January 15, 2004
MIDDLE EAST: ISRAEL-SYRIA TALKS 'PROMISING';
'BINATIONAL STATE' UNLIKELY
** The "positive"
contacts between Israel and Syria are a "step forward" for peace.
** Skeptics say real peace
is unlikely because both sides remain "irreconcilably opposed."
** Arabs reject Palestinian
PM Qurei's "binational" plan and demand more U.S. involvement.
** The Erez suicide bombing
reaffirms the "vitality" of Palestinian terrorist organizations.
Syria's new 'mild' diplomacy means talks with Israel are
'imminent'-- Although contacts
between Syria and Israel "ended with both sides stalking off in a
huff," observers said the "setback need not be the end of the story." Saudi and Indonesian writers called Syria the
first with the "will to negotiate"; Austria's centrist Die Presse
cited Israeli President Katsav's "clever, if only symbolic"
invitation to Jerusalem to Syrian President Assad. German and Israeli dailies stated that peace
with Syria would give Israel "an unprecedented extent of
security." Japan's conservative Sankei
added that talks would advance the "stalemated" peace process.
Israel will never accept Syria's demand for a 'full withdrawal
from the Golan'-- Pessimistic writers said
the "water is still too deep between both archenemies." Italy's center-right Il Giornale
judged that Israel lacked any "real interest...in resuming peace
negotiations"; a German daily countered that Assad "rejected the offer"
to visit Jerusalem. Syrian papers
emphasized that Damascus seeks a "just and comprehensive peace" that
will return "every inch of its occupied territory" in the Golan;
government-owned al-Thawra rejected any "bargain over our land" and
blasted Israeli "evasiveness and greed."
U.S. 'negligence' pushes each side towards 'unilateral
moves'-- Arab papers opposed
Qurei's "binational option", and the West Bank's independent Al-Ayyam
warned that it "cannot be achieved...without Israel's full acceptance." A UAE analyst added,
"Unilateralism...will never be the answer." Arab writers termed the one-state idea an
attempt to "pressure not only Israel, but also the international
community" into making "the Sharon regime realize that...Palestinian
statehood will become a reality."
Qatari and Saudi dailies urged the U.S. to not "silently stand
by" as Israel intensifies its "brutal occupation."
Hamas still can 'derail relations with Israel'-- The Erez suicide bombing indicated to many
observers that Palestinian extremists retain sufficient "vitality" to
undermine the "tottering" PA.
The attack hurt "Palestinians above all" as it impacted the
"only source of income" for them in Gaza, but the resulting
"popular anger"--directed against Israel--will only boost Hamas
vis-a-vis the PA. Canada's leading Globe
and Mail judged that the PA is now "too weak to disarm" Hamas,
and concluded that Hamas's "tacit acquiescence" is now a precondition
EDITOR: Ben Goldberg
EDITOR'S NOTE: This
analysis was based on 48 reports from 22 countries over 9 - 15 January
2004. Editorial excerpts from each
country are listed from the most recent date.
BRITAIN: “The Possibility
Of Peace Between Israel And Syria”
An editorial in the center-left Independent read
(1/13): "A flurry of increasingly
public and decreasingly diplomatic exchanges between Syria and Israel appears
to have ended with both sides stalking off in a huff.... Yesterday’s irritated exchanges may suggest
that the moment has been squandered. Yet
the very fact that the heads of state of Syria and Israel--two countries still
technically at war--were even considering a meeting was a step forward and this
setback need not be the end of the story.
All those concerned to foster peace in the region, starting with the US
and the EU, should do their utmost to ensure that it is rather the
Jacques Schuster commented in right-of-center Die Welt of
Berlin (1/14): "Is Syria finally
coming out of the mucky corner? President Assad attempts change since the
Americans made it clear to him that Damascus should no longer support
terrorists and stay away from getting more WMD. Whether he will go as far as
the former enfant terrible Qadhafi is unclear. But the current gestures raise
hope.... Israel is politically and
militarily strong enough to check the Syrian offer. If it finds out that Assad only plays for
more time, Israel would not have lost anything.
But if the Israeli government notices that Syria really wants peace,
Israel will gain an unprecedented extent of security. For the first time in its history the Jewish
country would be surrounded by regimes that have all signed peace
contracts. Only this prospect should
pique Sharon's interest."
Center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine noted
(1/13): "The model for the latest
invitation by the Israeli President Katsav to the Syrian head of state, Bashar
al Assad, seems to be Anwar al Sadat's unexpected and sensational voyage to
Jerusalem in 1977, which led to the Camp David peace. But at the time, the Egyptian President
invited himself and the global sentiment was totally different. Assad rejected the offer the moment it
reached Damascus, and also the Israeli Prime Minister announced at the time of
Katsav's invitation that it was only valid if Syria stopped to support
terrorism, namely Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Because Syria continues to do that, the Israeli gesture is
unfounded. But it shows that there are
more things going on behind the scenes than one publicly notices. In the crisis area between Libya and Iraq,
including Turkey, the political changes of the Iraq war are used to put out
feelers. Damascus' rejection does not need to be the last word."
"Between Attack And Offer"
Peter Muench opined in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of
Munich (1/13): "Katzav's unexpected
approach is one of several efforts to ease the hostile deadlock between Israel
and Syria since the failed talks in 2000....
But it remains clear that Israelis and Syrians are irreconcilably opposed
over the pivotal issue of the Golan Heights.
It is about water and militarily strategic positions. Recently both sides got heavily involved in a
side war, which Syria fights via Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon. And last autumn Israeli air strikes on
alleged terrorist camps in Syria stirred up fear of a direct
confrontation. Mutual negotiation offers
are canceled out by mutual escalations. But a rapprochement, which both sides
first start as an evasive maneuver, can result in a positive dynamic. Finally, there are indications that larger
countries are involved, creating a favorable environment for the opponents. Not
only the Americans are involved but also the Turks, who could play an important
negotiating role. For a long time, they had good contacts with Israel, and now
also with Syria. If Assad still shies
away from going to Jerusalem, the envoys of both sides could first meet on
neutral ground in Ankara."
ITALY: "The Chilling
Messages Of Reem's 'Sacrifice'"
Fiamma Nirenstein commented in centrist, influential La Stampa
(1/15): "Never before had the
meticulous precision of terror been more implemented than in yesterday's
suicide bombing at the Heretz check point.
First of all, the attack came only after a few hours after the one
carried out near Ramallah.... The
escalation of terror after a relative period of calm...shows the terrorist
organizations' desire to demonstrate their vitality even after the reduction in
their capacity after operation 'Defense Wall.'
But the alliance between Hamas and the Brigades shows a double and
spurious desire: the Islamic Fundamentalists want to nominate themselves as the
successors of Arafat in the tottering Palestinian Authority. And on the part of
the Brigades...is a determination not to be beaten by the hard-line factions by
continuing to play on a force level as well as on a diplomatic one.... To blow up the Heretz passage is like blowing
up the only source of income for the Palestinians in Gaza.... Jerusalem had a different reaction: the Prime
Minister's office made it known that permits will not be suspended for
now.... The last destructive element [in
this suicide bombing] was the use of a woman, or rather of a
"Hamas Kills, Arafat's Wing Claims Responsibility"
An editorial in elite, classical liberal Il Foglio read
(1/15): "A Palestinian terrorist
blew herself up at the Heretz checkpoint, killing four people and wounding
scores of others--all Israelis.... Hamas
reached an immediate political and military result: the closure (without a
fixed date) of the checkpoint and it doesn't matter much if this blocks the
salaries of 20,000 Palestinian families. The attack demonstrates that the
report of the Palestinian Security Services...was correct. But there was
certainly no need for Arafat's services to know that Hamas uses massacres and
suicide bombers as political weapons to cause the failure of any attempt to
negotiate with Israel. There is no talking with Israel. Israel must be erased
from the map.... Hamas wanted to cause
the failure of even a simple attempt to mitigate the sufferings of Palestinian
civilians, which was implemented by Ariel Sharon upon request of the Israeli
Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon.... The PA,
which is once again completely under the control of Yasser Arafat, has returned
to the opposition of the months that preceded the road map.... With yesterday's massacre, Hamas made it
clear to everyone that it's once again operating at full capacity."
"Surprise From Israel: 'Assad To Jerusalem'"
R. A. Segre opined in pro-government, leading center-right Il
Giornale (1/13): "It was
supposed to be a special meeting of Jerusalem's Parliament to discuss, at the
opposition's request, Prime Minister Sharon's program to unilaterally withdraw
from one part of the occupied areas in case the Palestinian government was not
able to honor the commitments made within the framework of the road map and to
destroy the terrorist bases in its territory. However, the debate quickly
turned into a violent diatribe of the opposition against the government
sustaining that [the government] does not want to make peace with its neighbors
and turned down Syria's recent proposal to resume peace negotiations. In the
evening, the Premier obtained the confidence vote, 51 to 39, on the project for
unilateral measures. But the text was kept vague in order to avoid a government
crisis.... Israeli President Katzav,
without consulting the government, yesterday invited the Syrian President to
follow the example of the late Egyptian President Sadat to come to Jerusalem to
discuss relations between the two countries....
While the Israelis don't want to give the impression that they are
refusing a peace offer, it is also true that at the moment there is no real
interest on the part of the Israelis in resuming peace negotiations with
"Sharon: The Settlers Boo Me? I Will Not Stop"
Fiamma Nirenstein commented in centrist, influential La Stampa
(1/12): "Perhaps the old Ariel
Sharon-bulldozer definitively disappeared yesterday from the Israelis'
collective imagination. The founder of many settlements was booed and attacked
by more than 100,000 settlers. At the same time--7 p.m.--he was reiterating his
step by step plan to the foreign press: removal, re-disposition of the troops,
and tight security, including the defense barrier.... Regarding Syria, Sharon was careful: we must
understand the reasons for the pacifist claims of Syrian President Bashar al
Assad, who is pressured in part by the U.S. and currently very involved in
financing the Palestinian terrorist organizations and in passing Iranian
weapons to Hezbollah. The Prime Minister said once Bashar ends his terrorist
efforts they could talk."
Administration Was In The Know"
Zakhar Gelman noted in official government-run Rossiyskaya
Gazeta (1/15): "Many Israelis
believe that the Erez bombing could not have happened without the Palestinian
administration having been in the know.
It is not only that the (Al Aqsa Martyrs') Brigades are under Yasser
Arafat's control. The Erez crossing
point virtually serves as a bridge for Palestinians with jobs in Israel. Now the Israelis are sure to equip it with a
boom. That will hurt the Palestinians
above all, as there are no jobs in Gaza.
The PLO administration won't miss a chance to direct popular anger
AUSTRIA: “Olive Branch In
The Middle East”
Thomas Vieregge observed in centrist Die Presse
(1/13): “It was a clever, if only
symbolic move of Israel’s President Moshe Katzav to offer Syria an olive
branch. Politically speaking, Katzav does not have much power, but his gesture
was important: he effectively put both Bashar al-Assad, the young head of state
of Syria, and Israel’s Prime Minister, the cunning old fox Ariel Sharon, under
pressure to take up the peace talks again, which had failed so perilously
before. If Assad had indeed agreed to visit Israel, it would almost have been
too much of a good thing.”
"No Visible Rapprochement"
Frank Schloemer commented in independent De
Morgen (1/13): “At this
moment there is no visible rapprochement between Israel and Syria--despite a
few remarkable diplomatic initiatives....
Apparently the water is still too deep between both archenemies who have
been at war for more than thirty years and who menace each other
regularly. Both parties link preliminary
conditions to the dialogue--which does not make things easier. Syria wants the Golan Heights back. That is the last thing Israel is willing to
accept. Jerusalem demands that Damascus
stop its support to international terrorism, but Syria says that there is no
such thing. It is an endless Yes-No game
that does not contribute much to a peaceful solution. Yet, it is clear that since the fall and the
arrest of Saddam much has been set in motion in the Middle East -not in the least
in Israel itself. There is growing
pressure on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and, last weekend, a number of
Ministers started to revolt against his policy.
That is dangerous for his government, while a government crisis is the
last thing that Israel needs at this moment.”
IRELAND: "Mr. Cowen's
The center-left Irish Times editorialized (1/12): "Mr Brian Cowen...Minister for Foreign
Affairs, goes to the Middle East this week in another bid to get negotiations
on a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians going again. He will
be representing the EU as well as Ireland, and travels with the goodwill of the
Palestinian side.... The Israeli
government is not as enthusiastic either about Ireland's position or the role
of the EU in mediating or resolving the conflict. But it has to take full
account of the common European view that it is urgent to get the negotiations
going again. They cannot be allowed to founder this year as the U.S. has a
presidential election.... A new factor
is now coming rapidly into play. More far-seeing Israelis have been warning
that if a settlement is not reached soon demographic pressures will begin to
threaten the very fabric of the Jewish state.... As a result there are increasing pressures
for a two-state solution to the conflict, since within a decade Jews would
become a minority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, ruling over a
Palestinian majority. In a significant statement last week the Palestinian
prime minister, Mr Ahmed Korei, warned that if Mr Sharon persists with his
unilateral plan the only option left for the Palestinians would be to go for a
one-state solution in which Palestinians would demand equal rights with
Israelis.... Mr Cowen...will be in an
important position to gauge the prospect of getting talks going again,
involving reciprocal moves by both sides to build confidence in the process. It
is very much to be hoped that progress can be made, since this conflict is the
source of so much instability directly affecting the EU."
SPAIN: "The Sharon
Conservative ABC observed (1/13): "That Sharon is an obstacle for the
peace of the Middle East is unquestionable.
Even Israel's usual friends are starting to see it with clarity.... His strategy of hitting and running is common
knowledge for his interlocutors. The problem
is that Sharon's lack of reliability has ended up projecting itself on the
foreign policy of the only democracy of the region: the State of Israel. Syria's decision to reject the offering of
Israel's President Katsav can only be understood within the climate of distrust
caused by Israel thanks to its Prime Minister Sharon.... With no credibility among Israeli extremist
groups, and with refusals like the ones given by his Syrian neighbor, the only
thing Sharon has left is his furious reaction yesterday at the Knesset, when he
threatened to impose at any price measures to guarantee Israel's security. Ignoring reality seems to be the only
solution left for Sharon."
ISRAEL: "No Move"
Conservative columnist Avraham Tirosh wrote in popular, pluralist Maariv
(1/14): "No one in the political sphere, right or left...believes that
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's speech in the Knesset [January 12] articulates
any change in his previously expressed views.... One can believe Sharon's intentions to carry
out, when the time is right, a unilateral move and evacuate settlements and one
cannot. But what he said in the Knesset
has nothing to do with it. What dictated
his speech there...were not his true thoughts...but only the will to avoid, at
this stage, a crisis with the National Union and National Religious
parties.... Sharon is being waited for,
and waited for and waited for to take the actions, which he promised to take
but he doesn't act.... Such actions will
oblige him...to unilaterally disengage from his coalition members, and at this
stage it seems that this separation is tougher on Sharon then disconnecting
from the Palestinians.... But if Sharon
means what he says outside the Knesset he will have to overcome this fear ...
and to say goodbye to his current coalition.
That would be the siganl that one can believe him."
"Between Syria And The Golan Separates Only Iraq"
Amir Oren noted in left-leaning, independent Ha'aretz
(1/13): "It's a topsy-turvy world:
The Syrian president is begging for peace, the Israeli prime minister is
refusing ... and the American president is coming down on the side not of
Syrian eagerness but of Israeli cynicism.
On the face of it, George Bush and Ariel Sharon appear to be in
sync. In reality, there is a minor--but
crucial--difference between the Israeli aversion to dialogue with Syria, due to
the certainty of the price that would eventually be exacted, and the American
tactic of 'Iraq First.' As always,
Washington would like to see the Israeli-Arab peace expanded.... The change is not in the substance, but in
the pace and the order, because America's chief concern at present is
Iraq.... Negotiations with Israel
leading to a return of the Golan? Absolutely, but the first order of business
is to stop Syria's interference in Iraq....
The road to the Golan now passes through Baghdad, and the granting of
another victory to Bush in his global war on terror, this time in the Syrian
theater: Hizbullah and the Palestinian organizations under Syrian
protection.... Whether Sharon likes it
or not, renewal of the talks with Syria is imminent. The only thing standing between Sharon (or
his successor) and Assad is Iraq."
"Between Words And Deeds"
Prof. Eytan Gilboa stated in popular, pluralist Maariv
(1/11): "The Bush administration is
displaying great suspicion towards Bashar Assad and his regime, and examining
every statement and action of his with a microscope. The gap between words and deeds only
intensifies the lack of trust. Assad has
declared his desire to renew negotiations with Israel on several occasions, and
invited the U.S. to serve as an impartial mediator. On the other hand, he continues to sponsor
the headquarters of Palestinian terror organizations in Damascus and support
Hizbullah. From Washington’s standpoint,
Assad is reacting too little and too late to the changes that have taken place
following the terror attacks in the U.S. and the global war on terror.... If Assad wants to enlist the U.S. to a peace
process with Israel, he must stop his support for terror organizations.... The acceptance of these terms also meets
Israel’s strategic interests, and their fulfillment will increase its
motivation to conduct real negotiations with Damascus."
"The Ice Flow"
Zvi Barel stated in left-leaning, independent Ha'aretz
(1/11): "Turkey is ready to mediate
between Israel and Syria, the United States will certainly not object if the
peace process between the two countries is renewed, but Israel seems to be
saying that this is absolute lunacy. Why
do we need a peace like that if the border on the Golan Heights is so quiet,
and why now, of all times, just as the skiing season is getting under
way?.... Assad may not be serious, but
he is part of the movement of icebergs that began in the wake of the Iraq War. That shift has generated a rapprochement
between Iran, Egypt, and perhaps the U.S., between Syria and Turkey, has
brought Libya back into the 'family of nations' and has also moved the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the department of strategic threats to the
corner of the gang wars. That will be
the ice floe on which Israel will continue to float when the Middle East really
begins to be 'new.'"
"The Palestinians’ Nightmare"
Amit Cohen wrote in popular, pluralist Maariv (1/11): "As the Palestinian Authority’s
leadership was scrambling desperately to seek an adequate response to Israel’s
unilateral threats, a new danger began to loom on the horizon: a resumption of
Israeli-Syrian peace talks.... For them,
there truly is cause for concern. The party with the most to lose with the
resumption of the negotiations with Syria, if and when, will be the Palestinian
Authority.... In this context we ought
to bear in mind that the Palestinian terror organizations, such as Hamas and
Islamic Jihad, for whom Damascus is a central ally, also will have to pay a
heavy price. If the Israeli-Syrian
process gains momentum, those organizations, which nowadays operate with nearly
no impediment in the Syrian capital, may lose the comfortable refuge that Syria
and Lebanon currently offer them.... If,
in the context of negotiations, Syria agrees to rein in Hizbullah’s activity--a
decision that would be welcomed by the Lebanese government--this could have an
even greater adverse impact on the Palestinians’ ability to perpetrate terror
attacks against Israel."
WEST BANK: "The
Question And Answer"
Talal Okal commented in independent Al-Ayyam (1/15): "Sharon realizes that the Palestinians,
even if they wanted to, are incapable of fulfilling the conditions he has set
forth to reconsider his disengagement plan.
The situation on the ground clearly indicates that the implementation of
the separation plan will be the only outcome.
The American administration is also dragged into the same confusion despite
its realization of the fact that the Sharon plan leaves no room for the Bush
two-state vision. This administration,
which agreed to scale back its own efforts and interests vis-à-vis the
Palestinian-Israeli conflict, still insists on its demands that Palestinians
change their leadership, fight so-called terrorism and carry on with the
reforms process.... The American
administration has lost interest in [countering] the separation wall or
settlements and, in this respect, official statements are nothing more than
"Reviving Palestinian Policy"
Mohammad Yaghi opined in independent Al-Ayyam (1/15): “The latest incursions into cities in the
West Bank and Gaza Strip, and harassments and killings in the cities of Nablus
and Jenin, have received very little international media coverage. Meanwhile,
construction on the separation wall is being accelerated to impose a fact on
the ground despite the world’s formal opposition to it. Within six months we
will find ourselves in a situation that would be difficult to change and where
Quraya’s call for a binational state will be meaningless.... It is possible to get out of this crisis, but
never with these same [Israeli] policies and personalities.”
"The Quraya' Bomb:
More Than A Protest And Less Than An Initiative"
Talal Okal maintained in independent Al-Ayyam (1/12): “The statement [made by PM Quraya’ last
Thursday on the bi-national state option] could be an indication that
Palestinians too have their own choices, as opposed to those of Israel.... Sharon has caused all options to hit a dead
end by persisting with his one-sided plans, which the Israelis will soon
realize are bad for Israel. For its
part, the U.S. is largely responsible for what’s taking place. It is of no use that its Secretary of State
rejects outright Quraya’s [bi-national state] proposal or re-emphasizes the
two-state vision, for, in this respect, his country has done nothing toward
achieving the latter except provide support for Sharon’s plans.”
"The Palestinian Policy’s Catch: A Need For Efficient Tactics”
Ashraf Ajrami opined in independent Al-Ayyam (1/12): “PM Abu Ala’s remarks on the bi-national
state proposal has generated angry and negative reactions in Israel and the
U.S. However, no one seems to have taken
them seriously enough due to the fact that Palestinians are incapable of
implenting this option, which cannot be achieved through force or without
Israel’s full acceptance....
Undoubtedly, such remarks trigger Israeli concerns about the
‘demographic threat’ and serve the agenda of those who prefer a separation
between Palestinians and Israelis.”
"There's No Solution But The Non-Solution"
Bassem Abu Sumayya wrote in official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida
(1/10): "Just as the bi-national
state option is not realistic or easy to implement, so too the independent
state option has become not only difficult to translate into reality but also
impossible to achieve in view of the siege, wall and isolation policy. So what is the solution Israel and the United
States want, except leaving us with no other option but to revert to the
bi-national option we adopted in the 60s and later abandoned in the
80s?.... This Israeli government is
following a policy of stalling and evasiveness to cover up for its actions and
hold the Palestinian Authority responsible for obstructing the Roadmap, citing
the latter’s refusal to fight and disarm militant organizations. This happens at a time when the United States
itself is establishing channels of communications with these organizations despite
Israel’s repeated calls for dismantling them.”
SAUDI ARABIA: "Cynical
Jeddah's English-language pro-government Arab News
editorialized (1/14): "In proposing
a phony peace offer that Syria was bound to reject, Israel was trying to blacken
Damascus further in America's eyes. Syria must now work hard to present its
case, not least in Europe where there is growing antipathy to aggressive
Israeli policies. Only honest negotiations will end the tragedy in the occupied
territories. One day that end will finally come. But the day Israel's President
put forth the 'unconditional' offer was not that day."
America And The Islamic World"
Riyadh's conservative Al-Riyadh held (1/13): "When is America going to give up its
complex of animosity towards Arab for the sake of Israel? Does America have a clear political line to
conclude peace and protecting its interest in the region? Besides the ideology of panic and war? Or carving up the countries of the region
according to what Rumsfeld's assistant proposes? Or what a BBC journalist does to get people
to despise the Arab, along with his culture and history? This kind of policy creates a general
consensus in the Islamic world that the contest is not confined to the fight
against terrorism, but is also an attempt to destroy its political, financial,
human, and spiritual resources.... Going
to war is a lot more serious than competing over resources. Especially because this war is considered
holy, complicating the problem, it is in no one's interest to allow its
dangerous explosiveness to spread.
Jeddah's English-language pro-government Saudi Gazette
noted (1/13): "The U.S. could help,
if it really wanted to. It could
pressure Israel, withhold aid, and possibly force Israel to negotiate. But more importantly, the Bush administration
could live up to the values it claims it embraces: individual liberty, the
right to own property, and the right to build one's future free from the
coercive interference of others...
Americans have always had this problem, espousing universal rights while
at the same time clearly believing some people--usually dark-skinned ones--are
not entitled to them or not capable of exercising them.... If Bush truly believes that freedom is God's
gift to humanity and not merely something bestowed by beneficent governments or
righteous ideologues, then he will embrace and support Palestinian freedom as
well and demand the Israelis end their long and brutal occupation. And then he
can watch peace happen."
"The Role Of The Arab League"
Jeddah's conservative Al-Madina editorialized (1/12): "Syria's attempts to improve its
position by being more flexible, and to discredit U.S. and Israeli allegations,
will not work if Syria acts alone. The Arab League must take a supportive
position towards Syria's initiatives. The League must stand by Syria in its
battle against the allegations of the White House hawks and their partners in
Sharon's government. There is still time
for the Arab League to be supportive and help Syria, which has taken promising
and positive steps in the right direction."
"What Exactly Does Israel Want?"
Jeddah's conservative Al-Madina commented (1/11): "Irrespective of whether the statement
of the Palestinian Prime Minister was tactical, or a strategic Palestinian
vision for an alternative to the roadmap, the continuation of Palestinian resistance
to regain their rights remains the best and only choice. The question is this: if Israel refuses the two-state option, and
also refuses the one-state, two-nations alternative, what exactly does Israel
"Washington Has The Answer"
Riyadh's moderate Al-Jazirah declared (1/10): "The Palestinian Prime Minister's
remarks about a bi-national state with Israel may perhaps be a caution to the
U.S. Administration, which is witnessing Sharon's imposition of barricades and
restrictions designed to reduce the Palestinian state's territory as outlined
in the American
"roadmap." We hope that the
Americans will not stand against the Palestinian warning by saying the usual:
that this is a unilateral action and that they are ruining the peace process,
which is daily sabotaged by Sharon while the Americans silently stand by."
Omar Karmi wrote in the independent, elite, English-language Jordan
Times (1/15): "It was perhaps,
in hindsight, a much more innocuous remark than how it played out.... Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia (Abu
Alaa) said the policies of the Israeli government under Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon would leave Palestinians no choice but to 'go for a one-state
solution'.... In Israel, the comment was
equally quickly, but much less diplomatically, brushed off.... The 'threat' is demographic. In December
2003, a study...projected that by 2020 the total population of Israel and the
Palestinian areas would be about 14.35 million, with the Jewish population
comprising 44 to 47 per cent of the total population.... The current population in the Palestinian
territories and Israel is about 9.3 million, some 45 per cent Palestinian and
55 per cent Jewish. Such demographic
projections are not new, and have for quite some time been at the heart of
Israeli left-wing policies vis-ý-vis the Palestinians. But it is only
recently...that the centre-right in Israel has taken the issue
seriously.... Qureia's statement can be
seen as less of a threat and more of a reaction and an attempt to pressure not
only Israel, but also the international community.... Sharon is serious about taking unilateral
moves, and he points to the Jan. 11 demonstration in Tel Aviv, where some
120,000 right-wingers protested against Sharon's policies as evidence that the
'un-reconstituted right' is also taking him seriously.... The only way to counter [the wall]...is to
present the binational solution as a consequence of a continuation of this
Israeli policy, and for the PNA to be prepared to dissolve itself if Israel
doesn't change direction."
“Israel’s Call On Syria And The Long Struggle Of Willpower”
Mohammad Amayreh declared in semi-official, influential
Arabic-language Al-Rai (1/14):
“It is Damascus’ right to view the Israeli prime minister’s call on the
Syrian President to visit occupied Jerusalem as not serious. It is Damascus’ right to question Israel’s
motives towards the entire peace process in the region. This is because Israel has never taken a
serious step in the direction of peace....
Damascus can learn a lesson from Sadat's visit, which has opened the
door for settling the issue but could not use it to benefit the Arab nation or
Egypt. Damascus can also learn from
Palestinian efforts and initiatives to activate negotiations through many
concessions that yielded nothing, but burned under Israel’s indifference and
intransigence.... No doubt Syria has a
sincere desire for peace, but that would be just, comprehensive and lasting
peace that begins with the withdrawal of the occupation forces, the dismantling
of Israeli settlements in the Golan, and then negotiating on other issues such
as water and borders.”
LEBANON: "A Powerless
Editor-in-Chief Ghassan Tueni wrote in moderate anti-Syrian An-Nahar
(1/12): "That call did not emanate
from a base of despair or desperation but from a conviction that a historical
declaration must be made, binding Palestinians and Israelis together,
tantamount to a new, destiny-like fait accompli.... There are three impossibilities which tend to
make such a declaration an inescapable fate.
First, there is the inability of the Israeli society to overcome its
organic crisis at home. Second, there is
the inability of the Palestinians to sidestep the deteriorating Arab reality.
Third, the inclination of the international community is to abandon a
commitment to Israel no matter what policy it pursues, resenting America’s
blind support to the Jewish state no matter what it does.... We are required to raise the concept of dual
nationality in future Palestine not as a danger with which to threaten Israel
and consequently provoke it into added extremism, but as a solution for
Israel’s own crisis and the crisis of our relationship with it.... Such a threatening stance may polarize the
support of Israel’s moderates and enemies of Sharon.... This is what we should wish for Arabs and
Israel alike to serve the cause of world peace.... It is time for the Israelis and for the Jews
to destroy the barricades of hate....
Come let us tailor a future state that exceeds the concepts of single or
dual nationalities and achieves a society like that of the EU."
Doha-based semi-independent Arabic-language Al-Raya held
(1/12): "Qorei’s statement last
Thursday when he suggested a bi-national state after Sharon approved plans to
move ahead with unilateral action in the Occupied Territories...were merely
political maneuvers.... It is simply an
attempt to pressure the Israeli government which is intent on obstructing all
international efforts to revive the peace process in the Middle East.... Qorei’s remarks were an outcry in the face of
the silence by the international community, which continues to stand by as
Israeli forces commit their crimes against Palestinian civilians.... In addition...the remarks could also be an
attempt by the premier to force the US administration, the ally and protector
of the Israeli government, to take further action to end the violence and its contravention
of human rights."
SYRIA: "How Can Sharon
Talk About Peace With This Mentality"
An unsigned editorial in government-owned Tishreen read
(1/14): "Israeli officials believe
that they are capable of changing illusions into reality. They think the
current international situation with its double standards, instability,
confusing terrorism with national resistance will continue forever.... Sharon said he will not withdraw from the
Golan even with a full peace with Syria; previously he declared he was ready to
resume peace talks with Syria without preconditions. Over the last two days, Israeli President
Katzaf has been repeating talk about serious discussions with Syria, even
though he must have heard Sharon say that he was not prepared for full withdrawal
from the Golan."
"Peace Or Wasting Time"
Dr. Fayez Sayegh opined in government-owned Al-Thawra
(1/14): "We haven't changed our
position; we do not bargain over our land. At the same time we seek a just and
comprehensive peace and we deal seriously and positively with serious and positive
initiatives.... We could have gone a
long way towards peace except for Israeli evasiveness and greed and US
hesitance and impotence to exert pressure on Israel during the Shepherdstown
talks.... The peace of corridors and
closed door and partial deals in the dark has proved not to be a real
peace.... The road to peace is obvious.
The Madrid conference's terms of reference are crystal clear. What has been
achieved on the Syrian track has been documented by Israel and the previous US
administration. If Israel is really concerned about peace, it must declare its
approval to finalize what has already been achieved so as to enter into a new
stage of peace."
"Meddling Policy Into Politics"
Chief Editor stated in the English-language pro-government Syria
Times (1/13): "It is wholly
unfair to subject the noble idea of peace to political ploys by meddling
politics into policy. Sharon's elusive 'readiness' to resume peace talks with
Syria was only a political ploy, mainly aimed at intriguing Israel's internal
policies into Middle East politics, with the intention to damage any prospect
of peace that may appear any time in the future. The commitment to peace should be clear and
straight-forward. It is important for all parties to announce their commitment
to peace.... Those who claim readiness
to resume talks with Syria should understand that peace talks could not be
resumed from scratch. Previous talks had achieved so much success in solving
more than eighty percent of issues, and it will be foolish to push all those
achievements off the table and restart again. The US had invested so much time
and efforts to reach that point....
Sharon should have a greater incentive to peace more than playing tricks
if he wants to do better. Failure to quell the Intifada and to solve his
internal problems should not mean by all means, playing other cards with evil
“A Just Peace And Not Just Any Peace”
An unsigned editorial in government-owned Tishreen read
(1/11): “The issues of land and
sovereignty are not debatable as far as Syria is concerned. The land should be
returned completely and there should be no violation of Syrian sovereignty
under any circumstance. Syria does not
want just any peace, it wants a just peace that will return every inch of its
occupied territory.... We have to point
here to the importance of balanced American role in establishing peace in the
region, since the US holds great responsibility for the Israeli intransigence.”
Senior editor Manoubi Akrout said in independent French-language Le
Quotidien (1/14): "For the
American administration itself, Sharon does not need to use his political
cards. He knows that they are eagerly awaiting him to talk about elections. In
other words, the American politicians know that nothing can be done in regards
to the U.S. elections without the Jewish community.... For the Americans, the exchange is public
knowledge: if you support our elections, we support you in everything. Sometimes
they try to keep up appearances; other times they admit that this is the way it
is and that the Palestinians could wait for an eternity, that Iraqis should
watch their step, and that the world should just obey them. Sharon knows all,
hence, he is going to Washington feeling no pressure upon him.... Is there no solution to this? All the Arab
forces should work together in order to create a lobby equivalent to the Jewish
lobby in the U.S. Otherwise, there will be no short term or long term hope for
UAE: "Timely Pointer
To Palestinian Rights"
The English-language pro-government Gulf News declared
(1/12): "Palestinian frustration
and anger over Israeli threats of unilateral action was demonstrated yesterday
when the Palestine Liberation Organisation voiced the Palestinians' right to
declare a state unilaterally.... The
statement follows Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei's warning a day
earlier that the Palestinian National Authority would call for a one-nation
solution in the face of a denial of Palestinian statehood. Qorei's warning was
obviously aimed at reminding Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that the
Palestinians would outnumber the Israelis in such an eventuality.... It would be a course of action in line with
international legitimacy and agreements. Even though the Palestinians may not
exercise their right to declare a state, it brings home the point...that
unilateralism by either side will never be the answer. While UN Resolution 242
still waits for Israeli compliance, the roadmap, which is accepted universally
as the clearest route to a two-state solution, remains in limbo. The roadmap...guarantees Israel's security in
a two-state solution. Yet, Ariel Sharon and his fellow hawks prefer to press
ahead with their controversial wall....
Given Israel's paranoia about security, the Sharon government would do
well to dwell deeply on Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah's offer of normal relations
with Tel Aviv in exchange for full withdrawal from all Arab land occupied in
the 1967 Middle East war. Israelis will
be able to live within secure borders only by respecting the rights of Palestinians
and honouring international agreements. The international community, notably
the US, should do more to make the Sharon regime realise that, sooner or later,
Palestinian statehood will become a reality."
CHINA: “A Reshuffle In The Middle
Xu Ping said in official Communist Party-run People’s Daily
(Renmin Ribao) (1/13): “There are
currently some changes taking place in the Middle East, which are related to
the ousting of the previous Iraqi regime and the arrest of Saddam. Arab countries’ ‘post-Saddam era’ has
begun'.... Syria’s change is the most
prominent. Its diplomacy has turned
mild.... Syria and Israel are hopeful
about peace talks.... Sources say they
have made primary contacts and that things look good. But analysts do not have much hope. Recently Israel invited Syria’s President to
visit Israel but was rebuffed. This
proves that the two sides still hold different opinions regarding conciliation. Egypt’s and Iran’s negotiation to resume
diplomatic relations has also aroused people’s attention.... On the contrary, the Palestinians and Israel,
who have a ‘Road Map’, show no signs of resuming negotiation'..... The Middle East situation is shifting to
‘conciliation.’ The change may be the
beginning of a dramatic historical change.
It may bring about a change in the region’s strategic setup and a
reallocation of big countries’ interests in the region.”
“Why Did Katsav Invite Bashar To Visit Israel”
Liu Hong opined in official Communist Youth League-run China Youth
Daily (Zhongguo Qingnianbao) (1/13):
“Israel offering a olive branch is, firstly, out of long-term
considerations. ...Reconciling with Syria in order to develop good relations
with bordering Arab countries is Israel’s strategic goal.... Second...last month Bashar urged Israel to
resume peace talks. So the call for
peace talks within Israel has surged....
Third, Israel must respond to Syria’s offer for peace talks.... The international community has criticized
Sharon’s avoidance of the issue.... Israel
needs to take active actions to improve its diplomatic image.... Syria-Israel peace talks are a critical link
in the whole Middle East peace process.
Public opinion holds...even if Syria and Israel start negotiation, they
won’t make much progress in the short term.”
“Qurei’s ‘One Country, Two Peoples’ Arouses A Great Reaction”
Liu Hong commented in official Xinhua Daily
Telegraph (Xinhua Meiri Dianxun) (1/12): “If Qurei’s words became real, it means the
end of that 'Palestine-Israel, two-state’ plan that the international community
has commonly advocated.... First of all,
this plan will not gain support from within Palestine. Setting up an independent country has been their
dream for many years.... Second, the
international community will not accept this plan. Various UN resolutions, ‘the Road Map’ and
the ‘Geneva Accord’ reached by unofficial Palestinian-Israel peace activists at
the end of last year are all based on the notion of two separate countries,
Palestinian and Israel.... Qurei was wise
to make this statement because his words touched Sharon’s weak point and made
the Sharon government feel some pressure....
Qurei’s words were also aimed at making the international community
understand the urgent need for Palestinians to set up a country.... Moreover, Qurei’s words also proved that he
himself is in a difficult situation....
Analysts believe that ‘one country, two peoples’ is actually a
double-edged sword. On the one hand, it
may force Sharon to soften his tough stance....
On the other hand, it may also lead to another situation: Sharon uses
this as an excuse and step up the construction of the 'dividing wall.’”
CHINA (MACAU SAR):
"Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks Look Gloomy"
Pro-PRC Chinese-language Macau Daily News remarked (1/9): "At the beginning of the year, Israeli
Prime Minister Sharon reiterated that Israel would implement its 'unilateral
action' plan which aimed at separation from Palestine. On the other hand, Sharon also allowed the
Israeli army to take frequent military actions in the West Bank to kill and
arrest Palestinians. Just before
Sharon's remarks, Palestinian Prime Minister Qureia called off a meeting with
Sharon. Secret contacts between
officials of both sides have also stopped.
This state of affairs shows that any prospect for resuming peace talks
is gloomy.... Sharon's plan is to use
'unilateral action' to force the Palestinians to make concessions. This strategy has triggered the indignation
of the Palestinians.... Even though the
U.S. focused all its efforts on reducing the influential power of Arafat,
leaders like Abbas and Qureia can only lead a weak government. It is difficult for them to maneuver and
balance all the Palestinian factions.
This is one of the reasons that the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have
not made any progress."
JAPAN: "Don't Miss Out
On Opportunity For Peace!"
Conservative Sankei observed (1/13): "There are signs that Israel and Arab
nations will commence peace negotiations. While Israeli-Palestinian peace
negotiations, based on the US-initiated "road map" plan, appear to be
at a standstill, Israel's resumption of talks and reconciliation with Arab
nations in support of the Palestinians could open the way for resuming
deadlocked Middle East peace talks.
Israel and Arabs nations should resume talks to set the stalemated
Middle East peace process back in motion."
INDONESIA: “Syria Rejects
Israel’s Offer But Room For Peace Remains Open”
Leading independent Kompas held
(1/14): “Israel’s offer to Syria to
revive peace negotiations did not get a positive response. Syria rejected it because Israel did not by
any means suggest release of the Golan Heights it has occupied since 1967.... Although Israel President Moshe Kastav’s
position is more ceremonial in nature, [his] sudden invitation to Syria’s
[president] has strengthened pressure on Sharon’s government to be more
responsive to peace calls from President Assad.
Recently, Assad urged Israel to revive peace negotiations that ended in
a deadlock in 2000. Therefore, it was
surprising for Syria to reject Israel’s offer.
Wasn’t the first sign of the will to negotiate come from Syria?.... Israel-Syria and Israel-Libya contacts are
supposed to help create a conducive situation to expedite a peaceful solution
to the Middle East crisis. Moreover,
international support for the settlement of the conflict is very strong.”
VIETNAM: "What Future
Is Waiting For The Middle East Peace Roadmap?"
Hong Ky stated in army-run official Quan Doi Nhan Dan
(1/15): "In the context that the
race for the 2004 election is coming close, one can see that the Middle East
issue is being given much less priority than pressing US domestic issues and
the head ache causing issue of the postwar Iraq.... A diplomat of the EU, a member of the
Quadruple Group sponsoring the Middle East Peace Roadmap, said: 'We are very
concerned. The US is quietly moving away
from the Middle East issue. This issue
obviously needs a lot of efforts, but the US wants to use the efforts for other
issues.' The negligence of the US, the
nation that has the largest influence over both Israel and Palestine, has been
a major factor among other factors that have made the peace roadmap to reach
the current impasse."
"Mideast Peace May Depend On The (Formerly) Unthinkable"
Shira Herzog observed in the leading Globe
and Mail (1/15): "Yesterday's
bloody attack on Israelis in Gaza demonstrated yet again Hamas's ability to
derail relations with Israel and to undermine the Palestinian Authority. A vacuum in the peace process never favours
the moderates, and by now the authority is too weak to forcibly disarm its
strongest opponent. Three years of virtual deadlock have led to a previously
unthinkable consequence: Rather than leading to Hamas's destruction, an
eventual peace process may need the organization's tacit acquiescence.... By 1993, Israeli prime minister Yitzhak
Rabin...recognized that Israel could only counter fundamentalist Palestinian
nationalism by agreeing to an alternative Palestinian vision: the promise of a
state alongside Israel.... Arafat was
the only game in town. But once offered a tangible chance to create a
Palestinian state, he indeed failed miserably. In six years fraught with his
manipulation and obsessive control, Mr. Arafat managed to alienate local
Palestinian leaders, intellectuals and the masses.... Arafat did not isolate or fight the
extremists. He lost sight of a critical fact: The Palestinian Authority's
legitimacy depends on progress in negotiations with Israel, while the
extremists thrive on discontent and popular anger. The results were disastrous.... Palestinian officials who publicly blame
Israel's heavy hand for the situation mince no words against Mr. Arafat in
private. They claim they can reinstate
authority if Israel eases its hold, but that may be wishful thinking. Even
internal Fatah opposition to the PA is now widespread.... Hamas is the beneficiary, but not because of
its unbending stand on Israel or its terrorism. Instead of a failing
government, it offers Palestinians an alternative package of discipline,
religious leadership and the dawa, a well-funded, extensive network of social
services.... Here's the paradox: Until
now, the peace process has presupposed Hamas's destruction, but the Palestinian
Authority can't do the job and aggressive Israeli military action fuels Hamas's
popularity. Renewing negotiations still requires a ceasefire first, but by now
the only way to obtain Hamas's renunciation of violence may be through
co-optation into the Palestinian political process."