans and us is frank, is open, ongoing and good. And if the Americans ask to examine any document, they will get it on the first demand, and they can examine any document they want; they will get it directly from us, from this minute on. And if they examine and have their results, we’ll tell you what the results are, or they will tell you. I don’t have a shred of doubt; I don’t have it about the authenticity of what the Israeli intelligence corps says, I’ve never had it in the past, I don’t have it now. Nobody here has it really. And if you have to choose between Arafat’s ‘truthfulness’ and the Israeli intelligence corps, I leave it to your judgment. What the Americans should do on this, what they said about the Al Aqsa Brigades, you’ve already heard.
By the way, you may remember that Arafat said he’s going to dismantle the Al Aqsa Brigades, at the same time he was giving them money. He’s the one who said openly he’s going to dismantle the organizations
and, at the same time, he’s paying them money. So, if you were in court and you brought this evidence, I think the jury would have a very simple job to do.
Q: Could Col. Eisin please tell us in whose office the fax was found and are you still looking for the original of the fax with the original handwritten signature of Arafat? Where do you expect that to be?
A: We haven’t entered Arafat’s offices themselves. This is something that came from Arafat himself. I have no idea how he keeps his own archives, if any of them are left now, or if they are being destroyed also. So I can’t say where the original would end up at. We entered the compound, as I mentioned, two days ago, both into Fuad Shoubaki’s office and into Tirawi’s, the head of the General Intelligence Office, and it was found in one or the other of the offices. I don’t want to tell you which one right now, because I’d like to be exact about that.
Q: Are you saying that what you found was not the original fax?
A: We found a fax, it’s an original fax. But, as I mentioned, there was an original fax that Ra’ad Karmi sent to Marwan Bargouti, who passed it to Yassar Arafat, who wrote something on it, and that was faxed, and that is what we got. By the way, this is one of the reasons we don’t bring these things out and say, hey, look what we found. It takes us time to understand these documents, and we are trying to do it as professionally as possible.
Q: This is to Minister Meridor; How does this thing change anything that the Israeli government has been saying all along anyway about Arafat. You’ve constantly, since the beginning of the Intifada, pinned responsibility for all operations on Arafat directly. Now you appear to have documents that seem to link him directly, but how does that change what Israel has been saying all along? Or does it?
Meridor: There are two different kinds of responsibility. Arafat is the Chairman of the PA; he’s the leader. He has undertaken not to allow any terror activities. It’s his responsibility to see to it that people from within his own territory don’t shoot at us. It’s like any other government or authority or jurisdiction – they have to see to it that its own people do not shoot other people, not bomb them and not kill them. This is the responsibility of every government in the world. And he does not fulfill this basic responsibility of a government.
Furthermore, he is the head of the Fatah. These people are from the Fatah. So his ministerial responsibility is very clear: he is the one heading it, and even if we didn’t find any document, he’s responsible. Why is he here? If he cannot control the shootings, why should we talk to him? If we have an agreement, he cannot impose it. But if he controls it, he is responsible. Now we found additional, direct, personal contribution of Arafat to this wave of terror; he personally finances the terror. He pays money to people who do the terrorist activities. And he does it while Zinni’s here, he does it when he has promised to do the opposite. But he made a mistake. Usually he tries very hard not to leave any fingerprints. And his signature – he’s doing it for many years, since the Munich murder of our athletes, the Achille Lauro and Mr. Klinghoffer – he tries not to be present when it happens. But, with so many documents, in some cases he made a mistake. And here are two of the mistakes before you. Maybe we’ll find more; we’ll see.
Q: What is the conclusion?
A: The conclusion is that first, what we said all the time was right, not only at the leadership level, that he is the leader, he is responsible for what his people are doing. It seem more of a personal involvement in that he himself pays for terrorist activities, when they are being perpetrated. And he knows who these people are. Marwan Bargouti is in Ramallah at the same time that he is and they are working together. And Bargouti says, Arafat is my President and I will not do things that Arafat does not want me to do. And he is being paid, and his people are being paid, for those terrorist activities, the results of which you see now in our funerals.