Summary and Analysis, Sunday February 18

Moving into its Sunday coverage, The Voice of Palestine re-affirmed and extended reportage on three matters likely to affect regional picture in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf:

  • Improved Palestinian relations with Syria and Iraq;
  • Heightened tension, escalating rhetoric and operational activities against Israel, even before Ariel Sharon takes office;
  • Escalating rhetoric against Western–particularly American-policies and institutions.

V.O.P. has reported, based on the comments of Farouk Qaddoumi (PLO Political Department director) that Yasser Arafat will soon visit Damascus amid an improvement in Syrian-Palestinian relations.

In a morning interview, Ahmad Qreia said that the PA and the Barak Government had agreed on many border questions, transferring all of the Jordan Valley and eastern Jerusalem to Palestinian control.

Sunday Morning Round-up Headlines

  • “We will review today the violent Israeli escalation on towns and the Israeli artillery shelling on neighborhoods and cities in Hebron and Jenin that led to the martyring of a number of citizens;
  • And masses of citizens from our people escorted (in funerals) six exalted martyrs who fell before Occupation bullets and the evil shelling on inhabited neighborhoods;
  • Politically, the new government headed by Ariel Sharon is expected to reach agreement soon between Labor and Likud based on the feigning of ignorance towards the progress made by the previous government in the talks at Camp David and afterwards in the marathon Taba negotiations;
  • The political agreement between Labor and Likud casts concern on the Palestinian side.;
  • A close look at the situation of Palestinian (women) prisoners, whose status has gotten worse, including the frequency of visits in the last five months;
  • Palestinian-Syrian relations have developed to the extent that a visit to Damascus by His Excellency President Yasser Arafat is close, and we will hear details from Farouk al-Qaddoumi-Abu Lutf-head of the policy department in the (Palestine) Liberation Organization.”

Sunday Morning Headlines, 7 a.m., February 18

  • “Seventeen citizens were wounded in Israeli shelling and shooting on inhabited neighborhoods in Hebron and Jenin;
  • The national and Islamic forces call on our citizens to participate in marches of rage on Tuesday, as a ‘Day of Rage’ against the occupation policy, against the (use of) poison gas and nerve gas, and against American-British aggression against Iraq;
  • His Excellency President Yasser Arafat last night received a letter from German Chancellor Gerhard Shroeder (sp?) delivered by his emissary Mr. Steiner;
  • French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine warns of the loss of hope of Palestinians about reaching a just and lasting peace with Israel;
  • Norway calls for the continuation of Palestinian-Israeli talks on the basis of the Oslo Agreement of 1993;
  • Iraqi President Saddam Hussein announces the formation of 21 divisions in the Jerusalem Army whose (planned???) formation had been announced on the 27th of last month;
  • Representative of Israeli prime minister-elect Ariel Sharon met last night to discuss recent developments.and extreme right-wing parliament member Avigdor Lieberman calls for attacking Beirut.”

Quote of the Day

“This brought about a great deal of growing closer between us and our brothers in Syria. It is clear that after the election of Sharon and after the indiscriminate violence employed by Israel used to threaten the Palestinian people there was no choice but to deepen mutual understandings between us and our brothers (in Syria).” (Farouk al-Qaddoumi, describing the warming of relations between Syria and the PLO during recent Arab summit talks. Sunday, February 18 7:40 a.m.)

Quotes from Interview with Ahmad Qreia (Abu Ala), PA Speaker Legislature, Sunday February 18, 7:20 a.m.

[Note from Monitor: There were a number of breaks and sound-quality changes in this interview that indicate it may have been edited or spliced at some points, though the content and style are quite probably in keeping with the intent of Speaker Qreia. Still, readers should be aware of the facts.]

Question: “It appears that a new government is being formed in Israel.and it says it is not bound by the understandings of Camp David or Taba. What do you say about that?”

Answer: “It does not bind this government (i.e. the Sharon government), but no one will find a partner (for talks) with this government which rests on this principle (of non-binding nature of Camp David etc). It will have to get by without a partner, without peace, and without security..The talks have to begin where they left off at the last session of the talks. This is the (true) foundations and the principle.

It is unfortunate that the Labor party government led by Barak is the one that negotiated for 18 months and it is now the one that has recanted everything.This approach, this style cannot be accepted, absolutely. It is a regression, a regression from the principle of peace. And it raises the question whether this new alliance (Note: presumably Labor and Likud) is an alliance for war or an alliance for peace.If it is based on the program of Sharon, then it cannot be anything but an alliance that conspires against the Palestinian people, an alliance that leads to a confrontation and an increase in escalating the intifada and the Palestinian resistance in its various forms.”

Question: “What about the question of Jerusalem?”

Answer: “The subject of Jerusalem. Jerusalem, eastern Jerusalem is the capital of the Palestinian state. The subject of Jerusalem, its being turned over.this subject was sealed. Many subjects were sealed.”

Question: “The Israeli withdrawal and the Ghor (Jordan) Valley. Was this subject sealed?”

Answer: Yes. The subject of borders was sealed completely with Jordan. The borders of ’67 from Beit Shean to the Dead Sea was sealed. That is the border of the Palestinian state.

The borders of the Ghor were sealed completely and finally. The region of Hebron was sealed finally. The area of Jenin was sealed completely.”

Question: “It is said that Dr. Yossi Beilin put something new on the table relating to the refugees?”

Answer: “No, no, no, that’s not true. He didn’t table anything new. The question of the refugees is the Right of Return. The Right of Return was not accepted. We have not pulled back from the Right of Return. The Right of Return is holy to Palestinian refugee and a general right to the Palestinian people. They did not accept this right.”