The loss of more than a friend
The sorrow over the death Abed Alun, who was killed in the suicide bombings in Amman, is immense, not only for those who lost a good friend -we all lost a peace-seeking man who made many efforts to bring the two nations closer.
Early Friday morning, after the suicide bombings in Amman, I called an old friend in Jordan to ask how he and his family were doing. My Jordanian friend was not harmed, but a few hours later I learned that among the dead was a Palestinian friend, Abed Alun, with whom I had met many times in recent years.
His funeral was in Jerusalem the next day, and that evening I went with two friends to Beit Hanina in East Jerusalem to pay a condolence call on the family. The mourners' tent was full of grave-faced men. The women mourned indoors, and Abed's mother greeted us in the courtyard. Abed left two small children.
Abed was declared a shaheed, even though Muslims killed him. "That's not the real Islam," I was told over and over by Palestinians, referring to Al-Qaida. They have killed many Muslims in the past - Moroccans, Turks, Egyptians and Iraqis. This time they also badly hurt Palestinians.
It seems the suicide attack shocked many Palestinians. The gathering at one of the hotels that was attacked in Amman was to celebrate the wedding of two Palestinian families. One of the families lost 17 people in the blast, including the fathers of the bride and groom. Abed and I often discussed suicide bombings, which he called attacks of madness.
Abed was a young man - 36 at his death - who had accomplished a lot. He served in Palestinian intelligence, at a rank comparable to a colonel. Only after Arafat's death did he abandon his activity in the Palestinian Authority and start a career as a businessman.
As part of his work for Palestinian intelligence, he met about 18 months ago - as part of a small group to which I also belonged - with a very senior official in the Iranian government. The man described how he saw a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: First Israel must accept the majority of Palestinian refugees, then there will be general elections and Tehran will recognize the new government formed in Israel. Abed, who was sitting beside him, immediately responded that that was not the solution the PA wanted. We support the two-state solution and the Iranian proposal replaces it. The Iranian attacked him and accused the Palestinians of treachery.
A few months later, the Palestinians worked out a security plan with the British, meant, among other things, to eliminate the weapons-smuggling tunnels under the Philadelphi corridor. Abed was among those who formulated the plan, in which the British agreed to establish for the Palestinians two operational command headquarters in the territories. With the approval of Yasser Arafat, the plan was given to Channel 22's Ehud Yaari, MK Ephraim Sneh, and me. We told Abed the plan would be given to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and he was given approval for that. Sharon deigned to meet us immediately and the plan was good, operationally, but there was a problem - it required indirect contact between Sharon and Arafat, which doomed it.
Abed had extraordinary contacts. Once I was delayed at the Allenby Bridge because of a visa problem. No Israeli or Jordanian managed to help me out that Friday afternoon, the day of rest for Muslims. I asked Abed for his help, and with one phone call to Jordan the bridge opened to me.
The sorrow over the death of Abed is great, not only for those who lost a good friend; we all lost a peace-seeking man who made many efforts to bring the two nations closer.