Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Saadat between Three Prisons | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The kidnapping of Ahmad Saadat has exposed what is even worse than disrobing Palestinian security officers. In fact, it has revealed the shortcomings of the Palestinian political arena, the chaos, the conflicts, and the misleading, exaggerated and inflated information. Moreover, it has exposed the chaos within the (Palestinian) Authority which has so far failed to agree on a political leadership. It has neither handed over authority to Hamas, nor joined Hamas in the authority.

Why this astonishment over the Israelis’ kidnapping of the secretary general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine? They did it in broad daylight, in a direct operation that employed columns of military tanks. The operation was preceded by Israeli warnings, in addition to a clear warning by President Mahmud Abbas indicating his inability to secure the safety of the prisoner Saadat should he be released, which was followed by Israeli threats to hunt him down. It transpired that messages by the Americans and the British cautioning and threatening to withdraw their supervisors were sent prior to the raid. In other words, the operation was neither a secret raid, nor one conducted at night. Moreover, it was not an operation conducted by commandoes disguising themselves with civilian clothes. The situation was proceeding toward an Israeli intervention by either killing the prisoners or kidnapping them. So this brings up the question, why the astonishment and accusations?

It was an attempt to settle scores, and it had nothing to do with Saadat himself who was transferred to a third prison. Saadat was besieged in the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat’s office, then placed in a Palestinian prison, and finally kidnapped to an Israeli prison. Saadat and his five colleagues are prisoners in the first place. The accusation of killing an Israeli minister is not something that embarrasses the resistance, and it usually does not apologize for such action. In fact, the resistance is willing to die or go to jail for such an action. Mediation efforts granted them a different kind of prison because the issue of killing the minister was intertwined with the issue of the weapons ship and the siege on the late President Yasser Arafat. The late president paid the most exorbitant price because of them. He lost his authority, his health, and then his life when the wanted individuals, including Fuad al-Shawbaki who is accused in the case of the weapons shipment, resorted to him. The imprisonment of Saadat is not a catastrophe because Israeli prisons are accustomed to hosting Palestinian leaders, foremost of whom is Marwan al-Barghuthi. No one objected when Al-Barghuthi was kidnapped from his home and his family. He is currently imprisoned on a charge that applies to all Palestinian leaders, including President Abbas himself. He is charged of being behind the intifadah and the armed struggle. The kidnapping of Saadat was the least of two evils; the evil of killing him.

The Israeli Government has taken advantage of Palestinian mistakes. It has taken advantage of the chaos, the disproportionate military confrontation, media clamor, and political threats. The prison raid served as an excellent propaganda for candidate Olmert and his Kadima Party. It was a humiliating scene, and the Israelis wanted it to be like that. Hence, we blame the Palestinian side because it did not know how to tackle the situation when the Israeli forces reached the doors of the prison in Jericho. (Palestinian) security officials were put in a defeated and humiliated position in light of the inevitable Israeli military superiority. Perhaps they wanted a long siege, but the scenes of the siege of the Church of Nativity were not repeated. Hence, the outcome was catastrophic. The scenes of doors being kicked open, of rounds of bullets being fired, and of prisoners screaming, as well as accusations being leveled against the 14 supervisors proved to be useless. A decision had to be made; either launch an all-out confrontation, which would have been suicidal, or remain patient and rely on mediation efforts at a later time to get back the prisoners. Many deals have succeeded in resolving much more complicated issues.