The Palestinian leader who spent 17 years in Israeli jails, Jibril Rajoub, was the last keynote speaker at Sunday’s Ha’aretz London conference.
But if the audience expected that by virtue of Rajoub’s appearance at an Israeli-sponsored event, that he was going to turn into a warm and cuddly participant, they were to be disappointed.
The contribution of the deputy secretary general of Fatah, after a slow start, was truculent, frequently referring to the Occupation as “racist, fascist, expansionist, imperialist”. Next June, he noted, would mark the 50th anniversary of the Occupation; he hoped that before then “we will separate as neighbours, not under oppression”.
Rajoub praised the late Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin who, he said, “was brave enough to treat us on an equal footing, as neighbours. He respected us and trusted us. But he was assassinated — and I think a lot of Israelis were dancing, but we [Palestinians] were mourning”.
With the exception of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the former Foreign Minister Tsipi Livni, Rajoub declared, no Israeli politician had done anything to manage the conflict.
Nevertheless, he believed that the two-state solution was “the only game in town” and repeated an invitation for Israelis to come and talk directly to him and others in the Fatah leadership in Ramallah. But he warned his audience: “Please don’t be surprised if the [current random] killings escalate to every day”; and then he had a message for Palestinians, warning them that “if some Palestinians think that by killing an Israeli or two, Israel will give up, they are wrong.”
Rajoub predicted that an accord reconciling Fatah and Hamas would be concluded “in the coming days”. And he had one final chilling message: Israelis, he said, “should look in the mirror and remember the Holocaust… they should be happy with what they have.”