A top official from the ruling Palestinian party, known for making harsh comments against Israel, was banned from attending a conference organized by a left-wing Israeli political party on Sunday.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon ruled Saturday that Fatah Central Committee member Jibril Rajoub would be prohibited from entering Israel from now on, citing recent statements of “severe incitement” against the state of Israel.
Rajoub, who last month attended the annual Institute for National Security Studies convention in Tel Aviv, was scheduled to be a keynote speaker at a conference organized by the Meretz political party, which took place in Tel Aviv Sunday. Rajoub is a past speaker, too, at Shimon Peres’s annual Presidential Conference.
Last week, Meretz head Zahava Gal-on approached the Defense Ministry, requesting that Rajoub be granted entrance to Israel in order to attend the event. Later, Ruth Bar, Ya’alon’s personal assistant, responded to Gal-on via email that her request had been denied.
Posting on his official Facebook page, Ya’alon stressed that he “will not accept a situation in which a person who spews enmity and hate speech against us just as the worst inciter does, will simultaneously seek to enter into the territory of the state of Israel as if nothing had happened.”
Ya’alon commented that his decision regarding Rajoub had been made prior to Gal-on’s appeal and that Rajoub was in fact not the man of peace some profess him to be.
“Although the Israeli media sometimes portrays him as an almost pleasant figure, in actuality we are dealing with a man who recently severely incited against the state of Israel and its citizens, used harsh, unprintable, words against the prime minister and worked to delegitimize Israeli sport institutions,” Ya’alon wrote of Rajoub, who also serves as the head of the Palestinian Olympic Committee.
On Thursday, Gal-on released a statement remarking on the “curious” decision to bar Rajoub from her party’s conference, even though Rajoub frequently appears on Israeli television and had recently attended a gathering in the country.
“Someone in the defense establishment is trying to take us back to those terrible days when it was forbidden for Israelis to talk to Palestinians,” Gal-on wrote. “This is an attempt at silencing one of the most important peace-seekers on the other side.”
Israel Radio reported Thursday that Rajoub claimed the Palestinians had suffered three times as much as the Israelis because of the 1972 Munich attacks, in which 11 Israeli members of the Olympic delegation were killed by Palestinian gunmen.
Rajoub made the comments at the UN’s New York headquarters, accusing Israel of obstructing Palestinian sports, and calling on the international community to accept Palestinians into international athletic associations.
The statement was the latest by Rajoub in a string of attacks on Israel.
Rajoub, former director of the Preventive Security Force in the West Bank, told a conference in October 2012 that “Jews are Satans, and Zionists the sons of dogs.”
Later in April, Rajoub declared during an interview on PA TV that “we as yet don’t have a nuke, but I swear that if we had a nuke, we’d have used it this very morning.”
In an interview with the Lebanese TV channel al-Mayadeen on May 1, he said that, for Fatah, “resistance to Israel remains on our agenda.”
“I mean resistance in all of its forms,” he elaborated. “At this stage, we believe that popular resistance — with all that it entails — is effective and costly to the other side [Israel],” Rajoub said in the hour-long interview, which was highlighted by the watchdog group Palestinian Media Watch.
Rajoub, who spent 17 years in Israeli jails after throwing a hand-grenade at an army bus, later served as Arafat’s national security adviser. He is a signatory to the Geneva Initiative, which brings together Israelis and Palestinians committed to a two-state solution, and was one of the prominent figures who starred in an advertising campaign by the initiative’s sponsors, advocating a negotiated settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Ron Friedman contributed to this report.