During a 1993 meeting, King Hassan called Yassir Arafat a «megalomaniac»

During a 1993 meeting in Rabat, King Hassan II and an Israeli delegation discussed the position of Palestinians and Israelis following the Oslo I Accord. During this meeting, the late King was very critical of Yassir Arafat’s position.

King Hassan II and Yassir Arafat. / DR
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In December 1993, King Hassan II played a crucial role in the negotiations that followed the Oslo I Accord or Declaration of Principles (DOP), an attempt in 1993 to set up a framework that would lead to the resolution of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.

The Moroccan sovereign was up to date and briefed regarding the positions of both Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) shortly after the agreement. In December 1993, only months after the Oslo Accords signing ceremony on 13 September 1993, King Hassan II received an Israeli delegation in Rabat.

The latter consisted of Jacques Neriah, former foreign policy adviser to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and deputy head for assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence and Moroccan-born Knesset member Rafi Edry.

In his book «Between Rabin and Arafat» (Jerusalem Centers for Public Affairs, 2016), Neriah recalls this unforgettable meeting. On December 15, 1993, Neriah was called by Israel’s Military Secretary Danny Yaton, who informed him about his meeting with the King.

A meeting worth remembering

The main reason behind the trip was «to enlist the support of the King of Morocco and the president of Tunisia in the Israeli position in the negotiations with the PLO», he wrote in an article published earlier this week by the Jewish News Syndicate.

By December 18, Neriah and Edry were at the Royal Palace in Rabat, where they were received by King Hassan II.

«The King received us cordially in his grand chamber, and the conversation lasted about an hour– that is, 20 minutes beyond its allotted time», Neriah wrote. The meeting was attended by General Abdelhak El Kadiri and Morocco’s then-foreign minister Abdellatif Filali.

As explained by Knesset member Edry, the meeting with King Hassan II was a must for the Israelis, who «regularly brief world leaders especially, US President Bill Clinton, Egyptian Hosni Mubarak, French President Francois Mitterand and His Majesty».

Edry explained to the King «Israel’s positions on the peace talks in 1993 with PLO leader Yasser Arafat, after a bitter crisis over security responsibilities in the Judea, Samaria and Gaza territories». He also asked for his opinion, which was very firm regarding Arafat at the time.

Indeed, the late King of Morocco believed that «the disagreement between the PLO and Israel was all based on a misinterpretation of the Agreement of Principles—an interpretation of one person and not of the PLO—and therefore the reference to Arafat should be separated from the reference to the PLO, and we should not mistake it».

Yasir Arafat, a «megalomaniac» ?

According to the same account, the sovereign was very critical towards Arafat and disagreed of some of his decisions at the time, especially after a meeting with Mahmoud Abbas.

«Let me tell you first all I know. I met yesterday [Dec. 17, 1993] with Mahmoud Abbas and told him that I was going to meet MK Edri and Dr. Neriah tomorrow. Abbas expressed warm words about Neriah and said he was a serious interlocutor», the King would have said.

He explained that the Palestinians were «frustrated with Arafat’s positions». «Mahmoud Abbas said to me: ‘The Israelis are right, and we are wrong. Arafat tries to speak from a position that holds that this is a ‘Palestinian state,’ while we, those close to him, explicitly tell him that this is only a transitional phase. The main problem, as far as I can tell, is the crossings, and in this matter, you could say that the Israelis are right».

The late monarch would have said that he was ready to give a plane to Abbas if he was willing to go to Oslo to negotiate with the Israelis.

«I want to help the Palestinians, but I don’t want to take a negotiating position. … We’ll see what happens», the late King would have said. He would have been highly critical, during said meeting, of how Arafat handled things and even called him a «megalomaniac», according to Neriah.

«Arafat is a tyrant to all of them and does not allow any progress. It seems that the man became a megalomaniac with a severe mental disorder. He yells all the time. He alienated all his loyalists. Hanan Ashrawi, Faisal Husseini, Haidar ’Abd al-Shafi and Mahmoud Abbas. He is now surrounded by young people who are no counterweight to his views».

By the end of this meeting, the late King would have sought to convey to Rabin that «Arafat must be separated from the PLO, create pressure on him without breaking the dishes and dispatch a messenger to Arafat to ‘shake his ears’».

At the end of their meeting with King Hassan II, the Israeli delegation left for General El Kadiri’s home. There, the late sovereign arranged a surprise meeting with Abbas. The two parties sat without any Moroccan mediator and discussed the situation. They both agreed to, if possible, meet in Morocco again and «enjoy the warm hospitality of the King of Morocco again».

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