The Palestinian Authority today broadcast its leadership’s tentative, halting and conditional acceptance of a ceasefire “understanding” with Israel under the terms of the Sharm al-Sheikh summit.
The communique, which called for Palestinians to use “peaceful means” to achieve national aims, was broadcast one hour after a car bomb exploded in a crowded Jerusalem market. But there was no mention of the bomb blast on VOP radio (for several hours), nor any clear condemnation of this attack or any earlier violence (except by Israeli forces) at any time during broadcasting today.
“The Palestinian National Authority and the government of Israel reached an understanding for the two sides to implement the understandings of Sharm al-Sheikh as set forth in the statement of President Clinton and the speech of President Mubarrak,” the statement began.
It was clear that the communique was both more and less than what many Israeli officials wanted. The PA statement did not speak directly about the need for Palestinian restraint, but it made many demands on Israel, thus leaving potential “escape clauses” for itself if Israel fails to meet all Palestinian conditions.
The communique stressed the Palestinian view that Palestinian compliance was contingent on a withdrawal of Israeli forces from all Palestinian areas-especially Israeli tanks from approaches to Palestinian towns, and it also demanded Israel “restrain settler gangs who have continuously committed crimes against our people.”
The PA cabinet communique, which was read at 4pm on Voice of Palestine Radio, actually came more than two hours later than originally expected, and it followed PA President Yasser Arafat’s decision to pull back from his original agreement to read the communique himself on both Palestinian television and radio. (According to Israeli officials, Arafat first pulled back from the idea of a tv statement, and he subsequently refused to make any live statement on radio as well.)
Indeed, when the communique was released at 4pm, it followed several hours of halting hints to the communique’s content-as released by three close advisors of Arafat: spokesman NabilAbu-Irdeineh, Information Minister Yasser Abd-Rabbo and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Nabil ‘Amr.
Palestinian execution of the agreement, ‘Amr asserted, “is subject to a complete cessation of the aggression against our people.”
The PA’s communique also included a demand for a restoration of the borders of June 4, 1967, “safeguarding” the Palestinian right of return and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, but its main subject comprised four key paragraphs:
“The Palestinian National Authority and the government of Israel reached an understanding for the two sides to implement the understandings of Sharm al-Sheikh as set forth in the statement of President Clinton and the speech of President Mubarrak…”
“The Palestinian leadership always conscious of its desire to abide by mutual obligations will closely observe what the Israeli side carries out, regarding its commitments to withdraw its occupation and its military units from populated areas occupied after September 28, as well as ceasing hostilities against the innocent sons of our people along with the removal of closures…”
“The Palestinian leadership sees the Israeli government’s ability to restrain settler gangs who have committed crimes against our people as a fundamental element in the cessation of violence and terrorism to which our people have been continuously exposed…”
“The Palestinian leadership which always stands by the popular and peaceful nature of the Intifada calls on the masses and the national forces to adhere to its stance, to continue mass demonstrations and expressions while clinging to peaceful means in all proceedings…”
After the 4pm news, VOP reverted to what has been its standard fare in the last few weeks: news programs opening with detailsf martyrs’ deaths and burials sandwiched between patriotic and Islamic songs with martial melodies. The 5pm news was introduced by a song in which a father sings about his son’s death as a martyr. The song, which has been very popular at VOP and on Palestinian state television, is about Muhammad Dura, the young boy shot while caught in the middle of a firefight between Israeli and Palestinian forces in Gaza.