Former Minister turned traitor: Gonen Segev, From Oslo to Iran
Former Minister turned traitor: Gonen Segev, From Oslo to Iran

Almost 27 years ago, Israel faced one of the most pivotal elections in its history. The Intifada had been raging for slightly over three years (enough to infuriate the nation, not enough yet to demoralize them), the Likud Party was ruling the country, Yitzchak Shamir was Prime Minister, and the first Gulf War (the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and its aftermath) was still a very recent memory.

In June 1992 Israel went to the polls, and 10 parties achieved representation in the Thirteenth Knesset.

Four were left-wing: Labour, led by Yitzchak Rabin, received 44 seats, becoming the largest party; the newly-formed Meretz received 12 seats; Hadash (Democratic Front for Peace and Equality, a Communist party) received 3 seats; and the Arab Democratic Party received 2 seats.

Four right-wing parties were represented: Likud with 32 seats, becoming the second-largest party; Tzomet received 8 seats; Mafdal (National Religious Party) received 6 seats; and the newly-formed Moledet (Homeland) received 3 seats.

Two parties were apolitical (which may seem oxymoronic, an apolitical political party): Shas (Sefaradi Torah-guardians), which received 6 seats, and United Torah Judaism which received 4 seats.

Thus the Left received overall 61 seats, the Right received 49, and flexible-opportunist religious parties received 10 seats.

More voters voted for Right-wing than for Left-wing parties. But the Right was divided, and there were too many parties competing for votes – and the result was Right-wing votes being wasted.

Tehiya (Right-wing, staunchly nationalist, pro-religious), the New Liberal Party (a breakaway from the Likud, Right-wing), Geulat Yisrael (Haredi Right-wing), Da (Movement for Democracy and Aliyah, founded by recent immigrants from the Soviet Union, all staunchly opposed to socialism in any form), and Torah va-Aretz (Torah and Land, Right-wing religious party founded and led by Rabbi Moshe Levinger) received between them 76,882 votes.

The threshold in 1992 was 1.5% of the overall vote, and none of these five parties achieved that. But collectively they received 1.9% of the vote, enough for either 3 or 4 Knesset seats that would have changed history.

It was the disunity on the Right that put the Left into power and Rabin into the Prime Minister’s office.

Just over a year after the elections, on 21st September 1993, the Government presented the Oslo Agreements to the Knesset Plenum; after stormy – indeed violent – debate lasting three days, the Knesset voted on the agreements on the 23rd.

A radically Left-wing program, the Oslo Agreements were massively controversial: for the first time in Israeli history they sanitized murderous El Fatah (the PLO), the most violent Jew-killing organization in the world since World War 2.

The Labour Party, and its head Yitzchak Rabin, had consistently sworn during the election campaign that they would never meet or negotiate with the PLO or its head, Yasser Arafat y”sh. It was only in later years that Shimon Peres, Ron Pundak, and other highly-placed officials admitted that they had been conducting secret and illegal talks with Arafat and El Fatah even during the self-same election campaign.

With a razor-thin majority in the Knesset, Prime Minister Rabin had to coax, or cajole, or bribe some Opposition Members of Knesset to support his collaboration with the murderous terrorists of El Fatah.
The full story of that perfidy is another subject for another time.

With a razor-thin majority in the Knesset, Prime Minister Rabin had to coax, or cajole, or bribe some Opposition Members of Knesset to support his collaboration with the murderous terrorists of El Fatah.

And he indeed found three such collaborators: Esther Salmovitch, Alex Goldfarb, and Gonen Segev.

And thanks to them, the Oslo death accords were ratified by the Knesset with the tiniest majority possible: 61 in favour, 59 against.

Salmovitch, Goldfarb, and Segev were all members of Tzomet. Founded and led by former IDF Chief of Staff Raphael (“Raful”) Eitan, Tzomet was a staunchly Right wing nationalist secular party. The 166,366 Israelis who voted for Tzomet, and who put eight of their members, including Salmovitch, Goldfarb, and Segev, into the Knesset, put them there to represent and advocate their Right-wing nationalist secular ideology and agenda.

Five of the eight did so faithfully: Eitan, Pini Badash, Chaim Dayan, Moshe Peled, and Eliezer Zandberg indeed did what their voters had elected them to do. Whether you agree or disagree with their political agenda and ideology, they faithfully represented the electors who had sent them to the Knesset.

Three jumped ship, crossed the lines from Right to extreme Left – and were handsomely rewarded for their treachery. Gonen Segev was elevated to Minister for Energy and Infrastructure, a post he held until the next elections.

Upon losing his Knesset seat in 1996, Segev, a medical doctor, chose not to return to his medical practice (in which he might have brought benefit to the country). Instead he went into business – legal and illegal, whichever was more lucrative.

In 2004 he was arrested and charged with drug-smuggling when he attempted to smuggle 32,000 ecstasy pills from Holland into Israel. His defence, that he thought they were M&Ms, sounded like something out of a second-rate comedy. The court didn’t believe his story (particularly coming from a medical doctor), and Segev was sentenced to five years in prison.

Released in 2007 with a third off for good behaviour, but with his medical licence revoked, Segev emigrated to Nigeria, where he worked again as a doctor.

It was in Nigeria that Iranian agents contacted him, and offered him another lucrative deal: this time to betray not only his voters, but his entire country.

Now he has been convicted and sentenced to 11 years in prison for his treason.

More than quarter-of-a-century ago, there were those of us here in Israel who already identified him as a traitor. His support for the Oslo death accords irretrievably after being elected by right wing voters branded him as such. He betrayed his voters, his party, the party leader Raphael Eitan who had trusted him and given him his start in a political career.

His subsequent dealings have tragically but thoroughly vindicated those of us who, with such heavy hearts, used the epithet “traitor” back in the 1990’s.

For myself, I was arrested in the anti-Oslo death process demonstrations in which I participated and got arrested. I still have at least one scar (albeit a small scar) on my arm from a police nightstick at one of those demonstrations.

Several months ago, the Israeli media cited an interview which Segev gave some years ago to Israel’s Channel 2 TV news, in which he stated: “I’ve decided I’m not coming back to Israel unless I can return with my head held high as ‘Dr. Gonen Segev’ with a permit to work… not as ‘the former convict Gonen Segev’”.

He will never again be able to hold his head high in Israel: he will forever be remembered as the convicted drug-smuggler and now the convicted traitor Gonen Segev, his title “Doctor” ignored.

Those of us who opposed the Oslo death accords quarter-of-a-century ago and got arrested and beaten by the police for doing so, by contrast, will always be able to hold our heads up in pride. We were always loyal to Israel, even in those hardest of times.

And today, looking back at scenes from the 1990’s, those pictures of the convicted traitor Gonen Segev in conclave with then-Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin take on an entirely new and chilling implication.