(February 22) - Jaffa oranges are famous everywhere as an Israeli product. Now Jaffa itself is being bought. Local Arab businessmen, aided by Jews, have purchased scores of apartments and other property there. They continue trying aggressively to persuade owners there to sell at above-market prices.
Some of the money is local. Most comes from European front organizations. One recent major property sale was financed from Italy. It is believed that Saudi Arabian money as well as funds siphoned off from donor countries to Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority are used for this purpose.
Jewish officials are aware of this effort to begin converting Jaffa into a predominantly Arab area. But, as supporters of the Oslo accords, they believe it is welcome, as it demonstrates that "peaceful coexistence" can exist in a new-style Middle East.
In 1948, Jaffa Arabs began firing into Tel Aviv even before the Arab armies invaded Israel. Jews were killed in the Carmel Market and surrounding areas. From the Hassan Bek mosque snipers picked off Tel Aviv citizens at their leisure.
Urged to leave their homes in April 1948 by their own leaders, nearly all did so. They were told: "When the Jews are wiped out you can live in the choicest Tel Aviv homes." Even before the war was over, "liberal" Israelis urged Ben-Gurion to allow the Jaffa Arabs to return to their homes. "No!" said Ben Gurion. "They started the war. They will pay for it."
Like the French Bourbons, there are those who never learn, and never forget. When the Old City of Jerusalem was recaptured in 1967, mayor Teddy Kollek encouraged Arabs occupying the Jewish Quarter to return, despite captured Jordanian Legion documents detailing orders to liquidate the Jews. They returned in their tens of thousands, laying the foundation of many of the capital's present-day problems.
Another man as blinkered as the Bourbons was Tel Aviv mayor Shlomo Lahat. He encouraged the restoration of that sniper's paradise, the Hassan Bek mosque, close to the Dan Panorama hotel.
Naturally, Jaffa isn't the only Arab takeover target. A PLO-controlled Palestinian information institute working quite openly in Jerusalem is encouraging not only local Arabs but also others worldwide to register their claims to property their families might have owned in many of the city's areas, in places like Baka, Katamon and Abu Tor, as well as in downtown Jerusalem.
For months past, Jerusalemites have noticed Arabs driving around Jewish areas, taking copious notes and drawing plans of buildings, houses and apartment blocks. One Arab, challenged by a citizen who feared he might be a burglar on the prowl, drove off without explanation.
Understandably, a vexed Shimon Peres nearly jumped out of his skin to shout: "Provocation!" when Binyamin Netanyahu and Mayor Ehud Olmert asserted that he is secretly negotiating to divide Jerusalem again. Yet his "peace partners" quite openly contradict him.
Three weeks ago Abu Zayad, a senior Palestinian official said, "We have been meeting with Israeli officials here and abroad for many months. Jerusalem is the subject of discussion. We are not talking about social gatherings. The meetings] are fruitful and help set the stage for formal talks."
Earlier this month Hanan Ashrawi said on international TV: "It's inconceivable that only one sovereign power controls Jerusalem. Jerusalem is and must be the capital of the future Palestinian state."
This week a senior member of the Palestinian Council said in the Palestinian paper Al-Quds: "It's not only impossible to eradicate the PLO Covenant, but our future government will have its seat in Jerusalem. We have transformed our battle from one of shooting to one of words. The same battle goes on until we establish our Palestinian state."This comment was allowed by the Israeli censor. Nobody in the government denied it.
One can understand Peres's sensitivity. Negotiations have been taking place with Arafat's men via Yossi Beilin. To distance the premier from public gaze, Beilin has been using academics Yair Hirschfeld and his sidekick and disciple Ron Pundik. According to Palestinian sources, the two men have discussed the problem of Jerusalem quite openly under the cover of "academic questions" at Orient House and at many other venues abroad.
What makes a mockery of Peres's denials is that Beilin's legmen are simply repeating a highly successful modus operandi: the way they secretly negotiated with the PLO in the latter half of 1992 and in early 1993. This was to create the framework of the Oslo accords. Both men and their mastermind Beilin, who was following Peres's instructions, boasted quite openly of their key role in doing a deal with Arafat.
What the selective memory of the legal authorities "forgot" was that what the Beilin-Hirschfeld-Pundik team was engaged in at the time was totally illegal, as laid down by the Knesset.
As astonishing are files in the Prime Minister's Office which show that Yitzhak Rabin never gave permission for such meetings. They took place without his knowledge. To add insult to injury, such negotiations were totally against Rabin's policies at that stage. As the writers of this column disclose in their forthcoming book The Tragedy of Yitzhak Rabin, the prime minister was furious when documents given him by his intelligence chiefs spelled out in precise detail where and when in Europe the Beilin- controlled Hirschfeld-Pundik team was meeting with the PLO.
This was happening at a time when Rabin's own negotiators under Elyakim Rubinstein were holding talks in Washington with a PLO team. Certain Israeli officials, aware of the efforts of Beilin's groupies, urged the Arabs to "put more pressure on the Israelis. You're safe in doing so. They will give you all you want in the end, so you can be tough."
Intelligence men were surprised that Rabin didn't react to the news of what was going on behind his back. There was no showdown with Peres.
Rabin held his fire, convinced that the Foreign Ministry would fail. He would then be in a position to condemn Peres for his illegal actions.
URI DAN and DENNIS EISENBERG are authors of The Mossad: Secrets of the Israeli Secret Service and other books on the Middle East.