Nineteen volumes of journals written by former Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat over the course of nearly 20 years were divulged Sunday in the Italian L'espresso news magazine, shedding light on both the personality and life of the former Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) chief.
The journals, it was revealed, were kept by two trustees in Luxemburg since Arafat's death in 2004.
The article, penned by Lirio Abbate, revealed details relating to the process of reaching the Oslo agreements, as well as to Arafat's meetings with late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and then-foreign minister Shimon Peres.
For instance, after one of Arafat's meeting with Peres, according to L'espresso, the Palestinian leader described his Israel counterpart as an "excellent person, and a beautiful ornament." It was unclear whether Arafat's statement was made with affection or disparagement.
It was further disclosed that shortly before marrying Suha Tawil, Arafat wrote in his journal, "How can I marry Suha? I'm already wedded to Palestine and its people."
Arafat's journals also show the former leader of the PLO never personally gave orders to carry out his group's terrorist attacks. When he was asked to green-light such terrorist acts by subordinates, the journals show, he'd tell them to decide for themselves.
Furthermore, when an attack he had prior knowledge of was carried out, he'd smile and say, "Good, good!"
In addition, Arafat claimed his support of Saddam Hussein during the first Gulf War, for which he was soundly criticized by other Arab states, was involuntary, and given despite the fact he thought he was making a terrible mistake. "I tried to make several phone calls to talk (Hussein) away from this madness," Arafat wrote.
Most of the text carried by L'espresso deals with Arafat's ties to the uppermost echelons of Italian government. The journals reveal, for instance, that Arafat fessed up to providing a false alibi for then Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi on one of the Forza Italia leader's numerous corruption probes.
Arafat had a clandestine meeting with Berlusconi in 1998, it was divulged, and then provided a false statement to Italian prosecution, in which he alleged that Berlusconi transferred 10 billion Italian liras to the PLO to support the Palestinians, rather than to an Italian party.
Arafat, it appeared, perjured himself for a "considerable sum," which Berlusconi later provided him. The journals also contain a log of all of the sums of money Arafat received from the Italian leader.
Another affair that rocked Italy and is outlined in the journals is the PLO's involvement in the hijacking of the Achille Lauro ocean liner in 1985, which concluded with the murder of its Jewish-American disabled passenger Leon Klinghoffer.
The journals reveal that then foreign minister and future prime minister Giulio Andreotti allowed terrorist mastermind Muhammad Zaidan, at Arafat's request, to escape to Tunisia.
Arafat also approved an agreement reached with Italy in the 1980s, according to which the PLO will abstain from carrying out attacks on Italian soil in return for authorities there turning a blind eye to its operations.