International Information Programs
Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

August 1, 2003

August 1, 2003





**  Sharon succeeded in "winning over" Bush, as "U.S. pressure on Israel" did not materialize.


**  Abbas' "convincing arguments" and "engaging personality" won support in Washington.   


**  Arabs blast the "racially-motivated separation wall" that "snakes" around the PA.


**  Bush must "increase diplomatic pressure" to force Sharon to "respond positively." 




Sharon won the 'propaganda duel'--  Arab dailies professed shock that President Bush "continued to spoil Israel" during Sharon's visit.  The West Bank's pro-PA Al-Ayyam decried Bush's "180-degree change in position" regarding Israel's security fence, while Lebanon's moderate An-Nahar alleged Bush now thinks the "wall is no longer a problem...Palestinian terrorism is the only problem."  Israel's left-leaning Ha'aretz said Bush welcomed Sharon as an "old friend of the family," underlining "a common language, a common understanding."  China's official People's Daily concluded that the U.S. policy of "favoring Israel did not change." 


Abbas' 'great impression' led many to see a 'more balanced attitude' from Washington--  Abbas' trip to the U.S. created a "new beginning for the American-Palestinian relationship."  Israel's pluralist Maariv said a "Palestinian leader has been offered tea and sympathy" for the first time since 9/11.  Arab papers hailed how Bush "listened patiently" and "showed understanding" to Abbas, the "American favorite."  Germany's centrist Der Tagespiegel termed Abbas' weakness "his most effective argument in America," because he needs support to end "Arafat's role for good" and "launch a campaign against Hamas and Jihad."


Israel's 'controversial security fence' blocks 'mutual trust'--  Global papers stated the "wall of shame" is "not compatible with...a Palestinian state."  Israeli papers insisted it is a "security fence, not a political one," but Euros and Japanese accused Israel of "unilaterally delineating its borders" with the fence.  The wall is a symbol of "isolation and "shortsightedness" that will only reinforce "Palestinians' segregation from the rest of the world" according to Saudi Arabia's conservative Al-Madina.  The West Bank's semi-official Al-Hayat Al-Jadidah blasted the fence as an "incitement against peace, land and security."


Arabs, Euros urge Bush to 'pressure Sharon into faithful implementation' of the roadmap--  German papers acknowledged the U.S. is "seriously trying to play the role of mediator," but other global outlets demanded the U.S. "increase diplomatic pressure on Israel."  Bangkok's independent The Nation denounced Bush's failure to "extract any significant concessions from Sharon."  Echoing warnings that the roadmap's "window may be closing," a Pakistani writer attributed the lack of U.S. pressure on Israel to Bush's need to "keep the powerful Zionist lobby happy" ahead of the "looming" presidential election.


EDITORS:  Andrew Borda, Ben Goldberg


EDITOR'S NOTE:  This analysis is based on 83 reports from 26 countries over 25 July - 1 August 2003.  Editorial excerpts from each country are listed from the most recent date.




BRITAIN: "Sharon Must Listen: Time To Move Towards Substance Of Peace Deal"


The independent Financial Times argued (7/29): "And yet the Israeli leader is at a slight disadvantage. Much to the discomfiture of Mr Sharon, President George W. Bush last week came out against the 'security' wall through which Israel is unilaterally delineating its borders and in the process effectively annexing another 12 per cent of Palestinian land.  Mr Bush stated forthrightly that this was 'a problem.'  Mr Bush's task now is to make clear--especially to Mr Sharon--that he intends the road map to arrive at a final peace agreement.  That means telling Israel its colonisation of Palestinian land must end.  Never before has this groundswell of opinion percolated up to the leadership of either Palestinians or Israelis.  Nor will it now--unless Mr Bush seizes this chance."


"Israel, the Palestinians and George Bush"


The independent Economist contended (7/25):  "As George Bush welcomes Mahmoud Abbas this Friday, and Ariel Sharon the following Tuesday, the president and the two prime ministers can, if their luck holds out till then, be grateful that nothing particularly bad has happened in the month since July 1st when they celebrated taking the first steps on the road map to peace.  Mr Bush has probably by now accepted the impracticality of instructing Mr Abbas to go after the militant factions with force.  It might be good if Mr Abbas could, but he can't. But if the hope is for real peace, rather than temporary non-violence, Mr Sharon must cease the process under which, in the name of constructing a 'security fence,' Palestinian land is being steadily, relentlessly chewed up. Will Mr Bush feel inclined to tacke him on this?  He should."


FRANCE: “Bush And The Israeli Wall”


The editorial in left-of-center Le Monde read (7/31):  “President Bush must show more determination to stand by his position with regard to Prime Minister Abbas. He should have clearly laid out the demand that the Israeli wall not impede so crassly on the rights of the Palestinians. His own credibility in relation to Ariel Sharon depends on it.  Too many former peace initiatives have died during such challenges. Mr. Bush must constantly reaffirm that despite the obstacles he will push the Road Map forward. However, the pressure the U.S. is applying on both sides must be reinforced by the other members of the Quartet. Europe’s total silence on this issue is highly regrettable.”


“Sharon’s Trowel”


Jean-Paul Pierot commented in communist l’Humanite (7/31):  “Even with a Road Map the path to peace in the Middle East appears to be fraught with pitfalls....  During his visit to Washington, Ariel Sharon confirmed his intention to build a wall separating Israel from the West Bank....  The American administration is obviously disturbed by this project that goes against its desire to redefine the geopolitical map of the Middle East. This ‘wall of shame’ is certainly not compatible with the creation of a Palestinian state by 2005 as set out in the Road Map....  This wall that has been built right in the middle of the Road Map is in contradiction to the peace process....  An independent Palestine behind a concrete wall would not be viable...and what security would there be for the Israeli people living in the shadow of a wall that would never be solid enough to keep out the frustration of the Palestinian population.”


“Sharon, Bush’s Second Visitor”


Economic Les Echos editorialized (7/29): “Ariel Sharon’s eighth trip to Washington...may be his most challenging yet. The Israeli prime minister took care not to arrive empty-handed and as a sign of goodwill gave the green light for the liberation of several hundred Palestinian prisoners....  Still the American administration has every intention of continuing to apply unprecedented pressure on Sharon....  Since the appointment last April of Palestinian PM Mahmoud Abbas the situation has changed in the Middle East with regard to Washington....  Sharon is no longer the only representative of the conflict to go to the White House.  For the first time the PA preceded the Israeli authority....  And the fact that the American president recognized during Abbas’ visit that the wall being built by the Israelis to separate Israel from the West Bank poses a ‘problem’ was a point scored for the Palestinians.”


"Middle East: The Rebirth Of Hope”


Dominique Moisi opined in regional Ouest France (7/28):  “Renewed dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians was not Washington’s main objective, but it could be the paradoxical result of the perplexing victory over Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq.  The geopolitical perspective has changed in the Middle East and extremists from any side are now on the defensive since the U.S. has metamorphosed into a power to reckon with in the Middle East and has become committed and involved politically and physically, probably for a long time to come....  George Bush must prove to his critics that his agenda was the right one, that concentrating on toppling Saddam Hussein’s regime not only freed the country of its dictator but changed the outlook for the entire region, creating the possibility for discussions to resume between Israel and Palestine....  The U.S. has not won the battle, the situation in Iraq and the Middle East may remain chaotic, but America’s failure in this region would be ours as well.”




Guillaume Goubert editorialized in Catholic La Croix (7/25): “It is too soon to talk about a spiral of peace…but at least in the last few weeks the spiral of violence has ceased....  The Palestinian decision of June 29 to suspend attacks against Israel is a sign that since the introduction of the Road Map there has been some improvement in the region....  The visit of the Palestinian Prime Minster to Washington will also contribute to this....  However, we cannot expect any great concessions on the part of Ariel Sharon....  It is nonetheless vital to show that there is a desire to move forward.  George W. Bush has the influence necessary to this end and he must now confirm his--recent--willingness to rebuild peace between Israel and Palestine.”


“Mahmoud Abbas: Back Against the Wall”


Economic-oriented Les Echos commented (7/25): “The Palestinian Prime Minister must be more than a bit nervous.  For the first time since taking office he is going to meet with George W. Bush in Washington.  This meeting alone is official recognition by the U.S. that Mahmoud Abbas represents the Palestinian authority....  Mahmoud Abbas knows that in a few days Ariel Sharon will be in Washington.  He must succeed in convincing the powerful American administration to increase pressure on Israel so that it will respect its commitments....  The question is how far can the occupant of the Oval Office go?  He is already under pressure with the presidential race under way and the concern not to turn the Jewish voters against him....   In order to give a push to the peace process the U.S. will have to walk a shaky tightrope without a net.” 


GERMANY: “Saying ‘Yes’ To The Wall”


Business-oriented Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg maintained (7/31):  "With his latest plans for a ‘wall,’ Sharon has misused what is actually a good idea capable of stabilizing the Middle East.  The United States should continue to put pressure on Sharon--not to tear down the ‘wall’ but to make sure it gets built in a place that everyone can live with....  The ‘wall’ would simply be an expression of what everyone wants anyway: the co-existence of two independent states.  The current debate over the ‘wall’ is an obstacle to the peace process, particularly because the ‘roadmap’ does not even mention such a project.  Sharon must not get the chance to use this debate for another round of tricks.”


“Summer Guests”


Center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine contended (7/30):  “The Middle East peace process is making a bit of progress thanks to the pressure exerted by the U.S. administration.  However, it will be difficult for Bush to get Sharon to tear down the ‘fence....'  Bush knows that the ‘fence’ is an important mental obstacle on the road to creating trust on both sides....  Sharon insisted that the ‘fence’ is meant to keep out terrorists, thereby stealing a bit of Bush’s thunder.  After all, fighting terrorism is Bush’s priority...not only in the Middle East.  Nevertheless, Washington has understood that only diplomacy…can improve the chances of success in the region.”




Left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau observed (7/30):  “Sharon wants to gain time by agreeing to consultations over the ‘fence,’ but he is also taking a step in Bush’s direction.  It is important for the president to create the impression that things are moving forward with the ‘roadmap to peace,’ despite plenty of resistance....  Sharon will stop building the ‘wall’ only if Abbas eliminates the infrastructure of terrorism.  In matters of security, Sharon knows that Washington is on his side.”




Right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin noted (7/29): “By welcoming Abbas to the White House, President Bush helped to strengthen the Palestinian leader....  Now he has to show that he does indeed take Abbas seriously.  Bush must discuss the Palestinian concerns with Sharon, acting as a mediator between two parties incapable of peaceful cooperation.  All sides in the Middle East peace process have to be concerned with their credibility, which is much easier to lose than to win.  Sharon has sent signals of détente, which should make it easier for Abbas to step out of Arafat’s shadow.  Both Israelis and Palestinians are tired of fighting and ready to compromise.  What is needed is a person able to put all of the pieces together, and who besides Bush can do so?”


“Loopholes For Peace”


Centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin argued (7/29): “The current progress in the Middle East peace process is the result of U.S. pressure....  This is especially true of Israel’s offer to release not only supporter of Abbas...but also radical Islamists....  The clear majority behind this decision shows that more might be possible in the future, particularly if the Palestinians continue to refrain from violence.  This is looking more and more likely, because the Islamists are noticing how content the Palestinians are with the result of the first ‘hudna’--no Israeli retaliatory strikes, no liquidations or destruction of house." 


“Taking The Second Step”


Business-oriented Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf maintained (7/29): “President Bush must give Sharon clear marching orders; he cannot let him get away with a few ‘gestures of goodwill.’  Bush’s credibility in the Middle East is at stake.  It is time to prove wrong all those who claim that the U.S.’ renewed interest in the Middle East is merely the result of domestic strategizing, an attempt to distract from the problems in Iraq....  Abbas invested a lot into his meeting with the president, having to overcome considerable resistance at home.  If Bush decides to ignore the Palestinian leader now, it will mean the end of Abbas’ political career....  He would be exposed to ridicule, and the Palestinians, who have renewed hope for peaceful co-existence with Israel, would feel betrayed.”


“A Bit Of Hope”


Center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine stated (7/28):  “Before leaving for Washington, Sharon sent out signals meant to improve his position in the talks with the U.S. president....  As a ‘last-minute’ gesture of goodwill, the Israeli cabinet...decided to release about one hundred of the 7,000 imprisoned Palestinians and to begin taking down roadblocks in the West Bank.  These measures, which the Israeli side praised as tangible support for the Palestinian leaders, were once again taken only because of U.S. pressure.  They are not much more than a shimmer of hope.  Sharon’s talks with Bush will reveal what kind of compromises the Israeli premier is really willing or allowed to make.”


“Diplomatic Gain”


Inge Guenther maintained in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (7/28):  “There is growing hope on the West Bank and in Gaza that diplomacy can achieve more than armed resistance.  The U.S. is seriously trying to play the role of mediator instead of exclusively showing understanding for Israeli concerns.  Even though Bush did not do much more than offer financial assistance to the Palestinians, he nevertheless found clear words...criticizing Israel’s wall project on the West Bank.  Bush also expressed concern over Jerusalem’s settlement policy in the occupied territories....  The Israeli cabinet quickly took note of Washington’s well-balanced criticism, and Sharon put together a gift package meant to generate goodwill for his upcoming talks in the White House....  What Sharon brings to Washington, Abbas can take home to the Palestinians.  In a way, the Palestinian administration used its weakness as a strength and forced Israel to make concessions.”


"Weakness Is His Strength"


Centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin editorialized (7/25): "Two and a half years of an ice-age are now coming to an end....  But the new Palestinian-American thaw cannot obscure the fact that Abbas comes to Washington as a weak, even embattled, prime minister....  But Abbas's weakness is his most effective argument in America.  One believes him that he wants to rein in the terrorists and sees at the same time that he is unable to do this.  That is why it is absolutely necessary now to strengthen Abbas, and that is why Israel is likely to make more concessions....  But the Palestinians can use Abbas's weakness as a blackmail only to a limited degree....  Some day in the future, Abbas will really have to prove that he can really be the strongman to whom Israel should make concessions."


ITALY:  “Red Carpets For A Credible Leader”


Antonio Ferrari observed in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (7/26):  “He was treated with the highest regard (how jealous Arafat must be!) and this shows the U.S. strategy to support the new course promoted by Abu Mazen and it confirms the U.S. will to vigorously stimulate the Road Map, so as to establish a Palestinian state side-by-side Israel by 2005....  Abu Mazen does admit to Sharon that ‘some progress was made, but that more needs to be done.’  Sharon reciprocates by acknowledging that Palestinian violence has decreased in intensity, just as the incitement for hatred diminished.  It looks like a cautious exchange of courtesies, but it’s much more.  It’s the confirmation that, after the war on Iraq and the disputes that followed, Bush’s commitment to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is maybe producing the sound hope of seriously resolving it.”


RUSSIA: "Sharon Wins"


Mikhail Bolotovskiy held in reformist Vremya Novostey (7/31):  "Ariel Sharon has shown that a political grandmaster can win even when he/she plays for the Black.  This in spite of the fact that it is the Palestinians who suggested the main topic of the talks.  Sharon, who is not new to being caught in cross-fire from the Palestinians and the Right in his own country, has revealed the qualities of a true bulldozer by winning over no less than the U.S. President.   His other important gain is that Bush has acknowledged that the Roadmap does not at all oblige Israel to free activists of Palestinian terrorist organizations and that setting them free is a goodwill gesture."


"A Feather In Sharon's Hat"


Sergey Strokan said in reformist business-oriented Kommersant (7/31):  "After winning a propaganda duel, Ariel Sharon faces a much harder task, trying to maintain a fragile peace with the Palestinians, who are unhappy with his actions....  Though the White House's attitude toward Mahmoud Abbas is a lot warmer than its attitude toward Yasser Arafat, who has fallen out of the Americans' good graces and is barred from Washington, the Palestinian Prime Minister has failed to enlist tangible support on principal issues....  As the Palestinians are upset, which suggests that their relations with the Israelis are in for serious trials, Ariel Sharon may be celebrating a victory, especially because, apart from securing George Bush's support at a critical moment, he has had his positions at home enhanced noticeably, coming across as a man of principles and a force to be reckoned with."


"Abbas Lacks Freedom Of Action"


Grigoriy Asmolov noted in reformist business-oriented Kommersant (7/28):  "Israeli analysts point out that the Palestinian PM is sure to focus on the PA's structural reform before getting down to the nitty-gritty with the Israelis.  Apparently, Mr. Abbas realizes that what freedom of action he has now is not enough to make historic decisions.  To change the situation, Mahmoud Abbas needs elections in the ruling party.  This is the only way for him to have his opponents, who remain loyal to Yasser Arafat, replaced by younger Palestinian leaders, people he can trust."


AUSTRIA:  “Rise And Fall Of Jerusalem’s ‘Berlin Wall’”


Hans Kronspiess wrote in centrist Die Presse (7/31):  “For all peace optimists, bad news has come from the White House. Sharon remains inflexible and resists the political pressure from the US. Especially at a time when a gesture of goodwill could have strengthened the position of his Palestinian counterpart, Abbas, Sharon is putting his stakes on the wrong symbol....  Even towards Bush, he is adamant and unyielding about the construction of the wall surrounding the Palestinian territories, which he euphemistically refers to as a ‘fence'....  Somehow, Sharon’s fence is fatally reminiscent of the Berlin Wall. Just as was the case with the Berlin Wall, it seems to be a puzzled government’s helpless attempt at immurement. Just like Ulbricht’s wall, the Israeli one is going to destroy a natural, uniform economic area....  But even more tragic than the economic consequences are the psychological parallels between the walls of Berlin and Jerusalem. Like its German pendant, which has by now become history, the Israeli rampart is not only made of stones. Like the Berlin Wall, it is primarily a psychological barrier, a hindrance for the creation of mutual trust between Palestinians and Israelis....  What remains is the hope for peace made in Washington. If the US puts the Israeli government under political pressure to revoke the construction of the wall, and if it intensifies diplomatic efforts with both parties involved, there could be another parallel between the Israeli and the German wall: they could both fall.”


“A Fence As The Peace Barometer”


Liberal Der Standard commented (7/29): “The U.S. has a crucial role in the Middle East peace process.  No other mediator can drive on both parties this effectively, and thus keep positive peace dynamics going.  The Bush administration is increasingly taking over the role of a director, who stage-manages every scene, and even selects the actors....  Because peace--and thus also security for the Israelis--can only be achieved within the 1967 borders....  The half-finished fence...has thus become a barometer for the peace process.  If Israel insists on finishing it, the recent progress is transitory.  If the construction is stopped, there is real hope.”


“The Wall Is The Hurdle For A Successful Summit”


Mass-circulation Kurier observed (7/29): "In one issue, the Israeli government remains unwilling to compromise.  Jewish settlements on Palestinian territory remain sacrosanct, even though they are illegal under international law.  And Sharon’s cabinet continues to insist on the controversial wall between Palestinians and Israelis, officially to protect Israel from terrorists. In reality, the wall will achieve concrete results of a different kind: More than 10 percent of the West Bank will be ‘cut off’ this way, and the borders of a possible Palestinian state thus pre-defined.  Bush, who has criticized the wall before, must make Sharon see sense.  This is the only way for the Bush-Sharon summit to go down as a positive step on the roadmap for peace.  The question is whether the U.S. administration really is prepared to enforce concessions from Israel. Until now, when it came to the crunch, it was always clear what side Washington would be on: that of Israel .”   


“Wall Of Conflict”


Josef Kirchengast commented in liberal Der Standard (7/27):  "During his first official U.S. visit, the Palestinian head of government Mahmud Abbas seems to have made a great impression on the political establishment of Washington with convincing arguments and his engaging personality....  The problem is that Abbas is not nearly as popular with his own people as he is abroad.  The imminent vote of confidence in parliament is going to be his hour of truth.  If the Prime Minister returns from Washington empty-handed, he might be removed from office, and radical organizations such as Hamas and Jihad are no longer going to feel bound by the three-month ceasefire that was agreed upon in late June, with obvious consequences.  It is understandable that Israel is going to take a restrictive stance on the release of arrested Palestinians: No new reservoir for potential terrorists is to be created.  However, this will certainly happen anyway if Sharon’s government continues its policy in the occupied areas: tolerating or even promoting the expansion of the settlements, and continuing the construction of the dividing wall....  How can anyone think that safety for Israel can be achieved with methods of this kind?”


BELGIUM:  “Crucial Talks”


Erik Ziarczyk remarked in financial De Financieel-Economische Tijd (7/26):  “Bush has put his back into the Middle East peace process.  The last two years he was very occupied with the September 11 aftermath and the war in Iraq.  Today, the President realizes that he can never accomplish his ambitious Middle East plans if he doesn’t find a solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict....  But, that peace process is at its last gasp.  Yesterday, Secretary Powell admitted that it is virtually impossible to achieve the final goal of creating a Palestinian state in 2005.  Bush can stimulate the peace process by lending an ear to the Palestinian aspirations.  But he must also increase diplomatic pressure on Israel.  Bush’s Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, paved the way this week.  She strongly criticized the construction of the security wall that isolates the West Bank.  That is why the talks in the White House were crucial for Bush, too.  He had to show that he is serious about finding a way out of the spiral of terror and violence.  That requires more than nice statements.” 


CZECH REPUBLIC: "Wailing Wall Is Not Enough"


Center-right Lidove noviny judged (7/31):  "A border dividing Israel and Palestine is being built...just without the Palestinian participation....  Americans criticize the wall...but as one of Bush’s people said: “There is no wall between Bush and Sharon.”  This is because they both share the same priority--the fight with terrorism....  The wall is currently serving both Sharon and Bush as a pressure tool against the Palestinians who fight terrorism in a very dilatory manner....  [Bush] feels for them...but he will begin to support their interests only after they have taken tough measures against the terrorists within their own ranks."


IRELAND: "U.S. To Press Israel On Barrier Issue"


The center-left Irish Times held (7/31): "For Mr Abbas and other Palestinian leaders, however, the US position on the subject of the barrier marks a change for the worse.  Only last Friday, with Mr Abbas by his side, Mr Bush spoke in anguished terms about the obstacle to good relations posed by what he called a ‘wall’ that was snaking through the West Bank....  The irony of the dispute about the that Mr Sharon didn't want to build it in the first place, and for precisely the reasons that the Palestinians so strongly resent it....  Mr Sharon appears to have won over Mr Bush on Tuesday by insisting to him that the barrier is for security purposes only, and intimating that it could be dismantled once the threat of bombings had truly passed.”


NORWAY:  “A Troubling Wall”


Newspaper-of-record Aftenposten commented (7/31): “By neglecting to criticize the wall publicly during Sharon’s visit, Bush might unfortunately also have contributed to weakening the moderate Palestinian PM’s position among his own people.”


“The U.S. Tones Down The Pressure On Sharon”


Social-democratic Dagsavisen posited (7/31): "The criticism from Bush was mild. The election in the U.S. is getting closer, and he needs to win the Jews that traditionally vote democratic. The closer we get to the election the less pressure we can therefore expect from Bush.  A window may be closing.  Less American engagement can lead to more uncompromising Israelis and Palestinians.  So far Abbas and Sharon have a comment interest in stabilizing the situation.  They might yet go a step further along the roadmap before they on each side will have to make a decision on the really difficult questions, as the refugees, settlers, Jerusalem and the final borders.”                                            

“Bright Spots In The Middle East”


Newspaper-of-record Aftenposten commented (7/28):  “It took a while before President George W. Bush got credibly engaged in the work with creating peace in the Middle East, but now after the fall of the regime in Baghdad--something is starting to happen that might give reasons for careful optimism.  Most important is to notice that the U.S. President seems to have moved away from his long obvious pro-Israel attitude in favor of a more balanced attitude....  Also, Ariel Sharon is busy supporting Mahmoud Abbas.  And he knows that President Bush expects concrete action from Israel....  All these are bright spots that create hope.  But it is far to go to a peace agreement, even though Israel is now being led by a right-wing Prime Minister who supports the establishment of a Palestinian State and the Palestinians have a Prime Minister that encourages moderation”




ISRAEL: "The Bad Fence"


Liberal Yehuda Litani contended in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (7/31):  "Since the beginnings of Zionism, Jewish settlers have felt a need to surround themselves with a fence, while their Arab neighbors were happy with the hedges of Barbary fig plants around their villages....  The separation fence being built in the past few months, which turned into a bone of contention between President Bush and Prime Minister Sharon, continues that trend.  [The fence] is a symbol of the isolation Israel has imposed on itself.  It is the symbol of Israel's shortsightedness....  An entire nation that pins all its hopes on a separation fence, not on a binding bilateral agreement, places its trust on castles in the air....  Walls, watchtowers and roadblocks provide an illusion of security.  But that is false security...that causes the postponement of the only possible solution.  A good fence is no guarantee for good neighborly relations; in our case, this is a bad fence that will produce even worse neighborly relations."


"Saudi Arabia Stole The Show, Thankfully"


Herb Keinon opined in conservative, independent Jerusalem Post (7/31):  "Between Bob Hope's death and the debate over declassifying 9/11 U.S. intelligence findings on the Saudis, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's visit to Washington was pushed to the American sidelines.  Israel couldn't be happier.   U.S. pressure on Israel on a number of issues from the wall/fence to the release of Palestinian prisoners to the settlements did not materialize, at least not publicly.  If any discord over these matters arose in the meetings, it was kept well within the walls of the West Wing, as only slight intimations of disagreement emerged in the leaders' public statements....  Briefings of presidential tough talk on the wall, and the settlements, squared the circle between what Bush said publicly with Sharon at his side, and what he said publicly with Abbas at his side.  One circle, however, that did not have to be squared was Bush's determination made clear in statements following both meetings that his administration views ending terrorism, and the dismantling of the terrorist organizations, as the key to moving forward."


"'No Wall Between Bush and Sharon'"


Nationalist Uri Dan judged in popular, pluralist Maariv (7/31):  "Sharon...told me after returning from the White House: 'This was one of the most successful among the eight visits I have made with President Bush.  Relations have been created, based on full credibility.  The U.S. has never liked the settlements and now it does not like the security fence we are constructing.  But each side expresses its standpoint frankly, in order to ensure a common language, common understanding'....  [At lunch with Sharon, Bush] talked of his visit to Auschwitz, which left a deep impression on his heart, seeing as he did from close up the remains of the Nazi destruction machine.  The visit, the President emphasized to Sharon, strengthened his determination to fight against the 'Axis of Evil,' against anyone who develops weapons of mass destruction and aims to wage a global campaign against terror.  Abu Mazen, who avoided visiting the Holocaust Museum in Washington, has apparently not yet realized who President Bush is, or that the rules of the game have changed."


"Dear Ariel"


Mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot contended (7/30): "The tenth meeting between Sharon and Bush restored relations between the two leaders to their right proportions.  The investment in Abu Mazen and his government is important to the Bush administration, but there are issues that are more important.  In the world campaign that Bush is waging against terror, Israel is on the list of the good guys, whereas the Palestinians are good guys on probation.  And there are other threats that trouble both Israel and the U.S.--primarily the Iranian nuclear threat, followed by the terrorist activities that originate in Syria and Iran....  That is an equation that is not favorable for Israel.  It could produce, ultimately, the resumption of terror.  Contrary to all sorts of false assumptions, the Americans did not force Sharon to change the route of the fence.  Sharon was asked to revise the operating rules of the fence, not its route."


"It Was Nice"


Popular, pluralist Maariv argued (7/30): "They agreed on almost everything, and on the little about which they did not agree, they agreed to disagree....  Bush and Sharon do indeed agree that Abu Mazen has to get to work, but they disagree over the degree and the timing.... For Bush and the American media, the meeting with Sharon could be checked off as a success, because they are much more concerned about Iraq, the [American] economy and the latest mini-scandal over the censored Saudi Arabian role in the report on the performance of U.S. intelligence in the events of September 11." 


"The Aspirin Summit"


Popular, pluralist Maariv remarked (7/29): "U.S. President George Bush does not have many illusions.  He does not believe in the possibility of a dramatic breakthrough between Israel and the Palestinians, at least according to Washington sources, and knows that the present cease-fire is quite fragile....  The only game in town is to strengthen the 'good guy,' Abu Mazen....  Just as they put their trust in Abu Mazen, [the Americans] have also adopted the slogan that only Sharon can bring peace, and in both cases they are careful not to apply too much pressure....  Sharon will warn Bush that if there is a major terror attack, the whole business will go under anyhow.  Bush agrees with him, in principle, but is afraid that if he pushes Abu Mazen too much, he could fall into an abyss and drag everyone with him....  They do not believe that the time has come for a hatchet blow, but at the most an aspirin: the main thing is that the dispute not give Bush a headache on the eve of the election campaign."


"Ending Terrorism Still Comes First"


Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz asserted (7/29): "The U.S. administration has made it plain as day to Abbas that the hudna is not a substitute for dismantling the terror organizations.  This is not hot air, or some excuse invented by Sharon to buy time.  It is Bush's very own, no-two-ways-about-it policy.  The disbanding of terrorist organizations is the first operational clause of the road map and a prerequisite for its continuation....  On this, there will be no concessions and no discounts.  It would be the height of irresponsibility for the new Palestinian leadership to continue the long-standing tradition of missed opportunities, and also miss the one now being offered by Bush."


"A Time For Candor"


Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (7/29): "Israel can always improve its relationship with the U.S. by being infinitely pliable.  But that is not the sort of relationship that is best for either country.  Israel is not doing the U.S. or itself any favors if Sharon does not explain to Bush where he is going wrong, and how to get back on track....  In the White House today, Sharon should say he is willing to take risks for peace, but only if the Arab states do so as well, and if the Palestinians are held to their side of the bargain.  The purpose of building a relationship is not the relationship itself, but being able to speak with candor and effect when one's ally seems to be losing his way."


"Evenhandedness Doesn't Work"


Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post declared (7/28):  "[Bush's June 24, 2002] speech worked and demonstrated why it is a myth that evenhandedness is good for peace.  All 'evenhandedness' does is convince the Palestinians that agreements are meaningless; anything can be demanded, backed by the threat of force, and nothing must be complied with.  Abbas, for example, said point blank that both the fence and prisoner releases are included in the road map when neither can be found there.  Meanwhile, what is in the road map, namely 'sustained, targeted, and effective operations aimed at confronting all those engaged in terror and dismantlement of terrorist capabilities and infrastructure,' is not being done.  It is obvious that Israel does not like being treated as a party equal to the Palestinians, as if the Palestinians had been entirely within their rights to attack Israel with a vicious terrorist war after spurning the state offered to them on a silver platter.  But this not just a matter of Israeli sensibilities, or even justice, but of old-fashioned pragmatism.  Evenhandedness does not work.  It has a proven record of failure.  So why is Bush going down this road again?"


"Pressuring Presidential Embrace"


Mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot remarked (7/28): "[Bush] promised to bring back America's superpower status, but the Muslim world and Europe rebelled against him.  A new agreement between Israel and the Palestinians could serve Bush as a life preserver.  This is why he is embracing Abu Mazen.  The White House views the Palestinian Prime Minister as a wise, balanced man, as a suitable partner for deals.  Tuesday, the turn of Sharon's embrace will come.  With a cordial smile, the President will courteously ask the Israeli Prime Minister to allow the beginning of the road map, before the race for the presidency gets into top gear.  That hug will be quite pressuring."


"Not An Only Child Any More"


Popular, pluralist Maariv held (7/27): "Until now Sharon has been an only child, with no competition, and he had a monopoly on the attentive ear of U.S. President George Bush.  Now there is a new kid on the block, a good guy, as Bush describes him, and the rules of the game have been changed completely.  When Bush is strictly careful about boycotting Yasser Arafat, we can sleep easy at night, but when he pats Abu Mazen on the back, Israelis can begin to worry.  This is the first time since the eruption of the Intifada, and most certainly since September 11, that a Palestinian leader has been offered tea and sympathy.  If until now Sharon could restrict himself only to making complaints, henceforth he is going to have to provide explanations as well....  Once Abu Mazen raised the issue of the fence as his flag, Sharon had a problem.  That does not mean, of course, that Sharon has a 'difficult' visit ahead of him.  He and Bush are broadly in accord on most of the issues, and from now on we will also always need to bear in mind the Jewish voters in Florida and their famous impact on the President's calculations.  Sharon will do his utmost to preserve his wonderful friendship with President Bush, lest he be tempted, heaven forbid, into a dangerous triangular relationship."


"Saving Private Abbas"


Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz held (7/25): "Abu Mazen will return from his trip with good vibes and the Americans expecting things from him, but he will leave in his wake plenty of grumbles about Sharon, especially on the subject of the fence, which is taking big bites out of Palestinian territory.  Bush will welcome Sharon next Tuesday as an old friend of the family....  If anyone thinks the Americans will use Sharon's visit to turn up the pressure, he is in for disappointment....  Neither Abbas nor Sharon will be pressured, apart from some prodding to do more than they are now.  Because the U.S. Administration has problems of its own....  As U.S. elections come closer, everything will focus on the next operation: saving President Bush."


WEST BANK: “A Palestinian State Or A Series Of Cantons Surrounded By A Wall”


Independent Al-Quds editorialized (7/31):  "American officials’ expectations tend to vary concerning the possibility of establishing a Palestinian state in accordance with American specifications.  Secretary of State Powell announced just last week that the establishment of this state by 2005 would be difficult, although possible, to achieve....  The American President, however, asserted yesterday that the establishment of the state before 2005 is both realistic and achievable.  It does not take a great deal of analysis or profound thinking to reach the conclusion that such a Palestinian state with internationally-recognized characteristics would be virtually impossible to achieve if the Israeli Prime Minister insists on preserving Jewish settlements throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip....  To complicate matters even further, Sharon insists on building the separation wall that confiscates thousands of dunums of agricultural land, the only source of living for many Palestinian villages....  It is particularly troubling that the American President would express his disapproval of the building of the Wall during the Palestinian Prime Minister’s visit to Washington last week, only to change his position during his joint press conference with Sharon.  The President switched his position on the Wall from denunciation to mere indifference.”


“Sharon Succeeded Before Even Getting to Washington”


Talal Okal argued in independent, pro-PA Al-Ayyam (7/31):  "During his visit to Washington, which concluded just three days after his Palestinian counterpart’s visit, Israeli Prime Minister Sharon stood next to a very happy-looking and satisfied President Bush, who did not look as thrilled when he stood next to Abbas....  It was natural to assess the outcome of Abbas’ visit with a high level of precaution since it would have been a terrible mistake to do a separate assessment to the visit before knowing the outcome of Sharon’s visit.  That is why we saw disappointments expressed by some politicians who were shocked by Bush’s 180-degree change in position regarding the racially-motivated separation wall....  Those who were overly optimistic about an American change of position should have payed better attention to the American President’s speech during Abbas’s presence in Washington, in which he repeatedly stressed the so-called fighting of terrorism as a key condition to achieve progress in the peace process and the establishment of a Palestinian state.”


"America As Mediator And Equivalent To Israel"


Adli Sadeq observed in semi-official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (7/31):  “Just as expected, Sharon succeeded in reducing the level of Palestinian optimism and in clarifying the American position on four key issues that PM Abbas took with him to Washington.  They are the issues of prisoners, settlements, the separation wall, and the siege of Arafat....  The United States lost its credibility as a mediator, particularly after it has become a direct military occupying force in Iraq with its forces confronting armed resistance and building detention centers for Iraqis.  This could be the reason why Bush and his administration were actually surprised with Sharon’s willingness to release some Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners.  In other words, America has become more of an imperialist power in the region, which means that its policies are compatible with those of Sharon’s.  Apparently, the Bush administration has been incapable of launching the peace process in a serious fashion, including its own roadmap or its declared vision of the Palestinian state.”


"An American Regression"


Official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida editorialized (7/30): “In less than a week, the American President’s position on the racially-motivated separation wall was changed 180 degrees.  After studying a map of the wall that PM Abbas provided, Bush wondered during his conference with the Palestinian PM: ‘Where would the Palestinian state be established?’  Suddenly, the ‘snake wall’ or the ‘troubling wall’ became simply a ‘fence,’ which the White House is willing to approve in return for Sharon’s pledge to minimize the effects of the wall on Palestinian life.  Frankly, we were shocked by Bush’s first statement criticizing the wall.  But we are not the least shocked by his retraction statement, especially since we realize that he is standing behind the podium next to Sharon.  Washington needs to realize that changing its position on the wall is as dangerous as the wall itself.  What is at hand now is a huge and extremely dangerous settlements project that threatens to consume half of the land of the West Bank under the pretext of security, which will eventually kill any chance for establishing a viable Palestinian state, as stated in Bush’s vision starting with the roadmap.”


"What If The Roadmap Fails?"


Independent Al-Ayyam held (7/29): “Public polls show that the Palestinian majority support a political solution with legitimate international conditions.  The Israeli majority, meanwhile, also supports a political solution but with Israeli conditions that fall short of those set by international legitimacy....  But what would happen if the political solution fails....?  Failure of the roadmap along with the lack of a real alternative political solution will simply lead to a total collapse of the interim agreements....  The only other option would be to carry on the popular struggle embodied in the Intifada and maintain the state of civil disobedience.”


“Sharon’s Measures Are Only Superficial”


Independent Al-Quds editorialized (7/29): "However, the state of tension between the Palestinians and Israeli forces positioned inside the Occupied Territories will probably continue.  Although the release of prisoners tops the Palestinian agenda, the Israeli government showed clear indifference to this sensitive issue....  Sharon wants to arrive at the White House with his phony measures in an effort to portray himself as a man of peace and a true partner in the peace process.  The Palestinians, on the other hand, believe that the American administration must pressure the Israeli prime minister to undertake much more than just limited steps.”


“Outcome Of Mahmoud Abbas’s Visit To Washington: A Hole In A Thick Wall”


Talal Okal contended in independent, pro-PA Al-Ayyam (7/28):  “The outcome of the Palestinian PM’s visit to Washington will not be determined until we see the outcome of his Israeli counterpart’s visit.  No doubt, the opposing partners’ visits to the American mediator have high significance, especially considering the fact that President Bush has made this most complicated struggle in recent history a critical factor in his political future....  President Bush has made his vision of the two-state solution clear to the entire world, putting resolving the struggle atop his administration’s agenda.  The American administration is aware of the risks....  It is safe to say that the overall impression of the Palestinian PM Abbas’ visit was positive.  The American president showed understanding toward the Palestinian demands, so much so that he expressed dissatisfaction about the separation wall and settlement activities, exactly as National Security Advisor Rice did.  Bush reiterated what Rice has already told Israeli PM in her last visit to the region....  Mahmoud Abbas came back from Washington with an American promise to lessen the Israeli inflexibility but not to undo it....  In any case, it will later be revealed whether in fact these crucial visits will have removed certain obstacles in the path of the roadmap.”


"Snake Wall"


Hafez Barghouti wrote in semi-official Al-Hayat Al-Jadidah (7/27):  “Last Wednesday, I visited the office of Chairman Arafat.  He was staring at a map of the so-called ‘Security Wall’ or what I call the 'Suffocating Wall'....  He was pretty sure that the ‘[security] wall map’ will erase the roadmap and that all ongoing negotiations will be a waste of time, especially as construction of the wall continues....  Those behind the building of the wall clearly have political objectives rather than security needs in mind, especially since the wall, which costs billions of dollars, might not be completed for a few years.  In addition, they want to dictate details of the final solution that fit their own understanding in an effort to prevent any withdrawal and the establishment of a true Palestinian state.  Tracking the line of this wall, it snakes around the Palestinian neck, an expression used by American President George Bush [in reference to the President’s remarks describing the wall as snaking through the West Bank]....  I was planning to write about this last Thursday to show the path of this snaking wall, but some recommended that I wait so it would not be perceived as incitement.  I believe that the wall itself is an incitement against peace, land and security.  It is a disaster....  If construction on this wall continues, negotiations will sure hit a dead end."


EGYPT:  “Their Goal Is Wasting Time”


Aggressive pro-government Al Akhbar Editor-in-chief Galal Dowidar judged (7/31):  “There is no comment except to repeat the famous Egyptian saying, ‘Hopeless case'...the sole superpower, Washington, continued to spoil Israel....  Following his meeting with Abu Mazen, Bush said he believed Israel’s security fence...poses a problem for peace.  However...we were surprised to see Bush retract this position....  While Bush’s statements expressed his powerlessness and surrender to Sharon, he also paid him compliments by attacking the Palestinian resistance, which has as its goal the liberation of the occupied land, as terrorism....  Middle East peace can only be achieved by responding to international legitimacy, which calls for ending Israel’s occupation of Palestinian and Arab territories....  Any other act is just a waste of time in favor of Israeli occupation.”


"Walls To Peace”


Pro-government English-language Al Ahram Weekly editorialized (7/31):  “There is growing concern in the Arab world over Israel’s continuing refusal to make any conciliatory measures towards the Palestinians.  The feeling that the U.S. must pressure Israel into at least accommodating the possibility of peace...grows daily.  Washington, the main sponsor of the Middle East peace process, must be seen to be playing a more even hand.  The recent meetings between Sharon and Abu Mazen with U.S. President Bush would have been a perfect opportunity....  Sadly, it was an opportunity lost.”




Leading pro-government Al Ahram Editor-in-chief Ibrahim Nafie argued (7/29):  “The meeting between Bush and Abu Washington...revealed the danger of leaving the Palestinian issue unresolved....  Arafat and Abu Mazen have been comrades in the struggle to establish an independent Palestinian state....  Palestinians have never doubted that, in the end, the dream of returning home and of liberation from occupation would be achieved....  On his way to the U.S., Abu Mazen was sure of the justice of his cause though he realized the danger of the mines laid on his path by the Zionist lobby....  He was clear when he told Americans: ‘Do not follow Israel blindly.’  President Bush should ask himself, when viewing the racist wall [wall Israel is building]: ‘Where is the Palestinian state I mentioned in my vision of two states?’”


“Separating Lines”


Small-circulation pro-government Al Gomhouriya Editor-in-chief Samir Ragab observed (7/29):  “Americans told Abu Mazen...they oppose the isolating wall....  They also called for increasing the number of Palestinian prisoners to be released....  Americans preferred to ease their attack on Arafat....  Today Sharon meets with President Bush and other Administration officials.  Will they insist on what they openly said or will Sharon have a magical impact and change these principles?....  Will Bush tell Sharon frankly he objects to the isolating wall?  I doubt it.  The proof is that, on the eve of Sharon’s arrival, American statements were made saying the U.S. does not object to the wall, but to the way it is being built.  On Arafat, Sharon has the ability to instigate it is likely they will resume their talk of Arafat’s support for terrorists....  Sharon was happy he was going to the U.S.  We hope, though this would be a dream, his feelings change upon his return.”


SAUDI ARABIA:  "Sharon's Concessions"


Conservative Al-Madina editorialized (7/30):  "Strangely enough, Sharon is receiving criticism from right wing groups within his government.  The leaders of those groups accused Sharon of giving-in, and handing out more painful concessions with nothing in return for the Israelis.  What are those painful concessions we ask?  Unless; they considered those protocol procedures, and false efforts to improve Israel's image, a painful concession?  What do they then call the construction of the security fence?  What do they call the 12k-long wall that divides the Palestinian land and adds to the Palestinians' segregation from the rest of the world?


"The Secret Behind Sharon's Generosity"


Moderate Al-Watan editorialized (7/29):  "It is not an act of generosity on the part of Sharon to given in and agree to release the detainees from Hamas and Al-Jihad movements....  This generosity has two reasons: first, the Palestinian negotiator's insistence on the release of Palestinian prisoners....  Second, the American pressure on Sharon, as well as the joint American-Palestinian fear that the Roadmap might fail, as did its predecessors.  This might have been an American awakening, or it might just be another Israeli maneuver, but in any case the Palestinians have nothing to lose.


"Sharon Sham"


English-language, moderate Riyadh Daily remarked (7/29): "Sharon has made several visits to the U.S. since he assumed power.  But this time, with an American favorite, Mahmmoud Abbas, heading the Palestinian camp, the winnings from the table may well be shared equally between the Middle East rivals.  But first, Bush will need to see through the Sharon sham of so-called confidence-building gestures." 


"More Images, Less Substance"


Jeddah's English-language, pro-government Arab News contended (7/28):  "It will be interesting to see where Bush's sympathies really lie.  If he is fair, Bush will be more understanding of the Palestinian position....  What Sharon appears to want is a protracted interim agreement during which Israel will make minimal concessions to the Palestinians.  His reluctance to implement the roadmap suggests that he will not act unless forced by American pressure....  Is Bush--whose administration faces growing problems in Iraq and is preparing for an election whose outcome is by no means certain--in any position to pressure Sharon into faithful implementation?....  The point of Bush's meetings with both leaders appears less to shore up the roadmap than to underline his continued involvement in the peace process.  Therefore, the most that can be expected from these talks is more images and less substance."


"An American Promises"


Riyadh's moderate Al-Jazirah editorialized (7/27):  "Washington should invest in the readiness of the Palestinians to implement the Roadmap....  Washington ought to encourage Israel to respond positively to this Palestinian readiness by meeting their demands:  The withdraw of Israeli troops, ending settlement projects, releasing Palestinian prisoners and ceasing the erection of the security fence.  The current peace opportunity may not be repeated and to miss it would be a grave uncorrectable mistake."  


"A New Era In American-Palestinian Relations"


Mecca's conservative Al-Nadwa commented (7/26):  "The visit of the Palestinian Prime Minister Abbas, to Washington to meet with President Bush and the pillars of the American administration, marks a new beginning for the American-Palestinian relationship....  The visit is a chance for the American President to listen to the Palestinian points of view and to their list of demands to the Israelis....  By Tuesday, when President Bush is expected to meet with the Israeli PM Sharon, things will be clearer for the American President....  Since the Roadmap was put together by the U.S. and has within it ideas belonging to the President of the U.S., then America has the ability to pull the right strings to make that map work.  This shall be seen when President Bush meets with Abu Mazen and Sharon and listens to their points of view."


"Make Or Break Visit"


Jeddah's English-language, pro-government Saudi Gazette (7/26):  "The visit by Abu Mazen...offers the best chance yet to improve his image in the region and the world....  Peace will be in danger if President Bush piles the pressure on Abbas to disarm militant groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad....  Middle east specialists say that while Abbas will receive kind words and properly more financial assistance from President Bush, and will secure promises from Israel, little movement can be expected on the issues of Israel settlement and the construction of the security fence to separate Israelis from Palestinians.


JORDAN:   “Bring Down The Walls”


The centrist, elite English-language Jordan Times editorialized (7/30):  “The first visit to the White House of Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas appears to have been a big success....  President Bush also appeared to concur with some of the Palestinians’ concerns about Israeli oppressive measures, notably construction of the ‘security’ wall that Israel is undertaking across the West Bank.  By describing the wall as a problem, President Bush may not have gone as far as the Palestinians would have liked him to go, but that he noted it as such indicates that the issues does not sit well with him....  It is absurd to purport that the security of countries and cities can be defended by walls, no matter how high.  Israel is therefore and in effect receding in seeking its defense through the construction of its ‘security’ wall.  The United States must convince Israel to stop the construction of this controversial barrier.  It must also work on bringing down another barrier to the peace process, Israel’s continued imprisonment of Palestinians....  The new Palestinian Prime Minister needs concrete moves from Israel to strengthen his position within the Palestinian ranks.  If he cannot deliver much on the wall problem or the prisoners issue, he will continue to be undermined in his efforts to bolster the peace process on the basis of the roadmap.”


“Releasing The Prisoners Is A Positive Step”


Musa Hawamdeh contended in center-left, influential Arabic-language Al-Dustour (7/30):  “The reaction of Hamas and Islamic Jihad to the release of the first batch of Palestinian prisoners is exaggerated and unconvincing.  No one can deny the fact that the release of Hamas prisoners was effected through official Palestinian insistence and the determination of Mahmoud Abbas himself.  That is why not appreciating such an initiative fails to convince the Palestinian people.  Hamas should have welcome the release of the prisoners and called for releasing others....  Hard-line movements should take these achievements into consideration, despite their frailty, not in order to exaggerate these achievements, but in order to support the Palestinian Authority and Mahmoud Abbas himself, as well as the American and Israeli parties so that the objectives of the Palestinian people are achieved.  If we continue to repeat the same old slogans, rejecting everything and not accepting any concessions by the occupation, Israel is going to take advantage of this and will claim that we do not want peace and that the Palestinians do not deserve any concessions and that they are going to go back to military operations whatever is given to them, and this is not true, at least from the people’s perspective....  We do not want to abandon the national objectives, but there is a huge difference between reinforcing achievements and insisting on these objectives all at once, particularly since we exist in international and Arab circumstances that would not achieve more than what is being offered.”


"The Ball Is In Sharon's Court Now"


The centrist, English-language Jordan Times contended (7/27): "Palestinian PM Minister Mahmoud Abbas has clearly placed the ball in Israel's court, by making clear what the Palestinians are expected to do and what is required to revive the peace process....  What Sharon has offered is mostly cosmetic so far; it is an affront to anyone concerned with the peace process....  What Sharon fails to understand or does not want to understand is that Abbas has no magic wand to rein in resistance groups' activities, and he needs all the help in the world to persuade leaders of militant groups to give peace a chance. It is mainly up to Sharon to create the right environment for Abbas to talk to his fellow Palestinian leaders and press them into seeing that there could be a light at the end of the tunnel if they cooperate, particularly given that U.S. President George W. Bush, for political reasons of his own rather than any compassion for the Palestinian cause, has thrown his weight behind the efforts for peace in Palestine.  The window of opportunity posed by the renewed American commitment to create a Palestinian entity through the "roadmap" would not remain open beyond a few months, if not a few weeks now, given the shift of gear in Washington towards next year's presidential elections." 


LEBANON:  “The Wall Of Oppression”


Moderate, anti-Syrian An-Nahar asserted (7/30):  “Only a few days ago, President Bush characterized the wall as a ‘problem’ and said that it was very difficult to build trust between the Israelis and the Palestinians in the shadow of the wall....  However, when he met Sharon, Bush did not find in his written remarks for the press conference a place of the wall...and when he had to talk about it during the question and answer session he called it a ‘fence....’  In brief, Sharon took the initiative and announced the decision:  Israel will continue to build the security wall...but will try to decrease its impact on the daily lives of the Palestinians....  George Bush’s heart was satisfied with the humanity of Sharon’s heart.  Now the wall no longer takes 40 percent of the area in West Bank, no longer separate homes, and longer uproot olive trees....  Now, Bush is convinced that the wall is no longer a problem.  Palestinian terrorism is the only problem."


“American Style And Substance In The Middle East”


The English-language Daily Star urged (7/30): “When the American president urges the prime minister to ‘carefully consider all the consequences of Israel’s actions as we move forward on the road to peace,’ he delivers a rather explicit policy statement, but does so by using rather mild rhetoric.  The honest observer could take this in either of two ways: the substance of the policy overrides the style of the rhetoric, or the other way around....  If Bush genuinely objects to and wants to reverse Israeli actions, such as expanding settlements, building the...separation wall...and harassing and obstructing the free movement of Palestinians in their daily lives, he can start this process by making known Washington’s opposition to Israel’s actions."


“A Snake Is Between Them”


Moderate, anti-Syrian An-Nahar asserted (7/26): "Perhaps the most important achievement that was reached during the meeting between President Bush and Abu-Mazen is the fact that President Bush listened patiently to the Palestinian problems and renewed his commitment to reach a solution....  The meeting was friendly and Bush praised Abu-Mazen...and expressed his sympathy over the Palestinian daily suffering....  However, Bush’s positions on the thorny issues were ambiguous and biased towards Israel: Bush did not support the Palestinian request for releasing the Palestinian ‘killers’ from Israeli prisons; he ignored Abu-Mazen’s request for Israel to stop its blockade of Arafat; and did not take a clear position regarding Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory.”


“Memo To Bush: Palestine And Iraq Are Inseparable”


The English-language Daily Star noted (7/26): “With an election looming next year and powerful interests warning him not to pressure the Jewish state, George W. Bush has to be considering the possibility that he could lose his job.  But now is no time for hesitation.  Moving forcefully to achieve a lasting peace in this troubled part of the world would make him invincible at the ballot box, and not just because it would end violence in the Holy Land: It would also make the U.S. experience in Iraq a far easier one for all concerned....  The resistance U.S. forces are encountering in motivated at least in part by a profound lack of trust in anything American.  That credibility gap stems largely from the failure of successive U.S. presidents to be even-handed in the struggle between Israelis and Palestinians.  Laying down the law and establishing his commitment to the ‘road map’ would help Bush in more ways than one.  It would convince at least some Iraqis to give the Americans a would also make it far easier for Arab regimes and nongovernmental organizations to help restore stability in Iraq.”


SYRIA: "Such A [U.S.] Stand Leads To Such Results"


Government-owned Al-Ba'th declared (7/31):  "The great support Sharon has received in the wake of his meeting with Bush is puzzling; it has reached such a cohesion that makes observers suspicious about Washington's ability to demand Israel to carry out its obligations towards peace....  Bush was generous with Sharon; he praised him and unleashed statements that contradict with his previous statements about the Roadmap....  Such change in the US stand raises worry....  The U.S. Administration should understand that it cannot drag on for a long time in its procrastination; Peace is an international need as much as it is a strategic option for Arabs. Any backward step will lead to negative results for everybody."


"The Shift Must be in Washington"


Government-owned Syria Times held (7/29):  "With the continuing deterioration of conditions in Iraq and the hard situation that faces the U.S. troops there, Washington's engagement in the Arab-Israeli conflict seems no more critical than any other time.  The Bush Administration seems now in urgent need for a place where it can declare success.  Therefore, a re-examination of America's attitudes towards the Middle East issues, and a major shift in its policy seem urgent and badly needed."


"Feeling The Way Back"


Ali Nasrallah wrote in government-owned Al-Thawra (7/27):  "It seems that Secretary Powell in his recent statement, in which he ruled out the possibility of establishing an independent stated by 2005, has started to withdraw.  This announcement is a prelude to announcing failure of implementing the Roadmap....  It is quite obvious that the U.S. is not serious in its peaceful endeavors as much as it looks serious in dedicating the Israeli case and cementing Sharon's logic of diktat.  If this U.S. stand, which seems frustrating and disappointing for some people who hoped for a pragmatic and political position, has materialized in the wake of Bush's meeting with PM Abbas, what U.S. stand will materialize after Bush's meeting with Sharon?  Certainly the U.S. stand will be more in synch with the Israeli stand and harsher towards Palestinians who will held responsible for failure of the Roadmap as a prelude for giving Sharon a free hand."


UAE:  "Red Carpet At The White House"


The English-language pro-government Gulf News maintained (7/27):  "Prime Minister Abbas may feel pleased with his visit to the White House.  He was given the red carpet treatment, having received prior to his visit a direct donation from the Bush administration of $20 million.  President Bush let it be known in no uncertain terms that prepared to support Abbas--verbally, that is.  Yet Bush has obviously forgotten that actions speak louder than words, and thus far, there has been precious little action to support the Palestinian line.  With the Bush platitudes still ringing in his ears, Abbas must feel he has accomplished something, but the question is: What?  On the issue of freeing over 6,000 prisoners being held in Israeli custody, Bush's only recorded remark was that he would not want to see Palestinians released if they had been involved in the killing of Israelis.  That can hardly be interpreted by the Israeli government, who hang on every word coming from Bush, as censure and a demand to release prisoners quickly.  So it will not be done quickly, but in the time and choosing of the Israeli government.  Bush has also described Israel's West Bank security fence as 'a problem'--a major understatement that only sets him up for ridicule in the eyes of Palestinians and Arabs.  So despite the glad-handing at the White House, Abbas may find on his return to Palestine his colleagues--and the Palestinian public--demanding to know what he has achieved.  If the answer is 'precious little' as it appears to be, then it will do nothing to counter accusations made against him that he is 'America's (and Israel's) man.'  A sobriquet he should be anxious to be rid of."




CHINA:  “Bush’s Mediation Have Little Effect”


Ren Yujun commented in official Communist Party-run People’s Daily (Renmin Ribao) (7/31):  “In looking at the indirect 3-way talks this time, the U.S. did not reach its expectations, especially on the controversial issue of the security fence. Israel did not make any compromise.  Also, there was no progress on the issue of releasing the detained Palestinians.  The Bush government has adjusted its stance on the Middle East issue, but obviously its policy of favoring Israel did not change.  It seems there is still a long way to go to really implement the Road Map.”


JAPAN:  "Prospects For Peace Not Necessarily Bright"


Top-circulation, moderate Yomiuri observed (7/31):  "Diplomatic attempts to restore peace to the Middle East, based on the US-backed 'road map' peace plan, appears to be teetering on a tightrope....  It is praiseworthy that President Bush remains committed positively to Middle East peace by inviting Palestinian and Israeli leaders Abbas and Sharon to the White House in a bid to set the deadlocked peace process back in action. But it is questionable that these meetings will readily 'brighten' the prospect for peace, as it became clear that Abbas and Sharon were at odds over Israel's on-going construction of a 'separation fence' in the West Bank.  It is only natural that the US, as the peace broker, asked Sharon to stop building the fence out of concern that it will stand in the way of building up mutual trust between Israel and the Palestinians. Sharon rejected the President's request. There are already concerns that Israel is setting up the fence to use as a virtual future demarcation line between Israel and a Palestinian state to be created in the near future. Sharon's rejection will certainly drive Abbas, whose political foundation is not necessarily strong, into a corner. There are still other uncertainties that stand in the way of Middle East peace. Although the 'road map' calls for the withdrawal of Israelis from their settlements, there has been no actual progress on the withdrawals."


MALAYSIA:  "Peace Barrier"


Government-influenced English-language New Straits Times editorialized (8/1):  "With Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas standing at his side in Washington, President George W. Bush described the 'security fence' Israel is building as a 'problem' for Middle East peace because 'it's very difficult to develop confidence between the two sides with a wall snaking through the West Bank.'  His National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice demanded an immediate stop to its construction.  However, after seeing Ariel Sharon at the White House on Tuesday, the wall magically ceased to be a 'problem' for Bush--it was reduced to a mere 'sensitive issue.'  The 'problem' may have gone away, but standing next to Bush, Sharon declared that the wall 'will continue to be built.'  Once again, the U.S. has shown that it is prepared to back the Israeli cause, whatever the cost to the prospects for Middle East peace.  This confirms that Washington has all along been beholden to the Jewish lobby. It has been the case with all American presidents....  Sharon's promise that the fence will be built 'with every effort to minimise their infringement on the daily life of the Palestinian population,' is empty rhetoric.  This is because the wall has already uprooted thousands of Palestinians, deprived them of their means of livelihood by destroying their orchards, denied them access to water and arable land, and restricted their movements.  What has been billed as a defensive measure against terrorist attacks is an act of aggression which takes more land away from the Palestinians, reduces their lives to a daily nightmare, unilaterally establishes a border on illegally annexed territory, and legitimises the illegal Israeli settlements.  It is a barrier to peace and must be torn down."


THAILAND:  "Bush Misses Out On A Golden Chance”


Independent, English-language The Nation opined (8/1):  “Much of the hope that U.S. President George W. Bush would be an important deal breaker in the Israel-Palestine conflict faded on Tuesday following his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.  The U.S. president failed to extract any significant concessions from Sharon and backed off from pursuing Washington’s concerns about Israeli foot-dragging on the U.S.-sponsored ‘road map’ for peace or the ‘security wall’ that the Jewish state is building through large portions of Palestine territory....  Given the optimism generated by Bush’s meeting last week with the Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, when the U.S. leader publicly took issue with the fence and the lack of Israeli action to implement its obligations under the road map, it would seem that Tuesday’s backdown was more a case of buckling.  The result of the two meetings is that Abbas, the best hope for peace from the Palestinian side, has been compromised and undermined....  Abbas had come to Washington with a list of three key demands....  But ultimately he got U.S. support on none of them.  Instead Bush fell into line with the Sharon position that Palestinian terrorist groups such as Hamas must be dismantled first if the peace process is to move forward....  It was up to Bush and Sharon to create the right environment for Abbas to be able to talk to his fellow Palestinian leaders and press them into seeing that there could be a light at the end of the tunnel if they cooperate.  But with Bush’s capitulation, any hope for a breakthrough now rests with Sharon.”




PAKISTAN:  "Israel's Berlin Wall"


Karachi-based center-left independent national English-language Dawn declared (8/1):  "From all accounts, Israel's security fence has become a major hurdle in the way of peace in the Middle East....  As against this, some recent developments have been quite encouraging, though....  The wall should not be allowed to stand in the way of a smooth implementation of the roadmap or upset the schedule....  The roadmap is something to which the Bush administration is committed.  Any failure on the part of President Bush to rap Sharon on these issues will be perceived to be what it may well be--an attempt to keep the powerful Zionist lobby happy as America gears itself for next year's presidential election.  The roadmap is too precious to be sacrificed at the altar of a new presidential term."


"Working The Roadmap"


The centrist English-language News opined (7/27):  "The meeting between U.S. President Bush and Palestinian PM Mahmoud Abbas on Friday was a well-orchestrated affair with all sides saying the right things, including the Israeli PM's office which announced the transfer of two more cities to the Palestinians.  However, no mention was made as to whether some sort of an international machinery or monitoring body will be put in place to ensure honest implementation of the roadmap designed for peace in what can best be called Israel-Palestine....  It is this aspect that is troublesome as no one can be certain of U.S. supervision of the implementation of the agreement....  The twists in the situation work against the interests of the Palestinian prime minister who now needs to counter Israeli threats and blackmail from Palestinian groups." 




CANADA:  "Not All Fences Make For Good Neighbours"


Marcus Gee observed in the leading Globe and Mail (7/31):  "Good fences make good neighbours, they say. But the security fence that Israel is building around the West Bank could have the opposite effect, further poisoning relations between Israelis and Palestinians and making a peace settlement even harder to reach. Even Israel's closest ally, the United States, thinks the fence is a mistake....  Israel claims that the barrier will keep bombers out and cut the number of Israeli casualties, but even the best fence will not be able to keep out determined terrorists. What it will do is prevent thousands of Palestinians from working inside Israel by making permanent the ban on Palestinians crossing into Israel from the West Bank. The result will be ruin for the already devastated Palestinian economy....  Construction of the fence continues. Eventually it will stretch 700 kilometres and cost $1.5-billion (U.S.). Israel says it is not a political border, just a security barrier. Perhaps. Perhaps not. What is clear is that it is becoming a serious barrier to peace."


ARGENTINA:  "Sharon Challenges The U.S."


Leading Clarin remarked (7/30):  "Ariel Sharon yesterday announced he will continue the construction of the controversial security fence on the Palestinian side of the West Bank. This not only rejected by the Palestinians, it also triggered a warning by U.S. President Bush who views it as an obstacle to the peace process."


BRAZIL: "The West Bank Wall And Chances For The Roadmap"


Business-oriented Valor Economico professed (7/31): "The fragile roadmap offered by President Bush to Palestinians and Israelis is facing a serious obstacle with the construction of the [Israeli] wall in the West Bank....  The roadmap depends utterly on Mahmoud Abbas' political viability as the PA's prime minister....  No one doubts that the Palestinian radicals are preparing to resume hostilities if work on the West Bank wall continues....  By insisting on the construction of the wall in the West Bank, Sharon will certainly provoke the Palestinian radicals and deprive Abbas of the small chances of political success he may still have."  


"Illusory Security"


Right-of-center O Globo asserted (7/31): "It's difficult to imagine a more melancholy monument to the inability to coexist in the Middle East than the wall separating Israelis and Palestinians.  It's another of the many solutions of force already tried to no avail. That is: an extreme measure one tries exactly for not having found a solution....  It's no guarantee of peace, demonstrates arrogance and inflexibility and it will be necessary to negotiate its destruction before it's finished--so that negotiations may proceed."


MEXICO:  “Walls”


Gabriela de la Paz stated in independent El Norte (7/30):  "Walls accumulate a sum of deaths that make them odious. During their construction they show the despair of those who offer immediate response that temporarily resolve difficulties. The root of the problem rarely is found in the wall itself or in the border it creates. Generally, the solution, like in the Palestine-Israeli conflict, is more complex and requires the participation of many people, including Palestinians. Currently, 50 percent of Palestinians that enter Israel do so to perform non-qualified and low remuneration jobs. This 'security fence' (built by Ariel Sharon’s government) will reduce the possibilities of crossings. Certainly, the Palestine economy can’t afford an increase of unemployment that could lead them to despair, to more hate and to look for a way to fool security that will get them even with Israelis. On the other hand, the Israeli economy is not in its best moment either and the need of peace is still as evident as always."



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