'Palestinian Authority strongman once called Lieberman key to peace'
Yossi Beilin: Dahlan also urged former justice minister to pardon dovish convicted Shas leader Deri.
In July 2000, while he was justice minister in Ehud Barak's cabinet, Yossi Beilin agreed to a request by Mohammed Dahlan and Mohammed Rashid, who were members of the Palestinian delegation at Camp David, that they meet urgently.
Beilin didn't know either of them at the time, but he assumed that the purpose of the meeting, slated to take place at a Jerusalem hotel, was to discuss Camp David. Barak had described the two as very moderate at the summit. Toward the end of their meeting, which was mostly devoted to what had taken place at Camp David, Dahlan asked to remain for a one-on-one with Beilin.
Beilin's surprise turned to amazement when the subject turned to Aryeh Deri. "I called for this meeting because you are the Israeli justice minister and the fate of Aryeh Deri (who withdrew from politics after being convicted of taking bribes in 2000) is in your hands," Dahlan said. "I am telling you that you are about to miss a rare opportunity for peace if you don't see to it that he receives a pardon. Overall, there are two people the Israeli peace camp doesn't understand and is missing out on big time: Aryeh Deri and Avigdor Lieberman. These two could be the key to peace, but instead of drawing them closer, you are pushing them away."
This revelation, which appears in Beilin's new book in Russian, involves two people who are indeed playing an important role in Israeli politics. The book was written together with Nino Abesadze, who until recently was the political correspondent for the Israeli Russian-language newspaper Vesti, and is number 30 on the Kadima list. This is the first time an Israeli politician has published a book directed exclusively at the Russian-speaking public. The original intention, as announced over a year ago, was to have the book published in the period leading up to the elections. But when Beilin decided to take leave of public life, he delayed publication until after the elections so as not to complicate matters for Meretz. The book was launched Sunday at the Jerusalem International Book Fair, sparking much interest in the former Soviet Union.
In an interview with Haaretz on Monday, Beilin again recalled that meeting at the Jerusalem hotel. He said that although it never occurred to him to respond positively to Dahlan's surprising request, he saw to it that Barak was informed of the conversation. "Daring to request such intervention on the part of the justice minister surprised me with respect to Deri," Beilin said. "With respect to Lieberman, Dahlan's description of him as a man of peace also surprised me. I wouldn't suggest that anyone pay heed to Dahlan with regard to Lieberman. Not then and certainly not now. I know that Lieberman is characterized as pragmatic, but he is mainly cynical."
Beilin contends that Deri has distanced himself from the peace camp in recent years. In the wake of the election, Beilin supports a government headed by Netanyahu "with Lieberman and the Kahanists." He says that only a right wing deprived of a left-wing fig leaf will be compelled to adopt the diplomatic initiatives of U.S. President Barack Obama's administration.