Jibril Rajoub

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Jibril Rajub (Jibril Rajoub): Yasir Arafat's National Security Advisor, with the rank of Brigadier-General; former head of the Palestinian Preventive Security Force in the West Bank; member of the Fatah-Revolutionary Council. Regarded as a political moderate, with longstanding close ties to American (CIA) and Israeli security officials. Widely seen as one of the leading contenders to succeed Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, because of his military base in the West Bank PSF. Married with three children. A younger brother, Sheikh Naif Rajoub, is an imam and Hamas organizer in Hebron. A cousin, Musa Rajoub, was executed as a collaborator by the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, 23 Apr 2002.

 

More feared than popular on the Palestinian street, where he has used the PSF to quash dissent and harass political opponents (including the use of torture) critical of the Arafat and the PA. His organization has become the largest and most effective secret police apparatus in the West Bank (Shin Bet reported its use of unexpectedly sophisticated espionage techniques against Israel), but has little influence in Gaza, where the PSF is controlled by Mohammed Dahlan. Rajoub has a longstanding rivalry with Dahlan for control of PA security forces, and was appointed Arafat's National Security Advisor in Sept 2003 largely as a way for Arafat to counterbalance the Abbas-Dahlan partnership.

 

Rajoub is viewed as a pragmatist concerning relations with Israel, advocating a two-state solution and peaceful coexistence. Has been deeply distrusted by Hamas, which accuses him of handing over to Israel some of their militants held in his Bitouniya HQ during Operation Defensive Shield. Clamped down hard on Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in 1996-7, to keep them from undermining the influence of PA institutions, and because of his opposition to their attacks on Israeli civilians, which he believes undermine rather than strengthen the Palestinian national cause. Quote: "I spent 18 years in Israeli jail, for fighting the Israeli occupation, but never would I have aimed purposefully an attack against civilians." Quote: "Suicide bombs and violence will not serve the Palestinian cause...Resistance against the occupation is one thing, and using pernicious means to kill people just because they are people is something else."

 

During the Oslo years, he publicly criticized the rising influence of religious fundamentalism in Palestinian society and schools (quote: "No one has a right to dictate their crazy vision to our children"), and has provided muscle to some of the moderate civilian leadership who lack a military base, e.g. Sari Nusseibeh, Abu Mazen, Saeb Erekat.

 

Born 1953 into a prominent farming family in Dura, nr Hebron, which remains the geographical base of his support. Jailed for life at fifteen for throwing a grenade at an IDF convoy; spent 17 years in Israeli prison (1968-85), where he learned fluent Hebrew and passable English, and translated into Arabic former PM Menachem Begin's "The Revolt". Released as part of a prisoner exchange in 1985, but expelled from West Bank to Lebanon in 1988, during the first intifada. Relocated to Tunis, where he served as Fatah deputy leader Khalil al-Wazir's advisor on the intifada. After al-Wazir's assassination, became a close lieutenant of Arafat and spent seven years in exile with him. He was allegedly behind a 1992 plot to have an Israeli turncoat, Raphael Avraham, assassinate Ariel Sharon (at that time Israel's Housing Minister).

 

Returned to the West Bank in 1994, following the signing of the Oslo Accords. Appointed West Bank Preventative Security Chief for the Palestinian Authority on May 18, 1994, based in newly-autonomous Jericho. PSF was funded and trained by the CIA, and worked in close security cooperation with Shin Bet. Rajoub kept his preventive force out of anti-Israeli activity, used it generally as a tool for building up the PA and defending its institutions from the growing influence of the Islamists.

 

He soon shifted away from the older generation of "Tunisian" leadership, developing his own power base and becoming more closely allied with Fatah leaders in the territories. e.g. in the mid-90's he cultivated close ties with the West Bank Tanzim chief Marwan Barghouti (with whom he once shared a prison cell in Beer Sheva jail), and the WSJ (22 Jan 98) reported that he was firmly allied with Saeb Erekat. Nov 97, Rajoub was the subject of intense rumours that he was planning to take control of the West Bank in the event of Arafat's health failing. (Some reports suggest that he was actually arrested and detained for five days by Arafat's Presidential Guard on suspicion of planning a coup with the support of Shin Bet and the approval of the CIA). He was suspended the following month from the Fatah Central Committee for unclear reasons. He was also criticized in a 1997 PLC report on corruption, for profiting from the PA's oil-importation monopoly in the West Bank.

 

When the Al Aqsa intifada began, Rajoub kept the PSF out of attacks on Israeli targets. It was therefore a cause of some surprise when he was wounded in an IDF tank and helicopter attack on his home (below, left) on 20 May 2001. The Israeli government offered conflicting explanations for the attack, which was widely regarded as a shift in Israeli policy, a sign that Israel would not talk to anyone in the PA - regardless of their past cooperation - but was now intent on undermining it. e.g. CSM report:

 

To some Israelis, a burly Palestinian police commander named Jibril Rajoub represents their best hope for a peaceful future. Long committed to peace negotiations, he has worked for years to prevent militant Palestinians from attacking Israel. Late Sunday afternoon, Israeli forces fired shells at his house from a tank and a helicopter. If Mr. Rajoub hadn't been walking between rooms to get better reception on his cellphone, he later said, he might have been killed.

 

Coming on top of other actions that Israeli leaders have come publicly to regret, Palestinians are wondering what is going on. Either the most sophisticated military in the Middle East is mistakenly striking at the very Palestinian leaders who have eschewed violence and maintained a willingness to negotiate with Israel - or there is no mistake at all.

 

Attack on Rajoub condemned as mistake by the US (which - acc. to JPost - may have approached him in Jan 2002 with a proposal that he should replace Arafat). e.g. US Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk: "Those who would stop the violence, the Palestinian police or the head of the Palestinian security organization in the West Bank, Jibril Rajoub, are now being hit by the Israeli Defense Forces. Maybe the strategy is to encourage them to act against their own people. But I don't imagine that there is an example in history where this strategy has succeeded."

 

His relationship with Arafat deteriorated Feb 2002 when, in an argument ostensibly over Rajoub's failure to secure Hebron central jail, Arafat reportedly accused him of being an Israeli spy and CIA agent, who was seeking to replace him. Also criticised by Arafat when, following a 3 April 2002 attack by the IDF on his HQ in Beitunya, Rajoub himself escaped but surrendered up to 50 Islamists inside to Israel in a CIA-brokered deal. Lost face for saving himself by "betraying" others, and widely condemned for it, e.g. by Hamas and Dahlan's Gang of Five.

 

In May 2002, U.S. officials urged Arafat to unify the various Palestinan Authority security agencies into a single organisation, under the control of Rajoub. Arafat responded by firing Rajoub (2 July 2002), who did not go quietly. He refused to go for two days, and protests were organized in his support in Hebron, but he eventually accepted the decision.

 

He was restored to power in August 2003, when Arafat named him National Security Advisor with the rank of Brig-Gen, and head of the new National Palestinian Security Council on which all the Palestinian security and intelligence chiefs were given seats - all as a counterweight to attempts by Abu Mazen to consolidate control of the security apparatus in the hands of then PA-Security Minister Mohammed Dahlan. Dahlan was publicly the American choice to hold the security reins, but the US may have privately acquiesced in the return of their former protégé.

 

Rajoub was quickly effective in restoring some order to the armed factions in the PA areas. He reactivated his armed supporters in the PSF (possibly as many as 20,000 men) and won back most of the West Bank Fatah and Tanzim members who deserted Arafat during the period of the Abu Mazen government. He has also had some success in healing his long-standing rift with Hamas, and now apparently favors bringing them into the political process, instead of allowing them to operate outside of PA authority, where they can be restrained only by the use of force.

 

Rajoub is very opposed to Jordanian influence in Palestinian affairs, but liases closely with the Egyptians, the one party that maintains contacts with all Palestinian groups, including the Oslo rejectionists. He believes that with Egypt's support, Hamas, PIJ and the left-wing paramilitaries can be brought aboard on the Road Map, but only if they are convinced that Israel is serious about following the Road Map to a negotiated settlement and will allow international monitors to supervise progress. (Hamas and PIJ were badly burned during the first hudna, when they found their ceasefire unreciprocated by the IDF, and will not enter a unilateral ceasefire again).

 

He remains sure that a negotiated two-state solution is the only practical outcome: "Prime Minister Sharon can do whatever he wants by force - build fences and settlements, bomb, destroy and try to dictate borders. But he cannot beat us by force, and cannot give Israel security by force". Asked what choice Israel has, as long as the Palestinians don't dismantle Hamas, Rajoub maintains: "Hamas and Jihad will be part of the Palestinian political system, just as the extremists in Israel are part of the Israeli political system. Look at what the settlers are doing, and what Avigdor Lieberman and Rabbi Ovadia Yosef say about the Arabs. Only by presenting a political solution enabling a Palestinian state will it be possible to restrain the extremists."

 

Similarly, "Hamas is a party of the Palestinian people. Those who belong to Hamas are not our enemies. Hamas is beginning to behave like a pragmatic movement. It's our job - and the job of the international community - to promote this pragmatic line within this fundamentalist organization, to ensure that the members of Hamas understand that the goal of their struggle is to have a Palestinian state" [1]. And, "It's not fair to say that our negotiations were only about a ceasefire. There was a national dialogue to agree a political plan and political objectives. The discussions are ongoing, and I'm sure that we will arrive at a single political plan that will be accepted by all the Palestinian factions. Sooner or later, we will have a single authority. The decision is theirs (i.e. Hamas'). If they recognize a centralized Palestinian authority, if they recognize that the goal of the Palestinian struggle is to end the Israeli occupation and establish an independent Palestinian state in conformity with international law, then their participation will suit me and suit everyone." ([1]. Emphasis mine; Attribution).

 

Left - Rajoub was Arafat's representative at the signing of the Geneva Accords, 1 December 2003. Pictured here with Yasser Abed Rabbo, head of the Geneva negotiating team for the Palestinian side.

 

 

 

 

 

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Last Update: 27 July 2004

 

 

 

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