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While global hopes for Middle East peace are centered on Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, the PA’s official daily newspaper gives a different impression of who is in charge.

Since May 19, the front page of Al Hayat al Jadida has featured 17 photographs of President Yasser Arafat and only six of Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, according to a report by Israel-based Palestinian Media Watch.


Arafat on front page of PA daily, May 26

Backers of the “road map” plan have sidelined Arafat in favor of Abbas, hoping the new prime minister is a legitimate diplomat for peace.

But most of the recent photos of Arafat in the official PA daily are large and appear at the top of the page, while Abbas’ face is small. Arafat’s face often encompasses the entire picture, while Abbas always is shown with other people in meetings. In one photo, Arafat is kissing a little girl.

In today’s edition – one day after Abbas met with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and President George W. Bush at the Red Sea port of Aqaba – a close-up photo of Arafat appears on the top of the page, while Abbas is shown from a distance in a fuzzy image.

An article on the front pages reports Arafat called the Palestinian delegation at Aqaba to give them instructions.


Mahmoud Abbas, center, on front page of PA daily, May 25

A Palestinian official said today on condition of anonymity that Arafat was furious to see Abbas taking his place at center stage at the summit with President Bush and Sharon, according to the Associated Press.

Israel has confined Arafat to the West Bank for more than a year under the threat that if he leaves, he will not be allowed to return.

On one of the few occasions when the newspaper published a photo of Abbas without Arafat, May 21, the front-page headline was “Abu Mazen: Arafat is the legitimate chosen leader.”

That message also appears today in the PA daily Al Ayyam, which said, “Abu Mazen attacks the attempts to distance Arafat, who is the symbol and the chosen president … his relations with Arafat are good and he coordinates his steps with him.”

Mixed message on terror

Palestinian Media Watch also noted the official PA daily sent mixed messages on terrorism.


Photo in PA daily today depicts terrorist burning Star of David

While Al Hayat Al Jadida reported today on Abbas’ peace effort, the paper depicted terrorism heroically by showing a flaming terrorist burning up Israel’s symbol, the Star of David.

The same paper ran a column by PA Deputy Foreign Minister ‘Adli Sadeq, who described President Bush as the “the head of the snake” of oppression against the Palestinians and Arabs, according to a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute.

“The Arab-American summit is convening today with the participation of the head of the snake of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and the head of the snake of the American oppression against both the Palestinians and the Arabs,” Sadeq wrote.

“It could be,” he said, “that the arrival of the head of the snake will become an additional opportunity for the [representatives] of the Arab regimes who are present [at the summit], to realize that appeasing the U.S. and acquiescing to it will not benefit them or their peoples. …”

The PA official said the Palestinians “have no doubt that Bush will use intimidation tactics against the Arab regimes and that he will put his full weight in favor of repressive solutions to every problem.”

“It would have been better and more rational for the Arab representatives in Sharm El-Sheikh to make an effort to convince him that he is the one who should fear, and that they are the ones who should frighten him,” Sadeq wrote. “It is he who should fear the future, because his experience in Iraq is not bright, and America is sinking deeper and deeper in a putrid swamp, and will extricate itself from it only as a defeated, stinking loser. …”

Meanwhile, an estimated 100,000 Israelis demonstrated last night in Jerusalem’s Zion Square against the road map and establishment of a Palestinian state, according to Arutz Sheva, the Israel news service.

Media reported the numbers in the “tens of thousands,” but police sources told the organizers well over 100,000 people were in attendance. The evening began with a minute of silence and a prayer in memory of the victims of terrorism and violence.

“The nation is ready and waiting for political leadership that will not surrender to terrorism!” said Hudi Lieberman, mayor of Karnei Shomron.

Lieberman said the plan is not a map but a program for establishment of a terrorist state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, where Israel lies.

Related stories:

New PM says Arafat still in charge

Arafat seen tightening grip on PA

Arafat’s new PM behind Olympics attack?

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