International Information Programs
Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

December 5, 2003

December 5, 2003





**  Most observers see the Geneva Accord as proof that "peace is possible."


**  Others caution that peace "could still be a long way off."


**  Israeli opinion split between calling the pact a "political charade" and an "admirable" effort.


**  The U.S. must "get tough" to enforce either the Geneva Accord or a similar plan.  




Geneva could be a 'catalyst' to pave 'the way for direct political interactions'--  Most global dailies took a positive view, saying the Accord shows that "dialogue" between "both peoples is possible" and proves "there are Israelis and Palestinians willing to talk and compromise," as Italy's center-left Il Messaggero stated.  Other writers described the pact's contents as "a detailed framework of a potential permanent solution."  France's left-of-center Le Monde predicted any final deal likely "will be concluded on terms stipulated in this peace plan." 


The Accord 'does not stand a chance of being enforced'--  Leftist Euro along with Latin dailies were pessimistic about the pact's impact.  Brazil's financial Valor Economico termed it "unlikely...that the current situation of despair...will be changed in the short run" by the plan; Russia's reformist Vremya Novostey decried it as a "camouflaged act of Israel's unconditional capitulation."  Hardline Muslim writers also criticized the Accord as merely confirming "protection of Israeli interests."  The West Bank's independent Al-Ayyam said it "cannot provide...a political solution" because it "ignores a just settlement of the refugees." 


Israeli commentary on the Geneva initiative was divided--  Leftist writers termed the plan "an admirable intellectual and political effort," while conservative observers dismissed it as a "bloody delusion" that "has no future."  Left-leaning Ha'aretz hailed the "vigorous and determined action to restart the dialogue," adding that it proves "there is someone to talk to on the other side."  But rightist papers blasted as "anti-democratic" the actions of "a group of Israelis who were...rejected by the voters."  The "lies of Geneva," according to nationalist Hatzofe, are just a "political charade."    


The Accord can come true only if 'Bush decides to endorse it'--  Euro writers urged the U.S. to "seize the opportunity" to grant "full support" to the Accord.  Spain's centrist La Vanguardia declared that "U.S. official support would mean a huge boost" to the initiative.  Arab dailies agreed peace depends "on how Washington will perceive" the Accord, but doubted the U.S. would back a plan that proves "other mediators can succeed in what Washington has failed."  Unless the U.S. can "turn to Sharon and make him understand" what is necessary, held Jordan's semi-official Al-Rai, the pact will be "mere jumps in the air."


EDITOR:  Ben Goldberg


EDITOR'S NOTE:  This analysis is based on 72 reports from 30 countries over 30 November - 5 December 2003.  Editorial excerpts from each country are listed from the most recent date.




BRITAIN: "Israel: A Moment To Be Seized"


An editorial in the left-of-center Guardian noted (12/2):  "It is evident that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will not be resolved until current rather than former leaders in both governments can bring themselves to agree....  But if the outside world is to have a positive, practical influence on events, it will require more in the way of concerted, focused efforts by present-day leaderships, principally in the United States but also in the EU and Arab league.  The Geneva accord's most important use could be as a catalyst, as a tool for changing perceptions....  The possible connection between this hopeful upsurge in peacekeeping efforts and the relative lull in violence is also worth careful consideration....  It is just possible that mindsets are changing.  This is a moment to be seized, not squandered."


FRANCE:  “Pro-Peace”


Bernard Guetta held in right-of-center weekly L’Express (12/4):  “The world should promote the Geneva initiative, it should push for it to become a real treaty....  This way the clash of civilizations will be defused instead of being prophesied....  We are waiting to see how the Israelis and the Palestinians will react. It is important that Europe praises this initiative and the U.S. encourages it....  This conflict is too dangerous to continue, fifty years of war is enough.”


“Helping Geneva”


Jean Daniel stated in left-of-center weekly Le Nouvel Observateur (12/4-10):  “Today there are two Israeli-Palestinian fronts. One that is turned toward the future and one that is chained to the past....  Everything hinges on the Middle East....  The U.S. is obsessed by terrorism but in the fight on terrorism only the spirit of the Geneva Accord will ensure success.”


“Sharon Angry At The Geneva Accord”


Pierre Prier wrote in right-of-center Le Figaro (12/3):  “Ariel Sharon is furious. He can barely hide his unhappiness about a projected meeting between Secretary Powell and the initiators of the Geneva Accord, which could take place on Friday. Sharon’s deputy Prime Minister has gone so far as to admonish Secretary Powell using a tone which is generally reserved for anti-European invectives. By targeting Secretary Powell, the Israeli government is trying to emphasize that the Secretary of State’s support is more of an individual initiative. But the fact remains that Abed Rabbo and Yossi Beilin may also be meeting with some of the Bush administration’s ‘hawks.’ They are said to have already a confirmed meeting with Paul Wolfowitz....  But these meetings do not prove that President Bush will be endorsing the accord any time soon....  The U.S. is still very much attached to the ‘roadmap.’ And even if President Bush is himself quite unhappy with Ariel Sharon....  The strategic alliance between the U.S. and Israel remains strong....  Because he is campaigning, President Bush needs Sharon as much as Sharon needs President Bush.”


"The Most Difficult Is Still to Come"


Patrick Sabatier observed in left-of-center Liberation (12/2):  “The importance and the success of the Geneva initiative can be measure by the resistance of extremists from both sides to the peace plan.… One can be sure that the opponents to peace will revert to their traditional stand, out of ideology, hate or fear.… This is why the most difficult is still to come.  The hope that this plan has elicited will not erase in a day the bloodshed spilled during fifty years.… The members of the Quartet must seize the opportunity and bring their full support to the Geneva initiative and show as much determination as the signatories of the plan in reviving the roadmap.… It is a moral and strategic imperative.”


"Fear Of Peace"


Left-of-center Le Monde stressed in its editorial (12/2):  “The Geneva peace plan is the fruit of a private initiative… But if peace is to be one day, it will be concluded on terms stipulated in this peace plan. Secretary Powell has understood this perfectly and this is why he publicly gave his support to Rabbo and Beilin whom he is expected to receive.… Geneva has already produced results. It has nudged the Bush administration out of its Middle Eastern wait-and-see attitude.”


"Geneva: A Step Towards Peace"


Bruno Frappat noted in Catholic La Croix (12/2):  “The official governments who are supposed to oversee the implementation of the roadmap have refrained from making any official comment on the Geneva peace initiative.… But the fact that the plan exists is in itself a sign that persistence goes hand in hand with hope… The obstacle that needs to be overcome is mistrust.”


"Peace From The Bottom Up"


Pierre Rousselin wrote in right-of-center Le Figaro (12/1):  “The strength of this initiative lies in its inherent weakness:  it has no official government support....  After having tried to impose peace from the top down, it was time for the reverse to happen....  The process will take time, but if we want to be optimistic, we can already say that certain signs indicate a new dynamic is on the move....  But this hope will become reality only if the goodwill men in Israel and Palestine feel they have support from outside....  In this regard, the U.S. remains master of the game.  The initiative being presented in Geneva today can easily become part of the ‘roadmap’ which has been internationally adopted but remains on a shelf.  It will become a true peace plan the day George Bush decides to endorse it.”


"An Exceptional Political Tool"


Jean-Michel Helvig contended in left-of-center Liberation (12/1):  “The Geneva peace initiative has already become a text of reference.  It signals hope and can serve as an exceptional political tool....  This pact proves that peace is possible....  The wind of anti-Semitism felt In closely related to the outrageous policy implemented by Sharon.  Islamic terrorism with al-Qaida’s signature is not the result of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but it feeds on it and uses it as a pretext in the Islamic-Arab world....  The Geneva peace initiative is not only a chance for peace, it is also a warning for those who use the Middle East conflict to serve their own purposes.”


GERMANY:  "Shadow Play"


Wolfgang Guenter Lerch concluded in an editorial in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (12/2):  "The situation in the Middle East is so confusing that one is even willing to consider the thinnest straw to be a big board.  This is the case with the 'Geneva Agreement.'   Peace-willing Israelis and Palestinians...obviously articulate the wish and will of the majority of their compatriots.  But this is the only ray of hope emanating from this paper, since it is very difficult to compare it with the Oslo process.  At that time, the negotiations took place under the sponsorship of the powers-that-be...while the 'Geneva process' is more or less a private affair, a kind of shadow play that is being performed in parallel to the official government policy.  However, it is positive that there are still people beyond the official policy who follow the voice of reason, not terrorism and military retaliation.  This is at least more than nothing."




Dietrich Alexander editorialized in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (12/2): "The excited reactions show that the so-called 'Geneva Initiative' is not a feverish mirage of a few left-wing sleepwalkers....  To put it briefly, the paper impresses.  Where the much lauded but not very successful roadmap remains nebulous, 'Geneva' becomes concrete.  It is clear that the new proposals will break taboos, cross borders, and violate feelings in order to sketch a sustainable compromise.  Basically, all the things that are laid down in 'Geneva' were thought before.  But thus far politicians on both sides did not have the courage and the vision to conclude the 'peace of the brave,' as Rabin said....  The Geneva document is a draft that has not been presented before in this complexity.  The politicians responsible should at least examine the plan.  Even if they continue to reject it, this initiative proved one thing:  there are partners on the other side."


"Back To Politics"


Clemens Wergin penned the following editorial in centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (12/1):  "An agreement that has drawn so much protests cannot be bad, for without the painful farewell to illusions on both sides in the Middle East conflict, there can never be peace.  Seen from this angle, resistance to the agreement that will be signed in Geneva today is an almost positive sign....  But the Geneva agreement contains only things that every one knows of....  But more important than the symbolically important changes is that something is also changing in realpolitik....  Without much ado, there is a rapprochement between both sides.  The reason is that the two opponents have exhausted their previous options....  It is still not clear whether only tactical considerations follow new sobriety.  Obviously, Arafat wanted to score international points when he instructed a close aide to conduct the Geneva negotiations, which he now refuses to accept.  And Sharon's considerations to remove settlements in the Gaza Strip were based on the need not to be presented as a refusnik, rather that having developed a real plan for peace.  But the situation is better than in worst times when both sides exhausted themselves with terror and military counter strikes.  Politics means to have options.  The Geneva agreement is one of several others.  This is the good news."


ITALY:  "Israel Attacks The U.S. On The Geneva Agreement"


Gian Micalessin commented in pro-government, leading center-right Il Giornale (12/3):  "This time it's not only disappointment....  This time it's real anger, anger that can be read in between the lines of a diplomatic parlance. 'Colin Powell is making a mistake....  The rift between Jerusalem and Washington...came only a few hours after the signing of the non-official peace proposal in Geneva drawn up by former Israeli Justice Minister Yossi Beilin and former Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo. After the ceremony, State Department sources began to report Powell's interest in the proposal. Later, rumors had it that Powell was to invite the two ministers to Washington as early as next Friday. Certainly, Powell's invitation, which was confirmed by State Department sources, came as a surprise to Sharon's government. Until Monday, the White House's position was tied to the 'road map' and did not anticipate alternative routes."


"Peace, But It's Only Virtual"


Ugo Tramballi opined in leading business-oriented Il Sole-24 Ore (12/2): "After a century of conflicts and innumerable victims, yesterday, in a moving ceremony on neutral territory, Israelis and Palestinians made peace. Unfortunately, those who made the peace don't count much.... The main actors of this agreement are only former ministers and little more than regular private citizens. But no one can ignore the stirring effect of this virtual peace. Ariel Sharon [didn't ignore it] since he attacked it as if it were a violation of his nationalism and neither did Yasser Arafat who at first prohibited his people from participating, later sent a message of adherence and in the end had other members [of his government] say that Fatah did not accept this peace: as long as he lives, he will try to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds."


"Geneva, It's Time For A Possible Peace"


Alessandra Coppola noted in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (12/2): "The 'Geneva Initiative' which stems from the real desire for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, is now beginning to gather consensus among government leaders as well. British PM Tony Blair expressed his support in a message, as did French President Jacques Chirac, Egyptian Hosni Mubarak and King of Morocco Mohammed VI.... The Israelis and Palestinians of Geneva will now have to check their schedules, because they may be making another trip this month--a trip to Washington, at U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's invitation."


"Middle East -- The Pact For Peace"


Bernardo Valli reported in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (12/1):  "The 'Geneva Pact' is a light in the dark and bloody dispute between Israelis and Palestinians.  It's a ray of light that illuminates the road on which an agreement could be reached, meaning peace.  We know it may only be a mirage, destined to fade away.  Let's not delude ourselves.  But this is not the futile exercise of a powerless and illegitimate group.  It's not a private matter.  The symbolic value is strong....  The interest that the 'Geneva Pact' has produced, the political debate that emerged, the hopes rekindled on both sides are significant enough....  The agreement that will be presented to the world today is the result of two years' work by patient and courageous men of good will:  ministers, parliamentarians, military that were brought together and headed by the Israeli Yossi Beilin, former Justice Minister and the Palestinian Abed Rabbo, former information minister.  It's the work of patriots that did not give in to the idea of seeing their peoples imprisoned by a relentless cycle of violence."


"Middle East, A Pact For Peace"


Eric Salerno commented in Rome's center-left Il Messaggero (12/1):  "Sharon, along with his government and the supporters of the Israeli right-wing in the United States protest.  Yasser Arafat is cautious, ambiguous as always....  What are the chances for the success of this initiative?  It's obvious to everyone that only two governments can negotiate and sign a peace treaty, but the Geneva initiative shows that there are Israelis and Palestinians willing to talk and to compromise.  It will not be easy to move it forward, given the rupture between the two sides and the frantic attempts to discredit and physically threaten the authors and the supporters of the document, going as far as accusing them of betrayal."


RUSSIA: "A Trap For Sharon"


Mikhail Bolotovskiy filed for reformist Vremya Novostey (12/5):  "The official Israeli reaction to the Geneva accords and meetings in Washington is negative.  It might even have been worse but for Prime Minister Sharon's fear to mar relations with the United States....  The Israeli government did not participate in drafting the Plan and, in fact, resented the effort.   It is not that the people behind the idea are from the opposition leftist parties.   It is that the document sets a dubious precedent.  Drafted by private persons, it may acquire international legitimacy against the government's will.   The Geneva Accord is not so much a plan for a peaceful settlement, as a camouflaged act of Israel's unconditional capitulation to the Arab world and its allies in the United States and Europe."


"Attempting An Alternative Peace Treaty"


Grigoriy Asmolov wrote in business-oriented Kommersant (12/2): "The new peace agreement might have put an end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict if it had been signed by official representatives of the Israeli and Palestinian leadership.  As it is, its signatories were not authorized to put their John Hancocks on it."


BELGIUM:  "The Plan Of Hope"


Foreign editor Frank Schloemer commented in independent De Morgen (12/2):  "The Geneva accord is an accord of hope.  There is hope that the peace settlement will end the bloody confrontations. It is a sign that a dialogue between segments of both peoples is possible, even though the respective governments are ruling that out....  The main opponents on the Israeli side are members of the government or live in Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian territories.  Ariel Sharon has already rejected the Geneva accord--before it was even signed--and termed it ‘dangerous’ and ‘high treason’ for Israel....  On the Palestinian side, the main opponents can be found inside the radical movements that are trying to continue their violent struggle and also among government people and politicians who do not believe in the significance of the Geneva plan.  It is a compromise, but that is the only way a solution can be found.  It is an attempt to breathe new life into the peace plan--but that is something Sharon clearly does not want to hear about.”


"Without Illusions, Although It Is An Historical Document"


Baudouin Looswrote in left-of-center Le Soir (12/1):  “The Geneva Accord does not stand a chance of being enforced...and this not only because Ariel Sharon has rejected it nor because Israeli public opinion has lost confidence in Palestinian leaders, especially Yasser Arafat....  First, how will the Palestinians consider this accord?  Are they going to accept to sacrifice the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their land of origin in Israel?....  There are also elements in the Geneva Accord that will be hard to swallow on the Israeli side, like sharing Jerusalem and giving the Palestinians sovereignty on the Temple Mount--not to mention the departure of at least 100,000 settlers.  But two things are important.  First, the Geneva initiative shows that a serious negotiation between the two parties remains possible and that there are still interlocutors who prefer peace to hatred.  Secondly, most observers admit that, if an agreement is ever concluded between Israelis and Palestinians, it will be very similar to the Geneva Accord.  These two elements should not be overlooked--they are even essential.”


HUNGARY:  “Not A Joke”


Endre Aczel established in leading Hungarian-language Nepszabadsag (12/3):  “The signatures, which look nice on the document, are worth practically nothing from the point of view of politics.  But the ‘agreement’, which is called ‘the initiative’, at the first quick glance at least, does mention the sensitive issues, the hot questions.  The Geneva agreement will ultimately be the basic document, a reference point in the future.  Its mere existence will require that the governments and the authorities (that either are or will be involved in the peace process) give their own stance about the recommendations of the Geneva document.  And exactly this kind of motivation has been missing until now.  The world has realized the importance of the words already that  ‘there are’ Israelis and ‘there are’ Palestinians who can talk with each other.  And the rumor is that  U.S. Secretary Powell is going to meet Jossi Beilin [Justice Minister of the Israeli left wing government] and Yassir Abed Rabbo [Arafat’s Information Minister] after tomorrow.  It is not a joke, kid. “


IRELAND: "Latest Plan A Peace Treaty Or Suicide Note?"


Lara Marlowe judged in the center-left Irish Times judged (12/1):  "Real peace could still be a long way off. The 50-page Geneva Accord has been denounced by the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, as a 'plot' that is 'more dangerous' than the 1993 Oslo agreement which his government scuttled.  Pro-Israeli newspaper editorialists have been even more scathing....  Extremist Palestinian groups reject the Geneva Accord as an act of 'collaboration' and 'betrayal' because it all but abandons the Palestinians' 'right of return' to what is now Israel, recognized by UN General Assembly resolution 194.  It is virtually impossible that the Sharon government will ever accept the terms of the accord, but its instigators want to increase pressure on Mr Sharon and energise the opposition Labor Party....  Opinion polls show that 53 per cent of Israelis--and a higher percentage of Palestinians--support the Geneva Accord.  Although Yasser Arafat has some reservations, he agrees with the basic outline....  The Geneva Accord would create a follow-up group composed of the 'Quartet' (U.S., EU, Russia and UN) who drew up the dormant and considerably less ambitious Road Map. The absence of such guarantors helped to doom Oslo. The accord also foresees a multinational force--something always rejected by Israel--keeping peace in a demilitarized Palestine."


KOSOVO:  “Tulkarm: A New Wall In The World”


Veton Surroi maintained in leading independent, mass-circulation Koha Ditore (12/4):  “The wall separates two realities. One, the reality of the Israeli highway that, despite all permanent wars, has managed to turn the country into a regional economic power comparable to any country that is entering the EU today. The other one, the reality of the muddy roads that is still being kept alive through the dilemma created in 1948, when Arabs denied to Israelis the right for a country, lost the war and managed to turn themselves refugees in their own land....  For the Israeli psyche, security is an obsession.  After the Second World War genocide, where6 million Jews were killed, in the psychology of a modern Hebrew there dare not come another historic moment for a Hebrew to be unable to defend oneself.  In 1948, only three years after the genocide, and 2000 years after their stateless wandering, Israelis have shown that security is their collective focus.  They have been fighting for 55 years now, without compromise, for something they think should be the state of Israel.”  


POLAND: "Promising The Moon?"


Dawid Warszawski wrote in liberal Gazeta Wyborcza (12/2): “[Accords such as those in] Geneva, Taba, Camp David and Oslo show to the Israelis that there are partners to talk with. To the Palestinian terrorists, however, negotiators are traitors. On the Israeli side, for years there has been support of a peace understanding similar to the Geneva Accords, provided that the Palestinians would give up terror first. The responsibility to prove this condition is met rests on the Palestinian signatories to the agreement--but they have no authority, and minimal support [from Arafat]. The Israeli negotiators in Geneva have no powers either, while Sharon reminds us that he is the one to negotiate with. Thus each of the parties promised the other the Moon. In some situations, though, realism is about striving for the unattainable.”


SPAIN:  "Realism And Peace"


Centrist La Vanguardia commented (12/2):  "Although what was agreed in Geneva...does not have the status of an official document, the Secretary of State Colin Powell has declared his intention to receive in Washington both promoters of this project, the Israeli ex-minister of Justice, Yosi Beilin, and the Palestinian ex-minister of Information and Culture, Yasser Abed Rabbo.  It's obvious that U.S. official support would mean a huge boost to an initiative that, above all, aims to prove that the conflict is not unsolvable.  On the contrary, the acceptance of sacrifices by both sides, has the potential to open  the real possibility of peace and stability.  The agreements of Geneva deserve, for its realism and desire for peace, the support of the international community."




ISRAEL:  "The Dangers Of The Geneva Accord"


Ari Shavit said in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (12/4):  "In going to Geneva, the [Israeli] peace yuppies did it once more: they forced through an irreversible diplomatic fact that they were not authorized to make.  Essentially, they asked the world to force their will on their own people....  The landscape viewed from the windows of the Geneva initiative is a landscape of Israeli-Palestinian rupture.  It is not a landscape of peace and tranquility, but of deterioration into violence.  Not a landscape of saving existence, but a landscape of endangering existence....  Does this mean that the right is correct?  Not at all.  The two-state solution was and remains the only solution.  We have to end the occupation, and it is compulsory to partition the land.  However, the operation to separate the Israeli Siamese twin and the Palestinian Siamese twin must be performed with caution and prudence.  If this critical operation is performed in an irresponsible manner, if it is performed in the spirit of the Geneva initiative, both twins will bleed to death on the operating table."


"Another Look At 'Geneva'"


Yaron London commented in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (12/4):  "Despite the broad recognition that the agreement is reasonable, many Israelis do not believe that the Palestinians are prepared to honor it.  This skepticism has solid foundations....  Nevertheless, the agreement is an opportunity, but not because it will give us [Israelis] peace but rather because it is likely to fortify the Jewish state and to improve its chances in its struggle against the Arab world.  For many years we deluded ourselves into thinking that we could trade the occupied territories for Palestinian consent to the existence of the Jewish state, and we did not take into account that what we were offering in return was damaged goods.  Our possession of these goods hurts us more than our withholding them from our adversaries hurts them....  The Palestinians who signed the agreement belong to the group of impatient Palestinians, who are eager for prosperity immediately, even before they defeat us by means of sheer demographics.  Conversely, Palestinians who are prepared to bear the tortures of the occupation for another generation or two have rejected the deal.  Why should they pay for assets that they believe will fall into their hands in any event?  Therefore, if either the Geneva agreement or one similar to it is implemented, the Jews will have taken an historic step that is the least damaging of all possible steps.  The alternative step, second best, is a deep withdrawal without an agreement.  The advantage of the former over the latter is that we would do well were we to exact from the adversary an agreement that would win international confirmation and substantive and military support."


"After The Geneva Ceremony"


Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (12/3):  "Yossi Beilin and Yasser Abed Rabbo were invited to a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in Washington.  The U.S. Administration, which at first had reservations about the initiative, is now signaling that it has found favor in Washington.  But those signals alone won't help if they are not accompanied by vigorous and determined action to restart the dialogue and negotiations between the sides.  Hopefully, the understandings will develop broad and consistent support among Israelis and Palestinians, who will influence their leaderships not to ignore the clear message that arrived from Geneva -- there is someone to talk to on the other side."


"The Future Belongs To The Beilins"


Avraham Tirosh noted in popular, pluralist Maariv (12/3):  "The future--like it or not--belongs to the Geneva document, though it is still called a virtual document, even by its initiators.  One can support it, like the Left, one can accept it partially, like figures in the Labor Party, and one can object to it and vehemently condemn it, like the Right.  One thing is inescapable: the peace agreement that will eventually be signed, at some point, between Israel and the Palestinians, will be similar to this document from Geneva, more than any other document, plan, outline or map that has been offered or imposed on the parties until today--and there have been many such endeavors....  All this does not mean that the Geneva Accord does not have various flaws, sections that are unworthy even in the eyes of those who do not belong to the Right, and vague corners that leave room for different interpretations, especially the issue of the right of return and international monitoring....  Yes, there is another problem in the unsigned Geneva Accord.   It will also not be signed as long as Arafat is around....  The move by Beilin and his friends may have proven that there is someone to talk to, but there is no one to sign with.  Peace between Israelis and Palestinians is possible, as Beilin declared in the ceremony on Monday, but not now.  The present belongs, unfortunately, to Arafat, the man of terror, and the future--to the Beilins on both sides."


"Colin Powell Is Mistaken"


Nationalist Hatzofe stated (12/3):  "According to media reports, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell is to meet the Israeli and Palestinian initiators of the 'Geneva Accord.'  If he does, he will be doing something that should not be done by a senior minister of a democratic state where the principles of democracy are its guiding light.  It is as though the French foreign minister were to meet [American] Indian chiefs who claimed to have been dispossessed of their land, and who were now getting organized with money provided by the Cuban ruler Fidel Castro.  Powell is about to legitimize a political charade that all the parties in Israel, including Meeretz, have reservations about....  In the United States, such Beilins are registered as agents, and that is the only way they can operate there.  Is it conceivable that the U.S. would permit Iranian agents to undermine its own legitimate agenda?  The U.S. itself should have been the first to condemn this troupe of actors....  Beilin inflicted the Oslo tragedy on Israel, and since he fears he will be recorded in that capacity in the annals of Israel, he is again trying to pose as a peacemaker.  If there were a serious right wing in Israel it would remind the nation every day who Beilin is and of the number of people slaughtered because of him, until every reasonable person ostracizes him.  Israel must protest against the proposed meeting with Powell."


"A 'Virtual' Event Offers Some Hope"


Senior op-ed writer Uzi Benziman commented in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (12/2): "Monday in Geneva, no agreement whatsoever was signed; it was a completely virtual occasion, yet it held out a chance for change in Israeli-Palestinian relations.... The encounter between Israelis and Palestinians emphasized the surreal nature of the event: people, who only a month ago faced each other from opposite sides of a sea of blood, which could return tomorrow morning, embraced each other as if there were no residue of grief and hatred between them.  And to intensify the confusing nature of the occasion, a statement was read out from Yasser Arafat, who expressed a commitment to peace and support for the Geneva understandings.  What Israeli would attribute any seriousness to a process to which Arafat gives his blessing?.... Yossi Beilin and Yasser Abed Rabbo, the architects of the initiative, were in fact the ones who brought all those present back down to reality: the document is a virtual one, but we are real, they said; don't help us to direct the conflict -- help us to resolve it."


"Look Who's Talking"


Op-ed writer Yael Gewirtz observed in the lead editorial of mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (12/2): "Every vacuum must be filled.  The long-drawn-out vacuum created by the Sharon government in the diplomatic arena has naturally been filled by others.  Negligible by its meaning, and practically insignificant at the moment, the launching ceremony of the peace document that took place Monday in Geneva has pushed the Israeli government onto the sidelines--into the place reserved for those who have renounced the right to lead: that of the responder, of the grumbling visitor watching the games of others and counting their mistakes.... The government can't blame anybody but itself."


"Geneva Delusion"


Conservative columnist Nadav Haetzni wrote in popular, pluralist Maariv (12/2): "I object to the claim of treason, but I cannot avoid classifying the ceremony that took place Monday as an illicit, serious and disorderly act.... It has been proven that there is no real Palestinian partner for the Geneva capitulation, and that when a signature by a binding Palestinian will be required, the fate of the initiative will be akin to that of the irresponsible attempts of Ehud Barak at Camp David and Taba.  But, as far as substance is concerned, it must be agreed upon now that the Geneva initiative is unacceptable and that it has no future.  Those who believe that all the components of the Jewish people will ever agree that most of Jerusalem is not ours are wrong.... Those who assume that it will be possible to sell the same bloody delusion twice in the same decade are wrong."


"With Sobriety And Prudence"


Prominent Peace Camp writer David Grossman commented on page one of popular, pluralist Maariv (12/1):  "I know very well why I joined the Geneva initiative:  because I feel that every day that passes without a change is pushing Israel another centimeter towards the abyss.  Because an irreversible political and human reality is evolving here that horrifies me, and no one in the current government has offered a solution to it.  And mainly because once upon a time 'to be Israeli' meant to take part in the most heroic, moral and meaningful act a Jewish person could, whereas today, because of the despair, because of the leadership’s helplessness, because of the decline of our aspirations and hopes and our vital, healthy powers, we, the Israelis, live only alongside the lives we could have lived.  We can only see our promised land on the other side of the bank.  But even in our difficult situation, things can be different.  And we can, at the very least, try to examine the other possibilities.  It is precisely because of that that we are departing for Geneva today, and we are doing so with sobriety, with hope and prudence, with faith in Israel's power to take its fate into its own hands and, more than anything, from a decision not to leave even a single stone unturned in an attempt to improve the reality of our lives."


"Hope In Geneva"


Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (12/1):  "The Geneva Accord is not without flaws.  On the Israeli side, reservations worthy of consideration have been voiced about some of the document's details and about the credibility of its authors' claim that it indeed removes the demand for a right of return from the table.  On the Palestinian side, there have also been those who voiced objections to certain components of the permanent-status agreement that the document proposes.  But this criticism, however weighty it might be, should not distract attention from the main point: well-known public figures from both peoples will today give declarative validity, under the aegis of important figures from the international arena, to an admirable intellectual and political effort to propose a comprehensive recipe for an end to the conflict.  The role that peace-seeking Israelis and Palestinians must play is to influence their governments to conduct a practical dialogue inspired by the Geneva document."


"Why Is Arafat Silent?"


Arab affairs correspondent Danny Rubinstein wrote in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (12/1):  "Leaks from internal discussions [among the Palestinian leadership] indicate that [Arafat] is issuing contrary statements about the Geneva document.  Sometimes he is in favor, but at other times he adopts a negative stance.  This is classic Arafat behavior.  He prefers to wait it out and see which way the public wind is blowing....  Arafat is afraid of expressing open and clear support for the document because if he does so, many in the Palestinian public would rise up against him.  They would tell him that he was being hasty to concede the right of return, which is a holy asset of the Palestinians, and will ask him what he is getting in return--the completion of the separation fence and the strengthening of the settlements.  In other words, you made an agreement with a few Israeli leftists and the Sharon government is ridiculing them and you.  For now, it does not seem that the flurry of diplomatic activity of the past few weeks is leading to any sort of results."


"Lies of Geneva"


Former Foreign Ministry Director-General, left-leaning Prof. Shlomo Avineri wrote in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (12/1): "Before the document [the Geneva Accord] was published, its launchers said that it contains a recognition of Israel by the Palestinians as 'the country of the Jewish people.'  This isn't true.  The Jewish people isn't cited in the document.  What it says is: 'The parties recognize Palestine and Israel as the homelands of their respective peoples'--including Jews and Arabs.  That the word 'Jew' doesn't appear in the document is no fluke.  Some of the Palestinian signatories to the document don't believe in the existence of the Jewish people.  The initiators of the document have said that the Palestinians have renounced the right of return.  This isn't true.  The document says that UN Resolution 194 and other ones will be the basis for the solution of the refugee problem.  Indeed, Resolution 194 doesn't say anything about a 'right' of return--it only asserts that the Palestinians will return to their places.  According to the Arabs' view, Resolution 194 is the basis for granting international legitimacy to the right of return....  [Due to the subsequent internationalization of the refugee problem] Israel would cease to be an independent state....  It is clear why the public isn't being told this.  It is not only the Arab refugees who'll be entitled to compensations, but also the Arab countries, because of the expenses they have incurred as a result of 'hosting' the refugees since 1948....  Who would have bought a used car from those people?  Not me."


"Powell's Wrong Move"


Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (11/30):  "Powell's scheduled embrace of of global significance, and very negatively so.  One of many things that the Israeli mainstream has learned since 1999, when it handed Labor's peace platform a landslide electoral victory--is to doubt Palestinian words.  America's turn to learn Israel's painful lesson came two years ago, following the Karine-A arms ship affair, when Yasser Arafat himself lied, in writing, to U.S. President George W. Bush.  However, Powell seems to have forgotten all this, and prefers, like Bill Clinton in his time, to attribute more significance to Arafat's ambiguous words than to his unambiguous actions....  In embracing the Geneva Accord, Powell will be undermining not only Bush's demand that Arafat be held accountable for the terrorism he has inspired and directed, but also the most precious ideal with which America has approached the Middle Eastern fray since 9/11:  democracy....  What credibility will America's demands for democratization in this region have once its own secretary of state publicly celebrates the anti-democratic actions of a group of Israelis who were, each in his turn, rejected by the voters?  Colin Powell has already made a grave mistake as secretary of state, when he had Washington seek UN approval for its attack on Iraq.  Embracing the Geneva Accord would demonstrate that the gullibility that blinded him then has yet to be shed."


WEST BANK:  "A Quick Chat On The Geneva Accord"


Talal Okal held in independent Al-Ayyam (12/4):  “Since the beginning, Sharon has turned his sirens on and announced a war against the Geneva initiative....  Perhaps Sharon rejects the Accord since it presents Jerusalem as a capital for two states whereas, according to him, it is a unified city and capitol to Israel....  Sharon also strongly denies the refugee rights included in the accord, considering it a clear recognition of the refugees’ right to return. On the other hand, Palestinians declined the Accord since it did not include a just solution to the right of return....  In reality, the Accord cannot provide a foundation to a political solution.  As it integrates trouble and threats, the Accord is neither acceptable to Israel nor to a large number of Palestinians.  However, this is not an implication that the Accord is hard to apply or difficult to serve as a political settlement.”


"The Geneva Accord:  A Possible Form Of A Solution"


Mohammad Yaghi opined in independent Al-Ayyam (12/4):  “At the end, the Geneva accord is nothing but a solution to the conflict.  It is a form of how a future solution should be. Its importance does not merely lie in its acute details, but rather in the principles that it contains.  As everyone knows, there can never be any possible applicable solution without both the Israeli government and the PLO negotiating it.  Apparently, the Sharon government is not interested in a solution or in serious talks.  The best this Accord can provide to Palestinians is an interim solution that brings back the situation as it used to be prior to the Intifada (uprising).”


"Season Of Political Initiatives"


Tawfiq Abu Bakr stated in independent Al-Ayyam (12/3):  “The Geneva Accord is no substitute for the roadmap, it is basically a detailed framework of a potential permanent solution....  The Geneva scenario lays out possible practical solutions to the issues that will be discussed in a third stage international conference [to be held at the beginning of 2004 according to the roadmap.]  There might appear to be an acceleration of events following the first stage, once the Sharon government collapses, leaving an open door for early elections and more political interactions....  With the holding of this Arab summit, if held as scheduled next March, there should be a willingness to face any predictable developments on the ground with calm as a basic and only condition.”


"The Geneva Accord And 'Viewers Dedications' Show"


Hani Habeeb opined in independent Al-Ayyam (12/3):  “Some believe that the Geneva accord would only cause a division within the Palestinian people and lead to a break in national unity....  It is worth noting that the Israeli military attack against Ramallah and the surrounding villages was concurrent with the launching of the Geneva Accord.  Some thought the aim of this attack was to frustrate efforts to conduct talks in Cairo for a truce.. I believe that by this operation, Sharon meant to incite the Palestinian public against the Accord.  I also believe that Sharon has succeeded, as shown obviously by those who oppose the Accord.  However, we have to admit that the Palestinian public is already provoked by any solution that ignores a just settlement of the refugees and their right to return.”


"Following The Announcement Of The Geneva Accord"


Samih Shbeib opined in independent Al-Ayyam (12/1): “Ceremonies to announce the Geneva accord take place today with Palestinian, Israeli and international official presence....  The essence of this accord requires intensified joint Palestinian-Israeli work at all levels including youth, academic, women and press.  Political brainstorming should be conducted all over Palestinian and Israeli cities in order to support and maintain this accord’s elan....  It would also be effective to open direct exchange and sharing of knowledge and expertise on peace issues between Palestinian and Israeli educational and cultural institutes without need for mediators.”


"The Israeli Position Is The Obstacle"


Independent Al-Quds editorialized (12/1): “There is noticeable Palestinian, Arab and international movement--most recently the visit of the U.S.’ special envoy [sic] to the region William addition to another expected round of talks in Cairo to develop a unified strategic plan for all Palestinian factions....  This is a clear indication that there is strong Palestinian, Arab and international will to solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict once and for all....  The only one and remaining obstacle now is Israel’s tendency to continue its maneuvers against any plans or initiatives by the various international powers, particularly the U.S.  The international community has to find a way to confront this Israeli obstinacy, which only causes the worst harm not merely to the two adversaries but to every regional and international effort to achieve peaceful coexistence.”


EGYPT:  “Only Words And Nothing Changes In Palestine”


Aggressive pro-government Al Akhbar editorialized (12/3):  “The Geneva initiative is unofficial....  It reminds us of many previous initiatives...which are no longer convincing to Arab and Palestinian public opinion as long as [they are not binding] to the Likudish government in Israel and the repressive, aggressive violations it commits.”




Emad Omar declared in aggressive pro-government Al Akhbar (12/3):  "Except for the [Egyptian-Israeli] Camp David accord, the U.S. has failed to mediate a significant peace deal in the Middle East and its record in settling other international disputes is not much better....  Despite Palestinian and Israeli reservations about [the Geneva document], and the rejection of Sharon and Palestinian faction leaders of it....  It is an example of how other mediators can succeed in what Washington has failed at for decades.  The U.S. should be frank with itself about the reason. Former U.S. President Carter said that the Bush Administration constantly supports Israel and ignores the Palestinian people."


“Why Does Sharon Reject the Geneva Initiative?”


Aggressive pro-government Al Akhbar’s unsigned editorial stated (12/2): “The Geneva initiative bears a final-status deal.  However, Sharon does not want an end to the cycle of bloody violence. He only wants his own scenario to be applied to Palestinians.  In his heart, he rejects recognition of a viable Palestinian state.  He certainly wants the land, the settlements, the separating wall and the continued humiliation of Palestinians.”


"Separating Lines"


Small circulation pro-government Al Gomhouriya Editor-in-Chief Samir Ragab wrote (11/30):  “Israel is currently attempting to propagate the idea that peace is impossible without Sharon....  Certainly this is an exaggeration since Palestinians were tortured at his hands, he who is bloody and believes that missiles and tanks will be able to impose the status quo on Palestinians in accord solely with Israel’s interests.  However, this will not achieve Israel’s sick plots....  The Geneva meeting [will fail] since Israeli leaders make provocative statements about continuing the separating wall, while the U.S. announced its opposition to the wall, and Annan unexpectedly announced that the wall violates international law.  I expect Sharon to brush everyone aside, then he will claim that Palestinians lost the opportunity for peace, and thus will act as he wishes.  He should realize that if Israel continues in this path, not one Israeli will be safe, whether it is Sharon, Peres, or Netanyahu.”


SAUDI ARABIA:   "Sharon And The Geneva Initiative"


Jeddah's conservative Al-Madina editorialized (12/4):  "While the Geneva Initiative aims at building a better future for the Israeli and Arab children, Sharon on the other hand murders Palestinian children and destroys the Palestinian past, present and future.  Those crimes provoke the Palestinian militias and drive them to react to the aggression, which in turn becomes an excuse for Sharon to foil any peace initiatives.  If the world community is serious about finding peace in the Middle East, then somebody must stand up to Sharon's tricks. The world community should implement practical steps that would bring about a better life for Palestinians on their own land." 


JORDAN:  “Meetings Remain Futile Unless The Americans Alter Their Stance”


Former Minister of Information Saleh Qallab commented in semi-official, influential Arabic-language Al-Rai (12/4):  “From Geneva to London to Madrid to Amman, the peace process rises up from a long sleep interrupted by horrible nightmares and much bloodshed.  The Americans, during the past three years, have taken the side of Sharon’s policy, as a conspirator would, and left the violence to take its toll on the holy land, continuing to try to impose the Israeli will, the will of the right-wing, on the Palestinian people, and holding the leadership of that people responsible for the collapse of the peace process....  If the Americans really want the peace process to restart, they must exercise genuine pressure on the Israeli Prime Minister....  All these meetings and conference will remain mere jumps in the air unless the Americans decide to turn to Sharon and make him understand that there are requirements that Israel will have to fulfill in order for the talk about establishing peace to become viable….  What is the use of these conferences, initiatives and meetings if Sharon continues to insist on building the racist separation wall, if Israel does not abandon its settlement policy, and if assassinations do not stop…?  The Americans continue to wonder about the reasons and causes for all this fundamentalist-violence that is striking the region and the world in the name of Islam.  But they also continue to close their ears and shut their eyes to the facts that are before them, namely that the roots of this violence stem from Israel’s occupation of the Arab lands and Muslim holy sites, and from the U.S. adoption of the most extremist and right-wing of Israeli policies.  The Americans must realize that matters will move from bad to worse if Israel continues to behave as it is doing, and if the United States continues to run around in the same old vicious circle of adopting Sharon’s destructive Likud stands and policies.”


“Our Misery In Geneva”


Basem Sakijha noted in center-left, influential Arabic-language Al-Dustour (12/4):  “Neither Yaser Abed Rabbo nor any other Palestinian official or non-official has the right to give the right of any single Palestinian to Palestine....  A ceremony in Geneva, during which poems for the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish are recited and Israeli and Palestinian girls dance, can never be the concluding chapter in the long historical march of injustice and darkness.  We are not talking about a movie where the turn of events is decided according to the viewpoint of a director.  We are talking about a long history of bloodshed and destruction, about a land that was and still is occupied, and about a people who were and still are homeless....  How can a Palestinian wipe away the history of his people with a mere pen or with a black signature on forgiveness papers for the killer.”


LEBANON:  "The Last Stop"


Sateh Noureddine observed in Arab nationalist As-Safir (12/3):  "Perhaps the most important meaning of the Geneva Initiative is the fact that it reflects European impatience with the Israeli ruling right wing party headed by Ariel Sharon and its plans that deny and outcast the Palestinian political presence.  The signing ceremony of the Geneva Initiative expressed unique European agreement...on the initiative.  There was also an Asian and American presence at the celebration, but this presence was outside their political or think tank institutions....  It is known that 60 percent of the Europeans consider Israel the most dangerous country for world peace.  This European Public opinion was the invisible power that was the broker of the Geneva Initiative....  We can forecast that this celebration and initiative will turn into an important tool in the European relations with Israel and the U.S."


"The Virtual Geneva"


Joseph Samaha declared in Arab nationalist As-Safir (12/2):  "Geneva witnessed yesterday the first agreed-upon 'visualization' to solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  Success is in the fact that there is a document that enjoys the agreement of the two adversaries.  The presence of this document is as important as the content of the document itself.  The Geneva initiative is unique in the sense that it shows that the way is open for working on a deal between the Palestinians and Israelis, i.e., it is saying that there is a virtual alternative for what is happening now, and it is an alternative that enjoys the support of the Palestinians and the Israelis.  The Geneva initiative is the beginning of a successful experience in the diplomacy of public relations.  What the Geneva initiative needs now is to transform into a power that would be able to impact policies."


"The Geneva Initiative: An Agreement Over A New Hope"


Samir Kassir held in moderate anti-Syrian An-Nahar (12/2):  "As if the brokers of the 'Geneva Initiative' wanted to say that a meeting between the Israelis and the Palestinians would be a miracle.  They asked Richard Dreyfuss, the hero of Spielberg's Film 'Close Encounters Of The Third Kind,' to preside over the ceremony.  The meeting between the Palestinians and the Israelis was really a meeting of the 'third kind.' No negotiations, no signing ceremony....  The ceremony was emotionally olive tree was in the middle of the hall....  Despite the fact that the olive tree was really glittering, however, nobody was fooled.  Everything now will depend on the way Washington will perceive this initiative."


SYRIA: "Agreement On Differences"


Ali Nasrallah declared in government-owned Al-Ba'th (12/2): "Sharon has underestimated U.S. criticism of his policy, mainly on the racist wall and on settlements. He announced that he has reached an agreement with U.S. officials on differences.... The U.S. Administration's positions confirm the soundness and truthfulness of Sharon's announcement.  It is also confirmed by U.S. and Israeli officials, who maintained that the different points of view between Israel and the U.S. do not mean disagreement or disengagement of the strategic alliance between them....  What is the purpose of dispatching William Burns to the region while Burns himself acknowledged 15 days ago that the Roadmap is dead that his Administration does not have a give solution to revive it....  It is an obvious plan, which could be overlapping with President Bush's secret visit to Baghdad to serve the upcoming elections. The U.S. Administration might be seeking another deal with Sharon on differences or on means to win a second presidential term."




JAPAN:  "Foster Hopes of Peace!"


Liberal Asahi editorialized (12/5):  "Palestinian and Israeli peace advocates, some of them former cabinet ministers, have drafted a 'Geneva peace accord' through the good offices of former President Carter and the Swiss government. More than 60 present and former world leaders, including British Prime Minister Blair, have sent messages of support to the 'new move' for Middle East peace. Secretary of State Powell has reportedly decided to invite representatives from this 'Geneva peace accord' drafting team to Washington.  But Israeli Prime Minister Sharon and Palestinian radicals reacted negatively to the drafting of this peace accord.  Given continuing terrorist attacks by Palestinian radicals and Israel's retaliatory military strikes and construction of a security fence, such a peace accord will not readily placate the Palestinian-Israeli confrontation. But at a time when moves are afoot to discuss Middle East peace at a grassroots level, the international community should foster the rekindling of hope for Middle East peace."


INDONESIA:  “Israelis-Palestinians Break Taboo By Making Contacts”


Leading independent Kompas commented (12/3):  “The desire of Israeli and Palestinians people for peace is getting stronger. This was apparent during the unique meeting early this week in Geneva between Israel and Palestine delegations from the private sectors. The meeting was considered a major breakthrough to the deadlock in the efforts to end hostilities between the Jews and the Palestinians that have been going on for centuries. The Geneva meeting at the same time also reversed the perception thus far that the spirit of hostilities has entrenched deeply into the frame of mine of the two nations.  The Geneva Initiative precisely indicated that their desire for peace is strong among the people.  However, admittedly, hostile stances are still strong among the ruling elites.  Moreover, Israel and Palestine's formal leaders continue to demonstrate inflexibility and prejudice in building communications and interactions....  But surprisingly, the Geneva Initiative has received wide support worldwide.  European leaders and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell have expressed their support....  The Geneva Initiative has paved the way for direct political interactions between the two nations.  With the rise of discourses and peace movements among the people, it will expectedly facilitate formal peace solution between the ruling elites of the two nations.”


MALAYSIA:  "Israel Consistently Poking The Hornet’s Nest"


Government-influenced, Malay-language Berita Harian observed (12/3):  "Zionist leader Ariel Sharon’s directive to his military leaders to devise a secret plan to rid the West Bank of all Palestinians is a move that will only further enrage Palestinians and Muslims.  Whatever his purpose, it is not a wise move.  The U.S. should not readily agree to this because the superpower will also be accused of supporting Israel’s mischief.  The Palestinians living there are already facing great hardships, what more hardships do they deserve to be chased away? This should not be the way that Israel destroys Muslims.  The U.S. should give a warning to Israel not to take steps that will anger Muslims worldwide, and result in deadly retaliation."


THAILAND:  "Cautious Optimism Reborn In Mideast"


The lead editorial in top-circulation, moderately conservative, English language Bangkok Post read (11/30):  “After several months of a return to hopelessness in the Middle East, peace may be getting another chance.  This is mostly due to two developments: moderates outside of the government on both sides have come together to draw up a concrete plan for a settlement of the long-standing conflict, and the United States is showing a new willingness to get tough not only with the Palestinian side, but also with the government of Israel Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.  Tomorrow in Geneva, Switzerland, there is a signing ceremony for an unofficial peace plan, which is called by some the Geneva Accord.  A delegation will then take the accord to Washington, where they will meet with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell....  maybe the biggest difference between the new peace accord and the ‘roadmap’, which would eventually have to contain many of the same concessions from both sides, is a difference in philosophy.  The roadmap seeks to impose security first and then hammer out the details of a settlement, while the accord lays out a concrete plan now in the hopes that this will lead to an end to the violence.  Sharon has been very critical of the new accord, not least because it circumvents the usual government channels....  It isn’t clear whether Colin Powell will convey on the Geneva Accord the official support of the United States government.  This would be a real slap in the face to Sharon.  It seems more likely that the U.S. is trying to tell Sharon that the time is really here to seriously negotiate for peace.  In light of all the past disappointments and the continuing obstacles, it may not be wise to be too optimistic.  The biggest obstacle, as always, is the suicide bombings that break out whenever peace looks possible.”




INDIA:  "No-Win Situation" 


An editorial in the nationalist Hindustan Times read (12/5):  "It's easier to answer the sphinx's riddles than try to bring peace to West Asia. This is probably what the cheerleaders of the so-called Geneva accord now think as they followed what looked like a yellow brick road to peace--only to run into the solid red brick wall of official Israeli and Palestinian obduracy....  This is not unlike the U.S.-backed 'road map' which envisions an independent Palestinian State by 2005. But while the road map gingerly leaves specific issues like borders to negotiations, the latest plan finalized is much bolder in scope as it spells out concessions that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon would never have dreamed of when he took office....  The accord may not exactly send Palestinians into raptures of joy either as it shuts out the right for Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war to return home to what's now part of Israel. Still, it's seems to be the best bet yet for both sides. Hence, perhaps, the positive response from, among others, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell."


PAKISTAN:  "New Conspiracy Against Palestinians"


Karachi-based right-wing pro-Islamic Unity Urdu-language Jasarat declared (12/4):  "The U.S. has started a new game for the protection of Israeli interests in the Middle East.  It has gathered the intellectuals from Palestine and Israel and some former ministers and diplomats under the lead of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.  This group is formulating a new formula that will replace the U.S. roadmap for peace in the Middle East.  This is a sort of Track-II diplomacy that we have been experiencing in South Asia.  The U.S. has lost all of its reputation in the Middle East due to its blind support of Israel and the so-called influence of President Bush has been rendered ineffective." 


SRI LANKA:  "A Little Light In The Darkness"


Government-owned English-language Daily News maintained (12/3):  "With the internationally-backed 'roadmap' for Middle East peace stalled amid continuing violence, the Geneva Initiative radiates a glimmer of hope for peace.  Far from being an obstacle on the path of the roadmap, as some Israeli leaders have feared, the Geneva Initiative is likely to complement any efforts that are already underway for peace....  The Initiative is 'a little light in the darkness,' but popular wisdom dictates that lighting a candle is much better than cursing the darkness."




SOUTH AFRICA:  "Geneva Plan"


The liberal Mercury commented (12/4):  "Perhaps the strongest recommendation is the fact that the plan...has been denounced by hardliners on both sides.  The plan's authors must have got something right.  Powell has not abandoned the 'road map' approach....  But the route has now taken the participants into a blind alley of intifada....  The Geneva plan at least offers a destination, a way out of the blind alley....  The Geneva Plan is not official.  But it is considerably more realistic than endless militancy or a particularly grotesque version of the Berlin Wall."




CANADA:  "A Tantalizing Preview Of A Mideast Accord"


The leading Globe and Mail opined (12/2):  "Yesterday, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators signed an agreement that would end their decades-old fight over the Holy Land and settle all the main disputes between them. Unfortunately, the negotiators were not speaking for their governments.  The Geneva accord, signed yesterday in the Swiss city by former Israeli justice minister Yossi Beilin and former Palestinian information minister Yasser Abed Rabbo, has no legal standing and no official support....  After three years of conflict and hundreds of deaths on both sides, Israel has lost all faith in Yasser Arafat and his Palestinian leadership as credible partners for peace. The Palestinians, for their part, never had much faith in the Israeli willingness to end the occupation of the territories. Yet people on both sides clearly yearn for peace....  At the official level, every sensible Israeli and every realistic Palestinian knows that a deal much like the Geneva accord will have to be struck in the end. Mr. Beilin and Mr. Rabbo have shown that such a deal is not pie in the sky. A compromise that satisfies the Israeli yearning for security and the Palestinian yearning for statehood is in plain sight. But time is running out."


"Peace Plans Proliferate"


Paul Adams noted in the leading Globe and Mail (12/2):  "The Geneva accord has generated great controversy in Israel. It is a detailed document, addressing many of the most contentious issues between Israel and the Palestinians. It follows in the footsteps of the Oslo accords signed in the 1990s and the abortive Camp David proposals developed under former U.S. president Bill Clinton. Its principal Israeli architect is Yossi Beilin, who played a critical role in both those earlier efforts. Formally, Mr. Sharon is still committed to the U.S.-backed peace plan called the road map, which is supposed to lead to the creation of a Palestinian state by 2005. However, in recent days has laid the groundwork for the unilateral imposition of a settlement by Israel should talks fail....  Any plan, whether it calls for formal Palestinian agreement or not, will ultimately be tested by the unpredictable reaction and uncertain capabilities not only of the Palestinian Authority but also of Palestinian militants, as well as right-wing Israelis--all of whom have shown the ability to disrupt or destroy even the best-laid plans. It may be tempting to mistake the recent burst of activity for that most elusive of commodities in the region: hope. But few Israelis go that far."


"UN Double Standard"


The right-of-center Calgary Herald commented (12/2): "The United Nations has once again shown itself to be utterly spineless and contemptible in its attitude towards Israel.  Its refusal to pass an Israeli resolution that acknowledges Israel's children are victims of the violence in the Middle East reeks of anti-Semitism. Instead, Palestinian children are the only ones mentioned in the resolution which was hijacked by the Arab countries and their sympathizers in the UN's General Assembly.  This is shameful, ugly stuff.... The resolution offered an opportunity for the UN to demonstrate its impartiality in Middle East peace initiatives, for its role is to treat all sides equally--hence the word 'united' in its name. It is appalling that, regardless of how the Arab nations and their supporters feel about Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his policies, they would not rise above it for the sake of innocent children."


ARGENTINA:  "Geneva Accord: Further Commitment And Action"


Agustin Romero said in business-financial Infobae (12/4):  "Every peace action must be welcomed. However, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict doesn't need more proposals. What it really needs is the political determination of the parties involved to respect and carry out the existing proposals (among the most publicized ones: the Oslo Accord, Camp David and the 'Road Map.')....  From the Palestinian side, there ought to be a stronger commitment and clear and specific actions to end terrorism....  The international community also has a key role to end the conflict: UN actions must help maintain peace and security in the region (Blue Helmets)....  Other states must also commit themselves further to fight terrorism....  Arab states also have a major task ahead. They must solve the problem of the Palestinian refugees finding them a place in their territories....  And finally, Israel has to put an urgent end to the Palestinian conflict (even if it means a unilateral withdrawal from the territories under discussion)....  Otherwise, the existence of Israel itself is jeopardized. In fact, Israel may turn into a new South Africa with a political system under the control of a Jewish minority, confronting with a hostile majority of Palestinian Arabs."


BRAZIL:  "Geneva Accord Reiterates Peace Hopes"


The editorial in business-oriented Valor Economico read (12/3):  "Unfortunately, the U.S. administration has not endorsed the Geneva Accord project. Even more deplorable was the Sharon administration's condemnation of the accord, which is a position similar to that of Palestinian militants.  Without the support of these three actors, no peace initiative is expected to prosper in the Middle East....  Despite the hopes that the Geneva Accord is offering, it is very unlikely that the current situation of despair in Israel, West Bank and Gaza will be changed in the short run. The lack of commitment with the peace process by President Bush, Prime Minister Sharon and President Arafat prevents any significant progress from been made towards an understanding. However, there is the possibility that the public opinion in the U.S., Israel, among the Palestinians, in Europe and in other nations will force government leaders to change their attitude so that efforts towards peace that permitted the success of processes such as those of Oslo, Washington and Camp David are resumed."


"A Lesson Of Peace"


Liberal Folha de S. Paulo editorialized (12/2): "News about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have been the worst possible in the past three years.... The Geneva Accord offers encouragement in such a scenario. In principle, the initiative has only symbolic value.... The plan is aimed at resolving even the details for a peace settlement.... As it could not be otherwise, the Geneva Accord required comprehensive concessions from both parties.... The good news ends here, since chances that the proposal will be implemented are very small. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, for example, has deemed the plan 'subversive.'  Among the Palestinians the situation is a little better. Yasser Arafat has not officially supported the initiative, but at least sent a delegation to Geneva. The problem is that part of Arafat's political group has already made it clear that it will not accept the plan because it considers the concessions excessive.  The Geneva Accord, however, has taught a lesson: with the will to negotiate, peace may be possible."


"A Chance For Peace"


Liberal Folha de S. Paulo columnist Moacyr Scliar opined (12/1):  "Is there any plan capable of obtaining the support of most Israelis and Palestinians?  Yes, there is.  It is the so-called alternative peace plan, jointly drafted over two years by a group of Israelis and Palestinians headed by former Israeli Minister of Justice Yossi Beilin and former Palestinian Minister of Information Yasser Abed Rabbo.  The plan, also known as the Geneva Accord, involves concessions from both parties....  So, is the nightmare over?  No.  The plan does not have official support either from the Israeli government or from the Palestinian National Authority.  One can imagine that the terrorist groups and the hard line from both sides will undermine it.  Ariel Sharon has called the document 'subversive'....  One objection to the plan is that it embarrasses the Road Map.  But this is currently frozen.  On the other hand, the Geneva document may be seen as a source of alternatives.  And in politics, alternative is a key word. Without alternatives, violence and terror will prevail."


CHILE:  "Hope In Geneva"


An editorial in government-owned, editorially independent La Nacion held (12/1):  "The Geneva Agreement, probably the most ambitious peace proposal for the Middle East outside the realm of the Palestinian and Israeli governments, will be signed today....  It is possible that this agreement will gather support among the majorities of both peoples, who don't want any more bloodshed....  The Geneva Agreement is a noteworthy effort of mutual trust between people of good will from both sides who truly believe in peace and who understand that peace can only come as the result of a pact of coexistence between two sovereign states."


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