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Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

January 15, 2004

January 15, 2004





**  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 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 for peace.


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 beginning."


GERMANY:  "Peace Gesture"


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 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 mother-terrorist."


"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 Syria."


"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."


RUSSIA:  "PLO 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 against Israel."


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.”


BELGIUM:  "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 Peace Visit"


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 Problem"


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 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 hollow criticism.”


"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 Maneuver"  


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."


"Future Challenges:  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.


"Palestinian Freedom"


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 want?"


"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."


JORDAN:  "The Binational Weapon"


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] 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 Threat"


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."


QATAR:  "Binational Proposal"


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 intentions."


“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.”


TUNISIA:  "Fair's Fair"


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 the future."


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 East"


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."




CANADA:  "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." 



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