August 24, 2004
ISRAELI SETTLEMENTS: 'FLAGRANT DISREGARD' OF THE ROADMAP
** Sharon's plans for further settlement expansion leaves the
peace process in "shambles."
** Israeli media predict that "construction in the major
settlement blocs will continue."
** Election concerns in the U.S. provide "cover" for
Israel to "do its mischief."
'Ceding the moral high ground'-- Global dailies condemned PM Ariel Sharon's
"maneuver" to expand Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Canada's leading Globe and Mail
assailed the "clear violation" of roadmap commitments; other dailies
termed the expansion "evidence" of Sharon's quest for a "cold
peace," not a negotiated settlement, with Palestinians, who currently have
"no real negotiating power."
Many outlets saw an "implied bargain" in which the settlement
expansion will be "traded off" in exchange for a "Gaza
withdrawal." An Austrian
commentator agreed that the "core of Sharon's plan" is to
"maintain possession of a considerable part of the occupied West
Bank." Attacking Sharon personally,
liberal papers warned that he "cannot be taken at his word." Israel's Ha'aretz criticized Sharon's
"pathetic and shameful" leadership and derided his deceptive
"excuses and prevarications"; Qatar's semi-independent al-Raya
thundered that "there is no longer anyone who believes" Sharon.
'Enforcing peace'-- Israeli
outlets split along ideological lines regarding both Sharon and the future of
the settlements. Leftist writers
expressed concern that if Israel does not disengage from Gaza as Sharon has
promised, it will confirm the belief among Arabs that "it was all an
Israeli plot to deepen the occupation."
Other critics on the left treated the delays in evacuating settlers as
the "continuing surrender of Israeli governments to domineering
settlers." Pro-settler papers,
meanwhile, blasted Sharon for accepting "considerable constraints
regarding the development" of settlements and for his "unconditional
surrender to the racist American dictate" of withdrawal from Gaza. The conservative Jerusalem Post
insisted that the settlement blocs "take up less than a tenth of the West
Bank and do not block the creation of a Palestinian state" and underscored
Palestinian "rejectionism, despotism and aggression."
Bush gave Sharon a 'green light'-- Stressing the Bush administration's desire to
do "whatever is necessary to guarantee votes" of Jews, Muslim writers
blamed "submission to the Zionist lobby" for the U.S.'
"continued support of the Sharon regime." Lebanon's moderate Daily Star warned
that the expanded settlements are a "recipe for anarchy, lawlessness and
immorality," while Algeria's influential El Watan added that the
U.S.' "total contempt" for Arabs will "fuel Islamic
terrorism." Saudi Arabia's
conservative Al-Madina held that the decision "contradicted all
previous commitments" made by the U.S. to control "Israeli
expansion." Palestinian observers
predicted that the U.S. will "totally lose credibility" with this
clear "death sentence against the roadmap"; independent Al-Quds
told Washington that "occupied Palestinian land is not your property to be
disposed of in secret with Israel."
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888,
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. Some commentary is taken directly from the
Internet. This report summarizes and
interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views
of the U.S. government. This analysis
was based on 49 reports from 16 countries over July 27 - August 24, 2004. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most
EDITORS: Saxon Housman and Ben Goldberg
"Israel-Palestine: Diplomacy Must Engage"
The left-of-center Guardian judged (8/20): "In the shambles of what remains of the
peace process, Mr. Sharon’s Gaza proposal has been reluctantly accepted by the
UN secretary general and other international players as better than nothing,
though it is a unilateral step which--if carried through--would risk leaving
the larger problem of the West Bank permanently unresolved. This week the other side of Mr. Sharon’s
implied bargain was spelled out, when plans were announced to accelerate the
expansion of settlements in the West Bank by building an extra 1000 houses for
settlers.... Washington’s initial
low-key response...bears out claims by sources close to Mr. Sharon of a secret
understanding with the Bush administration that its protests will only be muted
and pro forma.... The Israel-Palestine
situation grows ever worse while attention has been fatally diverted by the war
in Iraq and the subsequent occupation.
There is no magic answer, of course, but international diplomacy must
re-engage and...continue to press for a two-state solution between Israel and
Palestine based on the internationally accepted pre-1967 borders.”
The conservative Times opined
(8/18): "Ariel Sharon's decision to
issue tenders for 1,000 new homes in Jewish settlements on the West Bank is a
gamble as fraught with risk as many of the daring military maneuvers that brought
him such success as a battlefield general....
Mr. Sharon has probably gauged overseas reaction correctly. As long as violence continues in Gaza,
turmoil undermines the credibility of the Palestinian Authority, and Yasir
Arafat continues to block negotiations with Israel on security, there is little
reason for Israel to feel under pressure to negotiate, as Mr. Sharon made clear
with his misinterpreted Gaza proposal.
Washington politics are particularly complicated in an election year,
and Israel's prime minister no doubt senses that he can act with the cover of a
presidential election. His domestic
calculations seem less assured. He has,
so far, fended off accusations of political corruption, and he has also
outmaneuvered would-be rivals within Likud.
But Gaza gives his enemies a chance for revenge. Israelis on the Left are reluctant to shore
up Mr. Sharon's power; those on the Right can count on a noisy campaign by settlers
to embarrass a man who has so long championed their cause. Mr. Sharon has tried to defuse opposition by
stalling the details of the pull-out.
Now he hopes the settlements can be traded off for a Gaza
withdrawal. The problem is that by
staking a claim to more territory, Mr. Sharon is ceding the moral high
"Facts Made Of Concrete"
Thorsten Schmitz noted in Munich's center-left Sueddeutsche
Zeitung (8/10): "According to
Israeli media, Premier Sharon has issued a preliminary construction stop for
two settlements and ordered a review of whether the construction takes plan
according to the law. At issue is
whether additional territory on the West Bank is used or whether the apartments
can be included in the existing settlements.
It is only a pro forma gesture to calm things down. But there is a wide gap between the
statements of the Israeli government on (extending) settlements on the West
Bank and the facts on the ground. In the
affected areas, every one can see that the settlements are extended and that
new access roads are being built. And
Ariel Sharon can refer to George W. Bush who assured him in April that Israel
can stay in parts of the West Bank. This
contradicts Palestinian demands for a state territory that is linked up - and
is evidence of Sharon's striving for cold peace with his neighbors."
"Arafat's Dream Has Not Come True"
Susanne Knaul noted in leftist die tageszeitung of Berlin
(8/5): "Looking at the peace
process, Palestinian President Arafat said three years after the negotiations
in Camp David that he would agree on Clinton's plan today. At that time, the former Nobel Peace Prize
winner was sitting behind the gates of his seat in Ramallah, which he does not
leave because he his worried that he could not return. But where could he go anyway? Arafat maneuvered himself onto political sidelines. If there will ever be a peace treaty between
Israel and Palestinians, it won't carry Arafat's signature."
AUSTRIA: "Sharon Wants
A Victor’s Peace"
Peter Huemer contended in mass-circulation provincial Kleine
Zeitung (8/24): “The withdrawal from
the Gaza Strip would be the precondition for the core of Sharon’s plan: for
Israel to maintain possession of a considerable part of the conquered West Bank
and leave the rest to the Palestinians....
The chances that Sharon’s plan will succeed are not bad because a
majority of Israelis are in favor of it, because the Americans will be in favor
of it, and because Sharon the warrior fulfills all preconditions for leading
Israel towards a victor’s peace. And the Palestinians? Their leadership
structures have been completely destroyed by the Israeli army acting on
Sharon’s orders. In addition, and this is the decisive factor, through
corruption, the ineptitude of their leaders, internal power struggles, and
murderous criminal actions against Israelis, they have weakened themselves to
such an extent that, at least for the time being, they have no say over their
"Sharon, The Master Builder"
Markus Bernath opined in liberal Der Standard
(8/18): "Sharon would like to be
remembered in history as the head of the government in Israel who solved the
Palestinian problem by enforcing peace, and who cemented Israel's claim on land
and the strategic security to protect it in the West Bank. Withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, consolidation
of the settlement blocks in the West Bank and the erection of the great barrier
are the three pillars of his peace policy.
The progress he has so far made can be measured by the fact that the
Prime Minister has now only two groups with whom to negotiate his withdrawal
and building concept: the critics in his
own Likud party and the American government.
The Palestinians were actually eliminated as negotiation partners by
President Bush himself. During Sharon’s
visit to Washington in April, Bush, as the first American head of state to do
this, dismissed the theoretical right of the Palestinian refugees to return to
their homeland while at the same time
supporting Sharon’s acquisition of some settlements in the West Jordan in the
framework of a final agreement. Since
then, the Palestinians have had no real negotiating power that they could have
used in their dealings with the Middle East negotiator USA."
"Sharon The Survivor"
Center-left daily The Irish Times editorialized
(8/19): "It is said of the Israeli
prime minister, Mr. Ariel Sharon, that his bulldozer image leaves little room
to appreciate his cunning and guile as a political in-fighter. These skills have been fully in evidence over
the last month in his pursuit of a coalition agreement with the Labor
party.... Mr. Sharon is adept at
jousting with these critics in such a way as to boost his popularity with the
Israeli public, irrespective of whether he wins or loses particular party
tussles.... The announcement on the day
before the meeting that tenders for 1,000 new homes in West Bank settlements
are to be issued was widely seen as a cynical ploy. It could be dropped after criticism by
members of the international Quartet trying to revise the peace process. Mr. Sharon knows most Israeli voters support
the Gaza withdrawal, want to see religious parties out of the coalition and
would accept a Likud-Labor coalition more capable of delivering a two-state
settlement with the Palestinians. But he would have to sacrifice some of his
objectives to reach a deal with Labor....
If it can be agreed, a coalition dominated by Likud and Labor would be
better placed to renew negotiations with the Palestinians, so long as the Gaza
withdrawal was harnessed to the Quartet's road map towards peace.... Mr. Sharon's long-term strategy has been to
weaken the Palestinian leadership and the resistance to Israeli occupation by
brutal force, political guile and faits accomplis. It would be foolish not to take account of
his parallel capacity to survive within the cauldron of Israeli politics
despite disaffection in his party."
NORWAY: "Help To Get
Out Of Gaza"
John Hultgren commented in newspaper-of-record Aftenposten
(8/23): "The plan to build 1000 new
residences in the existing settlement in the West Bank could not be further
removed from the roadmap to peace.... By
silently supporting an extension of the settlement in the West Bank, which the
International community considers illegal, Bush wishes to demonstrate the political
warmth that Israel can expect from Washington should they carry out the
Gaza-plan.... Even though it is
difficult to predict what the result will be of the two insurrections, against
the Gaza plan and in favor of reforms, they create hope of a change in the
political stagnation that has colored the situation for many years. The
remaining question then is what direction such change would take.”
SPAIN: "Time For
Important Decisions In Israel"
Conservative ABC declared (8/20): "This is one of the few times in which
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon seems to be the determined promoter...of a
chapter in the 'Road Map'.... Although
it is an Israel's unilateral decision, even the most reluctant have ended up recognizing
that, if the promise is kept, it is better than nothing.... The problem would be if Sharon wanted to use
the decision of keeping the withdrawal plans from the Gaza strip in exchange
for continuing to build the wall in the West Bank as currently designed. The Israeli PM should understand that the
international community will not accept that the price for the withdrawal of
the tenant farmers from Gaza be the obligingness of the appropriation of the
Palestinian territories that remain inside the abusive design of the defensive
wall. If one wants to see the bottle
half full, one may feel at least the illusion that this move might contribute
to break in some way the vicious circle of
violence-suppression-terrorism-reprisal-violence.... But, on the other hand, it does not seem odd
to the domestic Israeli politics the fact that the shadow of elections is on
the horizon...and, if the Labor Party doesn't help Sharon, the Parliament might
be dissolved even earlier."
Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized
(8/24): "For years any expansion of
Israeli communities, known as settlements, in Judea and Samaria, known as the
West Bank, was met by knee-jerk American opposition. Now it seems the
automaticity of this policy is being reconsidered. It's about time.... The whole obsession with settlements is a
holdover from a pre-9/11 era. Since
then, American thinking has rightly been turned upside down.... Once upon a time, settlements were seen as
the way to block a Palestinian state.
But now that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has displayed such incredible
determination to dismantle just such settlements, it makes all the more sense
for the U.S. to stop playing into the perennial Palestinian attempt to change
the subject from its own rejectionism, despotism, and aggression. We welcome the signs that the U.S. may put
away its settlement microscope, and support the growth of the settlement blocs,
which take up less than a tenth of the West Bank and do not block the creation
of a Palestinian state. Far from harming
the 'peace process,' this overdue shift would help compel the Palestinians to
make one possible."
"Apartheid Against Settlers"
Dan Margalit stated in popular, pluralist Maariv
(8/24): "The news that 115 foreign
ministers [of non-aligned nations] recommended that their governments forbid
settlers entry into their sovereign territory was received in Israel with
unforgivable indifference.... It is easy
to imagine what lies ahead...perhaps some countries will make do with obliging
people who live in the territories to sew a yellow star on their
clothes.... It is a terrifying
prospect.... Even in its current stage,
as a recommendation only, this is a statement that cannot be tolerated because
it is a seminal moment in the process of delegitimizing [Israel] that is
underway in Europe and in Asia, which is aimed against the very existence of
Israel. Ultimately, this process will
not stop at the Green Line. It is
testimony to a general hostility towards the state of the Jews, which feeds on
undeniably anti-Semitic roots....
[Nevertheless], it was because of the settlers' expansionist urges that
the government of Israel was cast as deceitful and mendacious and untrue to its
word, when it broke its commitment to the U.S. to stop expanding settlements
and to remove the illegal settlement outposts.... They share some of the responsibility for the
practical deterioration of the situation of all Jews in Israel in the
international arena. That is very heavy
responsibility, but it should not spur Jews in veteran Israel to reconcile
themselves with an apartheid policy....
If there is a country that refuses to allow a settler in its midst, it
is not worthy of receiving me as a visitor."
"Only The Building Goes On And On"
Aluf Benn opined in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz
(8/22): "Saturday's New York
Times said the U.S.agrees to building in some of the settlements,
supporting Sharon's position. Perhaps
the report, which surprised Israeli officials, was 'ordered' by Sharon's aides,
to show the administration's support for him after the defeat in the
Likud. The newspaper is no less reliable
than an official statement and spares the administration the need to explain to
its Arab and European friends. The U.S.
has attempted to restrict the settlements since Sharon's election.... The White House demanded, and received, in
exchange for Bush's April letter to Sharon a commitment for a joint demarcation
of the existing building line in each settlement. The understanding has no definition of 'existing
building line' and, in addition, Israel promised to limit the building, but
received no restriction on planning and taking over lands. Thus it can prepare 'strengthening' its hold
in the settlement blocs. The political
vacuum, due to the U.S. elections, gives Sharon relative freedom of movement in
the settlements. The main concern of
defense sources is that the disengagement will not take place, supporting the
claim of the Palestinians and of Arab states that it was all an Israeli plot to
deepen the occupation."
Ultra-Orthodox Yated Ne'eman declared (8/23): "The close relations between Prime
Minister Sharon and U.S. President Bush are being expressed as both leaders are
in the middle of a tough struggle of survival.... Reports that the U.S. Administration wouldn't
object to continued construction in settlement blocs to fulfill needs of
'natural growth' have not been exposed by chance. Someone in the Administration is interested
in the reports reaching the [American] Jewish public--in these very days.... There can be no doubt that the reports about
the 'permit' being granted to [Sharon] by the Administration to build in
settlement blocs strengthens his position, also among the most right-wing Likud
members. The story...is therefore useful
to both sides--the U.S. administration and Sharon."
"Another Maneuver By Sharon"
Nationalist Orthodox Hatzofe editorialized (8/18): "The submission of the construction
plans for the settlements in Judea and Samaria [i.e. the West Bank] is yet
another maneuver by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.... Mr. prime minister, there is no one left who
believes you. The effort that the prime
minister has been making with regard to assembling the Likud Convention also
includes issuing threats that if he does not get what he wants, he will
resign. We heard the very same threats,
word for word, only a short time ago, on the eve of Sharon's defeat in the
referendum on disengagement. Then too we
were intimidated with completely identical words. A day after the referendum everything was
forgotten. It is possible that the prime
minister is depending on the fact that our memory is short. There may be something in this--otherwise,
Sharon would not have been elected.
However, we are still not that senile."
"Marzel's Men To Settlers: Fight 'Insane Sharon'"
Efrat Weiss held in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot
Aharonot (8/17): "The party led
by right-wing activist Barukh Marzel has sent a letter to the settlers, calling
upon then in radical terms to escalate the struggle against the disengagement
plan, 'to stop the old man Sharon's madness and rout the forces of destruction
and ruin.... Behold, the disengagement
plan of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has befallen us--a plan for unconditional
surrender to the racist American dictate and to the murderous Arab enemy, a
plan for desertion in the midst of battle, for your eviction from your homes
and for razing your settlements to the ground.
It is the first stage on the way to the liquidation of the entire
settlement enterprise in Judaea and Samaria, according to the Palestinians'
phased plan, which the old man Sharon has adopted after losing his way in the
darkness of his dotage.... The time has
come to launch a fearsome and uncompromising struggle over the Bloc, over the
Strip, over northern Samaria, and thereby over the entire Land of Israel. This action must be forceful, almost on the
brink of aggressiveness.... Mass
demonstrations must lay siege to this malevolent cabinet during its meetings, and
bottle up the ministers for many hours and days, until they are fed up with
their posts and beg to be let out of the building; and non-violent civil disobedience must be
prepared for--and started really soon'....
The old man Sharon has become a withered member, drooping and flaccid,
bereft of any judgment. The collapse of
his bodily systems threatens the entire state with a similar collapse. This is the way of all flesh: while slowly staggering to his own finish,
the old man Sharon, who has lost his mind, is seeking to bring down all of
Israel and take it with him."
"Enough Of The Winking"
Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized
(8/17): "There is something both
pathetic and shameful as far as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's leadership is
concerned, regarding the regular reminders that the U.S. administration keeps sending
his way about keeping his promise on the evacuation of outposts.... Ever since Sharon's commitment last June that
'the rule of law and order reigns in Israel, and we are immediately beginning
the evacuation of the unauthorized outposts,' an enormous fabric of excuses and
evasions has emerged to avoid implementing that decision: ...[the ultimate one
being] the open admission by nearly all of Sharon's associates that it is
pointless to evacuate the outposts when a much more important matter, the disengagement
and evacuation of settlers, is on the agenda.
Of all the excuses and prevarications, that last is the most pathetic
and deceptive of them all, perhaps revealing the true intention when it comes
to execution of the disengagement.
Government decisions should be fulfilled as stated, and as soon as
possible. Without an immediate and
determined evacuation of the outposts, not only won't there be a buildup of
energies and emotional forces before the disengagement takes place, but the
contrary: it will serve as a precedent
and an example of the continuing surrender of Israeli governments to the
Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized
(8/15): "Sharon's anger will not be
enough. Both senior officials should
know better than making statements that are above their station and that can
potentially undermine Israel's position in future negotiations.... In a country continually faced with urgent
crises, it is sometimes hard to deal with the merely important ones. But the crisis of Israeli governance may not
be able to wait much longer. A prime
minister who must routinely contend with insubordinate cabinet members and
generals cannot be expected to govern effectively. As they used to say, 'Loose lips sink
"He's No De Gaulle"
Liberal columnist Gideon Samet commented in independent,
left-leaning Ha'aretz (8/13):
"With Sharon anything is possible.
It's quite possible--nobody really knows--that this was his aim in the
first place: to make noises in favor of
disengagement and the evacuation of settlements, to humiliate his main election
rivals, and then to go to the next U.S. president, as well as to the Israeli
majority that supports his plan, and to tell them that he tried, by everything
sacred to him he tried--but didn't succeed.
If that's what happens, all the Sharon critics will pick up their heads
that were lowered for the sake of his experiment, and will see Sharon right in
the place where he was, with a justice that he himself brought about. He's no de Gaulle, he's no Menachem
Begin: he is a man, as David Ben-Gurion
warned long ago, who cannot be taken at his word."
"The Hidden Side Of Disengagement"
Aluf Ben concluded in independent left-leaning Ha'aretz
(8/11): "Sharon made it clear that
withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria is just one side of a
triangle whose other sides are completing the separation fence in the West Bank
and 'strengthening control' over the settlement blocs.... Through its numerous incarnations, his plan
for widening Israel's narrow hips and holding on to 'the security zones' in the
West Bank continues to guide him to this day.
The list of projects planned for the settlements, which is now under
review, follows along the same line.
Sharon and Mofaz have been downplaying their roles in bolstering
settlements, despite the fact that their signatures are required for every move
there. They prefer to be seen as the
statesmen of disengagement, and to hide behind former housing minister Effi
Eitam. Complaints by the Yesha Council
of Jewish settlements about freezing and drying only help to sustain that
image. And when their cover is blown in
the media, and the American administration grumbles, the transparent excuses
are whipped out. 'That's an old plan,'
'Rabin approved it,' etc. So what? Rabin also talked to Arafat and considered
withdrawing from the Golan Heights. But
that's enough for the American administration, preoccupied by a difficult
election campaign, to look in other directions.
Therefore, even if the fence route moves close to the Green Line, and
even if the outposts are vacated, construction in the major settlements will
continue. The defense minister already
said on some occasion that Ma'ale Adumim is a city in Israel, not some little
settlement or isolated outpost."
Aluf Benn judged in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz
(8/8): "In any case the
disengagement will occur, if at all, beyond the present horizon of Bush's
administration, which may not be in office next year. As far as the present White House staff is
concerned, the outposts are the most painful thorn in relations with
Israel. Again and again Sharon promised
to evacuate them, and always the promise turned to excuses and evasions.... Sharon knows the outposts' affair is a test
of his credibility in the U.S. and that if elected John Kerry will also not
leave him alone on this matter. Still, it is difficult to see how his men can
unravel all at once a 37-year old legal tangle, move the defense establishment,
which is not thrilled at handling the outposts, and remove them from the hills
by November. This is especially so since
at the same time they have to bring Labor into the cabinet, overcome the
rebellion in the Likud, pass the budget, and approve legislation to compensate
the evacuated settlers of Gaza and the northern West Bank."
"Make Up Your Minds Already"
Yoel Marcus, in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz,
commented (8/6): "The bottom of a
barrel symbolizes something that has an end. Ergo, eliminating terror by force
is possible.... As long as life sucks
and their national aspirations are not achieved, terror will increase....
Looking at all this confusion, with Sharon busy assembling a broad coalition in
favor of leaving the Gaza Strip, and Israel entering an era of political
maneuvering and pressure, the time has come to say: 'Hey guys, make up your minds already! Quit arguing over whether or not a barrel has
a bottom and start looking for one that contains prospects for a diplomatic
agreement. Without that, we'll never see
the end of terror.'"
"A Freeze In The West Bank"
Nationalist, orthodox Hatzofe editorialized (8/6): "The U.S. wants to apply 'freezing
pictures' around the Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria [i.e. the West
Bank]. Not only does it oppose expansion
of construction outside the settlements' borders as shown in aerial
photographs, but it also rejects further construction inside those settlements. It claims that an agreement on the matter was
reached during Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's latest meeting with President
George Bush in the White House....
Little by little, Sharon's 'achievements' during his visit to the U.S.
capital are being exposed. Not only did
the prime minister not obtain an unequivocal promise from the U.S. that it
support the annexation of significant parts of Judea and Samaria to Israel, but
also Sharon actually accepted considerable constraints regarding the
development of the Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria, including the
Etzion Bloc settlements adjoining the old, pre-Six Day War border.... We must free ourselves as soon as possible
from the 'freezing point' and allow Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria, and
the Gaza Strip, to develop without restraint."
"Palestinian Land Isn't America's To Dispose Of"
Independent Al-Quds editorialized (8/23): "News about an American-Israeli
agreement according to which the U.S. approves settlement expansion in the
Occupied Territories, using new expressions like ‘vertical expansion’ in some
settlements, reflects a serious development in the American administration’s
stand on the Palestinian cause and international legitimacy.... This American position means ignoring all previously
signed agreements, including Oslo, which the U.S. signed and considered the
foundation of the peace process....
Certainly, this American position places more obstacles before peace
efforts, including the road map about whose implementation the U.S. claims to
be concerned. What should be said to
Washington here is that occupied Palestinian land is not your property to be
disposed of in secret with Israel. If
you are concerned about achieving peace, you had better have respect for
international legitimacy, principles of justice, freedom and signed agreements,
and stand with the international community in denouncing Israeli aggression and
settlements, in order to end the occupation and allow the Palestinian people to
enjoy their legitimate rights. Although
the credibility of American policy collapsed a long time ago, this new stance
proves that there are those in Washington who are intent on gaining still more
hostility and hatred for an American policy that favors the Israeli occupation
Yusuf Qazzaz observed in official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida
(8/23): "Any American flexibility
toward settlement on Palestinian land is a death sentence against the
roadmap. If the information released by
the NY Times regarding Washington’s approval of vertical expansion of
some settlements is correct, the U.S. will totally lose its credibility with
regard to the peace process. The current
American administration apparently does not realize that any Israeli settlement
is basically [both] the physical expansion of Israeli occupation of Palestinian
land and the breakup of the country in which the Palestinian people are to
establish their own sovereign state with Jerusalem as its capital.... Thus, any American support to any form of settlements
bids peace farewell and generates wars in the form of Intifadas [uprisings] and
other forms of resistance.”
"We Can Make Israel An International Rogue State"
Talal 'Ukal observed in independent Al-Ayyam (8/19): "Press statements talk about the
Americans being annoyed at Israeli challenges, whether in terms of dismantling
what have been called unauthorized settlement outposts or of building new
housing units. Nevertheless, Sharon does
not care and faces such statements with more obstinacy. Sharon is apparently taking advantage of the
American administration’s preoccupation with elections while he continues
previous Israeli governments’ habit of blackmailing those running for the White
House. It would have been only normal
for the American administration, as a means of maintaining its dignity, to take
a clear stance to halt Sharon’s, which is a real violation of American
policy. However, this is not the case. The American administration seems to support
this policy and, on the pretext that it’s busy with elections, runs from taking
different positions and throws dust in the Arabs’ eyes.”
"Settlement Expansion With Washington's Knowledge"
Independent Al-Quds noted (8/18): "Yesterday, the Israeli Government
issued tenders for the construction of 1,000 new housing units in West Bank
settlements.... Political analysts and
observes stress that it 'conflicts with the road map,' because this initiative
calls for freezing any construction in all settlements, whether settlement
outposts or big settlements....
Settlement activity and construction inside settlements have not
stopped, but rather have escalated and intensified. Moreover, settlement outposts have not been
removed. To the contrary, it seems that
their numbers have mushroomed, and that they receive [government]
appropriations as well as financial and logistic aid; therefore they have been
expanding each year. The strange thing
is that the Israeli sources do not care about international reactions in
general, and about what is being issued or not issued by the United States in
terms of feeble statements that do not rise up to the level of condemnation of
these settlement activities....
Palestinians do not believe the U.S.'s stance has ever been strong
enough toward settlements.... Perhaps
the fact that U.S. President Bush recognizes the majority of Jewish settlements
in the West Bank as a fait accompli is an indicator of the blatant U.S.
connivance over the flagrant violations of the peace process and of Israel's
and Washington's commitments toward peace initiatives and the road map."
"Nothing But Lies"
Independent Al-Quds noted (8/18): "The obstinate stand taken by Sharon
concerning the construction of hundreds of new houses for Jewish settlers only
means one thing, that whatever claims made [by Sharon] over withdrawal from
Palestinian territories or acceptance of the resolutions from the Quartet are
nothing but lies."
"Israeli Policy: Spinning Inside The Empty Circle Of
Rajab Abu Sariya commented in independent Al-Ayyam
(8/13): "One of the direct
objectives of the Sharon's disengagement plan is confronting the political
pressures that regional and international parties have exerted on Israel.... The mere declaration of this plan has, to a
large extent, achieved this Israeli goal, foiling those regional and
international political arguments. But
even more, it has attenuated the international community’s abiding interest in
the whole issue of trying to find political solutions.... If not for the Egyptian efforts, which have
emerged as a result of the Quartet's failure to fulfill its commitments toward
its own road map and the Middle East conflict, there wouldn't have been any
mention of Sharon's plan."
"Fighting The Wrong Battle"
An editorial in the independent pro-PA
English-language Jerusalem Times read (8/13): "The trouble with the Palestinian
cabinet and decision makers is that while they fight over posts in a country
that does not yet exist, the Israeli occupation authorities are proceeding with
plans to eat up the land and kick out its Palestinian population. The internal power struggle has diverted
attention away from the battle over the separation wall and the rapid
construction of settlements in the West Bank.
Even President Arafat has mentioned this when he came out with Qurei to
announce that they have resolved their differences over the post of prime
minister. Arafat looked at the large
number of press present outside his office and scolded them for wasting their
time over internal political disputes while neglecting what the Israeli
occupation was doing on the ground. But
the question remains, who is truly responsible for this diversion?"
"It is High Time To Act In A Responsible
Talal Awkal asserted in independent Al-Ayyam
(8/12): "We are not facing the
question: do you, or do you not, agree
on Sharon's plan? Sharon is not waiting
for, and does not even want, an answer.
The Palestinians, according to Sharon, have to deal with the
consequences of the plan, whether they like it or not. It is perhaps clear now that Sharon does not
mind, and in fact would like, the PA to carry out its role in the Gaza
Strip.... The Palestinians are forced to
deal with the consequences of Sharon's plan....
The issue is not only dealing with a new reality that aims at destroying
the Palestinian hopes and expectations, as well as all the possibilities of the
peace process.... If it is necessary to
take the initiative for rearranging the Palestinian state of affairs in a way
that responds to the challenges of Sharon's plan, which constitutes a challenge
for the Palestinian national enterprise and the unified Palestinian
representation, then everyone should shoulder the historic responsibility. We may not be generous with others and stingy
with ourselves. Likewise, we may not
take the most important steps as a result of pressure and foreign demands at a
time when these steps are originally, though with different content,
Palestinian necessities first, second, and third. "
Jeddah’s conservative Al-Madina contended (8/23): "It goes without saying that Prime
Minister Sharon would not have announced his settlement expansion project
without a green light from Washington.
Back in May 2004 President Bush gave Prime Minister Sharon a green light
to occupy whatever he [Sharon] wanted in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and add
it to Israel’s declared land. This
guarantee has contradicted all previous commitments of past U.S.
administrations to keep Israeli expansion under control. It also goes without saying that President
Bush would not have given Sharon these guarantees if the election were not
around the corner."
"U.S. Support Of Israeli Settlement Policy"
Makkah’s conservative Al-Nadwa held (8/23): "Lately there have been many changes in
U.S. policies towards the Palestinian issue.
These changes have become worrisome to the Palestinians, especially when
the U.S. is still the alleged sponsor of the peace process. The most dangerous change in U.S. policy has
been the U.S. support of the Israeli settlements.... This must be a direct result of the election
fever that has hit the U.S. Both parties in the U.S. are doing whatever is
necessary to guarantee votes of Jewish lobbies in their election
campaigns. However, in these cases U.S.
politicians must differentiate between short-term gains and long-term gains. A stance regarding Israel’s expansion of
settlements should not be a part of the deal, no matter who gets the
Jeddah’s conservative Al-Madina
editorialized (8/18): "We are not
surprised that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced his approval for
bids to build 1,000 new homes in the Jewish settlements on the West Bank. He is the legal father of the settlement
expansion program in Israel. But the
surprising thing is the U.S. support for this issue. Washington has always pressed Israel to
dismantle the expanding settlements in order to revive the road map and the
peace process. It seems that President
Bush does not want to incur the anger of Jewish groups prior to the U.S.
presidential election.... Now we want to
see a clear and strong Arab position.
"When Sharon’s Aggression Ends"
Jeddah’s moderate Okaz stated
(8/18): "The Israelis under the
leadership of Sharon do not want a rebirth of Palestine or the peace
process.... Will the world believe their
lies or have faith in Sharon’s claims?"
Abha’s moderate Al-Watan commented
(8/18): "While the world and the
Arabs are busy with Darfur and the Iraq crisis, and the U.S. is occupied with
the presidential election and Iraq, Israel is aiming at carrying out its
expansion project. The Arabs must
immediately reject the Israeli project.
Sharon intends to bring in more Jewish people to force Palestinians to
accept any peace plane.... The announced
American position is not really serious.
Washington simply expressed its disappointment of the expansion because
it contradicts the road map. The
American administration understands the Israeli position because it feels that
'Sharon needs' such a step to secure the support of his allies regarding the
withdrawal from Gaza."
"No Hope For Revival"
Jeddah's moderate Okaz opined
(8/18): "The Sharon government's
policies will finally lead to the burial of the road map. With the continuing construction of the
separation barrier, expansion of the West Bank settlements and the continuing
military operations in the Palestinian territories, there is no hope for a
revival of the peace process."
Alignment: U.S. Support Of Israeli
Influential French-language El Watan declared (8/23): "Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Prime Minister,
has decided to enlarge the West Bank settlements. Instead of condemning this nth violation of
international law, the U.S. has suggested that the Israelis develop their
settlements in a ‘vertical’ way! Being a
signatory to the Israeli-Palestinian roadmap with the EU, the UN, and Russia,
the U.S. should have at least warned its more than spoiled ally.... This position proves that the U.S. puts
Israeli interests, as unfair as they are, above peace and that it is ready to
sacrifice its own interests for Tel Aviv's expansionism. This attitude also confirms the U.S.' total
contempt for the Palestinian people in particular and the Arab people in
general. The U.S. still has not drawn
the conclusion that its behavior towards the Palestinian tragedy fuels Islamic
terrorism. This scourge of the age will
persist if the U.S. does not adopt a balanced position in the Near East and
continues to illegally occupy Iraq.
Americans are thus giving strong argument to the Islamists to attack
Recipe For Lawlessness"
An editorial in the moderate English-language Daily Star
read (8/24): "The Palestinians have
taken a double hit this week with the news that Washington has quietly softened
its opposition to growth in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip,
and Israeli’s announcement of plans to build 530 new settler homes in the West
Bank. The Palestinians are the first and
major victim of this double aggression.
But the ultimate damage will be felt in the form of damage to the
century-old global effort to build a credible edifice of relations among
nations governed by law.... Washington
makes it known...that it could accept building within existing construction
lines of settlements that have spread on territory Israel captured in
1967. It had previously insisted on a
construction freeze under the roadmap....
If Washington feels that its change in position on settlement expansion
is important now because it helps Sharon deflect internal far-right opposition,
it should stop being so short-sighted and consider the longer-term damage that
comes from its decision. When the
world’s largest power and erstwhile guardian and promoter of democracy and the
rule of law blatantly ignores the overwhelming global consensus on the
illegality of Israel’s colonial adventure in the West Bank and Gaza, it sends
dangerous signals: that the law does not matter, that a global consensus is
meaningless, that the powerful can do as they please.... Washington cannot long expect to have either
friends or admirers if it insists on unilaterally defining global norms, waging
wars for ‘regime change,’ reordering entire regions, transforming a legitimate
anti-terror campaign into a messy adventure in Iraq and everywhere demanding
that its officials and soldiers remain exempt of any accountability to
international law. This is not a recipe for peace...it is a recipe for anarchy,
lawlessness, and immorality."
"What Peace Bush Is Talking About?"
Aouni Al-Kaa’ki thundered in pro-Syria Ash-Sharq
(8/23): "Perhaps the important
question an Arab should pose today is the following: Is the U.S. really interested in achieving
peace in the region?.... The answer is
obvious.... There is no doubt that the
war against Iraq...is to help Israel to continue its domination over
Arabs.... The latest decision that was
taken by this current anti-Arab U.S. Administration is giving the green light
for Israel to build settlements in the West Bank.... This is...Bush’s promise to Sharon.... Of course Sharon and Bush want to stop any
possibility of reaching Palestinian statehood.”
"The American Israeli Settlements Dance Cannot Continue"
An unsigned editorial in the moderate English-language The
Daily Star noted (8/18):
“Palestinians and Arabs have lost all hope in the road map concept, and
in the underlying idea that the United States can be a credible diplomatic
interlocutor.... The continued
American-Israeli dance over Israel’s settlements and continued colonization of the
occupied Palestinian territories is a central reason why tens of millions of
people in the Middle East so vigorously reject any dealings with Israel and
angrily oppose American Mideast policies.
The U.S. administration is preoccupied with Iraq and the American
presidential election, making it easier for Israel to do its mischief. But this is not a new phenomenon. Israel and the U.S. have been acting like
this for decades. It is impossibly
unrealistic for Washington to expect to engage Arab governments and people on
issues like reform, weapons proliferation and anti-terror policies while it
plays deception games with the world when it comes to Israel’s settlements and
"Brink Of Explosion"
Business-oriented Dubai-based Al-Bayan
thundered (8/19): "Israeli Premier
Ariel Sharon's decision to build 1,000 new houses in the West Bank...is pushing
the region to the brink of an explosion and killing any hope for Arab-Israeli
peace.... The terrorist Sharon
leads...an effective trend by the Zionists to destroy more Palestinian lands,
to abort any international move to end the conflict and to sabotage any effort
for a political plan, especially the 'road map' that was supported by all the
world powers.... Sharon is trying to
benefit from the current international atmosphere and the deteriorating Arab
conditions.... It is not in the Zionist
entity's long-term interests, especially given that the owners of the land
(Palestinians) will never agree to giving up an inch of the land."
"No Hope For Peace"
Pro-government Al-Raya noted (8/18): "The policies taken by Sharon's
government will finally lead to the burial of the road map. With the continuing construction of the
separation barrier, expansion of the West Bank settlements and the continuing
military operations in the Palestinian territories, there is no hope for the
peace process to be revived."
Pro-government Al-Raya commented
(8/18): "There is a serious effort
by the Zionist regime to acquire more Palestinian land and sabotage any
international efforts to end the conflict.
We know that Sharon wants to take advantage of the current international
environment and the deteriorating Arab situation. In the long run, however, this will not be in
the interest of the Zionist regime, since no landowners will ever give up an
inch of their territory."
Arabic-language semi-independent Al-Watan
opined (8/18): "The presentation of
plans for construction in Judea and Samaria [West Bank] constitute another
maneuver by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
What a strange coincidence, exactly on the eve of the Likud conference,
that the prime minister suddenly emerges as 'the biggest builder of Judea and
Samaria'. Time after time the prime
minister initiates futile maneuvers and he thinks that there are still those
who believe him. Mr. Prime Minister,
there is no longer anyone who believes you."
"A Call To Re-Read The Struggle In The Region"
Ali Nasrallah noted in government-owned Al-Thawra
(8/23): "The Bush Administration
has turned its back to the peace process. It created the Roadmap, then it
revoked its modest vision on this plan....
The Israeli government intention to expand Israeli settlements poses new
obstacles to peace. The U.S. administration's endorsement of the Israeli plan
and its recognition of Israel's need is an obviously dangerous collaboration
that aggravates tension in the region and supports Israel's endeavor to impose
a status quo which is rejected on the international level. Some people might justify the U.S. position
by the approaching U.S. elections. The U.S. administration's submission to the
Zionist lobby is sufficient reason for the world community and people in the
region to withdraw their trust from Washington and to disqualify it from its
role as a sponsor of the peace process."
MALAYSIA: "Tough Steps
By NAM To Punish Israel"
The government-influenced New Straits Times opined
(8/24): "After failing to get
Israel to abide UN resolutions, especially over withdrawal of military
occupation from Palestinian lands, the Non-Aligned Movement member countries
have all agreed on a boycott of Israeli products. Together with punishing and protesting
against Israel, NAM has voiced its disappointment with the U.S. for failing to
use its influence on the Jewish regime to abide by the UN resolutions and the
decision by the International Court of Justice regarding the Palestinian
issue. The firm stand by NAM is a sign
that developing and third world countries are tired of Israel’s arrogance, and
of the U.S.’ continued support of the Ariel Sharon regime. The financial and moral help from the U.S.
has made Sharon bolder in his disregard of the international outcry over
injustices in Palestine. The boycott by
NAM really does not make a difference to Malaysia, as this country already has
no trade with Israel."
Fanatics Must Be Reined In"
An editorial in moderately conservative, English-language Bangkok
Post noted (7/27): "In the
three tumultuous years since he came to power in Israel, Ariel Sharon has all
but torn up the 'road map' to peace and tossed it away.... Of course, Sharon alone cannot be blamed for
the grim outlook for peace. Arafat has
proven himself to be little more than a corrupt, self-serving fraud, with few
genuine leadership skills other than to play rival factions off against each
other. The lack of progress in political
reform in Palestine also lends credence to Israel's assertion that it has no
credible partner in the peace process.
Washington...is content to buy Sharon's line that the Palestinian
conflict is somehow an extension of George Bush's war on terror. This...will only ensure the prolongation of
conflict and continued Arab hatred of Israel and the western world. Perhaps the best Israelis and Palestinians
can hope for is to allow nature to take its course and free them of aging obstinate
leaders like Sharon and Arafat. Let's
hope the next generation of leaders on both sides will have learned to work
together to end this senseless blood feud that has dragged on for far too
CANADA: "A Regrettable
The leading Globe and Mail declared (8/24): "In diplomacy, silence can speak as
loudly as the noisiest protest. When Israel announced plans to build 1,001 new
homes in the West Bank, the silence from Washington echoed around the Middle
East like a rifle shot. For the past three years, the U.S. government has
condemned settlement expansions as a violation of its Middle East
policy.... But when the Israeli
government issued tenders for the state-subsidized apartments in four major
settlements last week, Washington said it was withholding judgment. In the real
world, that appeared to mean: Go right
ahead and build--an unfortunate message from a country that hopes to serve as a
mediator between Israelis and Palestinians. The reasons for the American silence
were obvious enough. This is an election year in the U.S., and President George
W. Bush wants to appeal to conservative and Jewish voters by doing a favour for
Israel. This is also a time of political tension in Israel itself. Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon is facing a revolt from hard-line members of his Likud
party who oppose his plans to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and uproot Jewish
settlements there. The settlement announcement was timed to help defuse that
revolt, and Washington's restrained reaction was part of the same game. The
Bush administration rightly wants the Gaza pullout to go ahead, and it is doing
everything it can to help Mr. Sharon win his internal battle.... But, in this case, Washington's realism goes
too far. It is only a year or so since the U.S. launched what was supposed to
be a major new Middle East peace initiative: the 'road map.' It called for a
freeze on all Israeli settlement activity. Where is that map now? Lost in the
glove compartment? While it is true that the Palestinian side has failed to
hold up its side of the bargain--internal reform and a crackdown on
terrorism--that does not release Israel from its obligations. Nor does it mean
that Washington can ignore the peace plan it championed and helped design. Israel, of course, refuses to concede it is
violating the road map.... Similarly,
Washington's acquiescence will be seen as more proof of its refusal to
criticize or rein in its Israeli partner. Those perceptions matter. The U.S.
will have to be part of any future peace deal. To be an honest broker, it must
show it is willing to speak up when its ally strays, as Israel clearly did last
"Ariel Sharon's Error"
The leading Globe and Mail opined (8/19): "There are several ways in which one
could attempt to justify Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's approval of
plans to build 1,001 new homes in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. None withstands close scrutiny. The building plan is a clear violation of
Israel's commitments under last year's road-map agreement. It is difficult to see how this serves the
cause of Middle East peace.... But
here's the rub. The principles outlined
in the road map--a viable Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, next to
a secure Israel--are still the only known way to peace in the Middle East. Whatever Mr. Sharon's true intentions may be,
whatever venality and incompetence Mr. Arafat has shown, the fact is that
Israel, as a democracy, must be held to a higher standard. Mr. Sharon has promised in writing to freeze
settlement growth. If Israel is to
retain any credibility in whatever negotiations lie ahead, he should do