Israel Resource Review 1st Febuary, 2001


Official PA radio news
P.B.C. VOP (Voice of Palestine) Radio: January 31.

Summary and Analysis

VOP and the Palestinian Authority dramatically changed their hands-off approach to Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon within the last 24 hours, jumping into the Israeli election campaign.

The marked shift was evident in several major course maneuvers:

  • moving away from focusing attention on a growing rift between Yasser Arafat and Barak, following Arafat's Davos speech condemning Israel, to downplaying or even ignoring the Arafat-Barak differences;
  • highlighting the "extreme" nature of Ariel Sharon and some of his backers such as the "extreme" Avigdor Lieberman [NOTE: some of the Israeli Labor Party's Arabic language television campaign advertisements on January 29/30 were almost identical to texts previously heard on VOP];
  • announcing the likelihood of a Barak-Arafat summit, after talking about no contacts until after the elections;
  • And suddenly eliminating, as of Tuesday afternoon, all talk about Barak's media "campaign" against the PA.

VOP also pulled back from calling Barak the "resigning prime minister" which has the connotation of "the lame duck prime minister".

Perhaps the biggest about-face came from none other than the smooth-talking Minister of Information Yasser Abd-Rabbo, who only yesterday caustically criticized Barak but who today -2PM Panorama talk show interview-spoke of the "sick mind" of Ariel Sharon.

[Note: It is considered very, very abusive and disrespectful in the Arab world to make insulting personal remarks -- especially if they have a connection to the person's body, especially the head or face -- about a political leader

Remember: Until now, PA President Yasser Arafat has been scrupulously careful NOT to attack Sharon, even though VOP announcers have often referred to him as "the extremist Ariel Sharon." VOP reporters and analysts have taken a respectful distance in reporting that Israeli Arabs-or Palestinian Israelis or Arabs inside the Green Line-have largely decided to abstain from voting. Today that attitude also changed: VOP interviewers badgered Israeli MK Azmi Beshara, repeatedly asking him whether Israeli Palestinians might not switch away from their boycott and come out to vote for Barak.

(Beshara indicated the stay-away protest or blank ballot would still go ahead, but one can expect a lot of pressure in the coming days.)

In Short, both VOP and the PA now seem to be joining the campaign against Ariel Sharon, even though an 8:18 am studio-read VOP (Pravda-like) analysis Wednesday morning laid out the near certainty of a Barak loss to Sharon, hinting that Barak may have to be replaced by Peres, if Sharon is to be defeated.

The PA analysis was sophisticated and unemotional, stressing the following points:

  • Sharon's election is imminent, but he will not be able to form a broad government;
  • Sharon's narrow parliamentary base -- only 19 Likud seats out of 120-will make serious negotiations with the PA very unlikely;
  • and the high likelihood that Israel will again go to elections within six months, thus signaling a period of deep instability in Israel.

In a morning interview, PA Information Minister Yasser Abd-Rabbo denied categorically a report in the Israeli daily Ma'ariv that the PA and Israel had agreed to put of discussions on Jerusalem for five years. (Note: A similar report-asserting also a settlement of the refugee issue-- was offered 24 hours later by Emanuel Rozen, Wednesday night on Israel's Ch. 2, and it will be interesting to see if the PA bothers to deny this report as well.)

In a later Abd-Rabbo morning interview (there were three Abd-Rabbo interviews today), the PA minister said it was likely there would be a Barak-Arafat meeting in Egypt on the Sunday before the Tuesday elections.

Elsewhere, VOP continued to shepherd the Iraqi normalization process, featuring a long studio-read analysis by senior announcer Khaled Sukar detailing Iraq's return to the fold, i.e. the Arab world's renewed embrace of Saddam Hussein.

Wednesday, 7 a.m. -- Morning Round-up Headlines

  • "Efforts by UN Secretary General Kofi Anan and European officials pushing hard for a continuing Palestinian-Israeli summit, but a site and a time for the summit are not yet decided;
  • It is likely to be in a European capital, but time pressure is a problem;
  • The extremist and rightist Likud candidate for the prime ministry Ariel Sharon is vainly contriving to (reconstruct) his past vis a vis the Palestinian Leadership and to convince by putting on new clothes (to distract from) the ugly truth;
  • Supporters of Sharon tell the e-mail edition of Yediot Aharonot that there is NO danger of acceptance of the plans of the extremist Avigdor Lieberman who threatened striking against the Aswan High Dam in Egypt and at Teheran;
  • The Israeli government refuses to meet the Palestinian side about transferring sums to the Palestinian side andregarding the financial difficulties of the (Palestinian) National Authority, and Muhammd Zuhdi Nashashibi (PA finance official) condemns this Israeli step…"

7 a.m. / 8 a.m. Morning Headlines

  • "The youth Sayyid Abdul-hamid, 15 years old, was struck in his chest by gunfire and critically wounded by Occupation soldiers concentrated in the Mintar crossing (Gaza);
  • Palestinian security sources say Israelis reporting a shelling of the settlement of Netzarim built on the land of citizens from Gaza, and an Israeli shelling on the houses of Sheikh Ijleen in south Gaza;
  • Citizens' houses in Marda and Salfit were subjected to fire by occupation soldiers;
  • Occupation soldiers search and close village of Jab'a, preventing citizens from entering or leaving (Note: this is area of shooting death night before last);
  • A large force of the Israeli Occupation Army invaded Kafr Haris near Salfit last night, arresting several citizens, including the head of the village council;
  • The office of the Israeli prime minister confirms that there are contacts with a view to holding Palestinian-Israeli summit between Presient Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak;
  • Minister of Information Yasser Abd-Rabbo indicates there is NO Palestinian refusal to holding a summit before the elections in Israel;
  • Military sources in the Israeli army confirm its use of ammunition with depleted uranium against targets at sea over a year ago…
  • Minister of Economic Development Dr. Nabil Sha'ath pursing talks in Oslo
  • The (Palestinian) National Authority demands that the two funds (for Al Aqsa and Intifada support and relief) give advance payments for the next two months;
  • The Arab summit in Tunis calls on giving financial support to the Intifada and demanded that Israel respect the rights of the sons of our people;
  • Egyptian Foreign Ministry announces that Foreign Minister Amr Moussa has been selected to head the fourth session of the Arab Summit's oversight commission regarding aid to the Intifada;
  • Moscow announces plans to build four new nuclear reactors by the year 2020."

Quotes from Interview with Zakaria Agha, member PLO Executive, regarding Israeli military escalations in Gaza, 7:20 a.m.

Question: "Is there an escalation of Israeli aggression?"

Answer: "Yes, that's the cause. The Israeli government is trying to continue, attempting to escalate. There is no difficulty in its doing so. Military attacks, shelling on houses, shooting at citizens, destruction and sabotage of property. This aggression is continuing. This criminal operation against the Palestinian people."

Question: "In this matter it is apparent that the actions are parallel to the Israeli elections. Are you trying to confront these actions in different ways?"

Answer: "Of course. As everyone knows, it was expected, the escalation is geared to the elections. The competition among the candidates hurts the Palestinian people."

(Note: This interview offered this morning is clearly out-of-sync with the new help-Barak party line, but it illustrates that there is a lag-factor even at VOP.)

Quotes from Interview with Minister of Information Yasser Abd Rabbo, Wednesday morning, 7:30 a.m.

Off-mike question: Are there contacts for a new Arafat-Barak summit, and is either side refusing to talk as before?

Answer: "There is absolutely no palestinian refusal to holding a such a meeting. On the contrary, there is readiness to hold such a meeting in an appropriate place, despite the fact that the Israeli elections are in a few days. But we are ready up until the last instant to make all efforts and journeys for the sake of revealing any opportunity for progress in the peace process.

There are thoughts of holding it in Europe or holding it in Egypt….If things work out, we will welcome it….It could be something positive and it would encourage all backers of peace inside Israel. And it would give them the confidence that there is an action to further the peace process."

Quotes From Second abd-Rabbo Interview, 7:40 a.m.

Question: "There is an interview published by the newspaper Yediot Aharonot on the internet in which the extremist Likud candidate Ariel Sharon says that President Yasser Arafat wanted to topple the Hashemite regime in Jordan and set up a Palestinian state…whose borders would go from Iraq in the east to Petah Tiqva and Beersheb'a….What do you make of all this?"

Answer: "That is the talk of a deranged man (Arabic: mash'our). Any man who could say that, who could, once again, say sorts of things. He's a man who is hostile to the peace process. All such proposals are sorts of things that come from a sick mind….We also knew these things, these sayings of his, when he was in the Netanyahu Government." (This interview also opened the 2 p.m. Panorma afternoon magazine show)

Wednesday Afternoon Headlines, 4 p.m.

  • The martyring of a citizen without provocation in Gaza in a crime committed by Occupation troops;
  • Occupation troops extend their agresson against our citizens and their possessions at various points in the homeland;
  • President Yasser Arafat expresses his regret at the deaths of tens of thousands of citizens in the earthquake in western India;
  • The (Palestinian) National Authority tests whether the political statements of Sharon are aimed at (hurting) Palestinian-Jordanian relations;
  • Palestinian reaction to the terms of the Islamic Bank's transferring funds to the National Authority;
  • Libya demands immediate removal of sanctions against her following the verdict in the Lockerbie trial."

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Official PA radio news: PA Virtual Endorsement of Ehud Barak

Summary and Analysis

The Voice of Palestine stepped up the Palestinian Authority's support of Ehud Barak, only five days before Israeli elections, featuring reports on efforts by Sweden (temporary head of EU) to set up summit between Barak and Yasser Arafat.

PA officials such as Development Minister Nabil Sha'ath, Arafat's spokesman Nabil Abu-Irdeineh and Presidential Secretary Taib Abd-al-Rahim were interviewed and/or quoted as supporting the summit idea and/or condemning "extremist Likud candidate Ariel Sharon" for plotting against the friendly relations between Jordan and the PA. Their remarks were re-cycled throughout the bulletin headlines through the morning.

But in a rare funny live-radio backfire (especially rare on Palestinian radio), VOP attempts to get a strong anti-Sharon condemnation blew up in the PA's face as the Jordanian Information Minister when asked about fears of Sharon, said: "We have no fear in this matter," and the VOP announcer, Karim Khalid, quickly terminated the interview (see below for interview).

In addition, despite PA support for Barak, PA officials strenuously denied various Israeli reports (Ma'ariv Tuesday morning, Channel Two Wednesday night) about Palestinian-Israeli deals at Taba or imminent framework agreements in a pre-election Arafat-Barak meeting. From the strong Palestinian denials-which are consistent and from different officials over a period of several days-it appears that the source for the Israeli stories is likely a senior Israeli official with strong stakes in the upcoming Israeli election.

At 12-noon, VOP gave more prominent coverage to Barak's decision not to withdraw from candidacy for re-election.

Morning Round-up Headlines

  • "We will cover the top developments in the Independence Intifada and the military aggression of the Israeli Occupation and its sieges against the sons of our people;
  • Two new martyrs and strong military pressure at the Rafah checkpoint and at the airport;
  • The (Palestinian) Leadership in its weekly meeting last night asserts that the future portends an end to the Occupation and colonization (Arabic: Christian: also settlement);
  • Minister of Economic Development and Cooperation Dr. Nabil Sha'ath TOTALLY DENIES possibility of finding final solution at summit;
  • Jordanian Minister of Information Talib al-Rifai characterizes Sharon's comments in the newspaper regarding Palestinian-Jordanian border (Note: headline does not say how or what he characterized);
  • Today the first of Shubat (February) is the Day of the Arab Woman;
  • Arab voters inside the Green Line: (torn) between blank ballots and boycotting the elections."

Morning Headlines, 7 a.m./ 8 a.m. / 9 a.m.

  • "The martyring of the citizen Ismail Ahmad Tubani, 50 years old, from the Mughazi Camp who was hit by bullet fire in the heart at the hand of Occupation soldiers who fired, without provocation, at his car as it stopped by the "Shuhada Checkpoint" (literally "martyrs' checkpoint", and translator does not know official name for location) in southern Gaza;
  • Two citizens wounded by Israeli tank fire last night at the Mintar crossing;
  • Occupation soldiers invade Kafr Haris near the town of Salfit, casting off bombs to terrorize the citizens last night;
  • Confrontations in Silwan between families and the Occupation soldiers, despite a curfew that was declared on the town, resulting in 10 wounded;
  • Telephone conversation between President Arafat and the Prime Minister of Sweden, currently serving as head of European Union, and the conversation centered on the most recent developments in continuing Israeli aggression and the recent Taba negotiations and the opportunity for holding a Palestinian-Israeli summit in Stockholm before the Israeli elections;
  • A spokesman for the Swedish prime minister said no decision has yet been reached on the holding of a new summit regarding the Middle East between President Yasser Arafat and the Israeli prime minister;
  • The (Palestinian) Leadership renews its rejection of any agreement that does not guarantee the solution of the problem of the refugees and their return to their homes from which they were evicted in 1948, and their habituation with their dependents;
  • And the Leadership asserts in a statement published at the end of its meeting last night in Gaza headed by President Yasser Arafat asserted the role played by the obligation of Israel to the source authority of the peace process and the decisions of international legitimacy (i.e. UN resolutions). as the basis for any readiness for any talks with Israel .and the guaranteeing of the interests of our people in reaching the goal of freedom and independence;
  • Presidential Secretary Taib Abd-al-Rahim stresses the statement of the Jordanian Prime Minister Ali Abdul-Ghaib last night about the aggressive and provocative statements of Ariel Sharon which reflected his Occupation vision and racism and Sharon's attempt to sow discord among Arab fraternity and harmony;
  • The two sides-Palestinian and Israeli-agree on a memorandum on the extension of the timetable of the assignment of the international force in Hebron.;
  • Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak says that he is capable of winning the competition for prime minister's post;
  • Israeli helicopters strafe villages in southeastern Lebanon;
  • Ireland asserts time limit for role in force in southern Lebanon.;
  • Finally, President George Bush says America will press Libya to recognize its responsibility for the Lockerbie attack and for compensation payments."

Quote of the Day

"There is no appointed time nor place. . The Israeli side did not present anything new at the Taba session, and he remained where he was before Taba. and we do not want a meeting just for the sake of a meeting."

(Saeb Erikat, following last night's PLO Executive meeting, on question whether a time and place have been set for Arafat-Barak summit, and on results of previous meetings at Taba--Thursday morning news interview, 7:25 a.m.)

Quotes from field interview with PLO Executive member, Zakariah al-Agha

"The Palestinian side is ready for negotiations aimed at reaching agreement, but the difficulty is on the Israeli side which is not ready for this matter. There are international efforts at holding a meeting between President Yasser Arafat and the Israeli prime minister during the coming days, but no final time has been set for this meeting."

Question: "With the continuing Israeli aggression, do you think such a meeting can take place?"

Answer: "I do NOT think so because such a meeting will be merely a meeting for the protocol, but I do NOT expect any dramatic developments from such a meeting, especially, as you said, while Israeli aggression continues as part of the election campaign against the Palestinian people[taken as "actuality" from within report by Gaza correspondent 'Adil Za'anoun in Gaza, covering meeting of PLO Executive, 7:15 a.m.)

Quotations from interview with Saeb Erikat, 7:30a.m.

Question: "Are there conditions for a meeting?"

Answer: "Obviously what is demanded is that the peace process continue on the basis of Madrid. Madrid, that is 242, 338, resolution 194 and an Israeli withdrawal to the June 4, 1967 borders including Jerusalem, and the question of refugees according to 194. The Israeli side did not present anything new at the Taba session, and he remained at where he was before Taba. and we do not want a meeting just for the sake of a meeting."

Quotations from Talib al-Rifai, Jordanian Minister of Information:

Question: Ariel Sharon told Yediot Aharonot that Jordan wants Israel to hold on to the Ghur (Jordan) Valley and the Jordan River?"

Answer: "That does NOT deserve a reply. It's a journalistic statement and it has absolutely no meaning. (Pressed a bit by interviewer to extend his answer.) . . . It's just an attempt to sow discord between the two fraternal peoples."

Question: "Is there a fear in Jordan about the advancement of Sharon to the government and to power in Israel?"

Answer: "We will work together with Sharon as we would work with someone else. Jordan knows how to deal with all eventualities in its regard. We have no fear in this matter." ( 7:40 a.m.)

Quotes from Interview with Ahmad Tibi Israeli MK and former advisor to Arafat, who appears much more often on Israeli media than VOP

"If someone wants to cast a blank ballot (white paper) that's okay, and if someone wants to boycott, that's okay. But we strongly reject, strongly reject any attempt to vote for Ariel Sharon. It'll be one percent maybe two percent in the Arab community.But any vote is legitimate.And in the final analysis we all have to realize that if Ariel Sharon wins-and that looks like the result-the world will not be destroyed as some have tried to portray it. No, there won't be a war. But there is no doubt that will be extremist rightwing. It is incumbent on the Arab world, on the Palestinian Leadership, and on all of us to get ready for this eventuality, and to be ready to confront it."

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