On the evening before the long-planned March 17 meeting with his counterpart in the Palestine Authority, PA justice minister Abu Medein, Israel Minister of Justice Tzachi HaNegbi talked tough, declaring to a cheering Likud audience that anyone in the PA who advocated violence with be dealt with harshly.
HaNegbi pointed a finger at PA leader Yassir Arafat, saying that Israel could easily force him out of his villa in Gaza, back to his villa in Tunis. The reaction to HaNegbi was not long in coming. The PA denounced him in harsh terms, as did the Meretz and Labor party spokesmen.
Meanwhile, the meeting with Abu Medein did not come off as scheduled. The Israeli public perceived that HaNegbi had stood his ground and talked tough policy towards his Palestinian conuterparts.
Yet a somewhat different story remains to be told.
In an interview with Abu Medein on the day of the scheduled meeting, Abu Medein noted that the meeting had already been postponed last Thursday, March 14, the day before the Israel Ministry of Justice had issued a statement that the meeting was to take place.
Abu Medein, while indicating that formal meetings with Israeli officials had for the time being been postponed, also mentioned that on the matter of the “transfer of suspects” issue that there was no reason for a meeting, and that the Israeli government did indeed pass on names of susepcted murderers who had taken refuge in the areas administered by the Palestine authority for his consideration, even though Abu Medein expressed his policy that the PA would ever agree to hand over murder suspects to Israeli custody.
Meanwhile, in the list that the Israel Ministry of Justice did indeed hand over to the PA, HaNegbi did not add the names of the killers of Nachshon Wachsman, David Boim and Yaakov Yamin to the list, even though their families had held a well attended press conference on March 13 to demand that Hanegbi request the arrest of those who murdered their loved ones. Since the attack in Jordan overshadowed the press conference held by the Wachsmans, Boims and Yamins which occurred at the moment of the massacre, their appeal to the conscience of the Israeli public was not heard. All that these families asked was that HaNegbi indeed act to demand the arrest of the Arabs who murdered their loved ones and escaped to the PA havens of refuge for killers.
Yet the Israeli public was kept in the dark on this matter – the more tragic and spectacular continuing news item of the massacre of seven Israeli school girls in Jordan and the condolence visit by King Hussein kept the issue off the news, providing HaNegbi with the cover that he needed.
Meanwhile, HaNegbi has declared on numerous occaisions that if and when the PA refuses to hand over killers who have escaped to the areas under their jurisdiction, then he will resign. Instead, HaNegbi’s protege, Israel Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, declared at the joint news conference with King Hussein on Sunday night March 16th that the policy of his administration is that if there are PLO violations of the accord, no matter what they are, they will not stop the progress of the Oslo process.
Most people in Israel assume that HaNegbi has issued an ultimatum to the Palestine Authority to arrest any killer who has taken refuge in the areas under their control.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
When Joyce Boim met with HaNegbi on Thursday March 13 to discuss her longstanding request to have the Israeli government demand the arrest of her son’s admitted murderer, HaNegbi shrugged his shoulders and murmured that he didn’t know abotu it. This, despite months of calls, consultations and letters, let alone HaNegbi’s fire and brimstone speeches
On the morning of March 17, I asked Hanegbi’s office for a reason as to why the three killers of Wachsman, Boim and Yamin were not on the list of killers that were handed over to the Palestine Authority. His spokeswoman called back in the evening with a unique response: The list was never handed over to Abu Medein because they had no meeting and therefore there is no list.
Except that the Israeli government faxxed the list to Abu-Medein. Tzachi HaNegbi forgets that there is telephone service between Jerusalem and Gaza and that Abu Medein picks up the phone.
So there you have it. HaNegbi shries gevalt and the PA gets away with murder.