Weighing in about the death of former Israeli defense minister Binyamin “Fuad” Ben-Eliezer, the Arab press generally skipped the opportunity to recall allegations of war crimes by the decorated ex-general, instead halfheartedly focusing on his relationship with a former Egyptian dictator and the alleged corruption that dogged his career.
Born in southern Iraq, Ben-Eliezer — who was 80 when he died on Sunday — had a storied career as a military commander, politician and peace negotiator in Israel. He was known for being the first Israeli minister to meet with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in 1994 and for his convivial relationship with Hosni Mubarak.
Al-Ahram, Egypt’s most-circulated daily, said little about Ben-Eliezer’s life, but headlined the fact that the former defense minister was “the closest Israeli politician” to Mubarak.
The Egyptian government-owned Al-Youm a-Saba said Ben-Eliezer had been “a close friend” of the ousted dictator, and added a big screenshot from the popular Hebrew news site Ynet announcing his death.
Fuad Ben-Eliezer, who died today, was by far the closest Israeli official to Mubarak. Here they are in Sharm in 2002 pic.twitter.com/HssUE9nKrA
— Oren Kessler (@OrenKessler) August 28, 2016
Though Ben-Eliezer was defense minister during the Second Intifada, which saw the West Bank become a war zone at times, the Palestinian Authority remained silent over his death in its official news site, Wafa.
On the other hand, Hamas-affiliated media took the opportunity to have the last word against one of the terror group’s arch-rivals. The website Al Aqsa Voice wrote an article entitled “The top ten crimes committed by Ben-Eliezer,” which the website said included the 2002 assassination of Salah Shehade, the former leader of Hamas’s military branch. Shehade was killed — along with 14 other innocents including close family members of his — when an Israeli F-16 dropped a one-ton bomb on his home.
“One would have to write his resumé in blood rather than ink,” al Aqsa Voice wrote. The Hamas website added it was “ironic” Ben-Eliezer had fought Arabs because he had emigrated to Israel from Iraq.
As-Saffir, a leading Lebanese daily that takes a pro-Hezbollah stance, described Ben-Eliezer as a “key planner of the 1982 invasion of Lebanon.”
In the mid-seventies, Ben-Eliezer was one of the first Israelis to travel covertly to Lebanon and establish ties with the Christian Phalange force there. During the war, that force took part in the Sabra and Shatila massacres of thousands of Lebanese-Palestinians.
The pro-Hezbollah daily also mentioned the allegation, propagated in a 2007 Israeli documentary, that Ben-Eliezer’s Shaked commando unit executed 250 Egyptian prisoners of war in the Sinai Peninsula immediately after the cessation of hostilities at the close of the 1967 Six Day War. Ben-Eliezer denied the charges and said those men had been killed in battle.
As-Saffir also mentioned the former general calling for negotiations with the Palestinians during the Second Intifada in order to stop the “violence” (As-Saffir put quotes around the word) against Israelis, as well as his “strong” ties to Mubarak.
The London-based pan-Arab news site Al Araby al Jadeed described Ben-Eliezer as “the man who besieged Arafat” — referring to his role as defense minister during the Second Intifada — and the man who “killed Egyptian prisoners.”
However, other London-based pan-Arab outlets reported Ben-Eliezer’s death but without the negative framing.
Al Quds al Araby, which usually takes a critical stance on Israel, issued a short and dry report that lingered on Ben-Eliezer’s alleged financial misdeeds.
Ben-Eliezer’s public service was overshadowed later in his life by allegations that he took bribes, resulting in a protracted court case that dragged on as his health deteriorated.
The London-based Rai al-Youm also focused on the corruption allegations, without delving too much into his military past.
Al Jazeera, the Qatari owned news outlet often critical of Israel, published a colorless report on Faud’s death, briefly mentioning his friendship with Mubarak.
The Times of Israel could not find a single statement by an Arab leader referring to Ben-Eliezer’s death.