Casino for Gaza

Weisglass' law firm and business trusts represent the financial interests of the Palestinian Authority, including Muhammad Rashid, the treasurer appointed by Yasser Arafat to manage Arafat's elusive accounts, which reportedly amount to several billion dollars.

David Bedein,

OpEds לבן ריק
לבן ריק
credit David Michael Cohen
The man who has been the most visible diplomat representing Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in negotiations with the Palestinians and with the US government has been a lawyer by the name of Dov Weisglass. He is the man who engineered Sharon's withdrawal plan, and the man whom Sharon has delegated to negotiate for Israel with US National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and US Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Weisglass' power in the government of Israel with Ariel Sharon at the helm has eclipsed the influence of the highest officials of the Israel Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense.

Yet Weisglass has another identity, and other interests.

Back in December 2002, Israel Resource News Agency uncovered the fact that Weisglass, then the office manager of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, was still in private business, listed in the Israel Corporate Register as the owner and operator of his law firm, Weisglass-Almagor, and a business trust by a similar name. That finding was publicized in the weekly Israeli newspaper Makor Rishon.

Why is that so important?

Weisglass' law firm and business trusts represent the financial interests of the Palestinian Authority, including Muhammad Rashid, the treasurer appointed by Yasser Arafat to manage Arafat's elusive accounts, which reportedly amount to several billion dollars.

Two Israeli journalists, Amos Harel and Avi Issacharov, in their just-published book The Seventh War, report that Weisglass actually celebrated the electoral victory of Ariel Sharon in the company of Muhammad Rashid on election night in February, 2001.

In June, 2003 Israel Resource News Agency uncovered the fact that Weisglass' law firm and business also represent the Palestinian casino firms, which are in part owned by PLO security chief Jibril Rajoub, and by Yasser Arafat himself.

Why is that important, in light of the demise of the former Palestinian casino in Jericho, that was closed down soon after the "Intifada" began, in October, 2000?

According to the Palestinian tourist publication This Week in Palestine, plans are under way to build a new Palestinian casino and resort for tourists in "Southern Gaza," in place of the Jewish communities of Gush Katif that now exist there.

And who stands to profit? None other than Dov Weisglass, the architect of the Sharon plan to remove those Jewish communities from Gush Katif.

The logical question to ask would be: where is the law enforcement in Israel that would act against any such conflict of interest and possible breach of security?

In January 2003, after it was revealed that the Prime Minister's office manager, Weisglass, still maintained his law firm and business outside his government job, the Israel Civil Service Commission looked into it and affirmed that Weisglasss was indeed still registered in the Israel Corporate Register as part of that law firm. But they dismissed its importance, after Weisglass wrote to the commission that he had divested himself from his law firm and that he had sold all financial interests in his business.

To support that claim, The Israel Corporate Authority in April 2003 reported that Weisglass finally removed his name from his law firm in the Israel Corporate Authority records and provided us with a document from the Israel Corporate Authority to prove it.

However, in April 2004, our agency uncovered what the Israel Civil Service Commission did not know, which was that Weisglass' name was still registered as the lawyer of record for two other firms that bore virtually the same company name, also located at the same corporate address.

In May, 2004, the Israel Civil Service Commission declared that this represented a conflict of interest for Weisglasss. So, in July, 2004, Weisglass quietly resigned his position as the Prime Minister's office manager, but received permission from the Israel Civil Service Commission to assume a new position as the all-powerful official "advisor" to Prime Minister Sharon.

In other words, although the highest echelons of the Israeli government are cognizant of the fact that Weisglass represents the business interests of Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority, Weisglass was still allowed to continue to conduct negotiations on behalf of the state of Israel with all official levels of the Palestinian Authority and the United States government.

Is this how conflicts of interest are legalized, Middle East style?

You can bet on it.




top