Uri Avnery – Diplomacy scuppered by a joke (223/315)

Uri Avnery – Diplomacy scuppered by a joke (223/315)

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Ya’akov Arnon also played
an important role in these matters Ya’akov Arnon was a wise man. He and Matti were the perfect couple. He was a Dutchman – descended from generations of Dutchmen − and during the Nazi occupation
he continued to live in Holland as a government official, living as a Christian, and got through the war as a
Dutch government official in the pro-Nazi government. He lived through all of this safely, was elected Chairman
of the Dutch Zionist Organization, came to Israel, and because he
was a senior official in the Netherlands on economic matters, I think that Levi Eshkol took him on
as Director General of the Ministry of Finance for several years. A small Jewish man,
with a limp in one leg and, like I said, very clever. Matti was impulsive, impetuous and energetic, and would not take advice from anyone, a general in the IDF. The only person who could rein
him in a little was Ya’akov Arnon, who was very smart and
very cautious and full of humour. Then we became a trio –
Matti, Ya’akov Arnon and myself – and we functioned in harmony, because the three of
us complemented each other perfectly. I was usually between Arnon and
Matti in terms of caution and adventure, but each had very different qualities and it worked really well. My first meeting with Issam Sartawi was also in Paris, in Rambouillet, at that villa. Before the meeting took place he introduced two important Palestinians.
I think that one of them was Sabri Jiryis, someone from Galilee who was later the head
of the Palestinian Institute − Palestine Studies. Curiel, or someone acting on his behalf, met us at the airport and
brought us to Rambouillet that Matti and Sartawi wanted
to talk privately between themselves. So we all went to Rambouillet, to a very elegant villa. We had a very nice time; they did not come, they were late. Meir Pa’il, with his typical Palmach’nik humour, said: ‘The Arabs must have kidnapped them’. They were so offended, it is impossible to describe. And from that moment they
absolutely did not like Meir Pa’il. Not everyone understood
his particular sense of humour. Then the meeting took place
and we held discussions and planned programs.

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