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.”