Diaries kept by former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat reveal a secret deal to protect Italy from attacks by Palestinian terrorists, according to an Italian news outlet, which published excerpts of the documents Sunday.
In the diaries, published by the L’Espresso magazine, Arafat also writes about lying to help former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi avoid fraud charges, his friendship with former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and his opposition to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein during the 1991 Gulf War.
The 19 volumes from Arafat, the longtime head of the Palestine Liberation Organization who died in 2004, had been entrusted to a pair of trustees in Luxembourg, but were recently sold to a French foundation so they can be studied. The Italian report is the first time the diaries have been made public.
The volumes confirm a long-rumored mutual non-aggression pact between authorities in Rome and the PLO, which led Italian authorities to allow terrorists behind the hijacking of the Italian liner Achille Lauro to escape in 1985.
Following the hijacking, in which wheelchair-bound American Jewish passenger Leon Klinghoffer was killed, a standoff ensued between Italian and US authorities over attempts to have the attackers brought to justice.
According to the diaries, then foreign minister Giulio Andreotti allowed hijacking mastermind Muhammad Zaidan, who went by the nom de guerre Abul Abbas, to escape US extradition and flee from Rome to Yugoslavia.
This followed a deal between Palestinians and Italian authorities over a decade earlier by which Palestinians would not carry out on attacks in Italy and Palestinian terrorists from the PLO, PFLP and other factions could have free movement throughout the country.
“Italy is a Palestinian shore of the Mediterranean,” Arafat wrote.
The deal between Rome and the Palestinians had earlier been revealed by former Italian president Francesco Cossiga in 2008, who wrote in an Italian newspaper at the time that it was prime minister Aldo Mora who reached the pact.
However, other reports on the deal have indicated it was reached in 1973, when Andreotti was prime minister.
The report notes that Andreotti, who died in 2013, was secretly a key figure in negotiating between the PLO and other countries.
A similar deal, claimed by Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, also known as “Carlos the Jackal,” is said to have protected Switzerland from Palestinian attacks in the 1970s and 80s.
The diaries, written between 1985 and just before his death in 2004, also reveal that Arafat took a kickback from Berlusconi in exchange for lying to Italian prosecutors in 1998 about receiving some 10 million lira (NIS 21.5 million) in aid money that actually went to the Italian Socialist Party.
The deal came after the two met in a European capital, according to the report. It does reveal how much Arafat got in return, but notes that the diaries contain details about money transfers.
The Palestinian leader, who directed the PLO’s terror operations against Israelis for decades before signing the Oslo Accords with Israel in 1994, wrote that he never actually ordered terror attacks, but would only tell others “you decide,” when presented with a plan. After it was carried out, he would remark “good, good.”
However, he also writes about secret negotiations with Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, whom he calls “an excellent person … beautiful.” The three shared a Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for the Oslo Accords.
The bombshell report comes weeks after Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman revealed Israel’s efforts to try and kill Arafat, including a briefly considered plot to assassinate him by shooting down a passenger airliner.
In the diaries, Arafat speaks of trying to talk down Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein during the 1991 Gulf War. The war, sparked when Iraq invaded Kuwait and the US responded by invading Iraq, included Hussein shooting 39 Scud missiles at Israel.
“I must stand with him, my people impose it on me, but I pressed in several phone calls fort him desist from his folly,” Arafat wrote, according to the report. It does not detail what actions he tried to keep Hussein from doing.
Arafat spoke about his diaries in a 1989 interview with Vanity Fair journalist T. D. Allman, who noted the Palestinian leader writing in a small notebook after finishing some paperwork.
Arafat told Allman at the time he could not see the papers and said he kept them hidden in several places.
“I fill up a number of them every year,” he told the magazine. “They tell about all my secret negotiations. Everything is recorded, so future generations will understand exactly what happened. It is my duty to do this, since I am a cadre of history.”