Ginossar Probe Triggered from Washington
On instructions from attorney general Elyakim Rubinstein, the Israeli police have begun investigating the business dealings of former Shin Beit officer Yossi Ginossar with Palestinian leaders, to determine if there are grounds for a criminal investigation.
Ginossar says his business ties with Yasser Arafat’s top officials, especially his personal financial adviser Mohammad Rashid, were public knowledge, entailed no illegal actions and were found useful by four Israeli prime ministers. “Muhammad Rashid never dealt in terrorism,” Ginossar assured weekend interviewers.
The veteran secret agent turned businessman served as unofficial go-between with the Palestinian Authority for the late Itzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak. However, Rubinstein advised Ariel Sharon when he succeeded Barak in 2001 to refrain from using Ginossar’s services except in extreme matters of life and death, because of a possible conflict of interests.
The primary allegation against him, published by Tel Aviv daily Maariv Friday, was that a company owned by Ginossar and his business partner, Ezrad Lev, advised Rashid (and therefore Arafat) on his business investments against commissions. Lev, who has turned against his partner, accused Ginossar of paying kickbacks to Rashid. He claimed that $300 million of Palestinian revenue was secretly transferred to a Swiss bank account of which $65 m had disappeared.
This missing sum has been the subject of investigations by the United States and the European donors.
The president’s Rose Garden speech on June 24, as debkafile was authoritatively informed at the time, signaled the exit of the Palestinian Authority under Arafat’s leadership and, more than anything, a resolve to put an end to the corrupt financial structure through which Arafat personally funded his terror movement. The president’s demand for reforms and transparency in Palestinian government also targeted the Israeli “business channel” to the Palestinian Authority, which hs been active since the 1993 Oslo peace accords. Rashid was singled out – not only as manager of Arafat’s secret funds, but as the senior bankroller of his terror networks and directly involved in the arms smuggling shipment aboard the Karine-A arms smuggling that was aborted last January.
Detailed information on Rashid’s role in the terror movement was volunteered to the US government, according to an exclusive account from debkafile‘s Washington sources, by Muhammed Dahlan, former chief of Palestinian preventive security in the Gaza Strip and currently Arafat’s national security adviser. Dahlan needs to buy immunity, according to the same sources, after American raids in Zagreb, Bosnia, turned up documents naming Dahlan as the live wire in exchanges between Arafat and Osama bin Laden that took place as early as 1995, when the al Qaeda leader was still operating out of Khartoum.
Dahlan has been relaying information to Washington ever since.
According to our sources in Washington, a decision was taken to make an example of Ginossar as a cautionary message to Israeli business interests to withdraw from dealings with the Palestinians – especially the partnerships in the monopolies supplying essential products to the Palestinian Authority that grew out of the Oslo accords.
The message from Washington came loud and clear: Drain the money swamp that sustains Palestinian terror. Break up the Israeli-Palestinian monopolistic partnerships.
debkafile recalls that under the Oslo accords, those monopolies were set up as Israel government-approved partnerships between Palestinian entrepreneurs close to Arafat and Israeli business interests associated with the architects of those accords. They were to be the fulcrum for the Rabin-Peres leadership’s vision of a new Middle East, where the prosperity shared by the former adversaries was to act as a disincentive for violence and increase mutual dependence on peace.
The revenues from monopolies on basic commodities like petroleum, flour, cement, paint, iron, foodstuffs, minerals and the now shuttered Oasis Casino in Jericho were – and still are – split between the two sides and also form the basis of a strong political alliance. Israeli entrepreneurs seeking to do business with the Palestinians had to channel their applications through Ginossar under an arrangement with his opposite number Rashid who was committed to blocking any direct approach. Four years ago, the attorney general began railing against the system of kickbacks that grew out of the shared monopoly structure. Some of those Israeli businessmen disappeared from the public scene; at least two left the country.
The police investigation ordered last week is aimed at getting to the bottom of how the Israeli-Palestinian monopolies system worked and who profited from them, a project that could jolt a few high-placed individuals and groups.
While the Bush administration will not damage Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon in the run-up to the Iraq War, the Ginossar case is also a signal to certain members of his close circle, who were drawn into the Oslo business channel and continue to sponsor Rashid and Dahlan. The most prominent is the Tel Aviv lawyer Dov Weissglass, who was appointed this year as head of staff in the prime minister’s office and known to have been involved with Arafat’s Austrian partner, Martin Schlaff, in the Oasis Casino. The casino was opened in Palestinian-ruled territory in 1998 as a money spinner. It was shut down two years later after Palestinian gunmen shot at Israeli civilians and troops from one of its windows.
According to debkafile‘s Washington sources, the US government is particularly interested in the transactions that went on around the casino, and has begun discreetly investigating an unexplained discrepancy: While the gambling palace’s revenues totaled $50-60,000 a day, the amount banked was ten times larger, between $500,000 and $800,000. The investigation wants to find out from where the unaccounted portion of those deposits came. And where it went.
Weissglass continues to boast of his good relations with Rashid. On recent visits to Washington, he angered the president’s national security adviser Dr. Condoleezza Rice by tipping Dahlan and Rashid as favorites for the reformed Palestinian government.
The former defense minister and Labor leader, Binyamin Ben Eliezer walked into the same pit on his only visit to Washington. He informed the White House that his plan for pacifying the Gaza Strip, then Bethlehem and later Hebron was based on understandings with Dahlan. He was not invited again and a short time later, his career drew to a close.
His successor as Labor leader, Amram Mitzna, may go the same way if he insists on negotiating with the Palestinians “as if there is no terror.” Some of his most powerful sponsors belong to the Oslo group of entrepreneurs.
Arafat first tested his scheme for enmeshing his enemies in the toils of vested business interests in Lebanon of the seventies. He drew Christian Phalange leaders into joint business ventures in drugs, arms smuggling and protection racketeering, while at the same time kindling civil war. Those interests prevented the Phalange from finishing Arafat off and ended up wiping the Lebanese Christians out as a ruling power in the land. Arafat worked the same gambit in the rosy aftermath of the Oslo Accords, marking out his adversaries in Israel’s security and intelligence services and drawing their superiors in civilian authority into lucrative monopolistic transactions that came to be controlled by Ginossar and Rashid.
While the terror war raged and ravaged the Israeli economy, huge amounts of cash poured into Arafat’s war chest. Israel’s good name was marred, while the Palestinian economy was starved of investors and business entrepreneurs who were put to flight by the monopoly system and rampant corruption. Hungry and bereft of means of livelihood, many young Palestinians are easily lured into Arafat’s cycle of suicidal terror. They have nothing to lose and their families stand to gain from the lavish reparations offered by the Iraqi ruler and Saudi sources.