This week, the Palestinian press dwelt on the Palestinian achievements in the Camp David summit, and how Israel was pulled closer to the positions held by the Palestinian Authority (P.A.). In one interview, Palestinian negotiator Saib Arikat recounted an important conversation between President Bill Clinton and P.A. Chairman Yasser Arafat, the conversation, in fact, that brought about the failure of the Camp David summit. In the conversation, Clinton attempts to persuade Arafat to settle for the concessions offered by Israel which included, among others, the dismantling of all the Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip, an exchange of territories, and a withdrawal from 90% of Judea and Samaria:
Arikat: “While the President [Arafat] listened, the American leaders stated their warnings [about the consequences of refusal]. They did not stop until he [Arafat] retorted: ‘Thank you very much for the effort you put in, but I am not prepared to agree to treason and I will never agree to give the Israelis any sovereignty whatsoever on any part of Jerusalem. We are weak now, but [some day] some one will come who will liberate [the city]’.”
Arikat added that Clinton became angry and said: “Good, go back to Gaza as a hero, and be the hero in the eyes of the Christians and the Moslems… but you will return and remain isolated in the Middle East; the Barak goverenment is on the verge of collapse, and the peace process will collapse.”
President Yasser Arafat replied to Clinton: “We are prepared to work on the peace process… day by day and hour by hour, but I will not agree that [even] one inch of Jerusalem will be under Israeli sovereignty.”
Clinton retorted: “Gaza will be cleansed of settlers, there will be a road between the West Bank and Gaza, absolute Palestinian control of the passages, the Palestinian state will be declared on 90% of the West Bank, there will an exchange of territory, and their will be Palestinian control over many religious sites in Jerusalem!” The President responded to Clinton, “You don’t see the picture in its totality, which is that I came [here to Camp David] with a broken heart because I am negotiating on only 22% of historical Palestine, and this is the painful concession that remains with the the Palestinian people; I will not concede more than that and the Palestinian people will never weaken. [Al Ayyam, 8 August 2000].
In another interview, Arikat described the Israeli proposal to divide Jerusalem, including the proposal that “the seat of the Palestinian government will be in the area of the Temple Mount”:
“…[Saib Arikat] said… ‘Israel submitted proposals to divide Jerusalem into a number of districts, where districts that are outside the borders of Jerusalem, that we don’t recognize to begin with, will be subject to Palestinian sovereignty; a few neighborhoods inside Jerusalem will be subject to full Palestinian autonomy, and a municipal body will be established to administer Jerusalem’s affairs. And side by side, there will be Palestinian sovereignty over the holy places and the seat of the Palestinian government will be in the area of Ha-ram (the Temple Mount), and Israel will hold the remaining sovereignty at the bottom of the illustrious Ha-ram (Temple Mount) of Jerusalem… Arikat [also] said that the subject of the refugees was a major point of contention during conversations that took place in the course of the summit.” [Al Hayat Al-Jadida, 13 August 2000].
After the recent events in Lebanon, Israel is seen by Palestinian society as a nation that cannot endure adversity and military challenges, as opposed to the Palestinians who are prepared to sacrifice and fight for their cause. The Palestinians view this as Israel’s Achilles’ heel and they intend to use the threat of violence, as well as controlled actual violence, to weaken Israel’s resolve and ability to hold on to Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. This position was expressed this week by a leading member of the United National Front of the Villages of ’48, Yusuf Alsalem:
“…Alsalem emphasized that Barak has no other option but to acknowledge the Palestinian rights that are recognized by international law… especially since our Palestinian people. are prepared to make sacrifices in order to achieve independence; as for the Israeli people, it cannot tolerate the consequences of continuing violence and bloodshed, from a psychological, economic, and social standpoint…”. [Al Hayat Al-Jadida, 13 August 2000].
At the same time that the P.A. is discussing peace with Israel, messages of the Palestinians’ not coming to terms with Israel’s existence as well as not recognizing her existence, are accentuated over and over in every newspaper and periodical, often quite explicitly, as in the following examples:
“Minister of Justice Farich Abu Midyen… called for ‘co-existence with the Israelis, in accordance with the example of South Africa or other bi-national states, but the problem is that the Israelis want a Jewish state”. [Al Hayat Al-Jadida, 10 August 2000].
The Secretary-General of the Movement for the Islamic Struggle: “Jerusalem never was the capital of the Hebrew state and we will note what is emphasized in the Koran: The end of the Zionist entity is a Koranic necessity, there is no place for [Israel] no matter how long it takes [to disappear]…” [Palestinian Television 6 August 2000].
At times, the tool for expressing this non-acceptance of Israel is the use of terminology of non-recognition. For example, defining Israeli cities as “Palestinian cities”, or characterizing Israel as “the occupation”. The following are a few examples:
“The city of Akko (Acre) in occupied Palestine… [Al Hayat Al-Jadida, 10 August 2000]. “The occupation tried to entice the residents of Um Al-Farg… which is near Nahariya, and the occupation set up at the site of the village the ‘Ben Ami’ base…”… [Al Hayat Al-Jadida, 10 August 2000].
Crossword puzzle clues: “A Palestinian city”. The correct answers are “Akko (Acre)” and “Nazareth”. [Al Quds, 6 August 2000]. The Justice Minister Farich Abu Midyen refers to Israel as the “Hebrew State” [Al Hayat Al-Jadida, 10 August 2000]. The expressions, “the settlement of Kfar Veradim” and “the settlement of Ma’a lot” are used to refer to Israeli towns and cities within the Green Line [Al Ayyam, 10 August 2000].
The press frequently contains announcements of activities that emphasize the Palestinian refusal to come to terms with Israel, such as trips to “… regions that were captured in 1948 – in order that the children will be aware of the Palestinian cities and areas from which the residents were expelled…”
Lately, there are reports of the cultivating and strengthening of the links between the P.A. and Hamas:
“… Salim Alzanun [the chairman of the Palestinian National Council] said: ‘At the present stage, we have decided to enter into a national dialog with Hamas and the [Islamic] Jihad, with the goal of including them in the P.L.O. and its institutions…” [Al Hayat Al-Jadida, 6 August 2000].
Israeli Arabs continue to be portrayed in the Palestinian media as Palestinians who represent the Palestinians vis-a-vis Israel. Knesset member Ahmad Tibi recently appeared on a television program where he complemented Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak by stating that Barak really and truly aspires to peace, but added that Barak must stake out a bolder position, in order to conform to the desires of the Arabs. For the duration of the interview, whenever M. K. Tibi spoke of the Palestinians, he used the first person plural, i.e., “we” or “our society” and the like [Palestinian Television, 10 August 2000].
The media repeatedly praises the most murderous of terrorists that attacked Israel and similarly praises the terrorist acts themselves. In a quote from a book about Dal’al Al Ma’grabi, a woman terrorist that participated in the Coastal Road Bus terrorist massacre in which more than 35 Israelis were killed, it mentioned that the terrorist, who felt fatigued during the attack on the bus thought, “how pleasant is a [good night’s] sleep after a hard work day”. [Al Ayyam, 10 August 2000].
Every Friday, the Palestinian Television broadcasts sermons from mosques. The sermons of the P.A.’s religious leaders continue to exhibit a non-compromising Hamas line and present Israel-Palestinian relations as a religious war. The Islamic preacher Dr. Ahmad Yusuf Abu Halbiah, permits the shedding of Jewish blood as mandated by a heavenly decree:
“The resurrection of the dead will not occur, until you battle with the Jews and kill them…” [28 July 2000], and “Oh, our Arab brothers… Oh, our Moslem brothers… don’t leave the Palestinians alone in their their war against the Jews… even if we are destined to serve as the vanguard… Jerusalem, Palestine, and Al Akza will remain as the focal point of the struggle between truth and falsehood” [11 August 2000].
— The writer directs Palestinian Media Watch and also serves as the research director for the Center for the Study of the Impact of Peace