Israel Resource Review 20th December, 2000


Official Palestinian Authority Radio Broadcast on Voice of Palestine: Dec. 20

Summary and Analysis

VOP returned Wednesday to its traditional news openings, focusing on local reporting and lists of martyrs, funerals and wounded-especially civilian youths and security personnel. At the same time, it gave generally low-key coverage to diplomatic contacts in Washington. In addition, VOP basically neglected to report yesterday a diplomatic defeat: the UN Security Council's failure to pass a Palestinian request for an international protection force (it revisited the issue today in a low-key interview with the PLO UN representative saying chances for passage would improve in the future).

At the same time, VOP gave especially prominent coverage to Saddam Hussein's offers of help to the Palestinians: economic and military. Radio announcers read portions of Saddam's letter to his "brother" Yasser Arafat, calling on the "fraternal" Palestinian Authority "immediately to dispatch a special delegation to Baghdad to discuss the basic needs" of the Palestinians which would be met by putting aside a portion of Iraq's petroleum revenues according to a decision by President Saddam Hussein to contribute to the Intifada one billion Euro (approx. 900-million dollars).

VOP gave brief mention to a decision by U.S. President Bill Clinton not to transfer the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem: "An Israeli source says that the American president Clinton has informed the Tel Aviv government of his retreat from a decision to transfer the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem."

Once again, VOP gave a prominent morning interview to PA Speaker Ahmad Qreia (see below) devoted to the "sacred" quality of the "right of return." The bottom line of his message was, to borrow a phrase from an American advertisement: "We will accept no substitutes or exchanges."

Morning/Noon Headlines

  • "In a state funeral attended by President Yasser Arafat, the martyr General Abdul-Maqdi al-Sabawi was laid to rest in Gaza….;
  • In Ramallah and al-Bireh masses accompanied two exalted martyrs Haroun Abu-Hassan and Hamid Shalash;
  • Lack of agreement in Security Council to send international observers;
  • Death of Theodorus I, the Greek Patriarch in Jerusalem;
  • American negotiator Dennis Ross holds two separate meetings in Bolling Base with, respectively, the Palestinian and Israeli delegations;
  • Head of Palestinian delegation Minister Yasser Abd Rabbo makes clear to Americans that no agreement with Israelis is possible unless they change the positions offered at Camp David…;
  • Israeli foreign minister Ben-Ami offers religious sovereignty over Jerusalem shrine…and Minister Yuli Tamir says over of sovereignty can only be possible if met by Palestinian withdrawal from right of return, according to her estimation;
  • His Excellency President Yasser Arafat holds talks in Cairo today…;
  • Ahmad Qreia says that talk about exchanging jerusalem for right of return is 'empty talk' and that the right of return is a sacred right which cannot be abandoned….;
  • President Bill Clinton signs order refusing to move American embassy to Jerusalem…"

Quote of the Day

"Jerusalem is Jerusalem, and the right of return is the right of return." (Ahmad Qreia, 8:00 a.m. interview, asserting the PA would make peace only if it achieved both Jerusalem and the right of return for all Palestinians)

Quotes from Interview with Ahmad Qreia

Question: "Regarding the negotiations, time is short, isn't it?"

Answer: "Without a doubt, there is time pressure, but our cases-the case of Jerusalem-our case is a strong case….Our rights are strong. The Isreli stance and their attempt (to change the Palestinian position) are clear. So we in this time are making every effort to reach an agreement, but it is impossible-even under the constraints of the time circumstances-the fact that there is time pressure, time constraint, the American president is ending his term, and the Israelis are facing elections in two months----it is impossible to change things on us or for us to change our stance."

Question: "Are there any changes in the Israeli position?"

Answer: "I don't see any changes there, except for the changes here and there in phrasing, language….I don't see any change to a brave stance which would give a real grounding to the talks. In all things, the stances are very far apart especially the question of the refugees where there is a great, great gulf….and also in the matter of Jerusalem, there is a great gap. Ben-Ami is talking about the subject of 'religious sovereignty'-whatever that is. They are still attempting to start and to contrive all kinds of ideas which leave to absolutely nothing.

Even in Camp David they spoke about sovereignty on the ground, under the ground, God's sovereignty, well, there's God's sovereignty (anyway) on every entity. …Well our words are clear. Our response is clear. There is one Jerusalem, united, known, the occupied Jerusalem from the war of '67, with its shrine. Well we're talking about Jerusalem with the shrine in it, we're talking about all of Jerusalem , all of the occupied land, not a piece here and a strip there."

Question: "Do you think the Palestinian delegation is…willing to defer discussion on Jerusalem or the refugees?"

Answer: Ha. The delegation is exactly as described by the head of delegation, Yasser Abd-Rabbo, who 'we'll discover (reveal) the Israeli positions, and we'll explore them, and we'll see if there's a chance for a real dialogue or not….And the response from the President (i.e. Yasser Arafat) has been clear: the land is the return to the borders of '67, and Jerusalem is occupied Jerusalem which has to become the capital of the state of Palestine, the right of the refugees to return. That's it. And we're ready, saying 'ahlan wa-sahlan' ("welcome") for an agreement even yesterday and not even tomorrow. But outside of this, it is not possible to reach an agreement."

Question: "Are there any secret papers or secret understandings?"

Answer: "I don't believe so. I haven't seen any agreements, nor any secret papers. We have a clear, known and delineated Palestinian position….Without (accepting) these positions, there is possibility of any agreement.

On the other hand, we continue with our Intifada. And our people continue with their struggle and their quest until we achieve our national rights."

Question: "Is there no contradiction between negotiations and the Intifada?"

Answer: "These are no really negotiations but actually the exploration of positions."

Question: "What do you comment about Lebanon's statement that it would absolutely refuse to settle Palestinians on its territory, and they said they were reiterating this position because of talk that the right of return would be exchanged for Jerusalem?"

Answer: "We don't only refuse that, but we refuse and combat the principle of resettlement for these holders (bearers) of the right to return from their places of visit to their places of departure. And this right of return is a holy right, completely sacred which cannot be abandoned or neglected."

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