International Information Programs
Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

February 10, 2004

February 10, 2004





**  Supporters of Sharon's Gaza withdrawal plan term it an act of "fortitude" and "courage."


**  Critics label it nothing but "cover" for his corruption scandal.


**  Analysts wonder if the plan signals a trade:  "Gaza for the West Bank." 


**  Arab dailies oppose any "unilateral settlement," expressing "distrust" of Sharon's "true goal."




A way to 'guarantee security' for Israel--  Withdrawal advocates praised Israeli PM Sharon for "what may prove to be an act of statesmanship," with Brazilian and Australian writers calling the plan a "rare piece of good news."  Kuwait's independent Al-Watan acknowledged the plan "may ease hostility," but joined other cautious dailies in seeking a "more comprehensive arrangement" between Israel and Palestinians.  An Israeli writer predicted the plan would inevitably lead to "establishment of a Palestinian state--two states for two peoples."  Italy's elite Il Foglio concluded, "those who want peace have the responsibility to help" the plan succeed.


'Tactical considerations' lie behind proposal--  Many outlets dismissed Sharon's plan as a "new maneuver before meeting President Bush."  Oman's independent Al-Watan said Sharon is merely trying to "appear...eager for peace."  Other papers alleged Sharon sought to "deflect the focus of Israeli politics" given "financial scandals."  Several Israeli writers agreed that Sharon "announced the hope of surviving his interrogation" by investigators; left-leaning Ha'aretz noted the "disengagement plan" came as Sharon's "political situation was at a nadir."


Sharon's 'new map' aims to keep a 'larger part of the West Bank'--  Several Euro and Arab papers allege Sharon seeks to "get rid" of expensive, Arab-occupied Gaza to "finally secure" much of the West Bank; an Italian writer forecast "a greater number of settlers in the West Bank" after the withdrawal.  Some papers stressed "demographic reality," with the liberal Toronto Star saying Israelis "are fated to be a minority in the territory they control, unless they give up much of it."  Many Israeli dailies blasted the plan, warning "to withdraw in the face of terror is to inspire further terror."  Pluralist Yediot Aharonot saw "an encirclement of Islamic extremists:  Hezbollah in the north, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the east and south."


'Real decolonization,' not this 'risky and calculated maneuver'--  Skeptical Arab observers doubted the "sincerity or seriousness" of Sharon's "unilateral measures."  The West Bank's independent Al-Ayyam reflected a widespread belief that Israel merely seeks "a solution with the Palestinians without needing to negotiate."  A UAE outlet added that a unilateral withdrawal would "ignore the concept of coexistence."  Other dailies demanded "a full withdrawal from occupied lands," not just Gaza.  Saudi Arabia's conservative Al-Madina posited that only a "complete withdrawal from the occupied Arabic territories" could result in a "reasonable peace."


EDITOR:  Ben Goldberg


EDITOR'S NOTE:  This analysis is based on 62 reports from 22 countries over 2 - 10 February 2004.  Editorial excerpts from each country are listed from the most recent date.




BRITAIN:  "Sharon's Surprise"


An editorial in the independent weekly Economist read (2/7):  "Although an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza would be good in itself, easing life for the Palestinians there and reducing armed friction between the two sides, it would not lead automatically to a broader peace....  The issue now for most Israelis is not whether to withdraw and evacuate settlements, but how far to withdraw, and which settlements....  The Palestinians would do better to resume their negotiations with Israel, and thereby connect Mr. Sharon's Gaza-first plan to a more comprehensive arrangement.  And that calls in turn for Mr. Bush, America's election year notwithstanding, to unroll that road map--and kick the two sides along it."


"A Good Settlement"


An editorial in the conservative Times read (2/4):  "The Israeli Prime Minister has taken a difficult decision, talking publicly of the pain that he feels even while saying that the relocation is necessary for his country's future....  Gaza, a drain on the Israeli military budget, has little of the biblical significance that draws Jews to the West Bank; many moderate Israelis are willing to consider parting with it....  Whatever the final shape of the plan, there will be a domestic price to pay...he has shown a fortitude that is essential if there is to be security for Israel and even the faintest hope for long-term peace in the region."


"Sharon's Gamble"


The conservative Daily Telegraph observed (2/4):  "It is true that the Gaza settlements are not popular with many ordinary Israelis.  Yet this is a gamble for Mr. Sharon....  The price of the Palestinian intifada is the abandonment of the dream of resurrecting Israel within its biblical borders.  But Mr. Sharon has learnt from experience that the Arab world regards any Israeli retreat as a sign of weakness.  He will, therefore, be at pains to prove that his fortified border is indeed defensible....  For now, the West should give Mr. Sharon his due for what may prove to be an act of statesmanship."


FRANCE:  “Hope In Gaza”


Left-of-center Le Monde noted (2/6):  “It would be ungracious not to salute Ariel Sharon’s plan for the Gaza strip....  Three years after promises, the 'father’ of the Gaza strip and the West bank settlements seems to be coming out of his ambivalence....  Supported by the right and the left, he cannot back out....  While we must rejoice in the fact that the ‘bulldozers’ will be retreating, the fact remains that Sharon’s plan leaves many unanswered questions....  The Gaza proposal is a unilateral plan, which at some point is intended to replace the ‘roadmap’, and which both sides cannot seem to implement. This unilateral plan proposed by Sharon is therefore a diktat. This is why it worries the U.S....  The decision to dismantle the Gaza strip settlements is a positive decision. But if settlements continue in the West bank and the ‘security wall’ is extended, this ‘unilateral separation’ will in no way bring peace.”


“Sharon Plan Shakes Up His Government”


Marc Henry said in right-of-center Le Figaro (2/4):  “Ariel Sharon has made a perilous choice for himself. On paper, Ariel Sharon may well find himself like a general without troops....  Two of his ministers have threatened to resign...but more serious even is the fact that half of the Likud representatives, and his own party, oppose his proposal. But Sharon has two things going for him: public opinion supports him...and he has an alternative: a national union government with Shimon Peres’s Labor Party....  Most of all, Ariel Sharon is betting on President Bush’s support. His blessing would give him the ammunition he needs to counter the Likud’s rebellion.”


GERMANY:  "Godfather's Plan"


Wolfgang Guenter Lerch commented in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (2/4):  "Israel would kill two birds with one stone: It would meet President Bush's demands of removing settlements substantially in order to give a positive signal to Palestinians and, at the same time, it would get rid off territories which causes inappropriately high costs....  But the newly discussed exchange in West Jordan, which is infiltrated by two hundred Jewish settlements with more than two hundred thousand inhabitants, prompts many questions....  It arouses the suspicion that the entire action could be a full-scale attempt to finally secure the land in 'Judea and Samaria' for Israel, which was and is the aim of man religious settlers and which is what they are still expecting from Sharon, the 'Godfather of the settlers'.  Even the most pacifist Palestinian will not agree to it."


"Bad Land, Good Land"


Jochen Arntz said in left-of-center Berliner Zeitung (2/4):  "It is not a diversionary tactic, which is what Sharon was accused of.  He has always said that he will incorporate Jewish settlements, e.g. West Jordan, into Israel.  This is part of the plan that is recalculating the value of land between Jordan and the Mediterranean.  It will be measured by security standards for Israel--on a rational basis not according to convictions."


"Words Without Truth"


Thorsten Schmitz noted in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (2/4):  "The outcry of the coalition partners against Sharon's progressive statements is massive but bigot.  The right wing and orthodox parties will not get off the government boat because they do not believe in Sharon's action.  It is doubtful whether the Premier takes his own announcement to remove the 17 Jewish settlements seriously....  Maybe Sharon caused the commotion for selfish reasons.  He will be heard on corruption allegations and probably wants to divert bad press from it by his verbal Gaza retreat....  Another intention could be to get the backing from left-wingers who would then shy away from calling for his resignation."




Dietrich Alexander opined in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (2/4):  "The territory is dispensable, but the removal will not be easily implemented given the expected massive protests by settlers and Sharon's ultra-orthodox coalition partner.  But if anybody can do it, it is Sharon, the 'father' of the Israeli settlement movement....  It requires courage to do this unilaterally without taking the peace plan and partners into account.  Sharon also requires the support by his people and Washington's approval, which is why the Premier is soon going there.  Sharon's words will be judged by his deeds.  Tactical maneuvers, to divert attention from corruption allegations or the expected reprimand by the U.S. human rights report and the International Court of Justice, are irresponsible.  However, one thing seems to be crystal clear:  The often praised roadmap is waste paper."


"Sharon's New Map"


Clemems Wergin wrote in centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (2/3):  "Sharon's words of the retreat from Gaza are brave.  If anybody could dare to challenge the settlers, then it is the 'father of the settlement movement'.  It is true that Gaza does not play an ideological role in the thinking of Israeli extremists because the Jewish people have no historical or biblical roots there.  But the settlers will not go voluntarily....  There are reasons against a unilateral retreat from Gaza, e.g. that it happens without any concessions by the Palestinians. Hamas will sell this as their victory....  So right the retreat of settlers from Gaza is, one cannot overlook that Sharon is drawing a new map, which envisages a separation from Palestinians but keeps a larger part of the West Bank.  This will not satisfy Palestinians. But when do they make offers Sharon cannot refuse?"


ITALY:  "Sharon Ready For Vote On Withdrawal Of Settlers From Gaza"


Umberto De Giovannangeli noted in pro-democratic left party-run L’Unità (2/5):  “Political analysts in Tel Aviv concur that Ariel Sharon is about to engage in the most difficult political battle in his long career, and the risk that it will end in defeat is very high....  But others in Israel are highly doubtful of Sharon’s sincerity and believe that behind his declared intention to evacuate the Gaza Strip are tactical considerations, like is upcoming visit to the United States and his judicial problems.”


"Sharon Is Ready For A Referendum"


An editorial in leading business-oriented Il Sole-24 Ore read (2/5):  “Given the fury of the ultra-nationalists...Ariel Sharon is hoping to find support for his plan to withdraw from Gaza with a referendum....  The PA sees this initiative [to withdraw from Gaza] positively....  Sharon’s and Abu Ala’s Chiefs of Staff...met yesterday to discuss issues related to the road map--the itinerary drafted by the Quartet (U.S., Russia, EU and UN). At the end of the meeting, a communiqué announced that a summit between the two premiers would be prepared in a new meeting. Regarding the withdrawal from Gaza, the Palestinians fear that Sharon’s proposal aims to neutralize the road map, by withdrawing from Gaza but by leaving a greater number of settlers in the West Bank enclave.”


"Help Sharon"


Elite, classical liberal Il Foglio editorialized (2/5):  “The Israeli PM’s latest moves are beginning to make it clear abroad as well what the leaders in Israel have known for a while: Ariel Sharon’s line, which sees peace inseparable from security, is the only way to lead the country out of the tunnel....  The U.S. and Egypt seem to have understood the importance of Sharon’s proposals, and they are pressuring the Palestinians, with apparent success, to begin direct contact....  By proposing to withdraw from the Territories, Sharon is forcing the Palestinian leadership to face its responsibilities, and in the meantime he is seeking to guarantee security for the Israelis....  Those who want peace have the duty to help him.”


“Settlers, Storm On Sharon”


Alberto Stabile stated in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (2/4):  “It’s a storm, or even worse. It’s an earthquake with the ability to undermine a majority that until recently seemed very solid, to induce early elections, to evoke the birth of a new alliance with the return of the Labour Party to power. But Ariel Sharon does not appear to be...intimidated by the threats of his allies....  The Israeli PM’s decision to withdraw from Gaza is provoking devastating effects.”


RUSSIA:  "How Far Will Sharon Go?"


Valentina Kulyabina declared in reformist Vremya Novostey (2/5):  "To the Palestinians, the ultimate goal is a Palestinian state, so their view is that the Israelis ought to eliminate their settlements not only in Gaza but on the West Bank of the Jordan River as well.  How far is Sharon prepared to go?"


"Sharon Hangs By A Strong Thread"


Aleksey Andreyev wrote in Kuryer (2/4):  "The issue of Israeli settlements in occupied territories are among the most painful in that country.  In October of 2002 it brought down the national unity government, as the then Defense Minister Ben Elizer attempted to use force against the settlers.  Today, just as in 2002, the idea to remove the settlements enjoys support in the United States, with the White House still hoping to advance the road map.  Support from the United States, particularly from its Jewish community, is very important to the Israeli Prime Minister.  He is confident of winning in the end and says that in the event of a real government crisis, he will be the one to form a new cabinet."


IRELAND:  "Sharon Ponders Referendum On End Of Settlements In Gaza"


Peter Hirschberg reported in the center-left Irish Times (2/5):  "Sharon ponders referendum on end of settlements in Gaza” (begin excerpts) “In what would be a move aimed at neutralizing his political opponents, the Israeli Prime Minister, Mr Ariel Sharon, indicated yesterday he did not rule out the idea of holding a national referendum on his controversial plan to evacuate most of the Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip....  By holding a referendum, Mr Sharon would be able to go over the heads of recalcitrant Likud lawmakers and directly to the people. Were he to win a mandate from the public--a safe bet with polls showing almost 60 per cent of Israelis backing his idea of a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza--it would be almost impossible for members of his own party to then challenge him. It would also help the prime minister contend with the outrage his ideas have sparked among Jewish settlers, who have long viewed Mr Sharon as their political patron because of the settlement drive he spearheaded over the years. Settler rabbis yesterday called on their adherents to fast today in protest over the Gaza plan. Settler leaders, a powerful lobby, were already busy yesterday planning a campaign to thwart Mr Sharon..”


"Bulldozing For Peace"


The populist, center-right Irish Independent commented (2/3):  "Sceptics accused Mr. Sharon of making his announcement solely to distract attention from the corruption investigation that he and his sons are facing.  The Labour Party simply urged him to stop talking and start acting. The Palestinians are divided between suspicion and hope: they want to see the beginning of an end to the settlements, but they have an understandable distrust of any initiative that is proposed by their old enemy....  It seems likely to them, and to many outside observers, that Mr. Sharon’s statement is intended to strengthen Israeli security rather than to help create a viable West Bank and Gaza....  Sadly, it remains hard to imagine Mr. Sharon signing up to the division of Jerusalem envisaged by the Geneva Accord, while Yasser Arafat foolishly  rejected something similar when it was proposed by President Clinton. However, any dismantling of the settlements, a source of so much distrust, would be welcome.”




ISRAEL:   "Take Gaza, Give Up The West Bank"


Shimon Shiffer wrote in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (2/6):  "Sharon's disengagement plan is reminiscent of a statement attributed to Abba Eban: governments arrive at the necessary decisions, but not before they have tried every possible error.  The first component of the plan, that which is being prepared by Giora Eiland, the new national security adviser, consists of revising the route of the security fence....  This will have to take into account what the fence in its present location did to tens of thousands of Palestinians who were cut off from their land and found themselves caged in small enclaves of territory that made their lives insufferable.  The new location will be very close to the 1967 border and will forego de facto annexation of areas densely populated by Palestinians in the vicinity of Ariel.  The planners of the new route hope to receive the support of the Americans, as part of their support for the disengagement plan.  The second element in the disengagement plan is based on the premise that evacuation of most of the settlements in the Gaza Strip and of certain settlements in the West Bank will provide an insurance policy and tacit support from the Americans for continued Israeli presence in the West Bank: Gaza in return for the West Bank.  Another premise which Sharon's aides are postulating is that the disengagement plan will remove from the agenda demands for discussion of the most difficult issues in the conflict: Jerusalem and the refugees....  Sources close to Sharon hope to persuade the U.S. that evacuation of the settlements can also help George W. Bush in his efforts to be elected to a second term.  Sharon's advisers are closely following the polls in the United States, and assume that a defeat for Bush and a victory for the Democratic candidate, Senator John Kerry, will put an end to the honeymoon and destroy the special relationship between the Israeli government and the White House."


"Sharon's Folly"


Right-wing columnist Caroline B. Glick maintained in the conservative, independent Jerusalem Post (2/6):  "Cutting and running is not an option when one's enemies take any retreat as a sign of strategic decline and military weakness.  So while Gaza could conceivably be hermetically sealed, although only at great economic and political cost, the effects of such a move [a withdrawal] on Israel's strategic posture would be devastating....  As the immediate international reactions to Sharon's plan make clear, a withdrawal from Gaza will not stem the tide of demands on Israel to vacate Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] as well.  To the contrary, it will signal Israeli willingness to do so.  It is hard to understand what happened to make Sharon ignore the dangerous consequences of his plan to withdraw from Gaza.  Quite simply, it makes no sense.  But it is the responsibility of his cabinet ministers to remind him of these consequences and to make it clear to the prime minister that he ignores these ramifications at the peril not only of his political future, but at the peril of the security of the state."


"Gaza In Exchange For The West Bank"


Aluf Benn stated in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (2/5):  "Sharon's pronouncement this week on the liquidation of the Gazan settlements and the evacuation of a few settlements in Samaria [the northern West Bank] reflects a clear political zigzag....  There is no doubt that he has changed his mind, and generated a political earthquake. It is doubtful, however, that he has changed his strategic outlook....  Sharon is trying to follow in the footsteps of Menachem Begin, who conceded Sinai so that Israel could stay in the West Bank; Ehud Barak, who left Lebanon in order to perpetuate Israel's control of the Golan; and Shimon Peres, who championed 'Gaza First' and a deferral of a solution in the West Bank and Jerusalem.  All of them enjoyed success in the short term, but left diplomatic time bombs for their successors.  A similar problem is inherent in the Sharon plan, which leaves a vacuum on the Palestinian side and a lot of open questions....  More than anything else, however, Sharon's disengagement plan raises one niggling question: why did he wait until now, when his political situation is at a nadir and his continuation in office is threatened by possible indictment?  One can only wonder where Israel would be now if Sharon had had this insight when he was at his peak, instead of wasting valuable time and effort on vain attempts to 'beat the Palestinians.'"


"The Plan Is Serious, The Referendum Isn't"


Sever Plotker opined in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (2/5):  "It may...well be that the entire world, including the Palestinians themselves, err when they treat Sharon's evacuation plan as another one in a series of moderate remarks made by the Israeli prime minister, after which nothing happens on the ground.  The stalemate continues, the settlement enterprise continues.  It is definitely possible that many outside of Israel, as well as inside Israel, are wrong in their attitude to 'the new Sharon' just as they were wrong in their attitude to the depth of the change that other outstanding leaders underwent--Menachem Begin, for example.  As of Wednesday morning we were saying: they are no doubt wrong.  There is no doubt that Prime Minister Sharon is being sincere, serious and revolutionary when he proposes (and this is the essence of his 'disengagement') an interim arrangement that is good for the Palestinians, an arrangement that includes the evacuation of Israeli settlements and removing the IDF from the entire Gaza Strip and from significant chunks of the West Bank, establishing a temporary Palestinian state in the territories that are evacuated and establishing a temporary border between them and Israel--until there arises a Palestinian leadership that is capable of reaching a final status arrangement.  However, there was a setback last night in Sharon's credibility when he announced his intention to hold a referendum for 'public approval' of his plan.  Who needs such a referendum?  This is contrary to the essence of Israeli representative democracy....  Sharon's enthusiasm for a referendum reawakens suspicion as to what the true goal of his new political moves is."


"Peres's Challenge"


Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (2/5): "If [the] Labor [Party] bases its pitch solely on Likud shortcomings, it will be defeated again....  To continue the pretense that the Oslo process wasn't a grievous error is to obstinately ignore reality....  Labor was at its most powerful when it occupied the center of the political arena.  It needs to regain that position. Instead of engaging in unauthorized private diplomacy and meeting in clandestine sessions with the Palestinian Authority premier, behind the elected government's back, Peres ought to redirect his party away from the leftist fringe.  Perhaps, as the sole Labor figure who commands some residual authority, he alone can take his party back to its natural political niche.  In the recent past, Peres had been instrumental in driving it to the sidelines, where Labor lost touch with majority concerns, dismissed the mood of the people, and grew more and more marginalized. The challenge for Labor's old-new leader is to get his party back to where it used to be."


"Still A Dangerous Man"


Settler leader Israel Harel held in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (2/5):  "Ariel Sharon, particularly in the eyes of the Arabs, represents the power, determination and steadfastness of Israel--hardly an insubstantial component of Israel's deterrent power.  No longer.  Less than a week after the execution of an especially incomprehensible move, a surrender to Hezbollah's extortion, this man announces the unilateral withdrawal from Gush Katif.  After these, how can the enemy still admire his strength, or especially his judgment?....  Supporters from the left should be informed that Sharon, who successfully completed his internship--the violent uprooting of the settlements of northern Sinai--22 years ago, is still a dangerous man.  That is the only term for a prime minister who, when he finds that he cannot defeat his enemy, sets out to defeat the good and faithful among his people."


"Too Little, Too Late"


Liberal Yehuda Litani held in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (2/4):  "Sharon is offering a solution that could have been appropriate in the late '90s--five years late.  Too little and too late, like all plans put out by past Israeli governments.  It is still possible to strengthen the Palestinian moderates, if the government's plan is carried out through concurrence with the Palestinian Authority.  An evacuation that would be presented as the result of negotiations with PA representatives would raise its prestige in the eyes of the [Palestinian] residents.  But this isn't what Sharon is interested in.  He has no patience for Arafat's games and Abu Ala's stuttering.  He is in a hurry and has decided to break the rules whatever may.  Basically, the end result [of his move] will be an encirclement of Israel on all sides by Islamic extremists: Hezbollah in the north, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the east and the south."


"The Disdain Is Too Early"


Conservative Yosef Harif wrote in popular, pluralist Maariv (2/4):  "This isn't the first time Ariel Sharon is sharing his ideas with the U.S. Administration before he does so with his ministers.  Sharon spurns some of them and he doesn't fear their responses....  Sharon's pending trip to Washington for talks with President Bush will be his most important test: if he doesn't succeed in obtaining understanding regarding the need for disengagement [from the Palestinians], he won't be able to survive at the helm, as his power is starting to waver.  He began scorning his ministers and his fellow Likud members too early."




Eytan Haber opined in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (2/4):  "Even if Ariel Sharon does not mean what he is saying, the prime minister has embarked on a road from which there is no turning back.  You can talk about 'occupation' once, about 'painful concessions' another time, and about 'settlements that will not remain in place' a third time.  You can say these things again and again, but they lead in one direction: the establishment of a Palestinian state--two states for two peoples.  Today there is no more doubt: from the moment that Sharon sat down on the seat at 3 Kaplan Street in Jerusalem [his office], the Prime Minister experienced the same thing that happened to several of his predecessors, such as the late Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Rabin....  Ariel Sharon's political and personal situation is now more complicated than ever before.  It is quite possible that he stands at the threshold of ending his long public career.  Whether he continues his term of office as prime minister or ends it, there is no doubt that the chronicles of the State of Israel and his private biography will have a completely different end than historians and Sharonologists believed in the past."


"No Way Back"


Dan Margalit maintained in popular, pluralist Maariv (2/3):  "Is this history being made or is it the adventures of Baron Munchausen?  Ariel Sharon yesterday dropped the final, ultimate bomb, the one that will decide whether [the policies of] his old age will overshadow even the period of his peak activism, or will prove to be the epitome of the trickery that was characteristic of such a large chunk of his adult life....  This time he stated things clearly.  The response from his adversaries in the coalition was not long in coming.  In the evening the government was saved from a no-confidence motion by just a single vote.  If Sharon intends to withdraw from Gush Katif [the bloc of settlements in the central Gaza Strip] in fact and not just in word, Monday was the day on which he lit the fuse of a political atomic bomb.  It was an earthquake after which no geological-political stratum will remain in the same place. The democratic revolution has begun....  But even if it becomes evident that it was all untrue and that there is no unilateral disengagement, the words that were uttered can never be taken back.  Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak did not achieve their objective in their talks with the Palestinians, but the courses of action they took radically changed the arena.  Even if Ariel Sharon either does not want or fails to evacuate Gush Katif, the change he announced Monday has been set in motion and there can be no going back. This is one song that cannot be stopped."


"Land For Nothing"


Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (2/3):  "Under Sharon's disengagement plan, Israel was to give the Road Map a last chance to work before resorting to unilateral measures, within a time frame of about six months.  This was a retreat from the Prime Minister's original policy, but at least it had the virtue of giving the Palestinians an incentive to meet their Road Map commitments before Israel set new borders unilaterally.  Had Israel also pursued a vigorous policy of targeted killings and other anti-terror measures, the Palestinian incentive to do so would have been enhanced.  Now, with the Prime Minister's reported intention of withdrawing unilaterally from the Gaza settlements, the incentive has been removed completely.  Why should the Palestinians raise a finger against terrorism if Israel appears to be heading toward a complete unilateral withdrawal?....  Here is where the credibility factor comes in.  To withdraw in the face of terror is to inspire further terror.  Whatever peace Israel gains on its southern front it will surely lose elsewhere, as Palestinians intensify their efforts to drive Israel to the Green Line--at least.  Nor does it help that the timing of this announced withdrawal seems to coincide with the Prime Minister's burgeoning legal difficulties.  It sends the signal that it is the Palestinians who can afford to wait Israel out, not vice versa. That's not a signal this government, or any future government, ought to send."


"Hamas Could Take Over The Gaza Strip"


Zeev Schiff noted in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (2/3):  "The evacuation plan from the Gaza a unilateral action that everybody who demands an Israeli withdrawal from the territories views as appropriate. However, it doesn't ensure the cessation of the hostilities with the Palestinians, and there's no certainty that the Palestinian Authority, and not Hamas, will rule in the strip afterwards.  It is obvious that the plan providing for the evacuation of most settlements from the Gaza Strip contradicts the 'road map' if it only focuses on the Gaza Strip or if it allows Israel to carry out minute steps in the West Bank....  This a patently unilateral move, even if it involves an almost complete withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.  This is a pullout in which Israel doesn't receive anything in exchange--in an interim or final-status agreement.  The Washington administration has already expressed its view that it doesn't support a unilateral step--including a pullout from no more than [the isolated Gaza Strip settlement of] Netzarim--because the Palestinians could interpret such a move as an escape and a prize granted to terrorism."


"Sharon Cuts Off His Fingers"


Haggai Huberman said in nationalist Hatzofe (2/3):  "[What] perhaps is the greatest tragedy of the Gaza Strip settlement is that the greatest threat to its future since its establishment lies with the man who envisioned and established it.  That was in the days after the eradication of terror in the early 1970s.  The main train of thought in Sharon's mind when he decided 30 years ago to establish the settlements in the Gaza Strip was to break the continuum of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs by building Jewish settlements on vacant government land. That course of action was described as sticking Jewish 'fingers' into the Gaza Strip, to break the continuum of Arab settlement.  Such action, Sharon explained back then, would break the Arab continuum and would produce a Jewish civilian presence that would bring in its wake a security-military presence so as to defend the settlements....  That was Sharon's strategic approach....  What truly lies heavily on Sharon is his scheduled questioning in two days' time.  The Greek island project affair and the Cyril Kern affair are a heavy burden and incessant friction for him.  Sharon, who has not been known until now to be a person who changes his mind every other day, announced the withdrawal on Monday in hope of surviving his interrogation on Thursday."


WEST BANK:  “Settlements Rise Up Against Their Founders”


Independent Al-Quds opined (2/10):  “Yesterday, settlers in the Gaza Strip protested against Sharon’s suggestions to evacuate Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip.  They asserted that both the legislative and executive authorities in Israel support their utter rejection of the Sharon plan....  Unquestionably, giving settlers free rein to blow the peace process apart will bring more distress to both Palestinians and Israelis.  The Israeli society, if it truly yearns for a just and secure peace, must stand up strongly against settlement expansion before things get even worse and another real chance for a peaceful settlement is missed forever.”


"Israelis Face The Choice Of Settlements Or Peace"


Independent Al-Quds editorialized (2/6):  "Regardless of the motives behind the plan of withdrawal from settlements in the Gaza strip, as proposed by PM Sharon, and whatever his level of sincerity or seriousness...the choice of dismantling the settlements in Gaza has become a clear option before the Israelis....  The obvious outcome of Sharon’s plan, if it  becomes reality, will distinctly divide Israeli society into two groups: those who will insist on using the military option to liquidate the Palestinian issue by trying to get rid of the Palestinian people...and those who will try to utilize every possible opportunity to push for a just settlement.”


"Sharon Is Not Kidding...But What Is He Doing?"


Abdallah Awwad maintained in independent Al-Ayyam (2/5):  “Talk about evacuating settlements in Gaza is no laughing matter, not to Sharon, his government or the Hebrew state as a whole....  The Gaza Strip is not suited to any Zionist plan for Judaization it has no wealth above or beneath the ground for any occupier to covet.  Quite the opposite, the occupier has to devise means of providing food for the Palestinians besieged in this area of the Mediterranean....  The Hebrew state is no longer concerned with any regional threat.  The Americans are handling such concerns by weakening surrounding countries via disarmament, either voluntary or forcible....  Sharon is not kidding when he talks about settlement evacuation.  However, the imposition of a ‘Gaza State’ reality is a waystation on Sharon’s road to implementing the Hebrew state’s vision of a solution with the Palestinians without needing to negotiate, but rather needing only full American protection.”


"What's Behind Sharon's Statements?"


Independent Al-Quds editorialized (2/5):  "Observers speculate, and they have the right to, whether Sharon who was and still is the designer of the Israeli settlement project on Palestinian land occupied in 1967, has become an opponent--even if only in part--to this project.  Is he seriously planning to evacuate all settlements in Gaza?  Or is he trying to formulate a political dilemma to cover for his corruption and bribe scandals?....  All indications are that internal difficulties--even within the governing Likud--threaten Sharon’s government and that whatever statements he makes appear half-baked and too little, too late.”


EGYPT:  "No To Crooked Politics Of Manuever"


Leading pro-government Al-Ahram stated (2/6):  "It is not possible for a neutral observer to separate Sharon's new remove Israeli settlers from Gaza...from his issuing of threats against Jordan over its rejection of the separation wall....  Sharon's crooked politics of manoeuvre simply fuel tension in the Middle East." 


"Sharon's Plan:  External Blessings, Internal Hell"


Aggressive state-owned Al-Akhbar opined (2/6):  "The plan by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to evacuate settlers from the Gaza Strip has external blessings but is a complete hell domestically....  The plan is not a solution....  The solution is a basic commitment to the implementation of agreements and plans agreed upon in sincerity and honesty."




Aggressive, state-owned Al-Akhbar declared (2/5):  "The Israeli daily massacres in Rafah, Jericho, Bethlehem and Gaza Strip target at foiling any regional and international efforts to move on the peace process. Since Israel goes on the policy of assassination and settling, peace could never be achieved....  Amid such Israeli massacres, the statements of Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon on his intentions to evacuate 17 settlements in Gaza Strip served as propaganda that would not be implemented....  Sharon talks about dismantling settlements, yet, in fact, he does expand them in addition to confiscating more Palestinian territories to back occupation....  The Palestinians want deeds not words. They really wish to calm down the volatile status quo....  There should be a serious initiative to impose a sort of truce in order to halt violence and return to the negotiation table based on international legitimacy.”


SAUDI ARABIA:  "Ending The Settlement Is The Key To Achieve Peace"


Jeddah’s conservative Al-Medina editorialized (2/8):  "Israel understood that achieving reasonable peace would require ending its settlements in Gaza strip. Do we understand that this step will be followed with other important measures, such as complete withdrawal from the occupied Arabic territories, return of the refugees, and establishing an independent Palestinian State? Since these are the rules of peace, can Israel meet these terms?"


"Another Pause By Announcing Demolition Of Settlements"


Independent, pro-government Al-Watan maintained (2/6):  "If Sharon is sincere in his intention to dismantle most of the Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip, the idea deserves more than a pause....  However, most of his decisions represent Sharon's attempts to divert attention away from problems currently facing his government over a corruption and bribery scandal."


ALGERIA:  "Terrorism, Organized Crime, And The People's Contempt"


Business-oriented French-language La Tribune opined (2/2):  "In fact, the situation in Palestine and in Iraq tends to reinforce the Al Qaeda organization’s sense that the world’s great power does not want to force Israel to respect the UN’s resolutions....  The more Israel and the United States continue to practice their ‘strongest always rules’ law, the more terrorism will continue to be nourished by the contempt of those victims who no longer trust international law, which is scorned by military powers, to protect them.  For them, there is only one solution the employment of extremist attitudes and suicide bombings.”


JORDAN:  "Withdrawing From Gaza:  A Test Or A Political Tremor?"


Semi-official, influential Arabic-language Al-Rai declared (2/4):  "It would not be an exaggeration to say that Sharon's mysterious proposal for withdrawing from the Gaza Strip, unilaterally, has caused a political tremor throughout the Israeli and Palestinian arenas that is likely to extend to the entire region and the international arena should Washington intervene and support the move....  It may be too early to discern the potential success of Sharon's plan, assuming that it is genuine and truthful....  Yet, the way Sharon is reading the current Palestinian, Israeli and international status quo encourages such a risky but calculated maneuver in order to appear as a 'man of peace' and avoid political downfall....  There is plenty of time to figure out the response to Sharon's plan, but so far it is clear that Sharon is holding the reins again and is able, through his proposal, to negotiate with everyone in the Israeli and Palestinian arenas as well as the regional and international arenas."


"The Unilateral Separation Plan"


Center-left, influential Arabic-language Al-Dustour stated (2/4):  "One cannot view the unilateral separation plan, the details of which are now being divulged by Israeli Prime Minister Sharon, in isolation of the political timing and the difficult circumstances that Sharon is going through....  The Israeli Prime Minister wants to reshuffle the cards and get everyone into an illusionary whirlpool that portrays him as the one with the vision for the solution with the Palestinians....  It is natural for the Palestinian prime minister to welcome the dismantling of the settlements in Gaza.  It is inevitable.  Everyone may also welcome Israel's intention to isolate itself behind barricades of its choice.  But this approach is nothing more unilateral measures that have nothing to do with the peace process that should be founded on ending the occupation, withdrawing from all territories occupied in 1967, inclusive of East Jerusalem, and establishing an independent, sovereign Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.  Anything other than that would not be a peace project.  Thus, what is to be understood of the separation plan is that it means turning Israel into a state living behind a wall, with all the inherent difficulties that poses of communicating with it on anything."


"Sharon's New Proposals"


Jamil Nimri held in independent, mass-appeal Arabic-language Al-Arab Al-Yawm (2/4):  "It is as if Sharon is racing with time.  All this dynamic activity and strategically inclined projects indicate that the man wants to specify the direction in which the final solution is heading before he leaves, or is forced to leave his post.  On the other hand, the policy of impeding the solution and continuing confrontation has been exhausted.  Sharon succeeded in freezing the roadmap and rendering all initiatives before it a failure.  He has also neutralized all international powers and therefore has nothing to worry about in terms of pressures, not even (were he to order) the expelling of Arafat, which now seems not to be advantageous to Israel anyway....  And so, he arrived at the initiative of unilateral disengagement as well as the establishment of the racist separation wall....  We wrote more than once saying that Sharon's plan is frighteningly realistic and that he does have the means to implement it.  Unfortunately, we never saw a counterpoint Palestinian strategy. Sharon seems not to want to miss this opportunity of getting everything he wants, for he has come up with the idea of resolving the demographic problem that has been keeping the Jewish entity awake at night in the same deal.  He suggested annexing some Arab villages in Israel to the Palestinian entity within the framework of 'the exchange of territories'....   What is this ingenuity of employing the concept of exchanging territories in this manner! More confiscation of Arab lands and liberation of Israel of Arab inhabitants!  We will assume that this just another one of Sharon's tests.  However, let us not forget that his maneuver is based on the genuine anxiety that is common to all political powers in Israel, the country's demographic future.  And let us not forget that what sounded like a far-fetched illusionary proposal in the past was made possible by the Israelis."


"A New Maneuver Or A Link In The Chain Of Israel's Final-status Solution?"


Urayb Rintawi held in center-left, influential Arabic-language Al-Dustour (2/4):  "Sharon has the habit of announcing measures to improve the life of Palestinians before every visit to the U.S., which allows the Americans to assure us that he is working for peace, and both then forget about implementing the measures once the visit is over.  This may be another such scenario.  But it is more likely a genuine attempt to force a unilateral settlement based on Sharon's vision, by which the Palestinian territories would be reduced to Gaza and about 42% of the West Bank, which lies outside the apartheid wall.  This will not satisfy the nationalist aspirations of the Palestinians, but they would not be able to prevent the implementation of the program, nor would they make an effort to prevent Israel from leaving any Palestinian territory.  However, the plan cannot succeed because Israelis themselves would reject such territorial concessions, inadequate as they may be."


KUWAIT:  “Suspect Deal And Evading The Peace Process”


Ghazi Al-Jassem wrote in independent Al-Qabas (2/8):  “Ariel Sharon is similar to Saddam Hussein, because no one can predict his next move. Governed by our emotions, and inebriated with the sense of victory, we did not take stock of the real meaning behind Israel’s release of the Lebanese and Palestinian detainees. In fact, we have failed on the strategic level....  [D]espite a respite in Palestinian suicide actions that only harm the Palestinians, Sharon did not proceed with the peace process. He is a man of war, not peace. Today, Sharon is proposing to evacuate the Gaza settlements, but it is only a new maneuver before meeting President Bush.”


“Withdraw And Build Your Wall”


Dr. Ayed Al-Manaa maintained in independent Al-Watan (2/7):  “The relocation of Jewish settlements from Gaza, which will eventually end the Israeli occupation is good news, according to Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei. It is a significant measure, because it will positively affect the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Sharon’s proposal may ease hostility between the two sides, although this may not apply to the religious and nationalistic extremists on both sides. For peace to succeed, Sharon’s words must be translated into deeds.”


LEBANON:  "A First Step In The Right Direction"


Sateh Nouriddine wrote in Arab-language nationalist As-Safir (2/5):  "Sharon’s plan to dismantle some Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, if it becomes reality, could be the first step in the right direction to bypass the Zionist broad nationalist scheme and the beginning of a serious quest for a 'lasting settlement with the Palestinians....  The plan to evacuate all Jewish settlements in Gaza and some in the West Bank was not new for the Israeli Labor and some leftist parties. However, it was new for the Israeli right-wing parties including the Likud....  The reason the Israelis were leaving Gaza was that they had failed to bring its residents to their knees.  So they have decided to evacuate it....  This was not the first time the Israelis have evacuated Palestinian land only to change their mind and re-invade later. However...this was the first positive step made by the Israelis in a long time."


"What Took You So Long, Sharon?"


The English-language moderate Daily Star editorialized (2/4):  "Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s announcement Monday that he will evacuate almost all of the Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip has been followed up with his call to “swap” Arab- Israeli towns for some of the settlements in the occupied West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem.  Just as he has always proved to be something of an unpredictable commander on the battlefield, Sharon now offers surprises in the political arena. But here also his reputation in the world of diplomacy elicits much skepticism.  These proposals will be rigorously analyzed. They will generate support and opposition, alongside trust and doubt in Sharon and his motives. We leave this important debate to others for now. Our reaction is, simply: What took you so long, Sharon? Why did Israel wait for so long, and allow so many people on both sides to suffer and die, before you came to the obvious conclusion that the only future for the Gaza Strip is a future free of Israeli colonies and military occupation camps?  When Israel withdrew from the occupied Sinai Peninsula after the peace agreement with Egypt, and destroyed Yamit and other colonial outposts, objections were heard--but a lasting peace eventually prevailed in that region. The same thing happened with Jordan. The obvious lesson has not been applied in the West Bank and Gaza, though: A full withdrawal from occupied lands is the foundation for full agreement on peaceful relations and an end to the conflict. Sharon’s combined offer/threat/plan/hope to withdraw unilaterally from Gaza marks the absolute failure of decades of Israeli policies that saw humiliation as the best instrument to use against the Palestinians. The latest intifada, along with the failure of Israel’s policies, in fact reveal that the best policy to achieve peace with the Palestinians is to terminate their occupation and give them the liberation they deserve. We are not there yet, but it is becoming clearer that we will get there by ending occupation and colonization, rather than perpetuating them."


OMAN:  "Sharon's Plan"


Pro-government Arabic-language Oman editorialized (2/6):  "The plan announced by Sharon casts doubts even among Likud ranks. The Sharon plan, which talks about dismantling settlements in the Gaza Strip, came at a deliberate time, when Sharon is getting ready to go to Washington. He has something in his hands which would instigate the US administration to continue to support Israel and its plans."


"Sharon's Peace:  Words And Facts"


Independent, pro-government Arabic-language Al-Watan declared (2/6):  "Just before his visit to Washington, Sharon tries to appear as the one eager for peace in the region and the one willing to give concessions to the Palestinians, just to show good intentions and the price he has to pay for peace!"


SYRIA:  “A New Sharon Trick”


Haydar Haydar remarked in government-owned Al-Thawra (2/8):  “After Sharon’s deceitful statements about withdrawing Israeli settlements in Gaza, he comes back with a new trick, asking the U.S. approval for expanding settlements on the West Bank in return for a ‘withdrawal’ from settlements in Gaza.  Settlements in the [West] Bank are illegitimate as are the settlements in Gaza. The same applies to the racist separation wall.  The issue is very clear: Those who want peace must implement the UN resolutions and accept the Madrid terms of reference and the principle of land-for-peace.  If Israel continues with its maneuvers and rejection of the bases of a just and comprehensive peace, stability in the region will remain distant. This is not in the interest of anyone, especially since the world public, particularly in Europe and the United States, has begun to fully realize that Israel is a threat to international peace."


TUNISIA:  “Can We Believe Sharon?”


Government-owned French-language La Presse asked (2/3):  “Despite confirming that he will consider the evacuation of seventeen Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon continues to inspire doubt and worry among many observers, in accordance with his well-deserved reputation of intransigence and aggression....  How can we today believe someone who has made colonization his hobby and annexed thousands of acres around Jerusalem and throughout the Occupied Territories? Sharon continues his dirty business by building the wall of shame to destroy any chance of peace....  Punitive incursions and targeted strikes follow one another in an almost daily rhythm, provoking the anger of the Palestinian resistance, which counter-attacks with suicide operations in the heart of Israel itself....  The Roadmap is essential to all observers and to all world powers as a historic compromise, that opens up the way to a real peace of the brave. But Sharon persists in disqualifying all means to achieve decolonization. Isn’t it more credible to stop the bloody incursions, to open up the way to dialogue, to stop building the wall of ‘lack of reason’ and to start thinking seriously about a real decolonization?”


UAE:  "Where Is The Roadmap?"


Independent, pro-government Arabic-language Al-Bayan asked (2/6):  "Sharon's evil schemes will be more dangerous for the Palestinians' future. With this plan Sharon has given the coup de grace to the international peace plan, the so-called road map. What he needs now is to issue a death certificate for the road map!"


"The Sound Of One Hand Clapping"


The pro-government English-language Gulf News editorialized (2/6):  "Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's announcement that 'there will be no Jews in Gaza' is a tactical move and part of a bigger plan. For Sharon, this particular proposal of 'population swap' has probably been charted some time back. The time now stands ripe for Sharon to execute it, as it comes when he is confronted with bribery scandals that could minimise his authority.  However, if the plan goes ahead, it could lead to catastrophic results. First, there will be a divide that is based purely on race: Arabs and Jews. Second, the plan will also see an alteration of the existing borders, thus it would be instrumental in altering the geographic boundaries of a Palestinian state.  Furthermore the tactics, if put in motion, will sideline the Palestinians and would completely ignore the concept of coexistence. Consequently, Israel's Arab population will be in due course minimised and in all probability eliminated....  In addition to the above, Sharon is well aware that the land he intends to vacate holds no value as it is overpopulated and mainly arid. Hence, the proposed transfer does not benefit the Palestinians in any way as Israel will be retaining most of the land, should Sharon's plan be implemented.  It would be ironic if Sharon, who has time and again crippled the Middle East roadmap, proceeds to Washington and uses his latest proposal as a proof to his dubious belief in a peaceful resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Hence the question is, how can a peace plan engage only one party?"


"Beware Of Israelis Bearing Gifts"


The English-language pro-government Gulf News warned (2/4):  "When Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced the "repatriation" of Israeli colonies from Gaza, it was merely a case of holding your breath while waiting for the other shoe to drop. Sure enough, with typical sleight-of-hand style, Sharon proposes to move the Arabs of Israeli nationality into Palestinian territory. He succeeded in startling his cabinet and coalition partners, because he had not discussed the issue beforehand. Additionally, Israelis on illegally-held land are none-too-pleased, although 60 per cent of Israelis welcome it, as well as Palestinians, of course. Finally, Arabs, who comprise about 20 per cent of Israel's population, are upset as, generally speaking, they would prefer to remain where they are.  It may be that Sharon's proposals are a part of his usual grandstanding prior to his visit to Washington later this month....  And, if truth be told, with Sharon making such dramatic gestures (and having been known to renege on agreements) it does leave the Palestinians in a state of perplexity.  There is the issues which may have forced Sharon to make the "offer". Like the wall being built on the West Bank at vast expenditure. With Israel being near-bankrupt, it is likely Sharon wants additional funds from America, which is in election fever and therefore perhaps more sympathetic to Israeli requests (to garner the Jewish vote). However, America is in a weak financial position to increase its grant to Israel. But also Sharon might be trying to distract public attention away from a corruption scandal surrounding him and his family.  The Palestinian leadership should look long and hard at what Sharon is offering and the circumstances surrounding it. When Sharon offers anything, be sure he is about to take something as well."




AUSTRALIA:  "Sharon Gambles On Gaza"


The liberal Sydney Morning Herald observed (2/5):  “For now, Ariel Sharon should get the benefit of the doubt.  His undertaking to remove Israeli settlements from Gaza is clear enough, even though he gives no timetable, and says evacuation would not be swift....  That represents abandonment of support for the dream of many Israelis to resurrect Israel within its biblical borders.  It goes against his own past encouragement of settlements in the occupied territories.  Its significance when implemented, will rival the return of the Sinai peninsula to Egypt by another Likud prime minister, Menachem Begin."


"Pros And Cons Of Getting Out Of Gaza"


The national conservative Australian maintained (2/5):  “The undertaking to dismantle Jewish settlements in Gaza by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon...has thrown the cat among the pigeons of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.  Despite superficial appearances to the contrary, Mr. Sharon's announcement should not be taken to mean that the hawk has become a dove....  There is little sympathy among mainstream Israelis for the Zionist zealots who still want to settle in Gaza because of what they call 'eternal Israel,' so Mr. Sharon's idea has broad support.  Increasingly, it is demographic reality that is looming large in Israeli strategic thinking.”


INDIA:  "There Is Many A Slip Between The Cup And The Lip"


Independent Calcutta-based Bengali-language Ananda Bazar Patrika declared (2/6):  "It may so happen that charges of corruption and financial scandals brought against him and his relations have prompted Sharon to deflect the focus of Israeli politics. Pressure of the western supporters including the US for freeing Gaza and the West Bank for Palestinians is always there. Despite having resisted so far Sharon would get whole-hearted support this time from his western allies to carry out this task. Sharon's political opponents in the country would also be cornered to some extent. Who knows whether Sharon has floated the idea of withdrawing Israeli settlers from Gaza backed by such calculations? In that case Palestinians would do better to get prepared for another dose of deception."




CANADA:  "Mideast Turf Worth Grabbing"


Gordon Barthos observed in the liberal Toronto Star (2/5):  "Today, past the halfway mark in his mandate, and under pressure from U.S. President George Bush to set up a Palestinian state next year, Sharon feels the need to make the pain go away. Good general that he is, he's manoeuvring to extricate Israel from at least one nasty front in this war of attrition.  This week he shocked Israelis by proposing that they evacuate 17 settlements in Gaza and three in the West Bank, to reduce contact between the two peoples....  Even opposition Labour leader Shimon Peres, an old adversary, supports Sharon on a Gaza pullout, and will shore up the Likud-led government if its right-wing partners bolt the coalition....  Still, as the Mideast impasse drags on, Israelis have been forced to recognize that they are fated to be a minority in the territory they control, unless they give up much of it....  Yet by pulling out of Gaza, where 7,500 Israeli settlers amid 1.3 million Palestinians control a third of the land, Sharon has shown Israelis what the shape of peace must be. Sharon's predecessor Ehud Barak offered Palestinians most of Jerusalem and the West Bank. It will be hard for any successor to offer less. But is there a Palestinian leader who is willing to provide Israelis with the security assurances they must have before they venture down that path? Will Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia sign on to Bush's Mideast road map in any meaningful way? Will he deliver the truce that's required, suppress incitement and thwart the bombers? Can he bring order to his anarchic society? Will President Yasser Arafat let him? As Israelis prepare to abandon Gaza sand dunes and West Bank hilltops, Palestinian leaders must seize higher moral ground than they yet have, by weaning their people from terror, and embracing peace. That would be turf worth claiming."


BRAZIL: "Good News"


Liberal Folha de S. Paulo editorialized (2/4):  "In a piece of rare good news from the Middle East, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon wants to end Jewish settlements in the Gaza strip. Although timid, it is a first but important step towards peace in the region. It is also a courageous position because the measure may lead to a rupture of the coalition that supports Sharon's government....  Possible removal of the settlements from the Gaza strip is not enough to establish peace between Israelis and Palestinians, but it might constitute a solid starting point for a broader understanding....  In the context of a series of failed attempts to resume peace talks, Sharon's new step may prove to be the missing ingredient in reversing the deterioration of the peace process. One can never be too skeptical about the Middle East, but it is not appropriate either to abandon

all hope."  




Right-of-center O Globo observed (2/4):  "For now it's only a promise.  But even if it's only rhetoric, it can't help but being news:  Prime Minister Ariel Sharon...announced he would dismantle 17 Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip and three on the West Bank.  Sharon knows better than anyone the value of those settlements....  Well before he even became the Head of State he was a notorious enthusiast of Jewish settlements in occupied territories.  Judging from his declarations in the press, Sharon has changed his mind.  More important than his sincerity, however, is the resistance of Israel's extreme right....  The majority of Israelis and Palestinians--as anywhere else--are moderate, want peace above all else and understand there can only be harmony in the Promised Land when Jews stop occupying Palestinian land....  If it were up to the moderates, there would have been a definite accord a long time ago. The problem is the rancorous, radical minority groups, such as the militant Islamics in the Palestinian territories and the religious right of Israel--who are few in number but who wield enormous power in the Knesset.  Sharon, because he is a hawk and not a dove, has credibility and perhaps prestige in extreme circles.  He must know that his plan will only succeed if he can convince them that giving up the settlements is a good deal for the security of Israel."



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