ATHENS (Sep. 3)
In 1982 and 1983, an official of the Israel Defense Ministry was prepared to issue a formal invitation to Itam Sartawi or any other ranking member of the Palestine Liberation Organization to come to Jerusalem as an official guest of the Israel government.
This, at least, is the story related here by Ferdinand Hennerbicler who, until last June, was an aide to the Austrian Ambassador to Greece, the late Herbet Amry. There has been no independent confirmation of this disclosure.
According to Hennerbicler, Amry, former Chancellor Bruno Kreisky of Austria and Arie Eliav, a leading Israeli dove, were involved in the complicated, top secret arrangements.
Those three, and Sartawi, who had close contacts with Kreisky and was reputed to be seeking peace between the PLO and Israel, were in Vienna in the autumn of 1982. At that time, Kreisky was involved in the indirect negotiations of a prisoner exchange in Lebanon between Israel and the PLO. He proposed to use those negotiations to establish higher political contacts between the two parties, and the others concurred.
Eliav, who had met with Sartawi abroad on past occasions, suggested that the plan be carried out by Arie Marinski, an Israeli lawyer who was at the time military adviser to the then Defense Minister, Moshe Arens. Marinski, who had been a member of Irgun, described himself as a former terrorist. “If there is someone who can do it, it is only Marinski,” Eliav said, according to Hennerbicler.
Early in 1983, Eliav returned to Vienna and informed Amry that Marinski was prepared to meet Sartawi or any PLO official that PLO chief Yasir Arafat would delegate, Hennerbicler says. Marinski visited Vienna in March, 1983, accompanied by Eliav. He did not meet directly with Sartawi who was there at the time, or with Kreisky.
However, according to Hennerbicler, he gave Eliav an oral invitation for Ambassador Amry to convey to any PLO official, which included several terms.
TERMS OF THE INVITATION
Marinski would issue an official invitation to a duly appointed PLO representative to come to Jerusalem. The invitation would be valid for Sartawi or anyone else Arafat would nominate. The PLO official would be treated as an official guest of the Israeli government. His safety would be guaranteed by Israel.
Upon arrival in Jerusalem, the PLO official would meet Marinski and stay overnight. The next day he, along with Marinski and Eliav, would travel by helicopter to visit the prison camp at Ansar in south Lebanon. The PLO representative would enter and leave Israel by the Allenby Bridge over the Jordan River.
The invitation and terms were submitted orally to Amry by Eliav at a meeting in the federal chancellory in Vienna. When asked if they understood the consequences, Eliav replied that he and Marinski understood. Marinski said, furthermore, that both Arens and Premier Menachem Begin had knowledge of the invitation. He did not say it had their blessings but stressed that they knew about it.
Sartawi, for his part, according to Hennerbicler, said he would be delighted to go to Jerusalem. But he needed Arafat’s approval.
During Easter, 1983, Amry went to Jerusalem to make sure the invitation still held. He met again with Marinski and Eliav on the matter. Hennerbicler quotes Marinski as saying that after all these years “it is about time we talk to the gang. (PLO) I was a terrorist too and I know what I’m talking about.”
ARAFAT SAID NO TO SARTAWI
But two months later, Sartawi met again with Amry in Vienna to report that Arafat refused to give him a mandate to go to Jerusalem because that would weaken his (Arafat’s) position.
Kreisky, who knew Arafat personally, re-entered the picture at that time. He decided to write to Arafat explaining the invitation and its terms so there would be no misunderstanding. Hennerbicler says Kreisky hoped he would be able to save the scheme.
His letter repeated the verbal proposals by Eliav, and added: “This offer is certainly important and it contains such possibilities for the future that I had to inform you personally about it in this way.”
Kreisky signed the letter but delayed dating it. According to Hennerbicler, the Chancellor intended to post it on April 10, 1983. It was never posted. On that date Sartawi, considered the leading voice for peace and conciliation within the PLO, was gunned down by assassins while attending a meeting of the Socialist International in Lisbon. The projected invitation died with him.