March 19, 2004
GAZA PULLOUT TO INTENSIFY PALESTINIAN 'FACTIONAL DISPUTES'
** Israeli dailies demand
the IDF "purge Gaza of Hamas" before pulling out.
** Muslim writers say a
comprehensive peace deal is the "only road to security."
** A "power
vacuum" in Gaza could lead to more "factional disputes."
** The U.S. needs to give
assurances on "implementing the roadmap," say critics.
Israel 'does not have the luxury of abandoning operations' in
Gaza-- Israeli writers demanded
continued "ground operations" and "precise strikes" in
Gaza. A liberal outlet termed
"selective assassinations" an "unavoidable necessity" to
prevent "Hamas and its cohorts" from portraying Israel's withdrawal
as a "triumph of Palestinian power."
Left-leaning Ha'aretz described the Ashdod suicide bombings as
part of a "concerted effort" by Palestinians to show "Israel is
retreating under military pressure."
Pluralist Novosty Nedely backed Sharon's plan to disengage
"unilaterally" without any "coordination with Palestinians"
because any bilateral deal would "force Israel to make more significant
'The tougher the Israeli attacks, the more support' for Hamas-- Arab and German outlets advised Israel against
"mounting military campaigns" ahead of any pullout. German broadsheets urged Israel to restrain
itself from "further escalation" that would only "nurture
terrorism"; left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau opined that Hamas
is already "the strongest political and social force in Gaza." Palestinian analysts agreed that "peace
is the only road to security," with independent Al-Quds declaring
that "stability can never be achieved by means of military solutions."
'Events in Gaza reflect the disunity of Palestinians'-- Alluding to the internecine struggle "among
Palestinian factions" in Gaza, Arab dailies cautioned that a "lack of
unity will only strengthen the enemy."
London-based moderate Al-Sharq Al-Awsat described the PA as
"too weak to keep law and order" in Gaza, and foresaw "renewed
violence between Hamas and armed groups loyal" to Arafat. Given the concern that a Israeli unilateral
withdrawal would create a "power vacuum" in Gaza, several papers welcomed
Egypt's "readiness" to deploy its army on the border with Gaza to
provide "effective" security.
Sharon is destroying the roadmap 'with the support of the
U.S.'-- Critical Arab writers
demanded a more "objective stand" from the U.S. Saudi Arabia's moderate Al-Jazirah
alleged that Sharon is seeking to "please Americans by ignoring...Arafat's
government," while the government-owned Syria Times accused the
U.S. of giving "top priority to Israeli interests" by accepting
Israel's unilateral steps. The elite Jordan
Times took a gentler line, praising the U.S. for wanting the
"unilateral disengagement" to "include major chunks of the West
Bank as well."
EDITOR: Ben Goldberg
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media
Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a
representative picture of local editorial opinion. This report summarizes and interprets foreign
editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S.
Government. This analysis is based on 36 reports from 9 countries over 14 - 19
March 2004. Editorial excerpts from each
country are listed from the most recent date.
GERMANY: "The Hour Of
Peter Muench said in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of
Munich (3/18): "Both sides are
serious in Gaza. A bloody final is to be
fought between the Israeli army and Palestinian terror groups.... Both sides want this battle, both sides are
ready, and so the coming days and weeks could become disastrous.... As a matter of fact, Israel's Premier Sharon
opened this confrontation when he promised Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza
Strip.... But this announcement alone
has put enormous pressure on both sides.
Today the fighting starts for the time after. Radical Palestinians want to turn Israel's
withdrawal into their victory.... But
this claim for power cannot be in Israel's interests. It must now avoid creating the impression of having
been expelled from Gaza by force, since the radicals can consider this an
encouragement for their fight on the West Bank.
This is why every reaction to an attack must be even harder than
usual. In addition, Israel must be
interested in destroying the terrorist infrastructure as good as possible
before finally withdrawing.... This is
why, within a brief period, the tragic of this conflict has been revealed
again: With a withdrawal plan that could
have been a ray of hope, a further escalation of the situation has
developed. Thus the use of force is
turning everything upside down."
Erik-Michael Bader noted in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine
(3/18): "Like Palestinian suicide
attacks will not force the free independent Palestinian state, nor will Israeli
murderous actions...prevent future Palestinian attacks. The opposite is rather true: it may be
possible that a few attacks will be prevented or postponed, but the angry
reaction that follows every demolition of houses will lead to new supporters
for the terrorists. In both cases,
experience would require…and end to these activities. Instead we can observe a kind of obsessive
culmination. On the Palestinian side,
this does not seem to be so surprising:
these are terrorists, religiously and chauvinist young fanatics, guided
by criminal cynical power politicians.
But that a democratic state that is based on the rule of law succumbs to
such a degree of counter violence is really surprising. In view of how this does nurture terrorism,
which of course is not based on this source alone, we can only express our astonishment."
Inge Guenther stated in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau
(3/18): "Israel's Premier Sharon is
planning to deal the death blow to Hamas before his immature plans for a
removal of settlements can become a reality.
But he will hardly succeed. Hamas
is not only a guerilla force, but it is likely that is has turned into the
strongest political and social force on the Gaza Strip. The tougher the Israeli attacks, the more
support it will get among Palestinians....
Another dilemma: we can expect the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip at the
earliest after the U.S. presidential elections.
This is why there is a great risk that Israel, instead of pulling out
from Gaza, will sink even deeper in the quagmire of occupation--with fatal
consequences for both sides."
Business-oriented Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf noted
(3/16): "A direct contact between
Israel's Premier Sharon and Palestinian leader Qurei would now have been more
necessary than ever...since the war has reached a new quality with the latest
attacks. For the first time since the
beginning of the second intifada...the attackers came from the Gaza Strip and
not from the West Bank. For the
Palestinians, this may be the demonstrative evidence that even a region that
has been sealed off completely like the Gaza Strip...cannot stop the activities
of the 'fighters.' And this is all the
more true for a security fence along the border to the West Bank. But the fighters have now freely offered
Sharon two arguments: He can at least
modify his plan for a unilateral removal from the Gaza Strip thus soothing the
temper among opponents in his own ranks. And, this is not less important,
during his upcoming trip to Washington, he can now counter criticism of his
strategy that has become louder over the past few weeks."
ITALY: “Suicide Bombers
Return To Israel: 11 Dead”
Aldo Baquis stated in centrist, influential La Stampa
(3/15): “Eleven Israeli workers were
killed in an incursion carried out yesterday in the Port of Ashdod by two
Palestinian suicide bombers.... The
Hezbollah TV station Manar, in Lebanon, broadcast the claim of responsibility
for the attack. This confirms the level of contiguity of the Lebanese (Shiite)
and the Palestinian guerrillas (Sunnite). This is an element that will have to
be evaluated by Israeli leaders just as Sharon is about to order the unilateral
withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.... This
is precisely what Sharon was going to discuss in his meeting (now cancelled)
with Abu Ala. According to the U.S., it’s important that a power vacuum not be
created in Gaza for fundamentalist groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad to take
advantage. Washington believes that there must be an orderly and gradual
transfer of powers from Israel to the PNA. But according to Sharon, the fact
that al-Fatah has also claimed responsibility for the attack means that Israel
currently has no valid interlocutor among the Palestinians. Hamas has made it
known that not even a withdrawal from Gaza would diminish the intensity of the
ISRAEL: "George Bush,
Nahum Barnea wrote in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot
Aharonot (3/19): "For Sharon to
be able to pass the withdrawal plan in the government and the Likud, he needs a
festive reception in the U.S., perhaps on the ranch in Texas, perhaps at Camp
David, perhaps in a historic ceremony on the White House lawn. Mainly he needs a presidential declaration
that he can flourish. But before the
president makes his declaration, he needs to be sure that Sharon will make his
plan pass in the Israeli political establishment. Otherwise, his efforts will have been to no
avail. Sharon's great, Sisyphean task now
is to achieve synchronization between Danny Ben Lulu's [a Likud Central Committee
member] electoral aspirations and George Bush's electoral aspirations."
"Waiting For An Invitation"
Alex Fishman held in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot
Aharonot (3/19): "Even if the
Americans are starting to digest the [disengagement plan] idea they are still
withholding Sharon's invitation to Washington.
And the Prime Minister is impatiently waiting for this invitation in
order to bring what Israel needs in order to begin the move: American public
support, an economic compensation and 'back wind' against the majority in his
government, who oppose the plan. An
American recognition, even a general one, for settlement blocks in the West
Bank, would help him greatly. The
Minister of Defense [Shaul Mofaz] tried to satisfy the Americans by using a
general formula: supporting the large settlement blocks does not contradict the
traditional American policy, which talks about strategic depth and defensible
borders.... The Americans listened and
did not answer. They will give their
answers--if and when--to the Prime Minister.
And it is unnecessary to say that if Sharon returns from Bush with empty
hands, the move won't take place."
"How To Get Out Of Gaza"
Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (3/18):
"The Palestinians have a powerful interest in presenting a different
version of the narrative of the withdrawal from Gaza. Sharon wants to present it as the tale of an
independent Israeli decision whose purpose is to improve Israel's military
capabilities in years to come. Hamas and
its cohorts want to frame the withdrawal in a different context, presenting it
as a triumph of Palestinian power that culminated in the removal of Jewish
settlements and the expulsion of the IDF.
The terror attacks, which peaked early this week in the double suicide
bombing at the Ashdod port, are intended to restore to the Palestinians both
operational initiative in the field, and the ability to dictate the narrative
to the world.... Since it is tremendously difficult for security forces to
thwart terror attacks once suicide bombers and explosives have been smuggled
into Israeli territory, Israel does not have the luxury of abandoning
operations in the Gaza Strip altogether.
Under such circumstances, selective assassinations of those responsible
for planning future terror strikes and for implementing them (as opposed to
punishing those responsible for past attacks) are an unavoidable
necessity. The same is true of ground
operations when there is no way of carrying out precise strikes against defined
targets.... Operations proposed by
military officials to the political leadership are less problematic than the
verbal wrapping in which government spokesmen have packaged the plans for
marketing to the public. Posturing and
threats do not enhance Israel's deterrent power. They can actually backfire, leading to a
general escalation and producing one of two bad results: enhancing the
credibility of the Palestinian version of Israel's withdrawal under force, or
the failure of the plan to withdraw from Gaza."
"Going To Gaza"
Chief Economic Editor Sever Plotker wrote in mass-circulation,
pluralist Yediot Aharonot (3/17):
"The most recent wave of terror attacks by Hamas was launched to
prove that Israel is withdrawing from Gaza because of Ashdod, that Al Qaida's
'Madrid method' (terror prompts withdrawal) has met with success here as well.
Israel, in response, has decided to purge Gaza of Hamas and to deal Hamas a
deathblow.... There can be no disputing
the need to pay Hamas back what it duly deserves. However, the root of all evil
does not lie with this terror organization. Hamas is capable of launching such
a large scope of terror attacks against Israel only because it is backed by
Palestinian militias that are loyal to Arafat.
Arafat perceives Hamas to be his long-range strategic arm. He wants to be cast as the liberator of Gaza. As such, as long as Arafat is around, it is
doubtful that the Israeli withdrawal will take place. And it is also doubtful whether the blow
being dealt to Hamas--lethal as it may be--will achieve its desired goals. We cannot--either morally or
politically--drown Gaza either in the sea or in blood. But Arafat can be expelled."
Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post declared
(3/17): "Israel was shaken
Monday. It wasn't because of a terrorist
atrocity actually perpetrated, but because of one thankfully preempted. Front pages were dominated by the story of
11-year-old Abdullah Quran, who carried a powerful bomb in his
schoolbag.... This is not 'just' child
abuse, but child sacrifice. It is as if
Palestinian terrorists are trying to reach new depths of war crimes, matched
only by previous uses of ambulances and pregnant women to carry out terrorist
attacks.... Incredibly, Abdullah's
misadventure went largely unreported by the world's media, further underscoring
the double standard against Israel....
The Palestinian manipulation of children is as pervasive and transparent
as Hitler's 'Children's Army' at the end of World War II. It's a flagrant violation of Article 38 of
the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which censures 'the
recruitment and involvement of children under 15 in hostilities and armed
conflicts.' Yet it's an entrenched Arab
practice in this country.... Palestinian
youngsters are incessantly subjected to brainwashing in the media and
classroom. Hate is inculcated in them. Even preschoolers are taught to aspire to
martyr status. They grow in a culture
that, rather than consecrating life, glorifies violent 'sacrificial'
"Disengagement As Strategic Need"
Avraham Tamir wrote in popular, pluralist Maariv
(3/17): "History will chronicle the
unilateral disengagement, in accordance with the principles of Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon, as a necessary transition period in the peace process, in
accordance with President Bush's road map principles.... Sharon's disengagement plan will earn broad
national support in Israel; the duration of a national unity government, even
if extremist factions leave it because of the connection with the goals of the
road map; U.S. support and assistance for relocating a civilian and military
infrastructure; the support of Egypt and Jordan to the only way of preparing the
ground for the implementation of the road map; and the support of the EU, the
Russian Federation, the Secretary-General of the UN and key Arab and Muslim
countries. The scope of that support
will have repercussions on change in the Palestinian government toward a
determination to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure, to stop hostile
operations and to sever connections with international terrorist organizations
such as Hizbullah and Al Qaida....
Sharon's disengagement plan...would have implications for the
advancement of a comprehensive Israeli-Arab peace, in which a diplomatic and
security solution would be found to all the components of a conflict that has
lasted since time immemorial."
"Lots Of Trouble"
Ben Caspit wrote in popular, pluralist Maariv (3/16): "It is not inconceivable that Ariel
Sharon might ultimately have to forget his grand plan, quash the medium-sized
one and go for the small version: a partial withdrawal from Gaza, keeping the
three northern settlements intact, the fate of Philadelphi [the corridor at the
Gaza-Egypt border] unclear. By so doing
he will neutralize most of the opposition and will crush the rebellion in the
Likud before its inception.... Ariel
Sharon is in trouble. If he opts for the
grand plan he will lose his coalition, perhaps even his party, and maybe even
his seat as prime minister. Binyamin
Netanyahu is in trouble. If he acts
against Sharon, he will be gambling on his political future and will lose
public points. If he doesn't, the same
applies. The two of them, Sharon and
Netanyahu, are trapped. They are both
searching for a dignified way out. Bibi [Netanyahu] has spoken in the past
number of days staunchly against the disengagement plan. Sharon has tried to speak in its favor, but
without success.... The way things look
now, the wind in Sharon's sails is slowly dying out. His principled determination still exists,
but life looks more complicated than ever before. The Israelis made it clear to the Americans
that in any event, no steps would be taken on the ground before the summer of
2005. Sharon won't be going to
Washington this month, but only next month (maybe). The Americans are looking forward to the Arab
League convening at the end of this month and to an explicit condemnation of
suicide bombing attacks, and don't want to ruin that achievement."
"Sharon's Disengagement Has Long Been Bilateral"
Akiva Eldar opined in left-leaning, independent Ha'aretz
(3/16): "Arafat's court does not
want Sharon's court spoiling its victory celebration. They are keeping one important fact under
wraps: Sharon's unilateral disengagement has long been bilateral. The Palestinians decided 30 years ago to take
any shred of land that falls into their hands.... That decision, which involves the liberation
of all Palestinian lands and the annihilation of Israel, is known as 'the plan
of the stages.' In 1988, it made way for the Algiers Declaration, which
recognized Security Council Resolution 242 requiring Israeli withdrawal only
from territory conquered during the Six-Day War. In the Oslo accords, the PLO agreed to
receive the territories in stages....
The fact that the PLO leadership is not wiping away a tear at Israel's
departure from Gaza in exchange for nothing does not keep it from going around
the world with downcast demeanor. Why would they miss the opportunity to
present Israel as the party that buried the road map under the outposts of
Israeli trespassers in the West Bank and the ruins of the homes of innocent
Palestinians in Gaza?"
"Take Him Seriously"
Yoel Marcus maintained in left-leaning, independent Ha'aretz
(3/16): "The first thing on
[Sharon's] list is to win the consent and support of President Bush. Sharon is obsessive about coordinating every
step of the way with him. Next comes
working out the operation in detail, preferably with the approval of the
Strip's 7,500 settlers. From start to
finish, the pullback should be wrapped up in a year or two. While this is happening, Sharon will drum up
political support for the move.... But
Sharon is the one who will choose the timing.... Sharon has gone too far to assume that he is
kidding around with his people, America and our potential allies in Europe, now
waking up to the grim reality of mega-terrorism. Until proven otherwise, there is no reason
not to take him seriously."
"Militants Want Israel To Retreat Under Fire"
Zeev Schiff held in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz
(3/15): "Cooperation between Hamas
and Fatah in an attack such as Sunday's strike at the Ashdod port, is nothing
new. This operational cooperation has
solidified over the past several weeks.
For Hamas, the development is a major achievement: It has succeeded in
building a kind of joint military apparatus with the Fatah establishment.... Current developments tend to support an
assessment offered by Major General Aharon Zeevi (Farkash), head of Military
Intelligence, who predicted that the moment Israel evinced its readiness to
carry out a unilateral withdrawal, the Palestinian organizations would make a
concerted effort to show that Israel is retreating under military
"Wandering in a Fog"
Efraim Ganor declared in popular, pluralist Russian-language Novosty
Nedely (3/14): "The unilateral
disengagement plan's particulars are still covered with...fog. The U.S.
is unable to define its attitude regarding it...and [determine] the
strong and the weak sides of the plan. It is unclear what the plan's completion
would bring Israel, the Palestinians and the U.S.... Doubtfully, Sharon himself and his closest
advisors have definite answers to these questions. In addition, the [Israeli] security forces
have...objections against the plan, arguing that in its present form, it cannot
be executed without clear agreements with the Palestinians.... Sharon sincerely tries to get his country and
his people out of the old and bloody conflict with the Palestinians, and he is
sure that Israel has to do it unilaterally as opposed to coordination with the
Palestinians. Any agreement would force
Israel make more significant concessions than those it is ready to carry out in
a unilateral disengagement."
WEST BANK: "Withdrawal
And Incursion: Occupation's Manipulative
Rajab Abu Siriyah opined in independent Al-Ayyam
(3/19): "As long as the Sharon
government continues to apply a unilateral solution, it has to expect a price
for doing so. If it believes that it can
shift the conflict with the Palestinian side using the revolving door
policy--pulling out and then re-occupying--its attempt to destroy the remaining
infrastructure of the Gaza Strip will inflame violence that will also burn its
fingers in return. If it soldiers on
with the thought that it can retreat from the Strip with gun muzzles still
toward it, this will also cause its face to bleed.... Lessons from the occupation and resistance
are still on everyone’s mind. American
forces who needed less than three weeks to occupy Baghdad and overthrow an
entire regime there are still paying the price.... This is the price the Sharon government will
have to pay in every incursion and re-occupation if it thinks it can follow the
"Another Way To Handle The Conflict"
Mohammad Yaghi maintained in independent Al-Ayyam
(3/18): "In another six months the
bloody confrontation between Israel and us will end its fourth year. The number of victims on both sides of the
imaginary Green Line is rapidly approaching 4000.... Adopting positive peaceful resistance as
opposed to violence will open new horizons to end the Israeli occupation. Peaceful marches and sit-ins are capable of
facing Israeli death machines, for they [the Israelis] will not be able to use
their helicopters and tanks like they do now.
They will not be able to claim that peaceful demonstrations are threats
to their war against terrorism and their concern of providing security to their
citizens; neither will they be able to justify the separation wall. Such resistance will inspire tens of
thousands of Israelis who believe in peaceful coexistence to stand up again against
the Israeli military operations that paralyzed their role.... It [peaceful resistance] will also be a
response to our challenge to the Roadmap, which we have accepted to stop all
forms of violence."
"Expected Israeli Military Campaign"
Independent Al-Quds declared (3/17): "The Israeli government can order its
military forces to raid Gaza, even though reason dictates otherwise. During the past half-century, the Gaza Strip
had been under many incursions and military attacks. All that, however, has never tamped down the
flame of Palestinian nationalist anger and has never solved the endemic crisis
between a people yearning to end the occupation and settlements by peaceful
means and the Israeli governments that believe they can continue to reinforce
their occupation and settlements by force.
In lieu of re-occupying the Gaza Strip, both Israelis and Palestinians
ought to sit together to negotiate peacefully a mechanism to end the occupation
and settlements and to take a decisive position against any party willing to
reject this trend toward rationality."
"The Ashdod Bombing And The Security, Resistance And Peace
Hani Masri observed in independent Al-Ayyam (3/16): "The Ashdod bombing is more evidence
that the occupation, settlement activities, separation wall, closure and
Israeli security procedures do not provide security for Israel and that peace
is the only road to security.... It is
enough to say that the Sharon government announced the night before the
preparatory meeting [for the now-cancelled Sharon-Abu Ala'a meeting] that it
will act in line with the Roadmap as if the unilateral withdrawal plan doesn't
exist.... The fact is that Israel based
its actions on the current preparations for the implementation of Sharon's plan
and behaved like the Roadmap died long time ago. The meeting between Sharon and Abu Ala'a is
nothing but an Israeli attempt to waste time until settlement and wall
activities are completed, and in the meantime to hold the Palestinian side
responsible for the lack of commitment to Roadmap implementation. If Israel were really interested in
implementing the Roadmap, it would have accelerated the resumption of talks and
the revival of the peace process even more after the Ashdod bombing."
"Escalation Will Not Solve The Problem"
Independent Al-Quds editorialized (3/16): "The Israeli threats to retaliate in
response to the double-bombing in Ashdod aren't new or strange.... Perhaps the greater part of responsibility
for the deteriorating situation lies on the Israeli public's need for a wiser
and more decisive leadership that would realize that Israel's security and
stability can never be achieved by means of military solutions.... There's only one very well-known road to a
just peace, and that is an end to occupation and settlements."
"The Evacuation Of Gaza And The Nature Of This Step"
Adli Sadiq opined in official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida
(3/16): "Israeli military leaders
object to the evacuation plan. Strategic
analysts in the Hebrew state, however, speak about stagnant strategic thinking
in the mentalities of those leaders. The
army possesses enormous power and flexibility but fails to take into account
political considerations.... The
situation in Gaza depends on the type of step that will actually take place. If
this step is a unilateral and politically futile one, it will never provide
security or meet Sharon's aim. The situation in Gaza also depends on a number
of economic and administrative factors, which will determine whether the area
will become a suffocating, isolated hell or an occupation-free one."
"Abu Ala'a The European And Sharon The American"
Hasan Al-Batal commented in independent Al-Ayyam
(3/15): "People know that America
and Europe are the basic parts of the Madrid Quartet while Russia and the UN
are, with all due respect to Russia's Putin and the UN's Annan, simply
accessories to this Quartet. It is
obvious that Washington is interested in rescuing Sharon from drowning in his
judicial and party troubles, particularly those with his military
generals. This could be possible only if
Sharon convinces Washington that the key to the Roadmap is the evacuation of
Gaza.... The evacuation of Gaza prior to
Sharon's visit to Washington remains merely a thought, but will eventually
become a plan after the visit takes place.
The American-Palestinian meeting in Jerusalem few days ago, which is the
first since the 'Erez bombing' in which three Americans were killed, indicates
that Washington is interested again in helping the PNA although it [Washington]
has not yet opened its arms wide to Abu Ala'a due to its bitter frustration
with the previous Abu Mazen government."
"This Vicious Circle Of Bloodshed"
Independent Al-Quds observed (3/15): "During the past two weeks, around 25
Palestinians including women and children were killed.... Yesterday, a number of Israelis were killed
in Ashdod [by suicide bombers] as a sort of retaliation by
Palestinians.... In order to strengthen
what's described as 'moderate elements' of Palestinian society, Israel and
whoever is backing it--mainly the U.S.--must accelerate the development of a
dynamic mechanism and a timetable for withdrawal from the territories occupied
in 1967, to eliminate settlement activities, to deal with Palestinians with
mutual respect and to recognize Palestinian political and human rights.... This is the only means to contain violence
and counter-violence, a demand on which the Palestinians and the international
"Palestinians Awaiting The Gaza Experiment"
Abdallah Awwad opined in independent Al-Ayyam (3/14): "If it actually takes place, the Israeli
withdrawal from Gaza will confront the Palestinians with the experiment of
dealing with the American war of change and coping with the consequences of any
political solution, especially an imposed one.
Will the Palestinian factions, including Fatah, realize that the new
political game is democracy, elections and transparency and that it all starts
from within?.... The battle ahead is
neither easy nor revolutionary; it only requires taking a deep breath and
staying calm, for whatever the situation is, there's another experiment
pending: [withdrawal from] the Gaza Strip, whether in a month or longer."
"Palestinian Unity And The Road To Peace"
Jeddah’s moderate Okaz editorialized (3/18): "While the whole world is working toward
finding a peaceful solution for the Palestinian struggle, we find the
Palestinians divided among themselves. This lack of unity will only strengthen the
enemy and weaken those who have a just cause.
The events in Gaza reflect the disunity of Palestinians who are
searching for something to unite their diverse factions. How can we find peace when the Palestinians
are divided among themselves? Peace is
not an impossible thing to achieve. But
to achieve it, all different groups must be on the same side. We cannot achieve peace if every official,
citizen, and organization is seeking different things. They should all have one goal. But if this does not happen, then every man,
woman, and child will be the victim of this struggle and disparity among the
"Sharon’s Arrogance And Deception"
Riyadh’s moderate Al-Jazirah contended (3/18): "Sharon avoided mentioning withdrawal
plans from Gaza in his last speech before the Knesset because he did not want
to offend his extremist allies.... Sharon
can please Americans by ignoring Yasser Arafat’s government. His statement, 'No talks or negotiations with
the current Palestinian government,' emphasized this. Sharon insists on pretending that he is a man
of peace, but refuses to hold talks with the Palestinians. He speaks about peace while his hands are
covered with blood.... Sharon believes
that he can solve the Palestinian matter through military force, especially
with the support of the U.S. and the world."
Ahmed Rabhi held in London-based Arabic-language
influential, moderate Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (3/17): "The Palestinian Authority (PA), which
has been exhausted and eroded by Israel and corruption, is too weak to keep law
and order in the strip.... Even though
an Israeli withdrawal would surely be a positive development, returning Arab
land to the Arabs, Sharon’s plan has already given the Palestinians and their
Arab neighbors cause for concern.
Judging from the recent statements made by both Hamas and the PA...both
sides are getting ready to assume control of Gaza once the pullout is complete,
and Egypt, which controlled Gaza before its occupation by Israel in the 1967
war, has also kept a wary eye on the area because it fears renewed violence
between Hamas and armed groups loyal to Palestinian President Yasser
Arafat. Although Cairo has no
territorial ambition in Gaza, and was in fact glad to part with it...the
Egyptian regime can ill afford to sit on the fence and watch in case factional
disputes erupt once again after the pullout....
All Palestinians must beware of factional disputes and give priority to
national interests until all Palestinian land has been liberated."
"Ashdod Operation And Assumed Security"
Dammam’s moderate Al-Yaum contended (3/16): "Sharon must realize that he cannot
provide security to his people without concluding a peace settlement with the
Palestinians. Using the latest suicide
operation as a prior requirement to any peace settlement is a waste of time.
Threatening to strike back is part of Israel’s long time excuse for harassing
Jeddah’s conservative Al-Madina editorialized (3/15): "The crimes committed against
Palestinians in the occupied territories are crimes of war according to
international laws. An international court of justice should punish the crimes
of the bloodthirsty leadership in Tel Aviv, with Sharon at the top of this
list. Israel does not want peace, and refuses to accept reality. This must be
opposed if Arabs want to regain their rights."
Riyadh’s moderate Al-Jazirah said (3/14): "Several countries agreed on the
importance of adhering to the roadmap plan, and they have expressed their
concerns toward Sharon’s unilateral disengagement plan. Sharon’s plan lacks the essential elements
for creating a peace settlement, and will only cause more turmoil. This peace process will depend on a plan
prepared by a man deeply involved in terrorism."
Dammam’s moderate Al-Yaum declared (3/14): "By proposing a disengagement plan,
Sharon is reverting back to his previous plan sixteen years ago when he was
Israel’s Foreign Minister. His plan at
that time called for establishing a Palestinian state by dividing the
territory; a suggestion intended to seize more land from the Palestinians. The only way to put an end to Sharon’s games
is by deploying international peacekeeping forces in Gaza, as well as an
assurance from the U.S of implementing the roadmap."
JORDAN: "Gaza For The
Hassan A. Barari wrote in the independent, elite English-language Jordan
Times (3/16): "Notwithstanding
Israeli Prime Minister Sharon's ulterior objective, the plan to withdraw from
the Gaza Strip is a step in the right direction.... A pull out from Gaza...is a significant
precedent that would make it easier for future governments to do the same in
the West Bank. Therefore, a successful implementation of this plan might create
new and positive dynamics in Palestinian-Israeli interaction. Given the gravity of the situation that has
evolved over the last 40 months, one of bloodletting and complete demonisation
of the Palestinian leadership, I believe that unilateral withdrawal is a good
option, provided it is part of a larger scheme for realising peace or in line
with the roadmap.... Yet, there is one
key flaw in Sharon's thinking. He has been seeking to enlist the American
support for his plan, on the condition that it backs the annexation of some
settlements in the West Bank.... Sharon
is trying to reverse one of the major pillars of every U.S. administration,
that settlements are both illegal and an obstacle in the path of peace.... So far, the Americans let it be known that
although they are not against the unilateral disengagement plan in principle,
they want it to include major chunks of the West Bank as well. Given the highly
charged political atmosphere in Israel, it would be rather difficult for Sharon
to comply with the American demands.
Another important point that should be addressed is the necessity to
coordinate with the Palestinians and, probably, with the Egyptians. The last
thing the Palestinians, and indeed the Israelis, need is anarchy in the Gaza
Strip. The balance of power among different factions in Gaza is clearly in
Hamas favour.... An effective
Palestinian leadership should assume responsibility in Gaza; otherwise, a scary
situation is liable to unfold. The
Egyptian readiness, as reported in the media, to deploy its army on the border
with Gaza after withdrawal must be encouraged.... Unfortunately, Sharon lacks a clear political
vision for solving the protracted conflict with the Palestinians. All he has is
the scheme for annexing as much as possible of the Palestinian land. This plan
and the wall are the mechanisms for realising his destructive objectives."
SYRIA: “The Roadmap And
Bashar Zein asserted in the government-owned English-language Syria
Times (3/15): “U.S. President George
Bush officially and publicly adopted the Road Map as the practical means to set
up two states. But what Sharon did was to swallow the whole Road Map without paying
any attention to the U.S. stand. Many Israeli leaders declared the Road Map
dead. The U.S. Administration did not only give in to Israeli intrigues, but it
also started creating the right climate for Sharon’s new plan on withdrawal
from Gaza. Obviously, in these two cases the US Administration gave top
priority to Israeli interests, and not to its own interests nor the issues of
peace and stability in the region....
Despite their awareness of Sharon’s real scheme, several US officials
have already set out to market Sharon’s withdrawal plan from Gaza.... The US is the broker for peace in the Middle
East region. Isn’t it time for the US Administration to take an objective stand
and press Israel into abiding by the resolutions of UNSC and international legitimacy
as a whole?”
Route To More Insecurity"
The English-language, expatriate-oriented Gulf News
commented (3/18): "In deciding to
intensify the assassinations of Palestinian militants, Israel's security
Cabinet has ironically increased the insecurity of its own civilian population.
Unable to match the sophistication and power of the Israeli military machine,
Palestinians are making the supreme sacrifice in a senseless conflict. Time and again, Tel Aviv has shown its
prowess in mounting military campaigns against a helpless Palestinian
population. What it has failed to demonstrate is both its ability and
willingness to engage in a meaningful dialogue aimed at ending the impasse. The
next campaign, which will also target militant leaders, is expected to last
several weeks in the Gaza Strip. Israeli
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, given his obstinacy and misplaced sense of
superiority, is unlikely to heed Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei's
warning that the planned retaliation will only guarantee more violence. A Hamas
spokesperson has already promised as much.
Instead of its oft-repeated call to the Palestinians to first restrain
its militants and suicide bombers, Israel must give the lead, as the occupying
power, in halting the violence it generated. Sadly, that remains at best a
remote possibility--as remote as the Sharon regime playing its part as a true
partner in a dialogue for peace."
Secretly Discuss A Revision To The Camp David Agreement”
Liu Hong commented in official Xinhua News
Agency-run International Herald Leader (Guoji Xianqu Daobao)
(3/18): “The Egyptian
president...recently put forth the idea of a ‘subtle’ change to the Camp David
agreement, hoping that Israel allow it to deploy its military on Gaza’s
borders. This shows how Egypt-Israel
relations have deepened, and also represents Egypt’s acquiescence to and
cooperation with Sharon’s plan of ‘unilateral action'.... Egypt is very clear that Sharon’s unilateral
action is not beneficial for Palestine, but that it is better than a permanent
state of war and that it is a generous move for Sharon to make, and therefore
Egypt must take the initiative in the peace process as requested by
Israel. Egypt’s acquiescence to and
cooperation with Israel’s ‘unilateral action’ is a major diplomatic
breakthrough for Sharon.... The Bush
Administration has shown great interest in the plan, and therefore to a certain
extent ‘unilateral action’ may possibly make the Roadmap impractical.... In the event, Egypt’s moves and Israel’s
obvious joy all prove that: after the Iraq war, the strategic setup in the
Middle East is tilting toward Israel.”