Israel Resource Review 28th December, 2000


Official Palestinian Authority Voice of Palestine Radio: Dec. 25

Summary and Analysis

Christmas morning on the Voice of Palestine was marked by three key items:

  • Holiday comments of Latin Patriarch Michel Sabah;
  • Palestinian protest at the retention of "the bodies of two exalted martyrs" (including the man who set off a car-bomb in Mehola on Friday);
  • Continued calls by "nationalist and Islamic forces" to continue the intifada and for Palestinians to refuse to accept anything less than the full control of Jerusalem and the complete right of return for refugees.

VOP's broadcasts were also unusual in two ways: the news was somewhat haltingly broadcast over the FM lines at 91.5 and then 103.4 with large dollops of classical music, Western-style Christmas-"Muzak" with heaping helpings of, believe it or not, jingle bells.

In the evening hours of Dec. 24 and in the morning Dec. 25, VOP (which lost its AM-675 signal for unknown reasons) focused on the Israeli capture of 13 or 14 Fatah agents in the village of Asira al-Shamaliyya, referring to it as "another example of Israeli escalation".

VOP also featured lengthy quotations from interviews with and/or statements by negotiators Yasser Abd-Rabbo and Saeb Erikat, both of whom said deep differences remained with Israel. Erikat and PA leader Yasser Arafat also said Israeli press statements were designed to cause confusion (Arafat) and unrest (Erikat) among the Palestinians.

Erikat said PA leaders were waiting for responses from other Arab leaders before formalizing a response to the talks in Washington.

In a morning interview, PLO representative to Washington Hassan Abdel-Rahman said the proposals plan offered by PresIdent Bill Clinton were totally different from the earlier proposals at Camp David.

VOP featured (and embellished) Israeli reports that the Israeli tourism industry has been significantly hurt by the Intifada.

Christmas Morning Headlines

  • "Latin Patriarch Michel Sabah says Christians are full members of Palestinian society and deserve equal treatment and freedom: His comments came in the Mass at Bethelehm attended by His excellency President Yasser Arafat;
  • Pope John Paul II, in a letter to believers, expresses concern for dangerous situation in the Middle East, the status of the holy places-especially Bethlehem-- and his concern about continued bloodshed in Holy Land;
  • Occupation forces continue to retain the bodies of two exalted martyrs who were martyred (as many as) four days ago: one of the martyrs exploded himself near the colony of Mehola which was built on our citizens' land, as well as the body of Nejib Muhammad Abdo who was martyred four days ago;
  • Occupation forces extend their aggression in Gaza and Betunia;
  • In Dir al-Balah, occupation forces attacked populated houses with heavy artillery;
  • The nationalist and Islamic forces asserted that the unification and integration of Palestinian Jerusalem-its people and its land-is the basis of a just and lasting peace. And in a communique issued last night it said that any attempt at partial solutions undermines the principles of the (Palestinian) revolution: the right of return, the right of self-determination and the building of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital---(and such an attempt) is repudiated and declared null and void. And in its communque, the national and Islamic forces sent their congratulations to the people on the occasion of the Feast ('Id al-Fitr, ending Ramadan)..and Christmas and the Christian New Year, for continuing the revolution,calling for visits to the (graves of) the martyrs and their families,in keeping with national solidarity and the continuing Al-Aqsa Intifada.
  • His Excellency President Yasser Arafat meets Egyptian President Husni Mubarak in Cairo today to discuss developments in the area as Israel continues its aggression against our people in the wake of the Palestinian-Israeli talks in Washington under American sponsorship;
  • The Israeli Bureau of Central Statistics said there was a sharp drop in Israeli tourism in recent months under the pressure of the blessed intifada of our people."

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Official Palestinian Authority Voice of Palestine Radio Broadcasts: Dec. 26

Summary and Analysis

VOP returned Tuesday to very careful coverage of the Clinton proposals to the Palestinians and Israel in Washington. VOP is trying to navigate between the hard line of Abu Ala (PA Speaker Ahmad Qreia who largely dismissed the ideas) and the softer line of PLO representative in Washington Hassan Abdul-Rahman (who saw significant changes from Camp David).

The bottom line of Yasser Arafat's spokesman, Nabil Abu-Irdeineh, was "yes, but" to the Clinton ideas. (His remarks followed-by about 10 hours-the TV interview of Ehud Barak in which the Israeli prime minister said thatIsrael would have a difficult time refusing Clinton's ideas, if the ideas were accepted by Arafat.)

At the same time, VOP continues to feature quasi-legal commentaries on the importance of "the right of return" and its basis in UN resolutions 194 and 181.

VOP reported that the PA Leadership spent much of yesterday reviewing the negotiations and "continue to study American initiatives" for several hours again today.

VOP accused Israel of planning-with extremist settlers-provocative acts in Jerusalem, and it interviewed both Feisal Husseini (PLO Executive member, responsible for Jerusalem) and MK Muhammad Barakeh on what it said were strong rumors that Mayor Ehud Olmert would move his municipal offices to the Old City tomorrow. Husseini said the Palestinians were preparing for this possibility, and would respond with force to any attempt to change the "Arabness" of Jerusalem.

Elsewhere in the news programs, VOP featured Jerusalem Mufti Ikrema al-Sabry in a call to prayer and to visits to the burial plots of the martyrs and to visits to the martyrs' families. There was also an interview with 'Isa Karaka, representative of the Palestinian prisoners, who described the difficult conditions of the prisoners and detainees, especially during the holiday period.

Once again, VOP featured lengthy quotations from a Palestinian leader (this time, PA presidential secretary Ta'ib Abdel-Rahim) to the effect that the "Independence Intifada" (what has become the preferred name for what was once the Al Aqsa Intifada) was a planned program by the Palestinian leadership to achieve specific political goals. Abdel-Rahim's remarks were first broadcast Monday afternoon and evening, but they were highlighted again-as the top-of-the-hour feature-Tuesday morning.

Tuesday Morning Headlines (7:30-9:00 a.m.)

  • "The Arab and Islamic world tomorrow celebrates Id-al-Fitr;
  • The Leadership wishes holiday greetings to all citizens;
  • Mufti Sheikh Ikrema al-Sabry calls for visits to martyrs and their families and the wounded during the Feast;
  • Feisal Husseini, holder of the Jerusalem portfolio (in the Palestinian cabinet) says our people will respond with force to any attempt by Israel to alter the Arab nature of Jerusalem;
  • Under the leadership of President Yasser Arafat, the High Committee on Negotiations will continue to study the American initiatives;
  • President Yasser Arafat's advisor Nabil Abu-Irdeineh says that the American ideas are not sufficient;
  • Israeli occupation forces shell with artillery communities in Zababdeh, Nablus, Sinjil, and Turmous Aya, wounding 17 citizens, several of them seriously;
  • Presidential Secretary Taib Abdel-Rahim says the matter of an international force and compulsory implementation of agreements are the only way for the peace process to get out its rut."

Quotes of the Day

"The Leadership has enough confidence in itself to say 'no' to any agreement which does not serve the national interest, but it also has enough confidence in itself and the people to say 'yes' if there is a real opportunity and a historical moment a just and comprehensive peace." (From remarks of Presidential Secretary Taib Abdel Rahim, quoted this morning)

It is clear that the Israeli Right will take any provocation necessary to thwart the peace process." (Israeli Arab MK Muhammad Barakeh, commenting on reports that Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert was planning to move his offices to the Old City tomorrow)

Interview with Yasser Abd-Rabbo (7:50-8:05am)

Q: "Is there beginning to appear an opinion among the Leadership on the American initiative?"

A: "Yes, we have received ideas from the American president. And these ideas merit deep and extensive study, but they need great examination, and it will be difficult in this short time period to reach final conclusions. As of now, we only have preliminary observations. Part of our initial perceptions is that some of these ideas were in Camp David and some of them replace things that were in Camp David. That's why we have to consider what are really new ideas..we have to see what about these so-called 'bridging proposals' from Camp David. When I was in Washington last week, the Palestinian delegation made it clear that we could not return once again to the same point we were at in Camp David: especially in regards to the Shrine (Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount) and Jerusalem and regarding other matters such as settlements and the matter of the refugees.

In some of these matters there is new material, and some this serves Israel, especially, for example, the matter of security and the matter of the refugees where Israel wants the nullification of any rights for the Palestinian refugees... There is no balance in these things, and there has to be balance... We also noticed that there is a breach (also tr: transgression) on several main points on which the peace process is linked: the ideas of international legitimacy, Jerusalem and the matters of land and the settlements. Along with the idea of the Shrine there is the firming-up of the settlements around Jerusalem, that is from the West Bank, this 'settlement Jerusalem' would become part of Israel (i.e. parts of Jerusalem that were once Jordanian-controlled territory) that's five or six percent of the homeland territory of the Palestinian people. We, really cannot accept something of this kind. We have said our discussion is based on the return to the June 4 1967lines, not on the existence of settlements or settlement belts built afterwards."

Q: "Is there something new and positive in the American proposals?"

A: "There are some things that might make a new start, but there are a lot generalities which require clarification. For example, the use of international forces and the implementation of agreements..We need Israel to be required to carry out what it has agreed to..They have used every style of language to get around certain points (on the Haram al-Sharif/ Temple Mount shrine) such as 'sovereignty on the land' 'sovereignty over the land' for us and 'sovereignty under the land' for Israel. And so on. And on this matter, they want matters to go back to the beginning. We warned about this kind of thing. ..This is part of the Jerusalem problem. This is not part of Christmas gifts..This is five or six percent of the territory, territory of the homeland, which we consider part of our national homeland.

That is why I said it requires more study in the (PLO) Executive Committee, the Palestinian Institutions. There are also security elements to these questions. Also, these are questions that affect the region in its entirety. Such as Jerusalem and the refugees.We cannot accept a solution for the refugees that is not based on international legitimacy."

Q: "Is it then fair to say that it is very difficult to accept the American ideas?"

A: "I want my words to be understood clearly. .These proposals have some good points, but they also have a return to Camp David. .That's why we need more time to study inside the Palestinian institutions and for discussion with Arab parties and concerned parties. The subject is the final solution; the subject is an important regional issue.revolving around the issue of refugees, borders, security, Jerusalem..

The ending of the conflict, the ending of the conflict (he repeated for emphasis) must be based on a general agreement based on these ideas and principles, and every item of it must reach agreement, must be discussed and negotiated. With all these details. Is it possible to find an end to the conflict based on this?

After reaching these agreements, perhaps (can one) include the Arab countries such as fraternal Syria and Lebanon in a regional accord, in a comprehensive solution in which the sponsoring countries (i.e. those giving aid) can participate directly."

Q: "So we need more time and discussion for a dialogue on the proposals.?"

A: No, it's not just details.It's bringing this to th einstitutions of the Palestine Liberation Organization..We need as I s a id deep and extensive study.because this is something that involves our national fate. This is one of the most important pieces of paper in our history. We have to discuss with our fraternal Arab states, because these ideas have regional ramifications, and we cannot surprise our Arab brothers-those close and far geographically-by accepting or not accepting ideas without a complete dialogue with them."

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Official Palestinian Authority Voice of Radio Broadcasts; Dec. 27

Summary and Analysis

VOP reported that the Palestinian Leadership-the Executive Committee of the PLO-would discuss the American plan some more this evening, with a view to giving a response soon.

Throughout the day there were hints and nuances which indicated that the PA is facing growing disquiet from the refugee community and the Islamic establishment as well as Arab states.

Chief PA negotiator Saeb Erikat said in a VOP interview that Yasser Arafat would respond with a letter to President Bill Clinton, setting forth Palestinian principles. Erikat said the Palestinians would not be rushed into any agreements by the United States, which, he said, leaned heavily in Israel's favor. He refused to give a clear indication, in his morning interview, whether Arafat would head to Egypt for a three-way meeting with Egyptian president Husni Mubarak and Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak.

In its morning and noon news shows, VOP did not report or respond to Israeli reports that Clinton planned to get the U.S. plan approved through the UN, as a replacement for resolutions 242 and 338.

Although the news shows carried the sermon of Mufti Ikrema al-Sabry (including veiled criticism of the PA position on Jerusalem), it did not summarize his remarks in the news shows or headlines, beyond saying that the Sheikh called for visits to the martyrs (graves) and their families, as well as the wounded.

Similarly, there was no comment - as of 6p.m.-- on news agency reports that the PA was rejecting the American proposal (Reuters) or delaying its decision (AFP).

Morning Headlines (7:30-9:00 a.m.)

  • "Palestine participates with the Arab and Islamic world in the celebration of the Feast in the shade of continuing Israeli aggression;
  • Occupation forces attack parts of Ramallah and Jenin;
  • The (Palestinian) Leadership meets for consultations and deep discussion of the American initiative;
  • The mayor of occupied Jerusalem decides to move his office to the area of the Wall of Burak (i.e. the name of the Prophet Muhammad's winged steed, who, according to Islamic legend, was tethered to the Western Wall of the Temple Mount)."
  • Feisal Husseini, member of the PLO Executive and holder of the Jerusalem portfolio, warned the Israelis about the danger of this step, saying we would defend the holy Jerusalem shrine (Haram al-Sharif).with a violent popular reaction."

Quotes from Interview with Saeb Erikat, PA Negotiator

"We believe we will achieve the establishment of an independent Palestinian state over all the desired land with holy Jerusalem as its capital. Well, with regard to the continuing meetings (of the Leadership), as we said, we will not allow time to be used as a sword held over our heads. Our responsibility is great. First Jerusalem, the question of borders, the settlements, the refugees, it revolves around the question of water and other matters. I want to see these are very serious, deep and intensive discussions. Not just inside the (Palestinian) Authority but also between President Arafat and our brother Arabs (states)..What is demanded is a solution that must be based on international legitimacy (i.e. UN resolutions) 242, 338 and 194.

Any final agreement is going to have to be detailed, specific-which does not leave anything out..These are final status talks, not temporary, not with changes. We're talking about comprehensive peace..We will not allow interim talks. We won't allow delays."

Q: "Does this mean refusal of the American ideas"

A: "Refusal or acceptance must be decided by the highest authorities. Based on international legitimacy. We all know the American predilection towards Israel. All these things have to be gone into in great detail. And the whole world has to know the Palestinian position"

Noon Headlines (additional or updated headlines, only)

  • "The Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, headed by His Excellency President Yasser Arafat, meets this evening for further discussions of the American plan for a final solution in preparation for responding to it;
  • Occupation forces attack two Palestinian Guard positions in Jenin
  • Occupation authorities prevent prayer services for the Feast at the Megiddo Jail."

Afternoon/Evening Headlines

(2 p.m., 4 p.m. & 6 p.m. largely repeating earlier headlines with some additions, as below)

  • "Extremist Jews try to invade Haram al-Sharif;
  • Israeli jets bomb in Lebanon;

Quotes of the Day

"The American ideas have not reached the level of Palestinian demands, but.they must reach the level of international legitimacy." (Interview with Saeb Erikat, Chief PA negotiator)

"We wish all our listeners, on the occasion of the Feast, the fulfillment of all their hopes from the Return to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital." (Holiday greetings during news shows on December 27)

Rhetorical Elements (from Mosque Sermon)

by Mufti Sheikh Ikrema al-Sabry,
from the Al-Aqsa Mosque,
Wednesday morning
December 27, 2000, 7:30 a.m.)

"o, ye Muslims, this feast comes to us at a time when the case of Jerusalem and the holy places has been stirred to a boil, and our people are witness to the conspiracy hatched against Jerusalem and the holy places. There is no escaping the expression of our firm strategic stance: that the city of Jerusalem in its entirety be an Arab, Islamic city, and that it return to the sphere and sovereignty of the Arabs and the Muslims.

We announce say in your name 'no' to the judaization of the city and our refusal also to its internationalization.

(Note: in the background there was some noise as if one or more worshipers called out, perhaps objecting, to the sermon's content at this point, screaming:

The American initiative to divide al-Aqsa into an upper sovereignty and a lower sovereignty are a conspiracy against al-Aqsa."

(The Sermon went on to refuse any exchange of sovereignty in Jerusalem in return for the "nullification of the problem of the refugees,". The sermon did not mention "Palestinian" sovereignty, calling instead for "Islamic sovereignty")

"We will refuse to recognize any connection of kind of the Jews to the blessed al Aqsa Mosque. They have no trace of a connection to this Islamic mosque. We are its keepers, guardians and servants, and we will pierce any American initiatives and any Israeli statements."

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Official PA radio news - the PBC Voice of Palestine, Dec. 28th

Summary and Analysis

The confusion and lack of clear direction at the top of the pyramid of power in the Palestinian Authority emerges clearly in the last two or three days of broadcasts of the Voice Of Palestine.

There has been no clear message from Yasser Arafat or his spokesman Nabil Abu Irdeineh (especially not in their own voices), and none from Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), the PLO Executive secretary and the man most closely associated with the "Oslo Accords."

Rather, VOP listeners have been trying to glean indications from sometimes conflicting analyses coming from leading PA officials: Yasser Abd Rabbo, Saeb Erikat, Ahmad Qreia, Taib Abdel-Rahim.

It appears that internal opposition from the refugee constituency and the Islamic clerics-as well as objections from several Arab countries-- have stiffened Arafat's resistance to American ideas, even though there was significant initial willingness to give a "yes, but" response to them (in an effort to gain further concessions and not to appear intransigient). Even now, the PA does not want to appear to be saying a clear 'NO' to American ideas.

Instead, the PA reports that it is still studying them, even as VOP reports (accurately and fairly) that the Israeli government has given "a conditional yes response" to the Clinton formula, after a 10-2 cabinet vote with two abstentions.

Morning Headlines (8 a.m.)

  • "Dr. Erikat asserts that the Leadership is awaiting clarifications of the Clinton ideas before responding to them in a final way;
  • The Exectuive Committee (of the PLO), after deep study of the American ideas, asserts the core Palestinian principles;
  • President Arafat states in a letter to Clinton expresses the Palestinian viewpoint on all the issues cast out (on the table);
  • His Excellency (Arafat) will meet with the Egyptian President following the cancellation of the three-way summit;
  • The American president carries out many contacts to some regional in connection with the peace process."

Quotes of the Day

"The President's (Arafat's) advisor, Nabil Abu-Irdeineh stated that the president has sent a letter to President Clinton thanking him, on the part of the Palestinian Leadership, for the great efforts expended by Clinton." (Morning News broadcast, VOP 8:00 a.m.)

"As of now, the American ideas do NOT meet the needs of international legitimacy." (Saeb Erikat, 8:10 am, morning interview)

Interview with Saeb Erikat, chief PA negotiator

Q: "We asked Dr. Erikat if this was the final response to the American ideas?"

A: "As you know,the Palestinian Leadership is continuing the study of the American ideas in depth and conducting consultations with fraternal Arab states and friends around the world. We have demanded explanations and clarifications from the Americans side on all things. After all, what makes an agreement in the end is the details. That means the geographical elements, the deails of what happens to control over the land, that means various kinds of relations, that means territorial contiguity, what happens to water, that means security, Jerusalem…. We cannot just give a response to general ideas. We desire a comprehensive agreement on Jerusalem, the borders, settlements, the refugees and water. And that cannot be done without the details….Without clarity there can be no response. "

Q: "Then, the Palestinian response is not final."

A: "The letter sent by President Arafat to President Clinton clarifies completely that for us the foundations of the peace process must be based on the foundations of the peace process which means that the American ideas at the present time do not meet the decisions of international legitimacy (i.e. UN resolutions 242, 338 and 181 and 194).

We have demanded clarifications based on the same clarifications built on details in the maps….President Arafat says in his letter that finding a basis for the peace process must be the execution of resolutions 242, 338 and 194."

(Note: If Erikat's remarks seem a bit confusing and repetitive in syntax and content, that is because they were. Many of his remarks-not offered here--were sentence fragments built on sentence fragments.)

Noon Headlines

  • His Excellency President Yasser Arafat in Egypt for meeting with the Egyptian President about the American initiative Mubarrak;
  • Dr. Saeb Erikat asserts we are awaiting American clarifications;
  • Barak's advisor says he (Barak) rejects Palestinian sovereignty over the Holy Shrine (Haram al-Sharif/ Temple Mount);
  • Israel announces its conditional yes response to the American initiative."

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When Arafat Says No...
Rony Shaked
Security Affairs Correspondent, Yediot Aharonot

When Arafat says ‘No,’ what does he mean? The Rais’s ‘No’ is not an absolute rejection. It is a strategy of brinksmanship, designed to achieve a bit more, to squeeze one more accomplishment.

Arafat’s ‘No’ is designed to show his people that he doesn’t give in easily. This is a ‘No’ that is valid only now, and can change in hours or days. It isn’t a ‘No’ of principles. It is a ‘No’ on the way to a ‘Yes’.

Yesterday Arafat essentially said ‘Yes,’ but with conditions and reservations. Arafat understands that he has not yet reached the limit of Israeli concessions. He has time left before January 10th, the final date set by Clinton. Until then he can squeeze more out of Israel. Yesterday evening he heard that Barak requested from the cabinet approval to transfer 97% to the Palestinians. From his perspective, what is that, if not proof that he shouldn’t be in a hurry to say ‘Yes’?

At Camp David everyone told Arafat: “You will not receive a better offer than this one.” And still he insisted, and backed up his refusal with violence. A few weeks ago, when he felt that the hour had arrived, he returned to the negotiating table, and received a better offer.

Why does he insist so much? Arafat has serious internal problems. The offers are definitely more generous than in the past, but they are still far from the Palestinian strategy. He understands that if he says ‘No’ or a weak ‘Yes,’ he will get a bit more.

At the same time, he understands that he will not be able to dream of a better agreement than this in the future. Thus he prefers at the moment not to give a clear answer. It is more advantageous to him to demand more improvements, concessions, and guarantees. He has not broken all the rules of the game or caused an explosion. He just wants more.

This article appeared in the daily Israeli newspaper on Dec. 28, 2000

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