Ben Caspit's fascinating revelations in Ma'ariv about Yossi Ginossar's business dealings with the Palestinians makes valuable election propaganda for the Likud, worth more than a thousand election broadcasts. It makes Labor Party leaders look not only like suckers, who offered generous concessions to the evil Yasser Arafat, but also dummies, who didn't know that their envoy to the Palestinian court was also serving indirectly as an envoy for Arafat and Mohammed Rashid in Geneva's banks.
Ginossar was a key contact person in the relations with the Palestinians, and reached the peak of his power in the days of Ehud Barak's administration. The official version was that he used "to deliver messages" as a kind of mailman or errand boy carrying sealed epistles, and never got involved in the details of the negotiations. At best that's naive, at worst, it's an irresponsible way to present facts.
It's enough to read Gilad Sher's well-documented book about the negotiations with the Palestinians, "Within Reach," to understand just how deeply G. from the Shin Bet, who turned Ginossar into the businessman, was involved. He organized and attended meetings between Barak and Arafat, even hosting one at his home. He belonged to the prime minister's closed circle during the phase of negotiations, and when the intifada broke out, together with his good friend Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, he conducted negotiations for a cease-fire.
He went to Camp David as a kind of special mediator, in addition to the Israeli delegation's quota. All sides insisted on his participation, because of his special status with all the leaders. "To a large extent, Ginossar played a double role, as our envoy to the Palestinians and theirs to us," wrote Sher. The envoy did not take part in the actual negotiating sessions or formulating the drafts.
But despite his seemingly ex-territorial status, Barak included him in the internal deliberations by the Israeli delegation. And when he wasn't involved, "Ginossar, as usual, knew (the details) from his Palestinian friends even before he was updated by our side," says Sher. According to Sher, Ginossar backed dividing Jerusalem and pressed Barak to meet with Arafat.
When Arafat metamorphosed from a likable bumbling puppet on the Hartzufim satire show into a bitter and wily enemy, Ginossar's influenced waned. Ariel Sharon rarely used him, but Ginossar kept up his contacts with the government through other channels. He was a comer and goer at the defense minister's office in the days of Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, with whom he's been associated for years. Meanwhile, Mohammed Rashid found new ways to the upper echelons, mostly through Omri Sharon, and Rashid also met with Sharon pere.
In his interview with Channel One, Ginossar stuck to his guns, saying his business dealings were legitimate and that he has no contractual relationship with the Palestinian Authority. The state needed his services for solving some delicate political and security issues, so how could he refuse? If they don't want to use him, they shouldn't. After all, everyone knew about his businesses on the Palestinian side and there was no conflict of interest.
When he refused to detail his businesses, the attorney general had him removed from missions (which were quickly renewed with the outbreak of the intifada, because it might "save lives.") But Elyakim Rubinstein, despite his reservations, was with Ginossar at the Camp David summit. Barak's aides say Ginossar told them he did not have business relations with the PA and they took it at face value.
It's Barak, and other prime ministers and politicians who used Ginossar, who should be asked whether they ever bothered to examine their envoy's business interests or made do with the knowledge that Arafat was always available for his Israeli friend, "Joe." Were results or proper government more important?
After all, the Ginossar affair ultimately proves there are limits to personal, secret diplomacy. Despite the intimacy of his relationship with both Arafat and Barak, Ginossar did not manage to bring them together at critical moments in the negotiations and the intifada.
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