Daily Israel Report

Israel Turns Blind Eye, Then Accuses P.A. of Smuggling

Israel has gone public with claims that Palestinian VIPs - including Yasser Arafat - took advantage of their status to smuggle weapons and more into the Palestinian areas. The government suspended the VIP cards yesterday, following the terrorist bus attack.
First Publish: 2/15/2001, 7:28 PM

Israel has gone public with claims that Palestinian VIPs - including Yasser Arafat - took advantage of their status to smuggle weapons and more into the Palestinian areas. The government suspended the VIP cards yesterday, following the terrorist bus attack. Israeli policy has been not to check the vehicles of VIPs, nor their bodyguards and escorts, and to allow them to travel freely throughout Israel and into and out of the autonomous areas. \"This is not new,\" says Brig.-Gen. (res.) Herzl Gedz, who formerly headed the autonomy liaison administration, \"and it\'s been known for a long time, but you have to realize that these are people who we sit with in our living rooms and negotiate with, and it\'s not so easy to demand that they be checked at every checkpoint and thereby harm their human dignity... There are some who are particularly guilty of this and with whom we have to deal accordingly, but we can\'t put all of them in one basket...\"

\"They understand our weakness,\" said Gedz, \"our hesitation to - Heaven forbid - get one of them angry, and our tendency to hide our eyes in the sand. They travel freely around Israel, our police can\'t stop them, and even their bodyguards have weapons that are approved by the PA and with which they drive around freely in Israel. It\'s about time that people begin to understand...\" Asked if they have some sort of shortage of weapons that forces them to smuggle in more, Gedz said, \"They always want more - after all, we have to understand, they see this as a national struggle, so they need as much as they can get...\" Last night, when Yasser Abed Rabbo, Muhammad Dahlan, and Saeb Erekat attempted to cross the Allenby Bridge from Jordan into Israel, the Israelis demanded to search their cars; they refused, and chose to walk into Israel, leaving their cars behind.