Magistrate recalls how Guido de Marco sent him to Shimon Peres with message to not hurt Arafat
Shimon Peres was a man of reason who tried to bring the Israelis and Palestinians closer together, was how Magistrate Joe Mifsud yesterday described the former Israeli Prime Minister and President.
“It was President Emeritus Guido de Marco who had first introduced him to me,” Dr Mifsud, who had the opportunity to meet the Israeli statesman more than once, told The Malta Independent yesterday morning. “I met Peres for the first time when he came to Malta for an official visit. I was helping Professor de Marco establish contacts with the Peres Centre for Peace.
“We had organised peace initiatives in Malta by bringing together Israeli and Palestinian youths in a training of co-existence. The aim was to have them trained and help them become a beacon of peace in their respective communities.”
Dr Mifsud had joined Prof de Marco for the 80th birthday of Shimon Peres. He recalls, “I remember Peres giving a very strong message in the presence of Ariel Sharon, the Prime Minister of Israel.”
But there is one particular event which Dr Mifsud will never forget. It was back in 2002 as Prime Minister Sharon when had declared Yasser Arafat an “enemy” and had ordered tanks and bulldozers to tear down the fences and walls surrounding his headquarters in Ramallah.
Dr Mifsud recollects, “I happened to be in Nazareth at the time attending a seminar and Prof. de Marco had contacted me to pass on a message to Mr Peres. I travelled to Tel Aviv and went to his office.”
Prof. de Marco’s message to Peres was to “not hurt Arafat, because if they do, the already heated situation would escalate even further. I had delivered the message myself and Peres had assured us that Arafat would not be touched.”
It was at that point that Mr Peres called Prof. de Marco directly using Dr Mifsud’s phone. From the President’s Palace in Malta, Prof. de Marco would communicate the messages from the Palestinian Ambassador in Malta to Arafat.
“I had asked Peres if it would be possible for me to go see Arafat. But he looked at me with a smile, telling me it was impossible as it was not safe.”
Prof. de Marco had gained the trust of former Israeli President, so much that when an Israeli extremist attacked and killed more than a dozen people in Hebron, Mr Peres had asked the Maltese President Emeritus to kick off initiatives which could help the two peoples come together.
“As I heard the news this morning, I could not help but recall all these memories,” he explained while describing Peres as a man who did his best to negotiate peace.
“In places like Israel and Palestine, every small step counts,” Dr Mifsud observed.