Secret Arafat diaries reveal covert deals with Italy after cruise ship hijacking

An Italian magazine claims that Palestinian arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat made a secret deal not to attack Italian citizens and accepted bribes from the Italy’s leader.

By: Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

In an exclusive report Sunday, the Italian L’espresso magazine revealed new information about the cordial relationship between the PLO terror organization and the Italian authorities, as gleaned from the secret diaries of the PLO’s founder and first Palestinian Authority president, Yasser Arafat.

The 19 volumes of personal writing cover the years between 1985 and 2004, the year Arafat died in a French hospital. They were given to a French foundation on condition that the content of the diaries would be used only as “study documents,” and would not provide content for books or films.

The diaries detail Arafat’s relationships with many nations’ leaders, including such late presidents as Fidel Castro (Cuba), Saddam Hussein (Iraq), and Shimon Peres (Israel). However, the weekly published translated excerpts dealt with high-up officials in the Italian government, including former prime ministers Bettino Craxi and Silvio Berlusconi, and foreign minister Giulio Andreotti.

In particular, the L’espresso feature brought to light negotiations between Arafat and the Italian government (headed by Craxi and Andreotti) in 1985, during the hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship off the Egyptian shore by four Palestinian terrorists. The terrorists had planned to travel on the ship to Israel to carry out an attack but were accidentally discovered and took over the ship instead, murdering a Jewish-American hostage, Leon Klinghoffer, during the incident.

Intelligence was provided stating that the mastermind behind the group was PLO official Muhammad “Abu” Abbas, but when Italy had the chance to arrest and try him soon after the crisis was over – or extradite him to the US to stand trial for Klinghoffer’s murder – the diaries say that Andreotti allowed Abbas to escape justice. Craxi himself publicly supported the position that there was not enough evidence to allow for Abbas’ extradition.

It had long been rumored that an understanding had been in place between Italy and the PLO since 1973, after a PLO attack on an airport in Rome. The PLO would not target Italians in exchange for Italian acquiescence to its objectives.

L’espresso reported that in his diaries, Arafat warmly described Italy as “a Palestinian shore of the Mediterranean.”

The diaries also revealed how Arafat helped Silvio Berlusconi, a three-time prime minister who was a member of Italy’s parliament in 1998 when he was put on trial for illegally funding the Italian Socialist Party. In return for a handsome gift, Arafat wrote, he confirmed Berlusconi’s false statement to prosecutors that the 10 billion lire which were at the center of the trial were not for the party but for the PLO to support the Palestinian cause.