Munib al-Masri is one of the most famous and influential Palestinians, but you may never have heard of him.
Often called ‘The Godfather’ Masri, on no fewer than three occasions, turned down the premiership of Palestine.
He has a fortune estimated at $1.6 billion, and is chairman of the powerful Palestine Development and Investment Company (Padico), a firm whose interests respresent an estimated one-quarter of the whole Palestinian economy.
Sir David Frost travels to the West Bank to meet Masri, considered the richest man in Palestine, where he takes Sir David around his palace in Ramallah, to Yasser Arafat’s mausoleum, and to the massive wall erected by Israel, which turns Palestinians into prisoners.
Masri is known as one of the most influential power-brokers and philanthropists in the region. Considered a moderate, he is respected by Palestinians and Israelis alike.
“For 40 years, I have been working for the peace process,” he tells Sir David, saying he fears for the future – for both Palestinians and for Israel.
“Enough is enough … and I think that it’s coming, the Spring is coming, and the tsunami is coming, and the volcano is coming.”
Walking beside Israel’s ‘peace wall’ in Jerusalem, he says: “It humiliates me and it takes my integrity and my dignity when you are in your own land and you are stopped and you are checked. You feel sometimes like you are an animal.
“We are in a big jail. Gaza is a big jail, this is a big jail, Jerusalem is a big jail, every place is a big jail.
“It is not the values of the Jewish religion. They have good values and I hope they exercise these values on us. We cannot be occupied all our lives. Let us sit down and talk and listen to each other’s aspirations and needs.”
Masri confides that he has a deep conviction that cutting a deal with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas represents the last hopes for Israel’s Binyamin Netanyahu: “I would say, ‘Mr Netanyahu don’t miss the chance of making peace with Mr Abbas’.”
A friend and confidant of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Masri says he supports Arafat’s widow in her campaign to discover if her husband was poisoned: “Many people, they are wondering [about how Arafat died] because they want to see about their beloved leader what happened to him, why it’s happened this way. It’s not very strange, and it’s not odd for the Israeli government to do something of this sort.”
Remembering Arafat, Masri says: “He gave us hope. He gave us determination, and to think and to dream that this dream will come true, to go back to our homes …. He was an extraordinary leader, we loved him and he was our hero. And to me he was also a friend. Although, he made many mistakes, but a hero can be forgiven.”
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