The former director of Israel’s secret service found himself in what many Israelis would consider bad company this week, as his name appears on the list of participants of a conference dedicated to demonizing Israel.
Ami Ayalon, who headed the Shin Bet from 1996 to 2000 and served as a Labor MK and minister without portfolio in the last Knesset, is listed as an attendee of the International Conference on Jerusalem in Doha, which took place Sunday and Monday. Co-hosted by the Qatari government and the Arab League, most speakers at the controversial conference slammed Israel for its management of the holy city.
Ayalon could not be reached Monday for comment. But two people connected to Ayalon said he was in Boston at the time of the conference and did not attend. They did not have anything to say about how his name got on the conference’s list of participants.
Ayalon was not the only Israeli politician supposedly in attendance. Five current MKs — Ahmed Tibi, Ibrahim Sarsur and Talab El-Sana from the Ra’am-Ta’al party and Jamal Zahalka and Hanin Zoabi from the National Democratic Assembly — were listed as participants. Only El-Sana was listed as coming from Israel, while the country of the other MKs was billed as “Palestine.” It was not clear how many of them attended besides Tibi, who was quoted as saying at the conference that “the Judaization of Jerusalem is a blatant violation of international law,” Ynet reported.
Besides Ayalon and the current MKs, the list of participants on the conference website features many Arab officials as well as international academics and representatives of pro-Palestinian NGOs. Morocco’s prime minister, Turkey’s deputy prime minister and several high-ranking United Nations officials, including its special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Robert Serry, attended the conference. Members of Neturei Karta, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect that is opposed to the existence of the State of Israel, were also present.
An Israeli government official declined to comment on the list of participants but expressed concern about the conference’s content. “Various people in Doha said that the Al-Aqsa Mosque is in danger. Such statements are not only untrue, they are libelous, outrageous and irresponsible,” the official told The Times of Israel on Monday.
Islam’s third-holiest site is built on the remains of the Jewish Temple and has in the past been the scene of violent clashes between Jews and Muslims. While concerns about the mosque’s safety have been raised in the past by extremists, at Doha it was people considered belonging to the mainstream who were echoing such sentiments, the official lamented. “These people are playing with fire.”
On the conference’s official website, Israel is accused of “violations aimed at rewriting history, counterfeiting facts and obliterating the Arab identity.” The conference also seeks to highlight “the weaknesses of the Jew’s historical arguments backing their claims to the holy city,” the website states. Important points on the agenda are “the disclosure of Israel’s deeds at falsifying history and archeology” while emphasis is put on the “overwhelming set of evidence spread across the city showing its rooted past as an inalienable part of Palestine.”
PA President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday addressed the delegates, alleging Israeli government plans of “ethnic cleansing” and desecration of Muslim holy sites in the city. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Abbas’ words “harshly inflammatory.”
Ayalon, who was also the commander of the Israeli Navy for four years, has long been known to be involved in peacemaking efforts between Israel and the Palestinians. Together with former PA official and current Al-Quds University president Sari Nusseibeh, Ayalon in 2003 launched The People’s Voice, a campaign to get popular support for a peaceful two-state solution. However, Ayalon has made remarks critical of the so-called Israeli “peace camp,” especially the attitudes of the political left toward West Bank settlers.