March 13, 2003
PEACE HOPES RISE AFTER NOMINATION OF 'MODERATE' ABBAS
** Many observers hoped
that the "peace process might move forward once again" following the
appointment of Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) as Palestinian prime minister.
** Others doubt that the
nomination will affect either the "Israeli aggression" or the "unrelenting
** A number concluded that
the "vicious circle" of violence makes it difficult to create a
"climate conducive to resuming the dialogue" between the two sides.
Israel must 'take a step forward' in seeking peace-- Several German and Israeli outlets called on PM
Sharon to make a "serious attempt to set up a cease-fire" so that
Abbas' "rational voice" is not "drowned out in the current wave
of violence." Others agreed that
Abbas is an "accepted leader" who is the "most significant
spokesperson of the moderate and rational voices among the
Palestinians." West Bank papers
notably praised Abbas as one who can "pave the way for the resumption of
diplomatic and political activities" as well as "implement democracy
and dialogue." Egypt's leading Al
Ahram hailed the news as signifying the PA's progress from
"revolutionary legitimacy to constitutional legitimacy."
Arafat's eclipse means 'the fundamentalists have bombed their way
into leadership'-- Other outlets were
pessimistic, believing that "Arafat's end marks a profound change in
Palestinian society" in which "the number of Palestinians supporting
radical organizations has increased" to a majority. Several specifically warned of the growing
strength of the "fanatical Islamic group in the form of Hamas and Islamic
Jihad," with Israel's pluralist Yediot Aharonot refusing to
"fantasize about the sobering up of Palestinian society." A nationalist Israeli dismissed Abbas, saying
that beneath the PA's "temporary conciliatory veneer lurks an eternal
explosive belt." Hungary's
center-left Nepszadabag agreed Abbas may "simply remain what he has
been: Arafat's faithful page."
The 'eye-for-an-eye...cycle of violence' goes on-- Outside the region, some still hoped to
"transform hatred into energy" to rebuild "peaceful
coexistence." But many Arab and
Israeli writers preferred to "blame the other's leader for the
breakdown" in peace talks, even as attacks continued. The West Bank's pro-PA Al-Ayyam
predicted that Abbas' nomination "will not stop Israeli
aggression." Other Arab papers
demanded international intervention to "bring justice to the occupied
territories" in the face of Israel's "persistence in...policies of
repression," with a UAE financial paper assailing the "butcher
Sharon" in calling for the world to "save the Palestinians from daily
government-owned Al Thawra accused Israel of undertaking "bloody
massacres that drowns Gaza in Palestinian blood." The conservative Jerusalem Post,
meanwhile, hoped for the "complete unraveling of the Arafat-led PA;" Yediot
Aharonot dismissed any "illusions of peace."
EDITOR: Ben Goldberg
EDITOR'S NOTE: This survey
is based on 30 reports from 13 countries over 7 - 13 March 2003. Editorial excerpts from each country are
listed from the most recent date.
Minister of What?"
Meron Benvenisti remarked in independent Ha'aretz
(3/13): "After the Israelis have
succeeded in bringing about the disintegration of most of the functions of the
Palestinian Authority and in destroying its infrastructure, undermining the
status of Chairman Yasser Arafat and turning the PA into a 'terrorist
organization' that must be fought to the bitter end--after all this, does
anyone still think that the appointment of Abu Mazen as prime minister is
likely to turn over a new leaf? It's
hard to criticize the Palestinians, whose weakness and despair force them to
grab at any straw; but they have to understand that the discussion, the
appointment and the celebration serve only the Israeli government.... As long as it is possible to wave around the
empty concepts of a 'Palestinian parliament' and a 'prime minister'--and to use
the old formulas of the Oslo Accords, which the Sharon government crushed
beyond recognition--it is possible to maintain the illusion that there is a
chance for a 'diplomatic horizon'....
The welcome with which [Sharon's government] received Abu Mazen is
justified: he serves its purposes, without causing any political problem; and
it will always be possible to say that he didn't manage to wipe out terror, and
therefore must be replaced, and so on.
And perhaps the preoccupation with Abu Mazen stems from other reasons
entirely: the despair is so profound that everyone is clutching at any
"Some Illusions Never Die"
Nationalist columnist Emuna Elon wrote in mass-circulation,
pluralist Yediot Aharonot (3/12):
"For a single, sane moment it seemed that the failure of the Oslo
accords had been understood and that a national consensus had evolved around
the need to stop wasting time and human lives on illusions of 'peace' that only
exacerbate the war.... The important
thing is that new hope has been created here, a flickering light at the end of
the tunnel of despair, and once again we can let ourselves become addicted to
the intoxicating reveries and fantasize about the sobering up of Palestinian
society, about a pragmatic enemy who will agree to make do with the ridiculous
pieces of 'sovereignty' that the Israeli Left is prepared to give him, and
about the disappearance of all the refugees and the terrorists and Arafat
behind a sealed fence, or behind a secular government that is headed by a
'pragmatist,' or behind anything so long as we don’t have to cope with reality
and try to achieve genuine peace. The
illusions of Oslo are not dead. They
have only been replaced."
"Arafat And Abu Mazen On Collision Course"
Haggai Huberman remarked in nationalist Hatzofe
(3/12): "Abu Mazen's appointment as
the first Palestinian prime minister does not mark the end of the disagreements
between him and Arafat, but a new point of departure. It is likely that at least one person in the
Middle East greeted Abu Mazen's appointment with displeasure: Yasser
Arafat. The two have been working
together for 20 years, and they have not stopped sparring for a moment.... [In the middle of 2001] the paranoid
Arafat--though in this case his paranoia might well be justified--began to be
suspicious that Abu Mazen was explicitly talking to the Americans about the
possibility that he would be Arafat's successor. Arafat's vengeance was swift: Abu Mazen was
distanced from the centers of power, and some of the authorities that he had
were taken from him. It was only
European pressure on Arafat that made him change his mind and agree with
gritted teeth to appoint a prime minister, and then, with no less gritting of
teeth, that the prime minister would be Abu Mazen."
"A Balancing Element"
Hemmi Shalev declared in popular, pluralist Maariv
(3/11): "Even when [Israeli] public
opinion enthusiastically supported the Oslo accords--a fact that many prefer to
forget nowadays--it continued to dislike Arafat the individual and preferred to
see another Palestinian leader succeed him.
Pushing Arafat to the sidelines and replacing him with an accepted
leader such as Abu Mazen could produce far-reaching changes in Israeli public
opinion, even before violence subsides.
If the Palestinian Authority under his leadership changes its ways and,
at the very least, makes an effort to rein in the terror organizations, that
change is likely to lead, in the post-Iraq era, to unbearably heavy pressure
from both within and without on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his
government. Today Sharon can still
afford to welcome the appointment but, considering [Sharon's] tough political
positions and the hawkish composition of his coalition, Abu Mazen could very
well turn into a major problem for him, in the positive sense of the
"The Second-Most Important Palestinian"
Former Justice Minister Yossi Beilin wrote in mass-circulation,
pluralist Yediot Aharonot (3/11):
"Dr. Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) is not an 'Isrophile' Palestinian
leader who has followed with admiration the struggle of the Jewish national
movement and the return of the Jews to their land after thousands of years of
persecution in the Diaspora. Not at
all.... [But] he has neither hate nor
admiration for Israel. He pragmatically
recognizes it as a fact, as something with which an arrangement must be
reached--for want of a better alternative....
His willingness to accept the post of a prime minister who is directly
subordinate to Arafat is rather surprising in light of his immense efforts to
ensure his independence. But be as they
may his reasons to accept that post and its formal powers, he now will become
the principal Palestinian address for the world. His appointment creates an opportunity,
perhaps the last one, to reach an historic agreement with the secular and
nationalist group in the Palestinian leadership. Missing that opportunity by means of the
arguments that excused the failure to return to the negotiating table ever
since Sharon rose to power, will place Israel face to face with the fanatical
Islamic group in the form of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, under more difficult
demographic conditions for Israel....
Abbas has opened the door to a return to sanity and pragmatism. Responsibility for shutting it could prove to
be very heavy."
"Not New, Not Leadership"
Conservative Jerusalem Post said (3/11): "As it turned out, there is even less
than meets the eye to the appointment of Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) as prime
minister of the Palestinian Authority.
The whole American-European-Israeli idea was to transform Yasser Arafat
into a figurehead and transfer power to a more palatable replacement. That, so far, is clearly not what is
happening.... The U.S., Europe, and even
Israel seem to be seeking a 'moderate' they can anoint, rather than demanding
true Palestinian democratization. This
model, it should be recalled, is what led to the reliance on Arafat in the
first place.... The significance of
Abbas' appointment is not that he represents the 'new leadership' that U.S.
President George W. Bush called for in June as the basis of a democratic
Palestinian state capable of making peace with Israel. The appointment matters only if it is a
stepping stone to the complete unraveling of the Arafat-led Palestinian Authority
and its replacement through real democratic processes."
"The Abu Mazen Delusion"
Nationalist Hagai Segal opined in popular, pluralist Maariv
(3/11): "The difference between Abu
Mazen and Arafat is mainly cosmetic....
Before we enthuse over the possibility of their exchanging positions, we
should ask ourselves if the United States would be so joyful if Tariq Aziz were
to replace Saddam Hussein.... Those who
wax enthusiastic over Abu Mazen's moderate affectations and his heart-to-heart
talks with Sharon at his Sycamore Farm have missed the point of all that has
happened here since the summer of 2000.
They have finally come to the conclusion that Arafat is an evil man, but
they still do not understand that the problem is not Arafat, but the unremitting
Palestinian hostility against Israel.
The long-range goals of the group in Arafat's Ramallah headquarters will
never co-exist with Israel's own existential needs. The bitter end of the Oslo process has proved
that beneath the Palestinian leadership's temporary conciliatory veneer lurks an
eternal explosive belt."
"A Chance For Abu Mazen"
Independent Ha'aretz editorialized (3/9): "Abu Mazen's
appointment was forced on Arafat; he succumbed to external pressures from the
international community and internal pressures from the Fatah, which is the
Palestinian ruling party. The
appointment is a clear sign regarding the identity of Arafat's successor, and
it is also hoped that this is an attempt to begin moving along a new path. Abu Mazen is clearly the most significant
spokesman of the moderate and rational voices among the Palestinians. His contribution to the Oslo Accords is well
known. Even now he has not ceased openly
voicing his opposition to the Palestinian use of military means--in other
words, against terrorism. The
Palestinian intifada, according to Abu Mazen, should proceed by using only
non-violent means. In view of this
development, Israel must encourage the process.
Abu Mazen's appointment and his policies are backed by many individuals
and groups in the West Bank and Gaza, and they need Israel to undertake steps
that prove that the state of Israel is making a genuine effort to break out of
the cycle of violence."
WEST BANK: “New Palestinian
Prime Minister Is Honest And Peaceful But Has Teeth Too”
Faisal Abu Khadra commented in independent Al-Quds
(3/12): “A few people know that Mahmoud
Abbas may be the only Palestinian who can say ‘no’ to Arafat. Also, Mahmoud
Abbas might be the only Palestinian whom Arafat listens to and can actually be
convinced by. There is no doubt that Mahmoud Abbas will implement democracy and
dialogue and make public interests a priority in managing the new Palestinian
government. In addition to being honest, trustworthy and knowledgeable, Abbas
has good relations with Washington, Europe, Moscow and all the Arab countries.
He believes that peace can replace war.”
“The Legislative Council And The Prime Minister’s Powers”
Hani Al-Masri opined in independent, pro-Palestinian Authority Al-Ayyam
(3/11): “It is wrong to assume that
appointing a prime minister is a sign of Palestinian submission or an
indication of Palestinian readiness to accept Israeli conditions and
dictations. What belies this opinion is
that Israel, in refusing to recognize the current Palestinian leadership,
especially President Arafat, as a partner and insisting on not resuming talks
before an end to the resistance and the implementation of major administrative,
financial, security and political reforms, was betting on the inability of the
Palestinians in their current situation to implement any changes. When the Palestinian leadership started the
reforms and approved the ‘Road Map’, appointed Abu Mazen and conducted the
Cairo dialogue, it gave the lie to all Israeli claims. Nevertheless, this will not stop the Israeli
aggression. It [Israel] will bluntly
continue and escalate its aggressions, which might result in regaining
international support for the Palestinian cause.”
“Prime Minister: Challenges and Complicated
Ashraf Al-Ajrami stated in independent,
pro-Palestinian Authority Al-Ayyam (3/10): “The appointment of a Palestinian prime
minister came in response to international and regional conditions within what
is known as the Palestinian reform process.
The reforms are considered a basic condition for the resumption of the
political process based on President Bush’s two-state vision. Meanwhile, appointing a prime minister may be
in the interest of the Palestinian internal situation if it is accompanied by
serious reforms in response to facts on the ground and in support of continuing
the struggle to achieve the national goals and build a democratic and civilized
“The Prime Minister Position And The Future
Samieh Shubieb opined in independent,
pro-Palestinian Authority Al-Ayyam (3/7): “After President [Arafat] approved the
creation of the prime minister position, things started moving seriously
towards reforming the basic system [of the Palestinian Authority] in response
to the call of the ‘Quartet’. These reforms are intended to prepare for...the
new developments on the ground, which the ‘Quartet’ presented in order to pave
the way for the resumption of diplomatic and political activities. These
activities aim at reactivating the ‘Road Map’ and resuming political talks
between Palestinians and Israelis.”
Leading pro-government Al Ahram editor-in-chief Ibrahim
Nafie remarked (3/11): “Palestinians
succeeded where Israel failed. While the
Palestinian authority has transferred from revolutionary legitimacy to
constitutional legitimacy in preparation for an independent state, Israel is
launching an organized war to kill Palestinian resistance leaders...thinking
that the current international circumstances are prepared to destroy what
remains of the Palestinian Authority....
As we said repeatedly, it is an illusion to think that Palestinians will
migrate out from their land under terror, and those illusioned parties haven't
taken on board international and regional changes. That is why the ball is now in the court of
the international community after the Palestinian Authority has started
“Repression Will Not End The Cycle Of Violence”
Leading pro-government Al Ahram wondered (3/10): “With its assassination of a leader of Hamas,
Israel reveals its persistence in continuing policies of repression and
arm-twisting of Palestinians. Israeli
leaders, led by Sharon, believe this escalation will eliminate Palestinian fedaie
(commando) operations.... But they are
mistaken.... It is no coincidence that
the greatest number of Israelis were killed during this period of escalation
under Sharon. International powers
should intervene to bring justice to the occupied territories...and the U.S. in
particular bears the greatest responsibility.
Will it shoulder it?”
War Against Sharon"
Amina Talhimet commented in pro-government French-language Liberation
(3/10): "Since the passage of U.N. resolution 1441, many Palestinians, aged
7 - 77, have been killed and the Palestinian Authority continues to be shut up
in Ramallah with more than 3 million Palestinians still under siege.... And for three months, the U.S. Administration
continues to do its best to convince the international community to attack
Iraq.... American soldiers are sent to
free Iraqi people and yet nobody has asked them to do so, while a whole Israeli
army is deployed in international illegitimacy, and occupies Palestinian
territories. It is hard not to see that
the Iraqi issue was only created by the U.S. government in light of what is
taking place on this small land where injustice and hatred of human dignity
"Spiral Of Violence Continues In Palestine"
Mohamed Aouzal observed in
semi-official, French-language Le Matin (3/7): "In retaliation, the Israeli army led
yesterday a hit-and-run attack in Gaza....
Spiral of violence has resumed with a more powerful intensity and proves
that comprehensive security, on which Sharon bets, has only worsened the
situation and made it more explosive."
Preparedness And Israeli War"
Ali Qasem noted in government-owned Al-Thawra (3/8): "Even before the UNSC debate on Iraq has
been settled, and before the U.S. has announced its war against Iraq, Israel
commenced its war by bloody massacres that drowns Gaza in Palestinian blood,
giving the world a taste of the catastrophes awaiting the region. As Israel commences this war, it is paving
the way for war throughout the region including detailed scenarios of the
coming war.... There is no difference
between what Washington is contemplating in Iraq and what Israel is doing in
Abu Dhabi-based pan-Arab Akhbar Al Arab editorialized
(3/8): "The U.S. silence towards
the crimes committed by the butcher Sharon and the gang of killers around him
must be considered collusion. In fact,
closing the eye from the bloodshed taking place in Palestine represents an
actual participation in the continuous crime against our brothers in occupied
Pan-Arab, influential Al Khaleej opined (3/7): "The heroic operation in Haifa proved
with no doubt that all Israeli gambles are always doomed to failure and that no
colonialist will be safe or secure as long as the occupation and attacks are
still going on."
Government-owned financial-oriented Al Bayan declared
(3/7): "It won't be a surprise if
we are told that the butcher Sharon has ordered more massacres and more
Palestinian transfers and banishments.
Arabs' preoccupation with the Iraqi crisis should not make them
inadvertent of the Israeli crimes. An
unified Arab move to protect and save the Palestinians from daily annihilation
GERMANY: “Hope And Despair”
Center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine noted (3/10): “The latest events in the Middle East
conflict point in opposite directions.
The creation of the post of prime minister and the nomination of
moderate politician Mahmud Abbas indicate that the obstacles created by Arafat
might be overcome and that...the peace process might move forward once
again. The liquidation of a high-ranking
Hamas official by the Israeli military, however, points toward
escalation.... Even if it came to
renewed negotiations between the Palestinian government and Israel, it is very
likely that such talks would come too late.
Since Sharon’s provocative visit to the Temple Mound the number of
Palestinians supporting radical organizations has increased; they are probably
a majority by now, and they are not interested in talking to Israel.”
“Arafat, A Failure”
Peter Muench judged in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of
Munich (3/10): “It appears as if Sharon
has finally beaten his eternal opponent Arafat.
But at what cost? He now faces a
much more dangerous and unpredictable enemy.
Arafat’s end marks a profound change in Palestinian society: The fundamentalists, Hamas and Jihad in particular,
have bombed their way to leadership.
They cannot be reached with diplomacy, and they cannot be defeated
militarily. Even the killing of their
leaders...cannot weaken them in the long run, because they focus on their enemy
instead of internal hierarchies. Every
suicide bomber knows how to target Israeli society.... Defeating Arafat will not strengthen Israel
just as defeating Saddam will not bring democracy to the region, as claimed by
the U.S. administration. On the
“The PLO’s Peaceful Voice”
Left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau stated (3/10): “Right now, there is only one man who can
credibly stand for a change in Palestinian policy: Mahmud Abbas. He has never courted Arafat’s approval.... He does not want to be an honorary prime
minister but demands the authority to conduct political business. For now, Arafat needs Abbas to survive
politically.... If Abbas’ rational voice
is not to be drowned out in the current wave of violence, Israel, too, will
have to take a step forward. Now is the
time for a serious attempt to set up a cease-fire agreement.”
RUSSIA: "An Unenviable
Reformist Vremya Novostey carried a piece by Aleksandr
Samokhotkin and Yelena Suponina stating (3/11):
"Abu Mazen has the reputation of an indefatigable fighter for an
independent Palestine. He is also a
sober-minded politician.... Whoever
becomes the PA's first Prime Minister is going to be in an unenviable position. The situation in the Middle East is extremely
complicated, and the concessions the Israelis are expecting from Palestinian
leaders may cost them their lives."
"All Over Again"
Grigoriy Asmolov noted in reformist business-oriented Kommersant
(3/7): "Now that it has resumed
talks with the Palestinians, Ariel Sharon must find it increasingly hard to
decide how to react to terrorist acts.
On the one hand, roughing it seems to conflict with his new policy, what
with the United States calling for quiet in the region pending a war in Iraq. On the other hand, the Prime Minister cannot
help retaliating against the terrorists.
An eye-for-an-eye brings the Israelis back to the vicious circle, the
cycle of violence taking them farther away from normalization."
HUNGARY: “A New Palestinian
Endre Aczel observed in top-circulation center-left Nepszabadsag
(3/11): “They are right who say that the
newly elected Palestinian leader, Abu Mazen lacks any charisma. But, in this case, the truth can’t be spoken
in one single sentence. Under Yasser
Arafat’s rule, over the past three decades, it was rather difficult for anybody
to emerge as a charismatic politician in Palestine. And Arafat made sure that nobody else could
become a charismatic figure in Palestinian politics. Now the new man, with a new political tag, is
on the Palestinian agenda. But my advice
is to wait and see. Only time can tell
whether Abu is going to become a ‘real’ prime minister or simply remain what he
has been: Arafat’s faithful page. It is
equally exciting to see the PLO (which can even be called pro-West) delivering
the message of Palestinian power change to the world right at a moment when the
U.S. is about to launch a war against Saddam Hussein (who was supported by
almost only Yasser Arafat alone some ten years ago). .Isn’t it interesting? Or I go further to ask: isn’t it a bit
CHINA: “The First Prime
Minister Of The Palestinians Assumes Office”
Huang Peizhao declared in the official People’s Daily (Renmin
Ribao) (3/13): "Analysts think
that if Bush succeeds in ousting Saddam, he will probably take advantage of the
favorable situation to overthrow Arafat.
Bush may be attempting to make the development of Israel-Palestinian
situation be in keeping with the U.S. strategic interest in the Middle East
through rehabilitating the Palestinian internal situation and pushing the two
sides to cease violence and resume talks.”
INDONESIA: “Regeneration Of
Palestinian Leadership Likely Smooth”
Leading independent Kompas commented
(3/13): "Most likely Mahmoud
Abbas...will assume the position of the Prime Minister of the Palestinian
Autonomy Authority. Mazen, President Arafat’s closest aide and confidant, has
been long called the future leader of the Palestinian people.... In his position as the Prime Minister, a
moderate Mazen is expected to revive the peace process with Israel. Mazen is
believed to be able to build a dialog with Israel.... The pressing challenge for Mazan is how to
stop waves of violence against Israel, as well as to expedite the process of
the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. At the same time, Mazen
should prepare to take over leadership command from the aging and ailing
Escalation In The Middle East"
An editorial in leading Clarin read (3/13): "How long will new retaliation appear
after the most recent criminal assaults in the Middle East?.... It not only comes down to the major risk
posed by war with missile weapons. There is also the likelihood that a
situation like that of the autonomous Palestinian territories occupied by
Israel multiply in other sites of the region, like neighbor Jordan, where two
million Palestinians and over 300 thousand Iraqi refugees live. As pointed out by
former Labor minister Shlomo Ben Ami, one should not postpone the Arab-Israeli
peace until victory is declared, because no victory is likely to happen. The
moment will come in which finally political leaders will have to be able to
transform hatred into energy to impose disarmament and rebuild a peaceful
coexistence between Israel and the Palestinian territory."
Liberal Folha de S. Paulo commented (3/7): "Despite the fact that both Israelis and
Palestinians give the opposite impression, a military solution to the Middle
East conflict is unrealistic. The Israelis will not eliminate the Palestinians,
and the Palestinians will not push the Israelis into the sea. The two peoples
will go on living side by side, in war as today, or in peace as most of the two
populations want.... In order to change
this situation and reestablish peace, the leaders of the two parties must truly
be willing to negotiate. Unfortunately, this is not the case today. Each side
blames the other's leader for the breakdown of talks and does not make efforts
to create a climate conducive to resuming the dialogue.... As long as Sharon and Arafat--or others who
may replace them--do not have the greatness to redeem the past and take a seat
at the negotiating table, the Middle East will not have peace."