International Information Programs
Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

December 15, 2003

December 15, 2003





**  Israeli dailies split regarding Sharon's offer of "unilateral steps." 


**  Arab papers call the UNGA vote to refer Israel's fence to the ICJ a "new opportunity."


**  Supporters of the Geneva Accord say it means "the region might have hope."


**  Failure of Palestinian cease-fire talks means PM Qurei cannot "serve as negotiator."




Unilateral moves are better than 'bloody utopianism'--  Israeli writers disagreed on unilateral Israeli actions in the territories.  One attacked the "veiled unilateral proposal to annex" parts of the West Bank; left-leaning Ha'aretz warned the U.S. will "demand more than what Sharon will be offering."  But pluralist Maariv said "until an agreement is alternative is preferable" and the conservative Jerusalem Post backed a "temporary border...that leaves Israel holding about half of the West Bank."  Non-Israeli dailies rejected a "tiny [Palestinian] state carved out by Israel's current right-wing leadership"; an Egyptian daily warned Israel seeks to "extend its unilateral political borders eastward under security pretences."


Israel could become an international 'leper state'--  Germany's centrist Der Tagesspiegel labeled criticism of the fence "justified," but held that "every government has the protect its citizens."  Israel's pluralist Yediot Aharonot opined, "The fence is indeed ugly...but it is also the best possible political plan."  Muslim writers called the UN vote on Israel's "racist separation wall" a "victory for Palestinian rights."  The UAE's pan-Arab Khaleej Times said Israel cannot reject "the force of international law"; Lebanon's pro-Syria Ash-Sharq alleged the fence was part of "an American-Israeli partnership to subjugate Arabs."   


The Geneva plan plays best outside the region--  Latin and African dailies backed the Geneva proposal as an "antecedent for future negotiations" that could end "the equilibrium of resentment and the see-saw of violence."  Uganda's state-owned New Vision hoped it could solve the region's "seemingly intractable problem."  But hard-line Arab observers criticized the "simplistic" plan.  The independent Jordan Times said the pact ignores the Palestinians' "much-promised 'right of return'"; the West Bank's independent Al-Quds dismissed the Accord as written by a "limited political and intellectual elite."


The Cairo talks clarified a 'deep gap within Palestinian unity'--  The "rejection of the truce" by Palestinian radicals "left Qurei without a mandate," said France's left-of-center Liberation.  Some Arab papers lamented Palestinian factionalism:  Egypt's pro-government Al-Ahram Weekly stressed "consolidating and maintaining national unity."  For other Arab dailies, the crux of the problem was that Israel "is not interested in a truce or cease-fire."


EDITOR:  Ben Goldberg


EDITOR'S NOTE:  This analysis is based on 41 reports from 21 countries over 6 - 15 December 2003.  Editorial excerpts from each country are listed by the most recent date.




FRANCE:  “Total Truce Falls Through The Cracks In Cairo”


Jean-Luc Allouche noted in left-of-center Liberation (12/8):  “Prime Minister Qurei’s message in Cairo that ‘a cease-fire could not come free,’ was obviously intended for Israel....  Qorei was also pleased by the fact that the Cairo meetings proved the Palestinians’ unity....  But in the end the rejection of the truce by some of the most radical groups left Qorei without a mandate to serve as negotiator with Israel, a decision that would have implied a tacit recognition of the roadmap....  Egypt must now report to Washington on its failed mediation in favor of a year-long truce.”


GERMANY:  “Difficult Eviction”


Center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine opined (12/10):  “The recent threats by religious-ideologically motivated militant settlers to resort to ‘war’ against their own security forces in case settlements were to be dismantled, must be taken seriously.  Though these are at most a few settlements built illegally since 2001.  Israel, whose governing politicians occasionally carry out their power struggles on the back of the settlers, must accept the possible clashes if it is to remain credible.  The Palestinians must renounce violence.  Those among them who are ready for peace can only garner support if settlements, deemed illegal, are dismantled--visibly to everyone.”


“Drawing Borders”


Centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin held (12/10):  “There are reasons why the UN General Assembly continually deals with Israel instead of Chechnya or the Chinese occupation of Tibet.  It is because an anti-Israeli group of Arab and Muslim countries calls the tune--supported by neutral countries that don’t wish to be in the bad books of the oil sheiks.  Despite the obvious imbalance of the resolution on the [Israeli] security fence, the referral to the International Court of Justice faces Israeli with a dilemma.  If the court in The Hague considers the fence to be a unilateral drawing of borders, the project will be illegal.  However, to come to such a ruling would be absurd.  Future Israeli governments will decide on their own whether they want to relinquish the territories on their side of the fence for peace with the Palestinians.  Until this happens, every government has the right and duty to protect its citizens.  Criticism of the course of the fence, which locks up tens of thousands of Palestinians in a no-man’s land between Israel and the West Bank, is justified.  However, there isn’t an internationally vested right to blow up Israeli civilians.  This at least should be clarified in The Hague.”


ITALY:  "The Path To Peace Goes Through Rome"


An editorial in Rome's center-left daily Il Messaggero read (12/11):  "'The summit between Israeli PM Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Premier Abu Ala will be held very soon.' The announcement was made last night in Rome by the Israeli and Palestianian Foreign Ministers, respectively Silvan Shalom and Nabil Shaath, at the end of a meeting at the Farnesina. Shalom reiterated that the meeting must take place without preconditions, but he also added that he came to Rome with the objective to 'look toward the future' and not to mourn over the past....  The meeting took place on the margins of the Palestine Donor Conference which began yesterday in Rome. From the conference, appeals were launched to Israel and Palestinians to apply the 'road map' and to guarantee donors security to work in the occupied Territories. The meeting, which was attended by about one hundred delegates representing 14 donor countries and international organizations was opened by Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini."


"The UN Assembly--Hague Court To Decide on Israeli Fence"


Aldo Baquis commented in centrist, influential La Stampa (12/9):  "With 90 votes in favor, 8 against, and 74 abstentions, the UN General Assembly yesterday accepted the Palestinian request that the International Court of Justice in the Hague establish if Israel's erection of the fence in the West Bank, along the lines of demarcation which were in effect until 1967, is compatible with international law....  Israel's right to self-defense is not even denied by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan....  A modest consolation for Jerusalem came from a mass abstention from European countries. But the maneuver which was successfully orchestrated by Palestinian diplomacy is already causing apprehension among Israeli leaders."


"The Israeli Wall 'Ascribed' To The Hague"


Gian Micalessin judged in pro-government, leading center-right Il Giornale (12/9):  "Does it serve to steal their lands and to 'transform them into new slaves' as some Palestinians maintain, or is it indispensable to the defense of Israeli citizens from terrorism, as the Sharon government has been saying for months? Following months of controversy, the judges of the International Court in The Hague will express their opinion. The UN General Assembly decided yesterday with 90 votes in favor, 8 against and 74 abstentions to hand over the decision regarding the thorny issue on the legitimacy of the Israeli wall to the International Court of Justice....  The Assembly's decision...was greatly anticipated. But the EU's lump abstention, decided on the initiative of the Italian presidency, partly eased the political weight of the vote....  Although the EU expressed preoccupation and regret for Israel's refusal to suspend the construction of the fence, it [the EU] motivated the abstention by defining the handover of the issue to the International Justice Court as inappropriate....  The Court's ruling, which will come no sooner than in a year's time, will not be binding and it will be limited to verifying if the fence is in line with international legislation."


RUSSIA:  "Russia Abstains For Reasons Other Than Europe's"


Leonid Gankin wrote in business-oriented Kommersant (12/10):  "It has been pointed out in Jerusalem that as shown by the vote, the United States' and Europe's chief concern is, rather than putting pressure on Israel alone, is to contribute to a peaceful settlement.   Russia's motivation is different.  The Russian envoy to the UN, Sergey Lavrov, says that an appeal to the Hague, instead of helping make Israel stop building the wall, will only cause a delay."


HUNGARY:  “ Road Map And Destination”


Andras Schweitzer argued in prestigious Hungarian-language business/political weekly HVG (12/11):  “The Geneva Accord proves that the line that 'there isn’t a partner for peace’ repeated so notoriously by both sides [Israel and Palestine] is false.  The Accord is the evidence that an agreement that clarifies the most crucial details of the [Mideast] conflict can indeed be drafted.  And it would be hard anyway to conclude a compromise very different from the recent one.  A Palestine-Israeli peace agreement, if any will be reached at all, is expected to be based on the current Geneva Accord, regardless whether it becomes sealed within one or five, or fifty years.  The real guarantee for peace would be though if not the United States alone, but the members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which was established in 1969 with the purpose of ‘liberating’ Jerusalem, accepted the Accord as well.”




ISRAEL:  "A Matter Of Geography"


Editor-in-Chief Amnon Dankner maintained in popular, pluralist Maariv (12/12):  "This week, the idea of a unilateral withdrawal caught flak from both the Right and the Left.  The Left argued that Israel stood to gain nothing from this.  After all, the world wouldn't welcome the unilateral move.  Once again tremendous pressure would be applied on Israel.  The Palestinian areas would become an enclave between Israel and an Israeli-controlled zone in the Jordan Valley, with no stable regime and no means of sustaining themselves.  Pressure of anti-Israeli terrorism would increase.  This is quite true.  But the question is whether there is an alternative....  What is important is that the unilateral pullout would neither represent nor look like a definitive action that would determine the final border, but an interim step until an agreement is possible.  Thus, Israel would be relieved from that pressure, and would demonstrate it integrity to the world.  It is truly important--not only from the image point of view--for Israel to do everything it can to reach such an agreement.  But in the absence of an agreement and as continued occupation has no value, Israel is in a condition in which it must make a historic decision because no alternative is preferable."


"In Peace's Absence"


Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (12/12):  "We do not particularly like [Vice Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert's defeatist attitude on the questions of demography and of regime change on the Palestinian side....  Yet once demographic trends and the current Palestinian leadership are taken as givens, the question is whether any form of unilateral action can improve Israel's position....  The withdrawal from Lebanon was perceived as a pure retreat, regardless of Israel's claims that it had strengthened its strategic position.  That retreat helped lead the Palestinians to embrace the 'Hizbullah model,' with devastating consequences for Israel.  If we define a temporary border with a security fence that leaves Israel holding about half of the West Bank, the effect would be different.  The Palestinians would be faced with a choice: make peace in exchange for a better deal than that marked by the security fence, or continue to fight and watch as the Green Line disappears as a potential border.  Such a strategy would at least force the Palestinians to pay a price for their refusal to make real peace with Israel. Not ideal, we know, but such a path could prove much better than the bloody utopianism of the last decade."


"Don't Make The Americans Laugh"


Chief Economic Editor and senior columnist Sever Plotker stated in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (12/11):  "Senior officials in the U.S. Administration in Washington view a unilateral withdrawal, such as the one raised in the Sharon government, as an attempt to evade the implementation of the road map, and even worse: a veiled unilateral proposal to annex a large percentage of West Bank territory.... Even when Israel does withdraw from somewhere, they say, it immediately takes it back.... Israel should learn from the matter of the fence, they say here.... The Americans, from Bush to Powell, from Wolfowitz to Clinton, recommend to us that we be realistic.  As one senior official said: 'For the withdrawal to resolve anything, it has to be by agreement.'  And if it is agreed on, it is no longer unilateral.  The imperialistic dream of a 'unilateral solution' that Israel can enforce on the Palestinians--relating to them as if they don't exist--cannot be implemented, warns Washington.  It even diverts the sides from seeking practical arrangements on the ground and thus also infuriates the administration.  In short, American public opinion, except for the fringes, is a lot closer to the spirit of the 'Geneva understandings' than to the spirit of 'unilateral withdrawal.'"


"The Fence Will Bring The Political Solution"


Guy Bechor commented in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (12/11):  "If there is no possibility at the moment of reaching an Israeli-Palestinian agreement, a forced solution of a physical separation is the next best thing.  It has been shown in Cyprus that a fence eventually leads to a political solution, and that is what will happen here too.  The fence will lead to voluntary Jewish movement inside, with the government's encouragement, in a long term process that will not be perceived as a hasty flight nor as an unfair self-transfer; it will decrease the clashes; it will provide demographic and cultural defense; it will put a final end to the idea of greater Israel and greater Palestine.  In the absence of cultural tools for the Israelis and Palestinians to use to talk and reach agreements, when they conduct a dialogue of the deaf with the same national symbols such as the Temple Mount with no possibility of resolving this in our generation, the security fence is indeed ugly and creates a wound, but it is also the best possible political plan."


"The Prime Minister's Dance Of The Seven Veils"


Aluf Benn wrote in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (12/10):  "The Prime Minister, now under pressure from many directions, is seeking a way out....  The fact is that all his hints and trial balloons of the past few weeks have not stopped his collapse in the polls.  Meanwhile, he hears a lack of enthusiasm from the Americans about his plans for a unilateral step.  President George W. Bush is committed to the road map, and will only give it up if he is convinced Israel has tried every avenue to get it implemented....  Presumably, the steps Sharon is considering taking will be judged on their own merit....  When the unilateral steps come up for discussion, Washington will in any case demand more than what Sharon will be offering to do and that will only intensify the Prime Minister's political problems.  He's trying to maintain his current coalition, and responds to threats from the right that they'll quit by threatening to replace them with the Labor Party.  But following through on the threats is not so easy because all the major portfolios in the government are taken....  That's one of the reasons it is difficult to understand why Sharon is now fighting such a complex multi-front battle, if it is only for limited unilateral steps."


"Olmert-Type Cluster Bomb"


Eytan Haber declared in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (12/10):  "The statement by Industry and Trade Minister Ehud Olmert regarding willingness for a unilateral withdrawal from the territories of Judea, Samaria and Gaza ['the territories'] can be defined as a 'cluster bomb' in the diplomatic and political spheres....  The fragments of his statement are reaching far from the cabinet table and the Likud Central Committee.  One of the victims of this important statement could be the Labor Party....  Olmert's statement appears to reflect the prevalent opinion today among most of the Israeli public.  The Likud has, therefore, moved from the right to the center of the political map, and with Olmert's aid, has even situated itself slightly left of center, where the Labor Party was always located.  Olmert, Sharon and the others know full well that political and electoral victory lie in the center of the political arena--which commands the support of a majority of the people.  In this situation, the Labor Party needs to decide what is happening to it: will it stay put in the center, and fight over the same slot, or move to the left, towards the state of a Lilliputian party, perhaps vindicated once again, but tiny.  The elections are not yet approaching, but if the two large parties continue to occupy the same slot, then we will probably soon see the Labor Party joining the government while the National Religious Party and National Union leave it.  The Likud and Labor Party will then constitute one large centrist camp.  Together, they will, perhaps, make the most difficult decisions in Israeli history. A pipe dream?  Not really."


"An Indefensible Resolution"


Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (12/10):  "The [UN] General Assembly demonstrated its bias when it voted by a whopping 90-8 majority to refer the security fence to the International Court of Justice.  Israel, desperately resorting to the most non-violent defensive measure against relentless terror, is thereby put on trial, while mass-murderers cast themselves in the role of the outraged plaintiffs....  The UN's decision to declare the fence illegal was on par with it's notorious and ultimately repealed 'Zionism equals racism' resolution.  For if Israel, despite the Geneva Convention's explicit permission granted to build fortifications, is not allowed to even passively defend its children, then it is being denied the right of self-defense....  Israel will never acquiesce to such a verdict, which has sullied the body in which it passed and those who did not oppose it more than it does this nation."


"The Operation Was Successful, But The Patient Died"


Ben Caspit maintained in popular, pluralist Maariv (12/9):  "The fence, instead of imposing a siege on the Palestinians and on terror, imposes a siege on us [Israel]. Israel is becoming, slowly but surely, a leper state.  The White House is angry, Europe is furious.  The sanctions are already on the way.  There were some in Jerusalem Monday who noted the great success in getting almost 80 countries to abstain and eight (!!) to oppose the resolution to refer the matter of the fence to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.  Hooray for the impressive victory.  The thing is that the operation succeeded, but the patient died....  The significance of the resolution to refer the fence to The Hague is that if we lose the battle there, the matter will be referred to the Security Council prior to sanctions being imposed on Israel.  In a single move, without noticing, we are joining North Korea, Iraq, Libya, and perhaps Syria as well....  This so-vital separation fence has become a hump that is gradually threatening too many vital interests of Israel. Thus we managed, with exceptional sloppiness, to get ourselves into one of the more embarrassing complications: a sort of impossible modern catch-22, from which we cannot come out good, if at all.  Stopping to build the fence is impossible.  Changing its route in the current political situation is almost impossible.  Continuing to build it will cost us.  Not only billions...that it will cost thanks to its twisting route and its enclaves and its salients, but mainly because it is turning us into the most updated version of South Africa."


WEST BANK: "The Battle On Both Sides Of The Wall"


Rajab Abu Siriyeh commented in independent Al-Ayyam (12/12):  “The [Israeli security] wall now forms a focal point of the political conflict.  The Israeli right wing’s success in building this wall will basically block any political solution, including the PLO agenda that emphasizes the establishment of a Palestinian state and the right of return.  In the meantime, if the Palestinian resistance succeeds in halting the construction of this wall in an expeditious manner, it will cause the Sharon government to fall, leading to an internal political revolt in Israel, the conclusion of which will allow the Israeli left to govern.  This will encourage a fresh start between Israel and the Palestinian leadership as a political partner with the shared objective of reaching a two-state solution.”


"Why Is It Impossible To Give Up The Right Of Return?"


Mohammad Nobani opined in independent Al-Quds (12/12):  “Israel’s request for membership in the UN was conditioned on Israel’s pledge to abide by two additional requirements, in addition to the basic requirement stipulating that all member states must be peace-loving.  Those two other requirements are: withdrawal from Palestinian land according to the partition resolution and taking necessary procedures to allow Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland.  But Israel has failed to act upon these conditions and, instead, has turned a blind eye to all UN resolutions since 1948.  Palestinians, as a result, feel that they have no choice but to safeguard these rights and to hold fast to them for as long as it takes.”


"What's Behind All These Initiatives?"


Naji Sharab asked in independent Al-Quds (12/11):  “It is both interesting and dubious that we have recently being bombarded with all these unofficial initiatives, so much so that the settlers themselves have presented their own....  But what is behind these initiatives?  How do they differ from the official initiatives such as the Roadmap?  But most importantly, what do these numerous initiatives mean and are they helpful tools in resolving such a complicated, difficult and perpetual conflict?  And what is the common ground between these unofficial initiative and the official ones?....  To begin with, these initiatives present the view of a limited political and intellectual elite, and thus reflect the viewpoint of a group of very few people.  However, such initiatives draw their importance from the prominent status of their drafters within their social and academic communities. Furthermore, these initiatives represent a major intellectual change in essence and content.  Lastly, these initiatives are mostly based on practical ideas away from the generalization and vagueness that usually concentrate on denying each of the two sides’ demands.”


“The Resistance Is Legitimate...And The National Interest Prevails”


Muhannad Abdul Hamid wrote in independent Al-Ayyam (12/9):  “In its famous report, the international Mitchell Committee reached the conclusion that Palestinian violence can never end as long as settlement activities on Palestinian land continue.  The problem now is that the third party [America] does not want to intervene and does not allow others, including the Europeans, the UN and Russia, to intervene either.  And even if such U.S. involvement were to take place, it would only be in favor of Israel and Sharon....  The most positive pressure placed by the U.S. on Sharon was a deduction from the American loan guarantees to Israel equaling the cost of constructing the separation wall, while the utmost pressure the Europeans have imposed on Israel was a boycott of settlement products....  We need to activate the international and Arab position to place more pressure on Israel and to encourage a new Israeli current supporting an end to occupation.”


"If Only An Agreement Had Been Reached"


Independent Al-Quds editorialized (12/9):  “It is true that the entire world now realizes that Israel is not interested in a truce or a cease-fire....  Nonetheless, a Palestinian joint statement of understanding could have strengthened the Palestinian position and helped determine the next steps in moving toward the upcoming stage....  It definitely would have been better if an agreement, regardless of its structure and whether it was a temporary or long-lasting cease-fire, had been reached instead of holding fruitless talks that ended in failure.”


EGYPT:  "Unilateral Unity"


Azmi Bishara wrote in the official English-language Al-Ahram Weekly (12/11):  "Because of political and media hype the public expected the meetings of Palestinian factions in Cairo to produce a ceasefire....  Had the dialogue been about a genuine ceasefire it should have been between the Palestinians and the Israeli government and have broached such matters as the timeframe and international monitoring. This is what happens in ceasefire talks....  So long as Israel is not a partner in the 'dialogue' over the ceasefire such a ceasefire has no chance of holding.  No one is negotiating with Israel over a ceasefire: the latter does not want one and is boasting of the fact.  This boasting has not, however, stopped Israel from commenting on the outcome of the Cairo talks or from linking the failure of the dialogue with the building of the apartheid wall....  The Palestinians must agree on the best methods of struggle and ditch the less suitable....  The Palestinians cannot hope for a just solution of their cause anytime soon. Sharon knows that. This is why he is calling on the Palestinians to accept a long-term transitional settlement while threatening them with unilateral moves, including the wall. Both Sharon and his deputy, Ehud Olmert, are in favour of unilateral action towards the Palestinians....  Since an acceptable settlement cannot to be expected under Sharon the Palestinians should focus on consolidating and maintaining national unity....  To achieve these goals the Palestinians need a unified national command. This command should encompass the PLO as well as other factions....  Those who think that the peace option exists and that the Palestinians are divided into two camps, one for peace and another for war, are not only deluded, they are actively courting civil war....  The aim of the dialogue should be to consolidate national unity....  Without the creation of a unified national command any talk of a unified strategy is in vain. The Palestinians have to prioritise their goals and rally their resources for the major battles ahead, chiefly over the apartheid wall. The wall is the worst thing that can happen to the Palestinians, worse even than the dismemberment of Jerusalem. This wall has to be confronted through national unity....  Some think of the wall as a political boundary running close to the green line. In reality the wall gives Israel the chance to extend its unilateral political borders eastward under security pretences. The unilateral borders suggested by Sharon and Olmert are worse than the wall itself. By the same token, Israel may later build an eastern wall running along the Jordan valley--just one example of the racist unilateral measures lying in store....  Some are encouraged by the recent proliferation of peace initiatives, including that of Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. But Olmert's proposals...are the antithesis of a peace initiative. Olmert's main premise is that peace initiatives are futile, a negotiated agreement is out of reach, and therefore Israel must take unilateral measures. Dialogue and Palestinian national unity are in essence unilateral steps, needed to counter those of Israel."


SAUDI ARABIA: "Cairo Importance"


Abha-based moderate Al-Watan stated (12/12):  "We must cite the importance of the Cairo talks that took place last week among Palestinian factions....  Overall the discussions were a Palestinian victory, despite the failure to reach a common action plan.  It was a victory because it was a genuine attempt on behalf of the Palestinians to facilitate a solution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  The fact that the inter-Palestinian talks did not produce a tangible, common plan should not frustrate these factions to the point that they give up on the idea of future dialogue.”


JORDAN:  "The Devil In The Details?"


George Hishmeh noted in elite, independent English-langugae Jordan Times  (12/12):  "Yasser Abed Rabbo and Yossi Beilin must be very happy with their achievements in Washington, where leading politicians and former Cabinet officials, including former President Bill Clinton, voiced their blessings of their 'model' for Palestinian-Israeli peace....  There is no doubt that they tossed a big stone into the pool of ideas that have yet to yield a decent settlement, primarily acceptable to the Palestinians who lost their homeland some 50 years ago when, at the end of World War II, thousands of Jewish refugees running away from European persecution descended upon the Holy Land.  The Israeli leadership indignant about U.S. 'meddling,' for receiving the two negotiators at the State Department, felt compelled to sound forthcoming.  Ehud Olmert, the deputy Israeli prime minister and point man for Ariel Sharon, the prime minister, touted the merits of a 'unilateral' withdrawal from some parts of the Israel-occupied Palestinian territories.  It would nip in the bud talk about a one-state solution....  Egypt and Jordan, the two Arab countries that signed a peace agreement with Israel, endorsed the exercise which, nevertheless, generated some hostile Palestinian demonstrations and extensive debate in the Arab world....  What was most interesting to watch was the eagerness of the American media to host Abed Rabbo and Beilin on their talk shows, as well as the readiness of some congressmen to introduce resolutions urging Bush to endorse the Geneva accord.  All this seemed to underline Americans' frustration with their government's inability, over the years, to negotiate a clear-cut and fair settlement plan....  But the 'historical compromise' was not clear to all.  Beilin, who is cognizant of growing Israeli fears of a unitary state in historic Palestine, where “a minority of Jews” will end dominating in years to come “a majority of Arabs”, explained the compromise in this fashion:..."The formula is that sovereignty is handed over to the Palestinians on the Temple Mount (Haram Al Sharif) and sovereignty about the admission of refugees (to Israel) is handed over to Israel.  This simplistic trade-off will not sit well with many Palestinians, despite the promised dismantling of most Israeli settlements (except those surrounding Jerusalem), the vision of Jerusalem as the capital of two states, and a border that runs almost along the June 1967 armistice lines.  The devil may lie in the details of the annexes that have yet to be finalised by the two groups that were not really authorised to undertake this monumental task....  This is not likely to fly with Palestinians who need to assert their much-promised “right of return.”


“The Smart Move That Angers America Even Before Israel”


Mohammad Amayreh observed in center-left, influential Arabic-language Al-Dustour (12/10):  “No doubt, referring the issue of Israel’s separation wall between Palestinian territories occupied in 1948 and the rest of the Palestinian territories to the international court of justice in the Hague is a smart move to be hailed and supported....  Israel’s anger at such a move might just be justifiable, since it is the party directly concerned and affected, but America’s remarks opposing this move are completely out of place and needlessly reflect complete bias in favor of Israel.  The United States gets itself involved in such issues without considering their sensitivity and the potential for rousing Arab enmity towards U.S. policy, despite the fact that the U.S. administration continues to pose the nagging question: why do they hate us?  Washington has been biased in favor of the Zionist entity ever since its establishment on the land of Palestine and has continued to provide all support and assistance....  The tragic thing about this is that the United States believes that this should not prevent anything and that the Arabs should accept it and the Palestinians should bless it, and that if they do not, then it is terrorism.  The Arabs and the Palestinians found no protection in the Security Council from the Israeli arrogance and hegemony.  All the Security Council resolutions that condemn Israel came face to face with the American veto.  Their only refuge, therefore, is the General Assembly where they enjoy an obvious supporting majority for their issues, particularly the Palestinian issue....  We welcome this move and we believe it is a new opportunity for the Arabs and the Palestinians to regain some of their rights, that is if the higher court of justice’s rulings are binding for Israel.”


"The Failure Of The Round Of Dialogue In Cairo"


Jamil Al-Nimri stated in independent mass-appeal Arabic-language Al-Arab Al-Yawm (12/8):  "The dialogue [between Palestinian groups] sought to find a formula in which each party would be able to gain what it needs, but agreement was elusive at the present round.  The missing link was that at which each party could have pointed to a political gain, or a reasonable interest [in the cease-fire].  This point of convergence could not be reached because the Egyptian mediator could not present at the table any form of Israeli commitment.” 


LEBANON:  "U.S. And EU Should Impose A Solution On Israeli-Palestinian Conflict"


The moderate English-language Daily Star editorialized (12/11):  "Representatives of donor countries meeting in Rome are clearly losing patience with both sides in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict....  Neither camp has accepted the futility of seeking a solution through violence, and neither side’s leaders have had the maturity to articulate a vision of peace predicated on a commitment that there is, in fact, no going back....  All the while, blood continues to flow....  Donors are justifiably concerned that any money they pour into the area will go up in smoke as the two sides keep fighting. There is a depressingly fresh precedent for this fear: Virtually everything the Palestinian Authority built with aid funds received after the signing of the Oslo Accords has been destroyed.  Israeli tanks and bulldozers have ruined all manner of infrastructure....  The failed policies that have led to this impasse are not solely Israeli and Palestinian: The international community has also been remiss for not demanding that the principals come to their senses. It is not as though powerful actors like the United States and the European Union lack the leverage to impose a solution....  The peace process has stalled, but the outlines of a deal are already widely known.  All that remains is for a suitable combination of outside players to step in.  Draw an equitable map, divvy up Jerusalem, and implement fair but practical mechanisms for refugees and settlers.  Put NATO troops between the two sides until they grow up enough to live with each other and pump aid money in to defeat the root causes of extremism:  poverty and repression. Anyone who thinks such an approach would be condescending should worry less about the pride of the two peoples and more about the health of their children.  Imposing a just end to the Palestinian-Israeli feud would do far more than just keep them from slaughtering one another. It would also work wonders for the Jewish state’s disputes with other Arab countries and help reduce the threat of terrorism by removing a key contributor to militancy across the Islamic world. Whatever it might cost to force peace on Israel and Palestine would be a fabulous investment for the West that would pay for itself many times over in a very few years.  No one expects that Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat can do this on their own....  Their minds  cannot be changed, so their complaints and those of like-minded figures will have to be tolerated until enough of their respective electorates come to understand just how badly they have been led. Then the dinosaurs will fade into memory and, hopefully, be forgotten altogether."


"The Tangled Relation Between Palestine And Iraq"


Awni Kaaki asserted in in pro-Syria Ash-Sharq (12/10):  "There is a direct relation between the racist separation wall in the West Bank and events in Iraq, because they indicate a war with one target, embodied in an American Israeli partnership to subjugate Arabs and steal their will, wealth and rights....  Basically Israel was established on the Palestinian land to stop any communication between the Eastern Arabs and the Western Arabs.  And the Americans have been supporting it with all means in order to paralyze Arab abilities for confrontation.  All that is well known and needs no analysis or examination....  What is new is that America with the ultimate power it owns in the world has failed to protect its soldiers from the strikes the Iraqi resistance has been dealing the same way the Israeli army failed to protect its troops in South Lebanon leading it to withdraw....  America will reach a stage and a time in which it would find itself obliged to withdraw from Iraq.  The same thing applies in Gaza and the

West Bank....  We can see that the scene in Palestine has extensions with the scene in Iraq.  The resistance in both regions has become strongly tied up despite the fact that there was no connection or coordination between them.  The strikes against the American forces in Iraq will have their painful rebounds on the Israeli situation and vice versa."


SYRIA:  "The Separation Wall before and after Ceasefire"


Ahmad Hamadeh said in government-owned Al-Thawra (12/11):  "Israel has added a new bogus pretext to its list of false pretexts to justify continuing to build the racist wall; namely, that the Palestinian factions who met recently in Cairo have not reached a ceasefire with Israel. More than one Israeli official has reiterated this silly excuse....  Although the UNGA passed a resolution to refer the issue of the separation wall to the International Court of Justice....  Israel persists in its aggressive position and has started to block UN efforts to transfer the case to the International ICJ to avoid criticism....  Washington has objected to the UNGA resolution and has exerted all possible at the UN to deflect attention on Israel and not shift the issue to ICJ whose rulings have more judicial power than those of the UNGA.  This was not the only time the US has supported Israel. From the beginning, Washington has expressed understanding of Israel's alleged security needs used to justify construction of the wall. Only infrequently has any of US administration official commented on the illegality of this wall nor rise up to demand stopping its construction."


"Repeating The Policy Of Blackmail"


Ahmad Dawa wrote in government-owed Al-Thawra (12/10):  "Referring the issue of the Israeli wall to the International Court of Justice is a victory for Palestinian rights. Awareness of an Israeli reaction should continue. Israel's denunciation of the UNGA resolution and its readiness to justify constructing the wall is a prelude to further Israeli escalation and more falsification of facts."


TUNISIA:  "When The U.S. Veto Is Absent"


Senior editor Mohsen Zoghlami declared in independent Arabic-language As-Sabah (12/10):  "It seems that the UN decision to refer the issue of the Israeli wall to the international court is significant and also reflects the political quagmire in which the Israelis are trapped....  It also showed the real position of the Israeli government in the absence of a veto or political support that some powerful international countries provide it in the Security Council."


"The Dangers Of The Division"


Senior Editor Hajer Jeridi opined in independent French-language Le Temps (12/9):  "Attempts to solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict follow one after the other, but none has so far reached its ultimate purpose....  It is true that the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the unjust and aggressive practice of the Hebrew State have opened up a deep gap within Palestinian unity that is difficult to overcome. Isn't it time for the Palestinians to forget about their differences and to rise up strongly against the barbarism of the Israeli colonizer, which is still considered as invincible?  Peace can not be achieved through concessions and sacrifices alone; and Palestinians, who paid the bill with their lives while facing the Israeli oppression, know better than that. The current stubbornness is unproductive and the way that the Palestinians are leading their struggle has not led to any improvement....  The situation deserves to be handled with a lot of intelligence and diplomacy on the Palestinian side. It is not in the interest of the Palestinians to offer Sharon the opportunity to justify his unjust actions in pretending that the Palestinians pose a threat....  Time is difficult on the Palestinians, but their evolution in this conflict and the knowledge that they have acquired from the Israeli tactics should have enabled them to deal with their opponents with wisdom and efficiency. If we have a real will to achieve peace and to reestablish the freedom of the people, we could make the most difficult and painful concessions in order to reach our objective."


UAE:  "Isolated By Own Fence"


Pan-Arab Sharjah-based Khaleej Times declared (12/10):  "Israel has reached a corner on the issue of the racial separation fence, which the government of Ariel Sharon has insisted on constructing regardless of international objections, which predictably came from most countries in the world. With the UN General Assembly decision to refer the matter to the International Court of Justice in the Hague, the Jewish state has come to face a new kind of challenge.  This time, it cannot fight back with diplomatic and political trickery, for it is up against the force of international law and indeed the UN Charter....  Israel, under no circumstances, can claim that looking into the issue of the so-called security fence does not fall under the purview of the International Court of Justice....  The question before the International Law Court in the Hague is simple: What, by virtue of law, are the repercussions of the 'security fence', which the Jewish state's forces are constructing on occupied Palestinian lands, including inside the eastern Holy City of Jerusalem and surrounding areas? What will Israel do now? Will it go ahead with challenging the UN, especially after the UN secretary-general had said that the fence is obviously a violation of the Palestinian rights, and is built on internationally recognised Palestinian land? I believe the Sharon government will find the going tough in the face of growing domestic and international frustration with its policies. The outcome of European opinion surveys has already highlighted the negative impact on the Continent of Israel's militarist and expansionist policies. Sharon can hardly afford to alienate international public opinion further."


"Under Siege"


Pan-Arab Sharjah-based Khaleej Times held (12/8):  "Is Ariel Sharon finally recognising the inevitability of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, underpinned by a withdrawal of Israeli forces and settlers from the occupied territories and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state?  It is too early to tell, but the trial balloon floated by his deputy, Trade Minister Ehud Olmert, does signify an ongoing debate within the Likud-led rightwing coalition government....  He did not rule out either the possibility of evacuation of some 50,000 settlers from the West Bank and Gaza Strip or the acceptance of a Palestinian state if only to 'preserve Israel's Jewish and democratic character.'  Whether Olmert was sounding off his own views or those of his boss, is not quite clear, but it is highly unlikely that the Trade minister was speaking on the record without Sharon's permission.  With a number of private peace proposals, notably the Geneva Initiative, stealing the limelight, a unilateral Palestinian ceasefire in the offing, and opinion polls showing deep public support for a resolution, the Israeli government was in serious danger of being all but marginalised. However, what seems to have done the trick is the pressure brought to bear on Sharon by the Bush administration to stop being the stumbling block to peace negotiations. Given the displeasure expressed by Washington over the building of the so-called security fence and the expansion of Jewish colonies in occupied territories, it was perhaps a matter of time before Sharon started to budge from his hard line position."




INDONESIA:  “How Bush Could Recover Muslims’ Support”


Jusuf Wanandi wrote in the English-language moderate Jakarta Post (12/15):  "Many Muslims thought that President Bush was not pushing strong enough for the roadmap. That message was conveyed to him by the Indonesian Muslim leaders that met with him in Bali several months ago. The message seemed to have some impact. If President Bush can move the roadmap in cooperation with the other three sponsors, albeit step by step because it is such a complex problem, then support for him among Muslims worldwide could be somewhat restored. In the meantime, Indonesians--be they Muslims or not--should support the roadmap and the Geneva accord to achieve a peaceful resolution to a conflict that is deep seated and debilitating to all.”




SOUTH AFRICA:  "Geneva Accord Best Chance For Long-term Peace"


The liberal Sunday Independent commented (12/8):  "[T]here is reason for caution if the Geneva accord is not to join other peace initiatives on the scrap heap of Mideast peace plans.  The impact of the past three years of violence is that the concept of a two-state solution...might have been irreversibly damaged....  Movement towards a binational state--even if it is 50 years away--could represent Israel's only option for survival in the long term.  It would strengthen moderates on both sides, recognized the geographic and economic realities of the region and offer Israeli Jews and Arabs the prospect of being able to live in a plural state with shared national symbols.  It could also unlock the deadlock over the necessary process of defining two separate entities before building bridges between them."


UGANDA:  "New Hope For Middle East?"


Uganda’s state-owned New Vision opined (12/6):  "Even a nodding acquaintance with the real world would suggest we should not get over-excited with the fact that US Secretary of State Colin Powell will meet the architects of the so-called Geneva Accord. This is a group of individual Palestinians and Israelis who have taken the initiative to look for solutions to their nations' seemingly intractable problem.  That such a group should exist at all should not be surprising, given that common sense decrees it an absolute necessity for Israelis and Palestinians to work hand in hand. But the hawks on either side see it otherwise.  It would have been easy for Colin Powell to be led by hawkish Israel, which is the common US way. Is what Powell is doing a belated new departure for the US, especially following its earlier action in the week of refusing to guarantee a $300 million loan to Israel? In itself that was no major amount, but what about symbolically? When push comes to shove, maybe these two actions will disappear like the morning dew, but they have happened and been recorded. For this the region might have hope."




CANADA:  "Don't Let `Palestine' Slip Away"


Gordon Barthos commented in the liberal Toronto Star (12/11):  "U.S. President George Bush faces re-election next year and needs 'progress' toward peace. Sharon could give him no better gift than a military pullout, and the scrapping of some settlements. But a unilateral Israeli move would deprive Palestinians of the chance to negotiate the borders of their new state, and they'd be left with a smaller one than they might otherwise get....  This wouldn't bring Israelis the peace and security they crave, of course....  That is a dismal prospect at a time when there's a fresh international push--courtesy of the so-called Geneva Plan--to resurrect interest in a far better option for both sides....  If Palestinians can't forge a truly united front, the Palestinian Authority, headed by Arafat, must act resolutely in the best interest of all Palestinians worldwide, face down the rejectionists and prevent them from sabotaging all hope of a just settlement. Palestine must not be allowed to slip away. Palestinians deserve more than a tiny state carved out by Israel's current right-wing leadership for its own convenience. They have paid, through generations of resistance and suffering, for something better. It should not be denied them."


ARGENTINA:  "Peace Plan For The Middle East"


An editorial in leading Clarin read (12/8):  "The understanding between Israeli and Palestinian political leaders, demonstrated in the so-called 'Geneva Plan,' shows there is willingness to resume the peace road in the Middle East. Until now, all the initiatives, including the so-called 'Road Map' promoted by the US, Europe, Russia and the UN, lacked this bilateral participation....  According to the initiative proposed, negotiations will be resumed on the point they were interrupted more than two years ago....  But the most important thing of this understanding is that the two parties promoted it and the support they received for this purpose....  All this leads us to believe that the deal can become an antecedent for future negotiations."


BRAZIL:  "The Geneva Initiative"


Alberto Dines declared in center-left Jornal do Brasil (12/6):  "The so-called Geneva Accord signed by Palestinian and Israeli idealists is not a real accord.  It's a virtual one.  But it has weight and value.  It's a protocol between consciences not between States.  Hence its strength....  The ostensive sympathy of Colin Powell, and then of President Bush, indicates that for the first time in three years subtlety and wisdom managed to infiltrate the State Department and the White House.  It's the greatest affirmative action ever tried on an international level, the consecration of a non-government idea that grants the citizen the full exercise of its ability of thinking and acting in favor of the collective....  The unbelievable consonance between Sharon's rage and the screaming Palestinian radicals grants the automatic and consecrating legitimacy:  When the extremes are shocking the third way becomes the only possible, feasible path.  The inability to identify this new fact in the Middle East situation was the Chancellors' great mistake in outlining President Lula's current visit to some Arab countries.  When the presidential trip was planned the Initiative had not yet gained the dimension that would turn it into a possible alternative or even a rhetorical reference in official ceremonies.  But in diplomacy--as well as in the media--he who is unable to identify new information and opportunities is condemned to look old-fashioned.  The defense of our economic interests should not lead us to an outdated political speech.  Our fame as creative people calls for more agile responses.....  A speech in Damascus in favor if the Geneva Initiative would have had great international repercussion and would definitely have contributed to changing the atmosphere of hatred involving the region....  If governments are passive and rulers mistake 'realpolitik' with inertia and resignation, and irrationality is imposed onto reasoning and ideology is imposed over ideals, it's up to world citizens to support  those who dared to break the equilibrium of resentment and the see-saw of violence."


GUATEMALA:  "Diplomatic Option For The Middle East"


Business-oriented Siglo Veintiuno said (12/7):  "Following the failure of the diplomatic effort called Roadmap for Peace...last week a new initiative was announced in Geneva to rescue important aspects of conversations that were initiated by Ehud Barak and Yaser Arafat....  Everything indicates that diplomatic negotiations, alongside mediation by the White House, may bring results that will favor the complex negotiations between Israel and Palestine in the context of the processes established by the controversial Roadmap for Peace."


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