International Information Programs
Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

July 22, 2003

July 22, 2003





**  Abbas, Sharon trips prove Washington "has not given up on this fragile peace process."


**  Sharon's trip to Europe "reflects an Israeli maneuver" to isolate Arafat.


**  Israel "clearly aims at dividing" the Palestinians. 


**  Arabs, Asians, European papers see a need for "real concessions" from Tel Aviv. 




The meetings in America 'will decide the fate of the roadmap'--  Bush's "personal and massive involvement" was called the most vital factor for the roadmap's survival.  Israel's left-leaning Ha'aretz declared that the roadmap's future "will be determined in the separate meetings that Abu Mazen and Sharon" will have in the U.S.  Other Israeli writers said Sharon's mission is "rescuing Abu Mazen," Washington's "new darling."  Arab writers stressed the need to "put pressure on Israel," with Egypt's leading Al-Ahram demanding "serious American intervention."            


Sharon's attempts 'to isolate Arafat failed'--  Arab papers gloated that "Sharon's opinions were ignored" in Europe, which did not give in to "American pressure to isolate Arafat," according to Saudi Arabia's moderate Al-Watan.  Canada's conservative National Post disagreed, decrying Europe's "soft-headed and immodest" offer of "diplomatic lifelines" to Arafat.  The center-left Irish Times welcomed Sharon's "belated recognition" that "more equal, balanced and common engagement by the EU and the U.S." is necessary to achieve peace.  London's independent Financial Times also urged "strong intervention by the EU." 


Israel should 'stop driving a wedge among Palestinians'--  Arab papers emphasized that "national unity must be preserved" despite what the West Bank's independent Al-Quds called Israel's "provoking trouble among Palestinians."  The independent Jordan Times stated the PA "must be careful not to fall into the trap of a civil war or leadership struggle."  An Israeli writer agreed that "without a substantial release of prisoners," Abbas will lose influence and the "current calm could quickly deteriorate into a renewed violent conflict."          


Sharon's support for the roadmap is only 'deception'--  The West Bank's pro-PA Al-Ayyam spoke for many when it alleged Sharon "has not offered the Palestinians any substantial gains."  Dailies claimed Israel's "foot-dragging" suggested it was not serious about the roadmap.  Other Arab writers blasted Israel's "continued assassinations, murder and aggression."  The Knesset resolution "declaring the West Bank and Gaza as territories not under occupation" prompted criticism from papers such as Syria's government-owned Al-Thawra, which termed it "an explosive torpedo the Roadmap."  Conversely, Israel's conservative Jerusalem Post criticized Abbas' "excuses for inaction and violation of commitments." 


EDITOR:  Ben Goldberg


EDITOR'S NOTE:  This analysis is based on 42 reports from 15 countries over 17 - 22 July 2003.  Editorial excerpts from each country are listed from the most recent date. 




BRITAIN:  "The Holes In Israel's Roadmap"


Hasan Abunimah and Ali Abunimah argued in the independent Financial Times (7/22):  "Despite the declaration of a unilateral Palestinian ceasefire with Israel, and the frequent meetings between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, the 'roadmap' for peace is in serious trouble. This is because the Bush administration, the plan's chief sponsor, has allowed Israel to reinterpret it so that it is gutted of the elements that offered hope of progress.  The result, according to Israel's Peace Now, a pressure group, is an increase in the number of outposts by at least two since Mr Bush made his statement....  As the Bush administration does nothing to check Israel--and simultaneously piles pressure on the deeply unpopular Mr Abbas, whose appointment as Palestinian prime minister it engineered--it is only a matter of time before the situation explodes in a new and sustained round of violence.  Perhaps the only hope of saving the process lies with strong intervention by the EU, which nominally co-authored the road map. Hitherto, the EU has acquiesced in US leadership, even when it has disagreed with US positions. And the US has been willing to ignore Europe on those rare occasions when it has asserted itself, as the Iraq crisis demonstrated. But, ironically, US difficulties in Iraq may give Europe the leverage to demand real action towards Palestinian freedom and Middle East peace as a prerequisite for help in extricating the Americans from their own unravelling occupation of Iraq."


"Stop Wasting Time:  Israel Should Get On With Making Peace"


The left-of-center Guardian opined (7/22):  "Any sign of Israeli foot-dragging over implementation of the "road map" with the Palestinians cannot be tolerated.  Mr Sharon is wasting valuable time. His latest, familiar excuse appears to be that he is waiting for a meeting in Washington next week with George Bush, who will also meet Mr Abbas on Friday. As in the past, it is to be feared that Mr Sharon will portray any new but limited Israeli 'concessions' as a great and risky good-faith gesture, beyond which he cannot at this point safely go. In return, he will seek increased US pressure on the Palestinians, especially over disarming Hamas and Islamic Jihad, plus other, bilateral favours. This is an old game that Mr Bush should refuse to play. As ever, Israel holds most of the cards."


ITALY:  “Sharon And Abu Mazen Move Ahead With Small Steps”


Fiamma Nirenstein wrote in centrist, influential La Stampa (7/21):  “Yesterday’s meeting in Jerusalem between Sharon and Abu Mazen was not a failure: the two were both determined and docile at the same time. Sharon stated that if terrorism ends he will be ready to dismantle other settlements in the West Bank and to hand over to the Palestinians responsibility for security. He promised to call a meeting of the Parliament Committee for the liberation of Palestinian prisoners....  The duration of the truce and its slow political progress is a miracle. Only the great strength of the U.S. administration and international pressure in general are keeping it from breaking. Abu Mazen continues to govern on a barbed wire. And yesterday’s meeting is a sort of indication that history continues despite everything: Abu Mazen is leaving for his tour to Egypt, Jordan and then to the green lawn of the White House, with the list of the prisoners in hand, the Palestinians’ favorite list, and with other requests, in an attempt to make him a leader. Both Ariel Sharon and George W. Bush want to see Abu Mazen gain the consideration of his people and of international consensus, in order to oust the imperishable Arafat.”


RUSSIA:  "Coming To Washington In Turns, But Together" 


Andrei Pravov contended in reformist Vremya MN (7/18):  "So, another issue connected with the implementation of the road map plan has been solved. The date of the trip to Washington by the head of the Palestinian government, Mahmoud Abbas, has been fixed....  The situation appears to have changed. Obviously, Yasser Arafat has decided to make some concessions 'in the name of the ultimate goal' and has lifted a ban on Mahmoud Abbas's trips. His decision may have been influenced by the chief of Egypt's military intelligence Oman Suleiman who spent several days in Ramallah in mid-July and reportedly brought about 'a final reconciliation' between the two Palestinian leaders....  Many say that the main topic of all the meetings is the need to expand the list of Palestinian prisoners being released from Israeli jails, above all by including a certain number of activists of the radical groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad.  The Palestinian radicals are bringing heavy pressure on their premier stressing that if he fails to secure the release of the prisoners, the truce will be over. In other words, they threaten to resume terrorist acts against Israel. According to many assessments, Sharon will come under pressure in Washington 'to strengthen the authority of Mahmoud Abbas.'  But observers point out that Ariel Sharon is unlikely to agree to release the terrorists who staged explosions in Israeli cities or organized such terrorist acts. Otherwise he may face serious protests in his own country. That is, Israel may again find itself on the brink of a new government crisis.  All the three participants in the upcoming talks in Washington are very well aware of this. But it is still unclear whether they will reach any "compromise solution" and what they will do if such a compromise fails."


DENMARK:  “Bush Meeting With Abbas Sends Important Signal”


Centrist Kristeligt Dagblad judged (7/22):  “The meeting between President Bush and Mahmoud Abbas is an important signal to the Palestinians and the international community as a whole, that Abbas is both respected and accepted by the American government.”


IRELAND:  "A Stronger Roadmap"


The center-left Irish Times opined (7/22):  "The Israeli foreign minister, Mr Silvan Shalom, surprised his hosts by saying Israel would welcome a greater EU role in the Middle East if it is ‘more balanced’ and agreeing to disagree with them about Mr Yasser Arafat's role in the peace process. He was pleased with the EU's involvement in putting pressure on the Palestinians to rein in those supporting violence. If this genuinely signifies a greater willingness by the Israelis to accept the EU's involvement in the ‘roadmap'...there is greater reason than before to expect that progress can be made. The Israeli prime minister, Mr Ariel Sharon, was originally sceptical about the roadmap, believing President Bush, its prime mover, would not sustain that commitment into a US election year when pressure on Israel would be unpopular with key groups of his supporters. This has proved to be a miscalculation so far, leading Israeli policy-makers to take the roadmap more seriously....  The U.S. has shown itself somewhat more willing to deal with the EU, the UN and Russia by recognizing their distinctive approaches to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Middle East as a whole. This must be put alongside renewed US warnings to Iran not to interfere in Iraq, which raise fears of another unilateral adventure. EU ministers have accepted a tough policy on Iran, concerning nuclear weapons, human rights and terrorism, making it more difficult for that state to exploit transatlantic disagreements....  A more equal, balanced and common engagement by the EU and the US can make a real difference. Israel's belated recognition of this is welcome.”


NORWAY:  “An Orderly Molde Meeting”


Newspaper-of-record Aftenposten commented (7/17):  “And there are signs that signify that the chimes for a peace process now are into an important phase. Certainly we must declare that so far the process has been, after the so-called roadmap was launched, full of crises and setbacks. But at the same time there is much that signifies that it begins to get better for both parties, and especially for Ariel Sharon, that it can be thought that the U.S. is serious this time about its engagement. Yesterday afternoon a message came that President George W. Bush had invited the Palestinians’ Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas to Washington next week. And in Molde it was confirmed that Sharon and Abbas would already be meeting this weekend. Something is ready to happen. A fresh Palestinian Prime Minister--and it is one who was nominated after a very strong wish matched by just as much pressure from the U.S.--on visit in the White House is a strong signal that the superpower’s leadership has not given up on this fragile peace process."


“Sharon And Arafat In Common Destiny”


Erik Sagflaat held in social democratic Dagsavisen (7/17):  “The demand from Sharon that Arafat should also be isolated internationally will strengthen Arafat further, and make it yet more difficult for the challenger Mahmoud Abbas to win respect....  The roadmap for peace is a good plan. But it demands quick and real handling. The Palestinians must stop the abominable bomb terror against civilian Israelis. The Israelis must start the removal of their illegal settlements. For results to be achieved, tough decisions and decisive action is needed both from Yassir Arafat and Ariel Sharon. But there is a great danger that neither of them is any longer in a position to do it.”




ISRAEL:  "Generosity And Good Will"


Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (7/22):  "The Palestinians had great expectations of the meeting between Prime Ministers Mahmoud Abbas and Ariel Sharon, and they have been disappointed....  Without a substantial release of prisoners and detainees, Abbas won't be able to win his public's confidence, the rejectionists will regard themselves as no longer bound by the 'hudna,' and the current calm could quickly deteriorate into a renewed violent conflict that will claim more casualties.... There is an impression that the Prime Minister wants to 'grant' the prisoner release to the American president when they meet next week. As a result, a gesture meant to build confidence between Israel and the Palestinians will take a bypass through the U.S. Administration, in the hope of easing American pressure on Israel....  It is unnecessary to remind both sides that they still have a complex, and dense work plan that is meant to lead to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the not too distant future.  The plan's success not only depends on fulfilling the formal obligations but to a large extent it also requires good will."


"In His Father's Shadow"


Hemmi Shalev opined in popular, pluralist Maariv (7/21):  "The White House's increasing concern about the 'Iraqi curse' that could strike the Bush family again in November, already has implications for the situation in our region....  One may assume that in the next few months the President will invest most of his energy in an attempt to achieve results in the Middle East in order to boost his successful statesman image and in order to cast away evidence of his failures in Iraq and in the economy.  However, that trend could change entirely over time and as the electoral campaign warms up....  Starting in January 2004, the government of Israel and its leader will have a consequential influence on the shaping of the U.S. policy regarding the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.  The experience of the last few months, including the road map and the cease-fire, teaches that nothing will move here without the President's personal and massive involvement.  Therefore, in the upcoming period and as long as the President's ambitiousness is at its peak, Sharon will have to act cautiously and moderately, in order not to anger the White House.  But within a short amount of time...the window of opportunity will begin to close and, should Sharon want it, seal altogether until at least January 2005--that's a long time."


"Doing The Washington Walk"


Nathan Guttman judged in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (7/21):  "For the first time in two-and-a-half years, the smiles are back on the faces of the Palestinian envoys arriving in the American capital....  The Palestinians know the change of tone is not an outburst of affection but an expression of President Bush's desire to prove to the Americans and the world that his way is right.  He's the one demanding the reforms in the PA and the marginalization of Arafat as a condition to move forward, and now, with those conditions in place, he has to adopt the new leadership to prove he was right to make those demands....  The Palestinians know that they need more than the Administration on their side and recapturing Congress will be a long and difficult struggle.  So, they're reaching out to the public, to think tanks and even the Jewish community....  The struggle is far from over for them [the Palestinians], but at least this week in Washington, they had the feeling people were ready to listen again."


"Tough Talk And No Photo Ops"


Danny Rubinstein contended in independent, left leaning Ha'aretz (7/21):  "'A tense and unproductive meeting'--that's how the Palestinian spokesmen described Sunday's meeting between Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and their negotiating teams....  One Palestinian cabinet member explained that Sharon took a tough stance in the meeting because he wants to tell U.S. President George W. Bush all about the concessions his government is prepared to make (if and when there will be concessions).  In other words, Sharon wants to present the Americans, not the Palestinians, with the Israeli gestures of peace....  A portion of the meeting was spent on arguments over the extent to which the Palestinians are holding up the cease-fire and dismantling the groups responsible for terror attacks, a demand called for in the road map....  Members of Abu Mazen's negotiating team said that in effect no progress was made during the meeting....  The future of the cease-fire and the road map will be determined in the separate meetings that Abu Mazen and Sharon will hold in Washington in the next few days--not in the direct talks between the two men."


"Pragmatism's Pitfalls"


Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (7/21):  "The Palestinians, as in the past, have started making extraneous demands before implementing what they have just agreed to, in this case for the release of prisoners.  The U.S., as in the past, is reflexively parroting these demands regardless of what the current framework, the road map, says, under the rubric of 'helping Mahmoud Abbas.'  Actually it does not help Abbas or anyone else to play into excuses for inaction and violation of commitments....  Attempts to stand on principle, fairness, or logic are brushed aside in favor of the supreme guide: pragmatism.  But here's the rub--tossing principles aside in this manner is not pragmatic, but a sure path to failure....  It is a mistake for the U.S. to simply press the party that seems most flexible, regardless of merit or the precedent it sets.  But if this is the U.S. modus operandi, Israel must show some inflexibility as well.  If the U.S. responds by increasing pressure on Israel, the whole process will unravel, since the pressure on the Palestinians will dissolve and they will deliver even less.  But if we continue giving into Palestinian excuses and demands and go quietly along with American mistakes, the process will unravel as well."


"PA, Israel Polish Up Their U.S. Agendas"


Aluf Benn observed in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (7/18):  "Sharon prefers to arrive at the White House after Abu Mazen--he may lose the privilege of precedence, but he will save himself a second round of pressure.  During the Sharon visit, officials expect Bush to raise the complaints and requests lodged by Abbas, the administration's new darling, and to ask Sharon to do everything possible to strengthen him.  Sharon might as well come second to Washington and suffer the pressure for prisoner releases, dismantling of outposts, removal of roadblocks and travel restrictions, all at the same time, rather than before and after the Abbas visit.  Sharon is expected to try to extract a promise from the Americans to pressure the Palestinians harder to fight terrorism, and not just pay lip service with a cease-fire.  The main message Sharon will present in his upcoming meetings with both Abbas and Bush will be that the grace period Israel granted the new Palestinian government to take on security responsibilities in Gaza and Bethlehem has ended."


"Helping Abu Mazen"


Sima Kadmon opined in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (7/18):  "The most important person in Sharon's government is George Bush.  He is extremely influential and Sharon won't let his visit get spoiled or tones of disagreement chirp out....  With Sharon, nothing is accidental or innocent.  Declarations about the release of Hamas and [Islamic] Jihad [detainees] are meant to prepare public opinion.  By the time Sharon goes to Washington, this [move] will have ripened.  Sharon hopes to arrive in Washington prepared for his international mission: rescuing Abu Mazen."


"Sharon's Trump Card"


Shimon Shiffer wrote in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (7/18):  "Sharon has a trump card: if the Europeans wish to become an influential party again in the Mideast diplomatic process, they have to arrive at a genuine dialogue with Sharon.  He currently is the person holding the key to returning the Europeans to the Middle Eastern court after the Americans kicked them out.  This is true not only regarding negotiations with the Palestinians, but to a certain extent valid for all aspects of the depth of involvement the U.S. will allow Europe in the reconstruction process of Iraq."


WEST BANK:  "On The Road To Washington:  Abu Mazen And Sharon--Tension Warns Of A Storm"


Rajab Abu Sariyeh wrote in independent, pro-PA Al-Ayyam (7/22):  "Following [the 7/20 Sharon-Abu Mazen] meeting, the Palestinian government expected that Israel would act on releasing prisoners, stopping construction of the ‘separation wall,’ and halting settlement expansion....  However, the lack of any substantial action on these issues raises the question of whether Israel is serious in wanting to fulfil its obligations, especially considering that the truce has been in effect for a while....  This also leads us to ponder the substance of the American President’s upcoming meetings with both prime ministers next week.  Some sources state that a report on national security matters regarding the Middle East, prepared by U.S. security agencies, will include recommendations to President Bush to pressure Sharon to lift the siege on Arafat.  Other sources have stated that a similar report was presented to Sharon pointing out that the siege has actually strengthened Arafat.  Additionally, some press sources predict that in his visit to Washington, Sharon will be under direct American pressure regarding the siege on Arafat and the separation wall, the latter of which has already been raised by U.S. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice during her last meeting with Sharon.”


"Denying The Catastrophe, Destroying The Wall"


Independent, pro-PA Al-Ayyam observed (7/22):  "What we should really hope for now is that President Bush will help us tear down the ‘Separation Wall’ which, in Abu Mazen’s words, shatters the hopes of any progress on the political solution and results in a catastrophe to the Palestinian people.  If you want to build a wall around your house or your land to protect it, you should do that on your own land, not in your neighbor’s garden, as is the case with Israel and its separation wall....  Building this wall on Palestinian land is politically motivated, aimed at imposing a unilateral expansion of Israel, and is also a provocative action that encourages violence.  Condoleezza Rice has already been persuaded by Abu Mazen’s reasonable argument against the separation wall. Now it’s President Bush’s turn to be persuaded, so he will order Sharon to destroy the wall.”


“The Abbas-Bush Meeting, A Race With Time”


Samih Shubeib held in independent, pro-PA Al-Ayyam (7/21):  “The meeting of PM Mahmoud Abbas and American President Bush enjoys a special significance in the context of new Palestinian action on the Roadmap....  In their first meeting, both the Americans and Palestinians will try to summarize the outcome of all matters and will propose views on how to break the deadlock as a practical step to start the implementation of the first phase of the roadmap....  The Israeli government has not offered the Palestinians any substantial gains or accomplishments.  No blockades of West Bank and Gaza roads has been removed, no lists of prisoners to be released has been identified and no serious move on settlement evacuation has been taken....  The Israeli leadership realizes that Palestinian patience has limits; it works very hard to go beyond these limits, pushing Palestinians to lose patience and using regional and international circumstances to serve its interests....  There are enough indicators that the American administration wants some tangible accomplishments in roadmap implementation....  There is a race against time among the three sides, the Palestinian, the Israeli and the American....  How things will turn out will become clear in the next few days.”


"Israeli Obstacles" 


Independent Al-Quds editorialized (7/21):  “Apparently the meeting between the Palestinian and Israeli prime ministers did not come up with positive or decisive results....  The Israeli side repeatedly demanded that the Palestinians dismantle the infrastructure of the “terrorist organizations,” and they continually rejected the Palestinian demands for releasing prisoners, lifting the siege on Chairman Arafat and halting construction of the 'Separation Wall'....  A reasonable question every Palestinian asks is: What are the two sides negotiating about?  Are such negotiations serious enough as the Sharon government is saying “no” to every initiative that could build bridges of trust in pushing the peace process ahead?....  Such a reality determines that the United States, the Quartet and the international community as a whole intervene to eliminate the Israeli obstacles that only hinder any progress in the peace process....  As Palestinians are getting ready to visit Washington, a top priority demand should be an invitation to the U.S. and the Quartet to increase their intervention in the peace efforts and to ensure that Israel fulfills its commitments on halting settlement expansion and carrying out military withdrawals, amongst other vital issues.”


“The Abbas-Bush Meeting, A Race With Time”


Samih Shubeib maintained in independent pro-PA, Al-Ayyam (7/21):  “The meeting of PM Mahmoud Abbas and American President Bush enjoys a special significance in the context of new Palestinian action on the Roadmap....  In their first meeting, both the Americans and Palestinians will try to summarize the outcome of all matters and will propose views on how to break the deadlock as a practical step to start the implementation of the first phase of the roadmap....  The Israeli government has not offered the Palestinians any substantial gains or accomplishments.  No blockades of West Bank and Gaza roads has been removed, no lists of prisoners to be released has been identified and no serious move on settlement evacuation has been taken....  The Israeli leadership realizes that Palestinian patience has limits; it works very hard to go beyond these limits, pushing Palestinians to lose patience and using regional and international circumstances to serve its interests....  There are enough indicators that the American administration wants some tangible accomplishments in roadmap implementation....  There is a race against time among the three sides, the Palestinian, the Israeli and the American....  How things will turn out will become clear in the next few days.”


"Abu Mazen To Washington:  An Exploration Of The Extent Of America's Seriousness"


Hani Habib declared in independent, pro-PA Al-Ayyam (7/20):  “Abu Mazen meets Sharon and Bush with confidence that the Palestinians are capable of solving their conflicts, particularly since most statements from the Palestinian leadership clarified that the Arafat-Abu Mazen misunderstanding was not a political one since both supported the roadmap....  Regarding Sharon, who will also meet Bush four days prior [sic] to the Palestinian-American summit, he too has some 'smoothing' to do to convince the American administration that he is serious about implementing the Roadmap.  Yet he [Sharon] also realizes that the Bush administration is in a state of confusion with the Iraqi WMD file....  The Americans today are more eager than ever to see achievements in the Middle East embodying the Bush vision.  This, they believe, will quell the rising disappointment about “victory” in Iraq.”


"The Trip To The White House"


Hasan el-Kashef stated in official Al-Hayat Al-Jadidah (7/19):  “The Israel Knesset passes what Prime Minister Sharon decides.  The other day, it passed a bill declaring the West Bank and the Gaza Strip not occupied, but disputed territory, just as Sharon believes, decides and acts....  Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Mazen is going to Washington via Cairo and Amman to meet with US President George Bush at the White House. The US media and political machine will exaggerate the Roadmap.  We have to believe what we see, not what we hear....  Abu Mazen has accepted the US invitation though there are no promises of any sort.  We are not expecting happy surprises, but we expect to hear what we had already heard from President George Bush at Sharm al-Shaykh and Aqabah, as well as what we heard from his Secretary of State Colin Powell and his National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice in Jericho.  What will Abu Mazen tell President George?  This is the fundamental question.  The Palestinians will accept what Abu Mazen repeated to Colin Powell in Jericho, not what he told President Bush in Aqabah....  Despite its enormous might and influence, the White House needs a free affadavit from the Palestinians about its justice and fairness.  We have to give President Bush a promise conditioned on the fulfillment of his own promise.  We must not give him a testimonial in advance, because such a testimonial would be bogus.  Our constant point of strength lies in our adherence to our rights, will, unity, and rejection of capitulation.  Our people have demonstrated time and again that they are capable and mature.  They have proved that all the arrogance of power and oppression are incapable of stripping them of their will, faith and adherence to their rights. When a people's faith equals that of their leadership, and when the strong popular will equals the strong will of the leadership, that is when we can safeguard our existence.”


“Sharon In Europe: Beyond The Isolation Of Arafat”


Ashraf Ajrami commented in independent, pro-PA Al-Ayyam (7/18):  “Some may argue that the visit of Israeli PM Sharon to Britain and Norway was a total failure....  This argument may be proven to be somewhat irrational....  Sharon has always been interested in a ‘troublesome’ Palestinian partner in order to hold that partner responsible for everything, including the retreat of the political process.  The presence of Arafat is just the right excuse for Sharon to hold the Palestinians, who have enough problems on their hand dealing with the internal power struggle, responsible for Israel’s lack of commitment toward the roadmap....  There is no doubt that Sharon’s decision to visit Britain and Norway reflects an Israeli maneuver to deal its way into the European position [on Arafat]....  The other important point is Israel’s concern about its status and bilateral relations with Europe....  Israel does not hide its wish to join the EU and to obtain more privileges in light of the current Israeli economic crisis due to the ongoing three-year old Palestinian-Israeli struggle.”


“Israel Replies To The Truce With Political Escalation”


Rajab Abu Sarriyeh declared in independent, pro-PA Al-Ayyam (7/18):  “At the conclusion of a discussion session on the roadmap last Tuesday, the Knesset ratified a Likud-supported bill denying the fact that the West Bank and Gaza are occupied territories....  Although Israel, through its various institutions, can adopt any sort of resolution it likes and enforce it on its institutions, it cannot impose it on others, especially Palestinians, who can pass their own resolutions opposing those adopted on the Israeli side. Under this Israeli attitude, negotiations between the two sides will never achieve a breakthrough or reach a historic political solution.”


"Awaiting The Next American Step"


Independent Al-Quds editorialized (7/18):  “It is possible to say that the current Palestinian-Israeli situation is at an impasse....  This situation might deteriorate even more if the United States, which is the main engine behind the celebrated peace initiative, namely the roadmap, fails to specify a mechanism for this plan’s implementation and makes Israel understand that peace can never be accomplished by provoking trouble among Palestinians.  It would be more effective for the cease-fire period to be extended indefinitely to allow Palestinian opposition groups get involved in the Palestinian political system and the peace process.”


EGYPT:  “Palestinian Track In The Mubarak-Abu Mazen Talks”


Leading pro-government Al Ahram declared (7/22):  “The Egyptian role had a positive impact on halting political tensions on the Palestinian side, which spoiled chances for the Sharon government to abort the roadmap....  Naturally, in light of continued Palestinian-Egyptian coordination, President Mubarak met with Abu Mazen before his departure for Washington, in order to stress the new concepts stipulated in the roadmap....  The Palestinian Authority needs serious American intervention with Israel for the release of prisoners and for dismantling settlements.  Through communication channels between Egypt and the U.S., understandings and guarantees can occur so as to achieve progress on these two issues.  If Washington wants to shore up its achievement on the roadmap, it should respond to Egyptian and Palestinian views on these issues.”


“No Security Or Stability Without True Belief In Peace”


Aggressive pro-government Al Akhbar Editor-in-chief Galal Dowidar wrote (7/22):  “In light of Egypt’s policy that is constantly biased towards peace and the legitimate rights of Palestinians, uniting Palestinian ranks must have been the focus of Mubarak’s talks with Abu Mazen....  From a belief about the importance of listening to the Egyptian view, Abu Mazen came to Cairo and then is headed to Jordan....  Undoubtedly, U.S. talks with Abu Mazen, and then with Sharon, will be a basic factor in getting the peace efforts out of their current dilemma, created by the Israeli policy of occupation that receives immoral and unwarranted American support.  Certainly the American meetings will decide the fate of the roadmap, which Sharon wants to destroy.”




Leading pro-government Al Ahram Editor-in-chief Ibrahim Nafie argued (7/19):  “Palestinians have reached the peak of political maturity while Israel heads down a dead-end.  While the high level Egyptian delegation was visiting the Palestinian territories, Israeli troops continued assassinations, murder and aggression.  In spite of everything, Palestinian resistance did not want to violate the truce....   Cairo was able to uphold the truce.  Egypt did not go to Palestinians alone, but continued urging Washington to intervene with Israel to stop violating the truce.  Egypt also showed Israel, if it really wants peace, that after Cairo had exerted this relentless effort to secure the ceasefire, Israel, in turn, should release prisoners and stop driving a wedge among Palestinians.”


“Exposed Israeli Play”


Aggressive pro-government Al Akhbar opined (7/18):  “Once again, Israel confirms to Arabs and the world that it insists on imposing its own concept of peace....  Despite international efforts to implement the roadmap....  Israel reconfirms...that it only seeks Zionist ambitions.  The Knesset decision deeming Gaza and the West Bank unoccupied territories is an obvious ploy...for Sharon to show the world that he, like Abu Mazen, faces domestic problems....  Abu Mazen, in light of the Israeli parliament’s decision, should ask the world and the U.S. president before his departure, on which bases he would be negotiating....  He should invite the American Administration and the Quartet to adopt a unified position rejecting this law.”


JORDAN:  'Who Won In Al Aqsa Intifada?"


Daoud Kuttab remarked in independent, English-language Jordan Times (7/19):  "Much has been said of late as to the reason for the internal Palestinian conflict, especially the struggle between Yasser Arafat and his Premier Mahmoud Abbas....  In the current context, a much more troublesome difference seems to be behind the internal conflict. Roughly speaking, it has to do with the way the two leaders evaluate where the Palestinian issue is in terms of local and international circles. In this context, one has to answer a simple question: Who has emerged as the victor in Al Aqsa Intifada?....  A number of Abu Mazen's hardline opponents within the Fateh Central Committee are claiming that the prime minister is a defeated leader. They note his criticism of the militarisation of the Intifada as proof that he had given up on the Palestinian uprising even before the hudna was formally declared....  Abu Mazen's supporters...insist that Abu Mazen's negotiating posture reflects a realistic approach rather than the pie-in-the-sky approach which has repeatedly proved to be detrimental to Palestinian aspirations. They point to the way Palestinians have always made unattainable demands based on a mistaken reading of the political balance of forces....  Back to the question of the winners and losers of the Intifada. There is no doubt that Palestinians were badly bruised during the past two and a half years. The Palestinian economy is in ruins, the infrastructure in shambles and people's faith in the leadership and in the eventuality of peace has been dealt a bad blow....  But for better or worse, the Palestinians have not surrendered, they have not thrown in the towel, and despite hurting all over, they remain standing.  Israelis are also bruised, their economy is also hurt (not as much as the Palestinians') and their confidence in peace is still rather low. The powerful Israeli military machine has not won the battle on the ground....  While Israel can't claim to have won the battle, it has not lost it either. Some would call the result a draw.  To be honest I would say that the Palestinians have lost the latest round in points rather than through a knockout, which means that they still have a chance to regroup themselves. This means that national unity must be preserved at all costs. Palestinians must be careful not to fall in the trap of a civil war or leadership struggle and, at the same time, try to agree on an honest evaluation of what is possible in the current political landscape."


SAUDI ARABIA:  "Painful Concessions"


Jeddah's conservative Al-Madina stated (7/22):  "The achievements so far since the inauguration of the Roadmap does not even come close to the minimum expectations of those who built big hopes for a brighter future in the Middle East.  The truth of the matter is that so far only one settlement has been removed, but it was replaced with another somewhere else.  The Israeli withdrawals are crawling, and it is more like a redistribution of forces rather than an actual withdrawal.  All of this means that the painful concessions that Sharon keeps talking about are nothing but empty words carrying no weight."


"Fresh Impetus Needed"


Jeddah's English-language, official Arab News held (7/21):  "There is another obvious reason for a possible Bush initiative: To counter Israel's many attempts to gut some of the roadmap's most important provisions.  Israel refuses to address, much less meet, most Palestinian demands, including the release of thousands of Palestinian prisoners....  It can be no coincidence that just a week before Sharon's departure for Washington, the Knesset should issue a resolution declaring the West Bank and Gaza as territories not under occupation and urging the Israeli government to continue developing settlements....  The UN considers the Palestinian territories that were occupied in 1967 as occupied Palestinian territories and the settlements illegal....  Bush now has a personal commitment to seeing the peace process through.  Sharon does not have the same ambitions, and it is for this very reason that Bush will have to step in once again."


"Washington Meetings And The Peace Process"


Mecca's conservative Al-Nadwa editorialized (7/20):  "The feelings of optimism regarding the meeting in Washington between Abu Mazen and President Bush, which was enforced by the positive indications of President Bush and his strong will to help build a Palestinian state.  The Palestinians have complied with all the terms of the Roadmap for peace agreement.  Sharon has done nothing but deception.  We hope that during the meetings in Washington, President Bush will exercise pressure on Israel to fulfill its part of the bargain. Otherwise the Roadmap for peace will not be any different than its predecessors."


"Israeli Attempts To Isolate Arafat Failed"


Abha’s moderate Al-Watan stated (7/19):  "It is unlikely Bush to change his opinion on Arafat, even if he were to realize that he has been wrong all along.  The American President has referred to the Palestinian Chairman in so many negative descriptions, the least of which were: the terrorist, the promoter of destruction, etc.  Many European countries have been successful in avoiding the error that the American Administration has committed.  Those European countries did not give in to the American pressure to isolate Arafat.  Sharon has charged all his powers to achieve what he had planned.  But his attempts all failed.  He was sent back empty handed.  Israeli attempts received a double blow when the EU supported Arafat’s position, and Sharon’s opinions were ignored.  London was not convinced by what Sharon had to say since no positive outcome was seen to come out of isolating Chairman Arafat."


"Pressure Plus Rewards To Make Peace A Success"


Riyadh’s moderate Al-Jazira opined (7/19):  "It is essential to maintain the international interventions if they wanted to make the current peace efforts a success, Especially by the United States, which the Palestinian Prime Minster will visit at the end of this week.  The visit would provide an opportunity to sense to what extent the U.S. is ready to put pressure on Israel to make the ongoing peace efforts a success, especially because Washington shows a strong support for the Palestinian Prime Minister, which has to be translated into applicable promises."


"The Road Map To ME Peace--Speed Bumps And All"


Jeddah's English-language Arab News maintained (7/18):  "If President George W. Bush doesn’t take the road map seriously, his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, couldn’t be more serious. After meeting with Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), Rice met the following day with Ariel Sharon, and brought up the obvious fact that the Israeli prime minister is taking additional chunks of West Bank land on the pretext that he needs defense positions to protect the Israelis....  Rice would not let go of the subject, making it clear--perhaps for the first time--that Sharon is dealing in very bad faith. It may seem obvious to Palestinians and their supporters....  Bush and Rice clearly are trying to untangle the thickets that Israel’s friends--and particularly Sharon--have planted to make it impossible to move forward on the road map....  Bush may be honestly naïve, but Ariel Sharon is not. The Israeli prime minister still believes that he can sweet-talk Bush out of any doubts he may have. On his coming visit, if it occurs, the US will have to convince Sharon that this is a very serious crisis and that Bush won’t put up with any more pettifoggery.  In response Sharon, predictably, will assume a deep defensive posture....  Sharon...clearly aims at dividing the Palestinians. One was to be very parsimonious in the number of Palestinian prisoners he will allow to be freed and reunited with their families....  Meanwhile, Yasser Arafat, Abu Mazen and other senior Palestinian leaders should be prevailing upon Hamas and Islamic Jihad to commit to six months without terrorist attacks....  The Palestinians should forcefully end the bombings by the two or three marginal groups that have not agreed to a cease-fire. This will demonstrate that the Palestinians are adhering to their part of the Aqaba agreement--and it will be very clear that it is Ariel Sharon who is not honoring the road map’s provisions.  The truth of the matter is that the Israelis probably do not have the power--or will--to return any of the stolen Palestinian lands....  All Americans will begin to understand that the problem is not with the Palestinians, but rather with the Israelis."


SYRIA:  "Removing Occupation Is A Priority"


Ali Nasarallah commented in government-owned Al-Thawra (7/20):  "In its misguided foreign policy, particularly towards the Middle East, the US is making the same mistakes. It is trying, in coordination with Britain, to divert attention from the embarrassing file of the war to the steps of the formation of a transitional government in Iraq....  In occupied Palestine, and for more than one year now, the US Administration has been suggesting that the problem lies with the Palestinian side. It has been applying pressure on the Palestinians, sometimes under the rubric of reforms and at other times under the rubric of democracy and the so-called fight against terrorism. It is disregarding the facts of the conflict and forgetting that for the Palestinian people... the removal of the occupation tops all national priorities.  Iraqis and Palestinians firmly believe that the need for freedom and independence has priority over any other need. They, supported by the international community, believe in their right to resist occupation. The US undoubtedly knows this very well. Will it, then, examine the results of its foreign policy in Iraq and Palestine before its mistakes turn into scandals and crises for President Bush's administration? Will it conduct a real review of its entire Middle East policy, which is full of falsehoods and which harms its international reputation and credibility?"


"Birth Or Death Of A Palestinian State: What Comes After Declaring Palestinian Territories Are Non-Occupied Land?"


Khaled al-Ashahab observed in government-owned Al-Thawra (7/19):  "An explosive device planted by Sharon and exploded by the Israeli Knesset's preliminary reading of a decision to consider the West Bank and Gaza Strip as non-occupied territories....  Is this an explosive device Sharon planted to torpedo the Roadmap...and President Bush's initiative?"


UAE:  "Israeli Violence Casts Its Shadow On Roadmap"


Albadr Alshateri argued in in English-language Gulf News (7/18):  "In the nick of time, between the downfall of Saddam Hussain and the 2004 U.S. presidential elections, the quartet (composed of the EU, Russia, the U.S., and the UN) launched its peace initiative to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict....  Not so few experts and commentators have already cast their doubts about the recent initiative achieving its goals....  The past history of peace processes does not inspire confidence in yet another initiative; neither does the content of the roadmap....  As for the content of the roadmap, one is aghast at the symmetry it draws between Israel--a sovereign state with a gargantuan conventional and non-conventional arsenal--and the Palestinians--stateless, occupied and otherwise weak, except for their tenacity, fortitude, and love for their land.  Palestinians are required to end all violence directed against Israelis by subduing the Islamic extremists, and destroying their infrastructure.  A cease-fire is indeed the sine qua non of any peaceful settlement. But requiring the Palestinian Authority (PA), to use Weber's definition, to monopolise all legitimate means of violence, an attribute of a sovereign state, without the realisation of sovereignty is like, well, putting the cart before the horse....  Is the roadmap an exercise in futility, as many experts argue? Not quite!....  The roadmap--at least that is the hope of Foggy Bottom--would create the necessary dynamics to manoeuvre Sharon out of power....  But Sharon is not to be outmanoeuvred easily; and he is not without Likudnic allies in Washington....  And Sharon seems to be well informed about how the game is being played in Washington, especially between the State and the Defence departments. If all of these are not convincing that the roadmap is on the ropes, consider this: Sharon told his cabinet...that 'Israel can continue building in the territories, but should not celebrate the construction, should just build.'"




THAILAND:  "On To Next Phase Of Roadmap For Peace"


The lead editorial in top-circulation, moderately-conservative, English-language Bangkok Post read (7/20):  “The main condition that Israel has imposed on the road map is that in the first phase, before it can go any further, Palestinians must stop acts of violence against Israelis anytime and anywhere.  There has been a promising start to this first stage, but it is important that it proceed to the second stage quickly.  Sharon wants Abbas to dismantle militant organizations, but Abbas is walking a very thin line.  He desperately needs to have some concrete signs that Israel is willing to make concessions in order to win popular support for the negotiations with Israel, and even more important, to tackle the extremists.  Abbas is making his own trip to Washington on July 25, to press President Bush to induce more Israeli concessions, specifically more prisoner releases and the freezing of any new Jewish settlements, which is also called for in the first phase of the roadmap.  Israel has not yet complied.  The longer the first stage goes on without real concessions by Israel, the more likely is a rash of violence which could destroy or delay any hope for peace.”




CANADA:  "The Real 'Roadmap' Lies Behind The Scenes"


David Warren wrote in the conservative National Post (7/19): "The Israel-Palestine negotiations are a U.S. State Department task, and the Secretary of State, Colin Powell, is the chief ball-carrier. But the team behind him is remarkable, both for its informality and small size.  President Bush's idea was to keep it this way on purpose....  He has instead created the diplomatic equivalent of one of the Pentagon's special forces, which go in and out of hot spots without embedded reporters....  The sort of real problems that are being dealt with behind the scenes, by truly tireless multi-person shuttle diplomacy, include the intifada legacy of Palestinian terror cells and media incitement, on the one side; and specific, over-visible Israeli security measures, on the other. It is...more like a protracted mutual disarmament and disengagement between two already existing governments. The point is to snuff out the intifada, and the Israeli response to the intifada, while building a new, and co-operative, security arrangement between the two sides, modelled specifically on that which already exists between Israel and Jordan. While I'm going out on a limb to write this, I think the grander, operatic questions of border drawing and refugee settlements are already answered, or more precisely, mutually assumed....  It remains, unfortunately, in Yasser Arafat's interest to wait for his moment to blow everything up--since his own power increases with conflict and diminishes with peace. It is an elaborate game getting him and keeping him sidelined--one that's still being played. And the Europeans, led by the French, continue to indulge the soft-headed and immodest policy of throwing him diplomatic lifelines, by publicly recognizing him in defiance of U.S. pressure. That is the chief external thing getting in the way."


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