Summary and Analysis

VOP led its broadcasts Saturday and Sunday with detailed denials by PA President Yasser Arafat that the PA was contemplating acceptance of a “trade of rights” regarding the questions of Jerusalem and the “right of return”.

Arafat escalated his rhetoric Saturday night and Sunday morning, calling Israeli statements “a deliberate effort to confuse the posture of the delegation in Washington.”

To cynics, this may recall a Shakespearean passage-“Methinks the lady doth protest too much”-but, then again, Arafat’s behavior is somewhat unladylike, and, moreover, his pronouncements on the peace process have tended to be more accurate than those coming from the Barak Government.

Arafat and his spokesman Nabil Abu-Irdeina were quoted at length over the broadcasts Friday-Sunday to the effect that Israel had not advanced any new proposals differing significantly from what the Palestinians rejected at Camp David. The reports stressed the view that the Palestinian view contradicted the view of U.S. President Bill Clinton.

Yet Arafat and his spokesman said “the window of opportunity” was still open. (Similarly, Sunday morning included a studio-read report of an interview with Dr. Saeb Erikat [head of the PA team in Washington after Yasser Abd-Rabbo was forced to step aside because of a death in the family] contending that there had been no progress in the talks.)

At the same time that the talks in Washington were winding down, there was a suicide bombing in the Jordan Valley. VOP did not voice any condemnation of the bombing. ((see note on coverage at end of report, which is updated and amended version of Friday afternoon bulletin))

In addition, VOP again featured Marwan Barghouti, the militant Fatah Tanzim leader, in its Saturday night broadcasts. He was quoted as saying that the intifada had established a new basis for the Palestinian struggle. The prominent and favorable way VOP depicted Barghouti-as a leader of the Intifada and the Palstinian struggle-strongly contradicts the view of some pundits that Barghouti is acting against the wishes of Arafat (see textbelow).

In its Friday night and Saturday coverage, VOP went into great detail concerning Israeli security measures in the Old City of Jerusalem and the number and kinds of injuries suffered by Muslim worshipers participating in post-Friday-prayer parades.

Once again Saturday night and Sunday morning, VOP gave prominence to news that Iraqi anti-aircraft gunners had opened fire on British and American overflights of southern Iraq.

Morning Headlines Sunday December 24, 2000 / Saturday Night December 23

  • “Masses of our people will accompany today the exalted martyr Abdullah ‘Issa Kanan who died yesterday of wounds suffered one week ago;
  • Occupation forces continue to retain the bodies of two martyrs from Hebron and Jericho;
  • His excellency President Yasser Arafat denies the existence of any agreement conditioned on sovereingty of Jerusalem in exchange for concessions on the return of the refugees;
  • The President’s advisor, Nabil Abu-Rudeina, says that the talk of (further) bilateral or trilateral negotiations is premature;
  • West Bank Fatah Secretary Mr. Marwan Barghouti says the intrepid Intifada has established a new basis for Palestinian struggle, and Mr. Barghouti in a meeting with news media said our intifada would continue side by side with negotiations until the achievement of our national goals;
  • The (Palestinian) Leadership reviews today the bilateral and trilateral talks that ended in Washington yesterday without noticeable results.
  • Iraqi anti-aircraft batteries opened fire on British and American fighters yesterday, forcing them to retreat.”

Saturday Morning Headlines, December 23

  • “Four martyrs on the final Friday of Ramadan and five wounded Israelis, including a woman soldier in a martyr operation in the nothern part of the (West) Bank;
  • Closure on Jerusalem and artillery shelling on al-Bireh, and tens wounded in confrontations;
  • There is nothing new in Tel Aviv’s position (i.e. position of Israeli government) and our firm principles continue, according to the Leadership, while Israel puts its faith in a military solution;
  • Serious difficulties in the Washington talks as Israel insists on concessions in the matter of the refugees;
  • The European Union sends 100-Euro to the Palestinian Authority to help the deprivations of the Israeli military and economic siege;
  • Prisoners’ Organization says Israeli Death Squads trying to destroy Intifada by liquidating them (prisoners) after their detention.”

Special Addendum From Friday December 22, 4 p.m.

  • “The death of a settler and the wounding of two others in a suicide operation near the settlement of Mehola in the Ghur Valley;
  • Three martyrs to the bullets of the Occupation and the settlers in Gaza and Hebron;
  • Many wounded in incidents throughout the homeland;
  • His excellency President Yasser Arafat asserts that the Palestinian and Israeli negotiators did no reach any final results in talks;
  • Chief of the Occupation forces Shaul Mofaz says he expects the confrontations to continue many years.”

Friday Evening Headlines, December 22 9p.m./10 p.m.

  • “Four martyrs and tens of wounded on the final Friday of Holy Ramadan;
  • Occupation authorities continue their military aggression against the Al-Aqsa Mosque, preventing worshipers’ access;
  • Palestinian affirmation that the Washington talks have notreached any final results;
  • The Leadership is now meeting in Gaza to discuss political developments and internal affairs.
  • Occupation forces close down access to Ibrahimi Mosque (Cave of Patriarchs) in Hebron before Leil al-Qader (“Night of Power”) prayers.”

Details Behind Headlines (Israeli Elections)

VOP has been covering the Israeli election campaign in a careful and restrained manner. In the last few days it has even desisted f rom its usual practice of referring to Ariel Sharon as “the extremist Ariel Sharon” and begun instead to refer to him “the rightist leader” or “the leader of the Israeli Right.” VOP has broadcast several analyses, often out of the mouths of Israeli Arab MK’s.

The bottom line is that Barak is far behind but that he has 50 days left to turn things around, and that he has already successfully blocked the path of his two most potentially powerful opponents: Binyamin Netanyahu and Shimon Peres.

Coverage Analysis

The suicide bombing Friday was covered in a positive light, making no mention that the target was a civilian bus at a roadside restaurant.

In its Friday (December 22) 3 p.m. radio summary in Hebrew, VOP covered the suicide bombing in Mehola in the Jordan valley thus:

“In a suicide operation, one man was martyred and two settlers were killed along with three wounded, apparently seriously.”

In its Arabic summary, VOP made no mention of the event at first, but tagged the item at the end of the broadcast: “The killing of two settlers and three seriously wounded in the explosion of a bomb at the restaurant in front of the settlement of Mehola which was built on land (taken from) of citizens from the northern Ghol (Valley) on the road from Jenin to Beit San (Beit Shan).”

There was no condemnation of the attack whatsoever. In fact, the Hebrew reference to “martyrdom” and the Arabic reference to the attack’s having taken place on “land belonging to citizens” is a clear hint that VOP and the PA look favorably on the incident.