Lieberman Blocks Israeli Pro-peace Group From Visiting Ramallah

The background for the refusal was the group's intention of meeting a Palestinian official barred from Israel for 'embarking on subversive activity within Israeli society that included an attempt to establish political parties.'

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Yossi Beilin, in his new office in Herzliya Pituah.
Yossi Beilin, in his new office in Herzliya Pituah.Credit: Tal Cohen

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has blocked members of the Geneva Initiative from entering Ramallah because they planned to meet with senior Fatah official Mohammed al-Madani, whose permit to enter Israel was revoked by Lieberman last month.

Preparations for the meeting began two weeks ago, when the group members contacted the Israel Defense Forces’ Central Command to confirm a meeting in Ramallah that had been scheduled for Tuesday. The Israeli delegation, which included initiative cofounder Yossi Beilin, three branch heads and members of the Likud Central Committee, planned to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Madani, who is chairman of the Palestinian committee for interaction with Israeli society.

The military, however, refused to let the visit proceed, saying the security situation did not allow for Israelis to enter Ramallah. The initiative representatives offered to reduce the number of people in the delegation or to get accompaniment from Abbas’ Presidential Guard, but the army’s response remained negative.

Although the military refused on security grounds, members of the Geneva Initiative, as well as representatives of other groups, have been permitted to visit Ramallah numerous times since the latest terror wave began last October. Channel 10 reported that the background for the refusal was Lieberman’s barring of Madani from Israel for “embarking on subversive activity within Israeli society that included an attempt to establish political parties.”

Sources in the defense minister’s office said it was the planned meeting with Madani that led to the Ramallah visit being nixed.

“This makes it clear who’s a partner here and who isn’t,” said Geneva Initiative Director General Gadi Baltiansky. “It’s the government that prevents itself, and its citizens, from speaking to the person responsible for ties with Israeli society.”

On another matter, Lieberman has also ordered his director general, Udi Adam, to examine the future of Army Radio.

A year ago, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot expressed support for either closing the station or transferring it to the auspices of the Defense Ministry branch for society and security.

Eisenkot said that at a time when the army was being forced to cut air squadrons and an armored division, there was no justification for the outlays on the radio station. There was never any follow-up, however, because then-Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon objected.

The instructions to Adam were issued two weeks ago and he is expected to make his recommendations by the end of the month.

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