November 1, 2004
SHARON'S GAZA WITHDRAWAL PLAN: 'A STEP FORWARD'
** Most Israeli media applaud Knesset vote for the "unprecedented dismantling of settlements."
** Global media praise "war-horse" Sharon for breaking a "taboo" on settlements.
** Arab dailies call withdrawal from Gaza a ploy to hang on to more of the West Bank.
'A historic decision'-- Most Israeli papers praised the Knesset's "landmark decision" backing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw settlers from Gaza. Calling the vote a "decisive victory," left-leaning Ha'aretz judged it granted Sharon and his plan "legislative, democratic and public legitimacy." Writing in the same paper, another analyst termed it "a brilliant idea to cut the Gordian knot" of the settlement problem by withdrawing from Gaza. The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post joined other papers in spurning the call for a referendum and urged critics in the Likud government, such as former PM Benjamin Netanyahu to "accept the results" of the vote or offer their resignations from the cabinet. Nationalist Hatzofe, in contrast, denounced the vote as "illegitimate" and demanded a referendum to prevent "a deep rift" among Israelis that could "drift into violence."
Sharon, peace process 'need support'-- Most global media viewed the Sharon plan as the "first positive signal" in months and said the Israeli leader had shown "remarkable courage" in trying to break the "Israeli-Palestinian logjam." A number of dailies noted that Sharon may have seemed an "unlikely" author of the move, but--as with Nixon and China--perhaps only Israel's "toughest war-horse" could carry off the "audacious" plan. Liberal Tokyo Shimbun and other Japanese papers insisted that Sharon "must tie the pullout plan to the roadmap." Elsewhere, papers called on the international community to lend support. "Israelis are pitted against each other," noted France's right-of-center Le Figaro. "This is why we must do everything" to help Sharon and advances towards peace. Most also shared the view of Brazil's liberal Folha de S. Paulo that dismantling Gaza settlements would not bring peace; that required a "feasible Palestinian state." This, in the words of an independent British broadsheet, means withdrawing "from more of the West Bank than Mr. Sharon is likely to contemplate."
Vote is 'start of a new battle'-- Arab dailies, and some leftist outlets elsewhere, dismissed the Gaza plan as a "lie" and a "purely tactical" ploy to undo the roadmap and pursue "annexation" of major settlements in the West Bank. "Sharon's plan," said the West Bank's official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, "is basically a plan to cancel the roadmap." Saudi Arabia's moderate Al-Jazirah, like many, attributed Sharon's agenda to "his defeat at the hands of the strong resistance" in Gaza. Writers also complained that Israel "will only add to the complicated situation" by making "unilateral decisions." One editorialist tied Sharon's difficulty in getting Knesset approval to a "deep-rooted Israeli hesitation" about resolving the Palestinian question. A Qatari observer predicted the withdrawal "will simply mark a new phase" in the conflict, with the "main battle" being transferred to the West Bank.
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, email@example.com
EDITOR: Steven Wangsness
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 64 reports from 25 countries October 26 - 29, 2004. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.
BRITAIN: "Sharon Deserves International Support -- So Does Peace Process"
The center-left Independent editorialized (10/28): "Giving up Gaza must be a prelude to further territorial concessions--not, as some Likud officials have suggested--a move to consolidate Israel within its present borders, minus Gaza; in other words, to 'freeze' the peace process. It must be a prelude, too, to the dismantling of the security fence and to meaningful statehood for the Palestinians."
"Sharon The Brave"
The conservative Daily Telegraph held (10/28): "Mr. Sharon has rightly refused to give in to the latest Likud challenge to his authority.... The long battle to break the Israeli-Palestinian logjam continues. Mr. Sharon faces further Cabinet votes on details of the withdrawal and continued fierce opposition from settlers, particularly those in the West Bank. He has shown remarkable courage in getting thus far and deserves the support of all who wish Israel well."
The independent Financial Times remarked (10/28): "Many in the ramshackle parliamentary coalition Mr. Sharon put together to force through Tuesday's vote fast recognize that a Jewish, democratic Israel that is also at peace with the Palestinians will require much more than evacuating Gaza, namely the withdrawal from more of the West Bank than Mr. Sharon is likely to contemplate. Nevertheless, every process requires a beginning, and Gaza evacuation is a prize well worth grasping."
"Out But Not Over"
An editorial in the left-of-center Guardian read (10/27): "Mr. Sharon's intention is to reduce daily confrontations in Gaza while buying time over the West Bank. This is territory, as he put it obliquely but clearly on Monday, that he sees as 'essential to our existence.' But it is also where most Palestinians live, and without it there cannot be a viable Palestinian state, still--despite George Bush's short-sighted sabotage--the goal of the internationally backed 'road map' to peace."
FRANCE: "We Must Help Sharon"
Pierre Rousselin stated in right-of-center Le Figaro (10/27): “If Sharon were not the force behind yesterday’s vote in the Knesset, the event would have been saluted as a historic moment for Israel. For the first time since the Six-Day war, a taboo has definitively been broken.... But because the plan was that of a man who has devoted himself to Jewish settlements, everyone is reducing its effect.... Let us forget rhetoric and look at facts. All of Israeli is mobilized over this evacuation.... Its proponents and detractors are at each other’s throats, the government may fall, and emotions are running high.... In Israel the perennial debate is on again, between the Rabbis and the generals.... The decision to withdraw is not the result of a negotiated agreement; therefore its impact is all the more serious.... The Israelis are pitted against each other. This is why we must do everything to help Sharon succeed with his wager, whatever his personal motivations or the justifications he has been giving. This is more than just saving a 'peace process.’ The stake is more important still: Israel’s future is being determined here. The Palestinians are only spectators at this point. And it is better this way.... They must keep quiet all the while the Israelis try to digest their withdrawal from Gaza. And we must help the Palestinians help Sharon to be successful.”
"A Broken Taboo"
Patrick Sabatier maintained in left-of-center Liberation (10/27): “With his plan to evacuate Gaza, Sharon has broken a taboo and inflicted a tremendous trauma to the Israeli right, his own party.... The land may in the end be returned, but peace will certainly not be achieved in return. The dismantling of the settlements may well lead to something akin to a civil war in Israel.... Meanwhile it is difficult to ignore the idea that Sharon’s withdrawal may be purely tactical. The first objective being to take the Israeli soldiers out of the Gaza quagmire; the second to forever postpone the creation of a Palestinian state; and finally to park the ‘roadmap’ somewhere where it may be forgotten. But Sharon’s intentions are not what count the most. The Israeli left supports Sharon because movement is better than standing still at an impasse. This withdrawal would set a precedent that no one will be able to ignore, especially when the rest of the world will once again look to this region and to the need to defuse the bomb which is ticking in the heart of the Middle East and of relations between the West and the Arab-Muslim world.”
"Sharon And His Bet For Gaza"
Bruno Frappat held in Catholic La Croix (10/27): "Is Sharon being intuitive, with a touch of genius? So much so that all of humanity will forever be grateful to him? Or is he cynical and calculating? Sharon’s sacrilege is to be withdrawing without having first negotiated with Arafat or the settlers.... Is it a sign of courage, as France says? Is it intoxication, as the Palestinians say? Is it treason, as some his colleagues say? Sharon’s new direction is a bet. In return, his stance calls for another bet: that we see him as intuitive. The Labor party has taken this approach. In the name of peace, let us bet on an intuitive Sharon.”
GERMANY: "Triumphant In The Knesset"
Wolfgang Guenter Lerch commented in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (10/28): "Sharon enjoys a political and personal success he has not seen for a long time. Thanks to the opposition, one of the boldest moves in the Middle East can be taken.... Of course, it is not clear yet whether the intention will become reality.... The debate about the Gaza Strip made clear again that there is not just Islamic extremism, but also something like a religious Jewish fundamentalism that influences the political scene. Sharon, however, is pursuing nothing less than a break with the past. Only a few people could have imagined Sharon, above all the hero of the settlement movement, sounding the horn for pulling out of the occupied territories. It may be that he has not really broken with his political ideals, but on the level of political reason he is launching something new.... The Israeli prime minister has put himself at great risk here, given that the far-right camp in Israel is as militant as the Palestinian side."
"Sharon's Historic Plan"
Thorsten Schmitz noted in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (10/28): "Sharon's real intentions of evacuating 8,000 out of 430,000 Jewish settlers remain hidden, but his senior advisor Dov Weisglass admitted that he wants to freeze the peace process. Maybe Sharon is naive, believing that he could lessen international pressure on Israel by his unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. The pressure is rather increasing, given Israel's purely military retaliation strategy. The majority vote in the cabinet has started a process that cannot be halted.... Sharon's idea of a Palestinian state might absolutely contradict the visions of Palestinians, but the prime minister has started an irrevocable discussion about the settlement policy of all former governments. The settlements have always weakened Israel. The settlements could never satisfy the self-evident and justified interest in security. They have endangered the homeland of Jews...and undermined Israel's moral superiority. Without the settlements the hope is arising that also Arab countries will respect Israel's right of existence."
Miriam Lau argued in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (10/28): "This vote--a victory of reason over extremism--is not sufficient.... More moves must follow: protection against missiles and attacks from the Gaza Strip as well as an end of Israeli acts of revenge; leaving homes intact, the inclusion of Egypt, and starting negotiations with Palestinians. Europe can help here: the sooner Palestinians vote--the international community must exert pressure if necessary--the sooner it counters the fatal accusation that there is no negotiation partner."
"Disaster After Withdrawal"
Charles Landsmann observed in centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (10/28): "Ariel Sharon must overcome or even crush the resistance. He is strong enough to do that. The removal is a purely domestic issue, which will not cause a division of Israel, like the settlers claim, but it could result in a wave of nationalist violence. The troop withdrawal, on the other side, is not an internal Israeli issue.... If it were, chaos would break out in the Gaza Strip and the first move in the right direction would not be followed up, but turn into a disaster.... Egypt alone will not be able to help Palestinians establish order in the Gaza Strip after the Israeli pullout, especially because Israelis mistrust Cairo for historic reasons. The international community--including the U.S., which rejects Palestinians as a negotiation partner, also the UN, despite Israeli reservations, possibly NATO as well, but above of all the European Union--must get involved in the Gaza Strip; with words until the Israeli army has withdrawn and probably with troops in the time after. Gaza must not become a new Kosovo or Afghanistan."
"Fill The Vacuum"
Gemma Poerzgen editorialized in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (10/28): "Ariel Sharon's triumph in the Knesset is not the beginning of a new peace process in the Middle East. Although it is of historic importance that the majority of MPs supported the dismantlement of Jewish settlements in Palestinian territories, there is no guarantee that Israeli settlers and troops will have pulled out of Gaza by 2005. The sharp language in the debate has rather revealed the division of the Israeli society.... The international community could cleverly make use of the decision to withdraw from Gaza to get the halted peace process moving again. This would require more commitments from Brussels and Washington. The European Union should fill the vacuum the U.S. government left behind in the crisis-filled region owing to the presidential elections; its power has increased with the EU enlargement. This is a tricky task, given the Israeli prejudice that Europeans are biased and stand by the Palestinians."
Piere Heumann argued in business-oriented Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf (10/27): "Sharon's change of policy offended many of his political supporters and settlers.... The opposition has known for a long time that Israel cannot rule millions of Palestinians whose number is doubling in every generation. Sharon also says that Israel as a democracy cannot tolerate that. But if he really meant it, he would also dismantle settlements in the West Bank.... In short, Sharon is sacrificing Gaza to rescue the West Bank. To compare the withdrawal from Gaza and the peace treaty with Egypt 25 years ago and Jordan ten years ago is absolutely incorrect. This time there is no partner and no signature. It poses risks of violent escalation, because the withdrawal was unilaterally decided.... No one in the Middle East, where honor plays an important role, wants to be seen as a weakling. As a result, the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza--called disengagement plan--could undermine future peace initiatives. It will confirm everybody's conviction that there is no partner on the other side if terror from Gaza continues on the same level and Israel's troops mercilessly fight terrorists. Who would like to make more concessions to Palestinians if that were the situation? But if the withdrawal plan is successful despite its inherent risks, the U.S. and EU must definitely engage there. They should comment the disengagement without euphoria, but stress that it is the first move and not the last."
Arno Widmann noted in left-of-center Berliner Zeitung (10/27): "The Zion movement must be understood as an attempt to create a Jewish state that is similar to others, which means that it is not a state for one nation, but a state, where Jews and non-Jews can live together in peace. Today, Israel is further away from this goal than twenty years ago. Sharon's plan is not going there, but it is a desperate attempt to fortify the Jewish monopoly in Israel, contradicting common sense and the demographic development. Unfortunately, there is no powerful movement in Israel that is ready to discuss the Jewish element in the Israeli state."
Susanne Knaul wrote in leftist die tageszeitung of Berlin (10/27): "The Israeli parliament has set the foundation for an historic decision. Israel's Prime Minister Sharon goes further than any leader before him, including the assassinated Prime minister and Peace Noble Prize winner Rabin.... If the project succeeds and terror in the no longer occupied Gaza Strip ends, there will be more pressure on the Israeli government to make more concessions to Palestinians. Hopefully, this would be the time when the international community turns towards the Middle East conflict again."
ITALY: "The Peace Process Will Not Resume"
Sandro Viola commented in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (10/27): “The Israeli Parliament voted in favor of Sharon’s plan...the Israeli army will withdraw from Gaza, Jewish settlements will be dismantled and nearly 7,000 settlers will return to Israel.... This is an important event. For the first time Israel is withdrawing from a part of the occupied territories.... But Sharon’s plan evokes confusion and objections, foremost because it is a unilateral initiative, stemming from a decision of the Israeli government and not from negotiations with the Palestinians.... It is a unilateral decision, not a resumption of the peace process. But despite these reservations, it would be absurd to underestimate the importance of yesterday’s vote at the Knesset. It’s enough to look at the Israeli political scene, where the extreme right wing is raging with anger and the pacifists, finally, are celebrating; where the Labor Party, who voted for Sharon’s plan, is back in the picture after four years of electoral defeats and internal rifts. Given the standstill in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (meaning the political and diplomatic standstill, because the suicide bombers, tanks and helicopters never ended their bloody raids), the Israeli withdrawal from a part of the occupied territories represents a beginning. It’s a crevice in a situation which has been dominated by an unchangeable and desperate sequence of Palestinian attacks and Israeli reprisals.”
"Sharon The Tough Guy, Facts And History"
Leading business-oriented Il Sole-24 Ore opined (10/27): "It’s difficult to imagine the old general in the shoes worn by Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin. And yet, in part this is the way things stand. Perhaps this reveals just how low prospects for a resumption of an Israeli-Palestinian peace process are. But the withdrawal from Gaza, so greatly sought after that it was imposed on Israel’s extremists, is the only serious possibility of changing something.... Its historical and political importance is unprecedented.... 65 per cent of Israelis is in favor of the withdrawal. Many are convinced that once Gaza is handed over, the Palestinian issue will be over. If that were the case, then the bloody conflict between the two peoples would continue as before. Once the Palestinians have the ability to give themselves a new leadership that will rectify the tremendous errors made by Arafat, then the process will have to resume: we must resume the dialogue that was interrupted four years ago. But this cannot happen unless the U.S. President, whether old or new, uses America’s powers of persuasion in the region.”
RUSSIA: "Opposition Couldn't Stop Sharon"
Reformist Vremya Novostey observed (10/28): "The Israeli parliament has made a decision destined to go down in history. The Knesset vote is comparable to the Oslo and White Plantation accords signed in 1993 and 1998 respectively.... The United States welcomes the Knesset decision. And so does Russia. The Russian foreign ministry said yesterday that the Israeli decision could play an important role in reviving the peace process. Both Moscow and Washington, mediators at the talks, hope for that."
"A Serious Step To A Peaceful Settlement"
Marianna Grishina had this to say in centrist army-run Krasnaya Zvezda (10/28): "The Israeli leadership has taken a serious step to a peaceful settlement of the Palestinian problem. The Knesset has sealed a policy to withdraw Israeli settlements from Israeli-occupied Palestinian lands. This, in effect, is the beginning of implementation of the earlier accords with PA leader Yasser Arafat."
Veniamin Ginodman judged in reformist Gazeta (10/28): "Israel is on the verge of a new political crisis, another split in the government, and a possible announcement of early general elections. The PA administration and extremist Hamas have expressed deep satisfaction with the vote outcome. Terrorist Hamas lists the endorsement of the Sharon plan as its victory. A statement by its headquarters in Damascus says that the use of violent tactics (i.e., terrorist attacks on the peaceful population) has been fully justified."
"Roadmap Leads To Impasse"
Anatoliy Kerzhentsev remarked in official parliamentary Parlamentskaya Gazeta (10/27): "It is going to be a hectic year in Israel. Sharon, admittedly, will reach his goal, unless he has to step down or gets killed by some Israeli maniac. Gaza withdrawal does not mean that the Israelis will give up control of that territory for good. Quite the contrary, as the Sharon plan points out, Israel will retain its military presence in the border area south of the Strip. Moreover, the plan provides for the construction of a 'protection wall.' So, major progress toward a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is unlikely. The Roadmap will most probably remain blocked, and the confrontation between Israel and the Palestinians will continue.... Unfortunately, violence is escalating. Things may grow even worse, as Islamist terrorist groups get involved in the conflict. Proof of that was the blast at a tourist center in Egypt recently. As things are going, there will be no peace and stability in the Middle East any time soon, and Israelis will not feel safe until their government abandons its notorious 'three nays' policy and returns to the negotiating table to try to settle relations with the neighbors in keeping with the peace-for-land principle."
"Sharon May Have To Go"
Dmitriy Dubov and Mariya Grishina said in reformist Vremya Novostey (10/27): "Sharon will have to think hard of his coalition's future, regardless of the vote outcome.... He will have to either form a national unity government...or brace up for early elections."
AUSTRIA: "Warhorse Sharon"
Foreign affairs writer Thomas Vieregge editorialized in centrist Die Presse (10/28): "Now that the former godfather of the settlers has brought himself to clear the Gaza Strip, nobody and nothing will prevent him from pursuing this course, not even his own Likud Party whose repeated votes he ignored. Sharon, the tried and tested warhorse, has won this battle, but the fight is not over yet. He has prepared the territory, by, among other things, pursuing a scorched-earth policy in the Gaza Strip. It is possible that the Israeli military has only sowed anger there. A domestic conflict, a crucial test for his party and government, a strengthened Hamas that takes control of the Gaza Strip--as usual, Ariel Sharon has made many enemies. However, he is the only one who can be trusted with bringing a new dynamic into the peace process. A withdrawal from Gaza could set things in motion in the West Bank as well. And after all, it was the former General Sharon who cleared the Sinai in 1982."
"A Mandate for Sharon"
Foreign affairs editor Gudrun Harrer wrote in independent Der Standard (10/28): "Nine years after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin--almost to the day--an Israeli prime minister is showing leadership in trying to escape the everyday business of political maneuvering and suggesting a long-term strategy. To do this, Sharon had to bite the bullet: that he, for years the patron of the settlers, should become the Israeli prime minister to give up the Gaza Strip and settlements in the West Bank, still carries the nimbus of the improbable.... It is important to note that right-wing opponents and leftist advocates of the Gaza plan are united in their view that once Jewish settlements on the territory of the 'biblical' Israel have been relinquished, the dam would have broken and others would follow. Hard to appease is the uneasy feeling that many normal Israelis have that the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip signals a victory of Palestinian terrorism. That the Intifada was encouraged by the Hezbollah's triumph after the sensible decision on the part of the Israelis to withdraw from southern Lebanon in 2000 is an annoying fact. But his plan is so important to Sharon that he is prepared to overlook that."
Ernst Trost commented in mass-circulation tabloid Neue Kronenzeitung (10/27): "For those of his former followers to whom he, like Moses, held out the prospect of a Promised Land, Ariel Sharon has turned into the image of the enemy. The settlers are afraid the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip that was decided by the Knesset yesterday will turn out to be just the beginning of a huge exodus out of the occupied territories.... Former general and much-feared warhorse Sharon's thinking, however, is dominated by tactical considerations. With military prowess he aims at liberating Israel from the scourge of terrorism. However, he does not have a concrete model for peace . The Palestinians are supposed to lead their lives within a narrowly confined area, an autonomous ghetto without a seaport or airport of their own that is not controlled by others.... While Arafat is laboring under health problems, Sharon is suffering from the loss of his political base. Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Netanyahu is once again getting ready to take over. And on the left side of the political spectrum there is the luckless Barak hoping for a comeback."
BELGIUM: "A Very Cautious Optimism"
Foreign editor Gerald Papy wrote in independent La Libre Belgique (10/27): "There are two possible interpretations of the Israeli plan to withdraw from the Gaza strip. The first is an optimistic one, based on Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's statement that 'the door remains open for an agreement once terrorism has stopped'.... The second interpretation is based on what Sharon's advisor told a local daily in early October, i.e. that 'the pullout plan was meant to freeze the peace process'.... Which Sharon should one believe? Let us give him the benefit of the doubt and let us hope that, after behaving like a police chief since his election in 2001, he will now want to behave like a Head of State. A test of his determination will be the way he will conduct this Gaza pullout, if his political enemies allow him to do so. If he manages to give back the control of the strip to a credible Palestinian authority after having contributed to the emergence of extremist groups because of his arbitrary repression, Ariel Sharon will be able to pride himself with having contributed to the Gaza strip's pacification and to Israel's security. If not, the spiral of violence will resume all the more in Palestinian territories."
CZECH REPUBLIC: "Israel Will Leave Gaza. Right. But What Next?"
Viliam Buchert commented in centrist, leading daily MF Dnes (10/27): "The withdrawal from Gaza is certainly a right step towards reconciliation. However, no further development will be achieved without subsequent steps yet to be taken (of course, under the condition of awarding Israel security assurances). Otherwise Israelis and Palestinians will not be able to get out of the deadly grip of never-ending conflict. The conflict which impacts on the whole world. Thus Gaza is only another beginning."
HUNGARY: "Sharon’s Recognition"
Foreign affairs editor Ferenc Kepecs pointed out in left-of-center, pro-government Nepszava (10/28): "What the [Israeli] prime minister is most afraid of is that the Palestinian extremists will present the withdrawal from Gaza as their own victory and his, Sharon’s, failure. This is not merely an issue of Israeli pride or personal vanity. With the intifada going on, the Palestinians have followed the example of the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah that, with a long guerrilla war, was able to force Israel to retreat. Sharon does not want Hezbollah’s Palestinian counterpart Hamas to feel that if they have ‘liberated’ Gaza with their suicide attacks they can achieve the same--with the same methods--on the West Bank, too; moreover, in the territory of the entire historical Palestine."
IRELAND: "Sharon's Gamble On Gaza"
The center-left Irish Times had this to day (10/27): “Civil war is being talked about seriously and openly in Israel over the vote on Mr. Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw from Gaza, which was carried in the Knesset with opposition support.... That is a measure of how deeply the issue has divided opinion.... The hard right-wing settler movement and many members of his Likud party reject the plan in principle or say it betokens a weak withdrawal under Palestinian fire. The key question now is whether the Knesset decision encourages Israeli leaders to realign towards a new peace settlement.... The U.S. election campaign this year has effectively frozen efforts to renew talks with the Palestinians.... Mr. Sharon's success in convincing the Bush administration that his Gaza plan has merit gained him time to combine it with a brutal military campaign to wipe out resistance movements there. In fact, it has strengthened Hamas, which has been able to fill the political vacuum…. But Mr. Sharon presumably foresees new developments early next year after the U.S. elections. Whoever wins will want to revive Israeli-Palestinian talks as part of a wider process in the Middle East, including Iraq, and in an effort to repair U.S. relations with Europe. This withdrawal would allow him take advantage of such new circumstances and deal with them from a stronger position. If he pulls it off a new perspective opens up next year. But unless a Gaza withdrawal is on a multilateral basis, not this unilateral initiative, hopes for peace will be stillborn."
The center-right Irish Independent observed (10/27): “The National Religious Party, which opposes any withdrawal, has threatened to break the government. Labor, and a large body of moderate opinion, think the Gaza move inadequate and deeply suspect Mr. Sharon's motives. They have grounds for suspicion. One of his close aides has hinted that the move is a cover for changing the ‘road map’ for a Palestine settlement and said that in the end, 190,000 of the present 240,000 settlers will remain on the West Bank. Nevertheless, the vote is historic. It marks the reversal of a long-standing policy which has massively aggravated divisions. It stops the seemingly relentless flow of Jewish settlement in Palestinian territory. It is one little sign of hope.”
POLAND: "A Positive Signal"
Jan Skorzynski observed in centrist Rzeczpospolita (10/27): “Israel’s plan for withdrawal from the Gaza Strip is the first positive signal from the Middle East in months. Its unexpected author is Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, leader of the Israeli nationalists, known for his belligerent temperament and dislike of the Palestinians. Does this signal a permanent transformation of a hawk into a dove? Apparently not, as it is rather to demonstrate Tel Aviv’s goodwill, and at the same time reduce Israel’s lines of defense against Palestinian terror. Whether he wished it or not, Sharon opens the possibility of a return to peace negotiations.”
"The Most Important Vote"
Dawid Warszawski commented in liberal Gazeta Wyborcza (10/27): “[Sharon] knows that Israel may not survive within its present borders. Twenty-two years ago, he was able to evacuate the settlers from Sinai by force to assure peace with Egypt. Then many of them settled in Gaza. Today Sharon says he is ready to use force again. They know he will do so. Last Tuesday those in the Knesset who cherish the state less than national dreams, lost. The state has won. To make peace possible, the Palestinians must now fight a similar battle.”
SPAIN: "Sharon's Misfortune"
Centrist La Vanguardia declared (10/27): "Fear of international isolation, or of the U.S. and the EU imposing their own solutions to the conflict, has led belligerent Sharon to develop a complicated plan that is encountering fierce resistance among Israeli settlers and fundamentalist parties.... This policy is not shared by either by a good part of his own party...and even less by settlers, who have accused him of abandoning them. Prominent fundamentalist rabbis have called for disobedience and appealed to soldiers to not collaborate in the withdrawal from the settlements.... In this stirred-up atmosphere.... Ariel Sharon has wanted to combine violence with realistic gestures of appeasement, but this farfetched policy doesn't convince Palestinians and, in addition, stirs up and sets Israelis themselves at odds."
"Sharon Gets Ahead"
Left-of-center El País contended (10/27): "The evacuation of Gaza, when it takes place, will not be a historic step in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. But Sharon's project has the symbolic value of proposing, for the first time in 20 years, the withdrawal of Jewish settlers.... It is more than right to distrust the intentions of the Israeli Prime Minister, an ultranationalist who is militarily and politically devoted to torpedoing the emergence of a Palestinian state. But doubts about the ultimate reasons behind his actions...shouldn't darken the fact that leaving a territory that one is occupying illegally is better than not doing it.... Another thing is whether the foreseen withdrawal will serve as a catalyst in the divided Palestinian ranks or if it will remove an outdated and questioned leadership. More than any others, Palestinians themselves want law and order to prevail in Gaza.... Anyway, the hope aroused by the decision of the Israeli Parliament goes beyond Sharon or Arafat, both likely at the end of their public agendas. The promise hidden in Gaza, if carried out, is the opening of a chink of reason in a blind conflict that has poisoned, every day for decades, coexistence between Islam and the West."
SWEDEN: "A Brave Step Has Been Taken"
Foreign editor Per Ahlin wrote in independent, liberal Stockholm morning daily Dagens Nyheter
(10/28): “Now the decision is taken. Israel will withdraw from Gaza, and the settlements will be cleared. This is a necessary and brave step. In the last few years, promising news from the Mideast has certainly not been in excess. Now there is at least a gleam of light.... The process likely will be painful, especially if settlers resist evacuations ordered by the Israeli authorities. Some experts warn that growing chaos may be at hand. All eyes are therefore, as usually, aimed at the U.S. B ut in the U.S., where election campaigning is at a high peak, the Middle East is not a major issue in the debate.... However, no matter who is the victor in the presidential elections on November 2, the Mideast conflict will be on the winner’s agenda...and a much greater American involvement than the world has seen in the last four years will no doubt be needed.”
"New Life For Peace Process"
Conservative Stockholm morning daily Svenska Dagbladet opined (10/28): “Ariel Sharon has infused new life in the Mideast peace process.... Now the Palestinians have to choose if square one will once again be the final destination. Yassir Arafat has previously gambled away a peace agreement and now again can possibly sink the peace process by escalating violence.... Now there is an opening for the Palestinians to, in practice, demonstrate what has previously been nothing but rhetoric--that they, if given the right to decide themselves, can build a working state and handle security.... The Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza strip should be seen as the first step in a development which will result in the formation of a Palestinian state that will also embrace a larger part of the West Bank.”
TURKEY: "First Or Last?"
Sami Kohen opined in the mass-appeal Milliyet (10/28): “After such a long wait, at last, for the first time moderately good news came from the Middle East.... It may seem not very important that the Israeli Parliament decided to evacuate 21 Jewish settlements out of a total population of 8,000 from the Gaza strip, yet it is a significant development. After all, this 370 square kilometer area, which shelters 1.4 million Palestinians, belongs to the independent Palestine state. Just like the Palestinians, the whole world is against the colonization of this land by Israelis. The importance of the Knesset’s decision to go along with PM Sharon's initiative to withdraw from the Gaza strip should not be underestimated. This might well be a sign for further events which will directly influence political developments in the region.”
ISRAEL: "Disengagement In Question"
Military correspondent Amir Rappaport opined in popular, pluralist Maariv (10/28): "The Israeli defense establishment believes that, were PA Chairman Yasser Arafat to die eventually, this could shuffle the cards of the disengagement plan, and change the picture entirely. Thus, it is doubtful whether this week's most important event was the Knesset's historic vote approving the disengagement plan."
Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (10/28): "At various times in his career Sharon himself challenged the Likud leadership, until finally attaining it after Netanyahu's election defeat in 1999. If Netanyahu and his ministerial allies believe it is now Sharon who is leading their party and nation astray, they should dispense with ultimatums. They should immediately resign their cabinet seats, join the ranks of the 17 Likud rebels who voted 'no,' and openly work toward changing the leadership of their party. If not, they should accept the results of Tuesday night's vote and work for the implementation of the prime minister's policies."
"Take Action On Jewish Terror"
Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz commented (10/28): "Jewish terror could strike again.... There are periods when the duty of a democracy and a sovereign state that wishes to execute legitimate policy to defend itself overrides other values. It would, indeed, be possible to expect that the settlers' rabbis would understand the urgency of the hour and denounce Jewish terrorism and its verbal expressions. It is doubtful that they will. The government must take all necessary steps, within the limits of reason permitted by the law, to prevent a disaster that will set fire to the country and perhaps to the entire Middle East."
"Now Run, Arik, Run"
Yoel Marcus asserted in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (10/27): "Who would have believed that it would be Ariel Sharon, who covered the territories with settlers and outposts and outflanked on the right extremist Likud leaders like Yitzhak Shamir, who would prove that a leopard can change its spots?.... For now it can be said that the main change is that Sharon has been transformed from a tactician to a strategist. As a strategist, he understood the limits of power, the damage caused to us in the world, the demographic risks, and most important of all to him, the danger of a rupture in relations with the U.S. He knows that to the same extent he expects America to live up to its commitments to Israel, America expects Israel to meet its obligations. It was a brilliant idea to cut the Gordian knot with a disengagement from Gaza. It gets rid of a million and a half Palestinians and at the same time creates a domestic precedent of removing settlements. That is the message--to the public at large and to the right in particular--there is a price to be paid for the establishment of permanent borders for Israel.... With the polls showing that most of the electorate supports the disengagement, with the decision ratified by the government and the majority that the Knesset gave him, all that's left to do is say, run, Arik, run!"
Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (10/27): "After two defeats on the disengagement plan from his own party--in a referendum and in the central committee--the Prime Minister last night won the decisive victory in the Knesset. That vote was the significant step toward an actual disengagement of Israel from the Gaza Strip. It grants Sharon and his plan legislative, democratic and public legitimacy to continue the process. There is no need for a referendum, despite the efforts of ministers to impose one on the Prime Minister.... Israel must now focus on the next stage of the plan. Obviously, defensive steps must be taken against attacks from Gaza.... But the killings of many Palestinians in every Israeli military incursion into the Gaza Strip are unacceptable.... Egypt must have an important role in the next stage of the disengagement plan.... In the next stage, negotiations should begin with the Palestinians and various international agencies over how to handle the large amount of real estate that Israel will leave behind as it withdraws from the Strip."
"A Historic Decision...For Now"
Editor-in-Chief David Horovitz stated in the conservative, independent Jerusalem Post (10/27): "It was indeed a landmark decision--a vote by the Knesset that is intended by its champions to lead to the unprecedented dismantling of settlements outside the context of a peace treaty.... [But] legislation on the practicalities of disengagement has only just begun its long route to full approval.... From the Knesset podium on Monday, Sharon declared that he had 'never faced as difficult a decision'.... For him, plainly, the way ahead has been decisively selected. For him, the moment of truth has passed. But that is emphatically not the case for at least some of those who voted with him on Tuesday. And that means that when we ask the crucial question--does Tuesday's night's vote mean that a year from now there will be no settlements in Gaza?--the answer is still: we don't know."
"The Old Bibi"
Dan Margalit noted in popular, pluralist Maariv (10/27): "For many weeks, Ariel Sharon had claimed that Netanyahu was working against him, conspiring against him. That he wishes to eliminate him without leaving his fingerprints. Sharon's suspicion seemed delusional. Until, in the early evening, the bored Knesset awoke to find that Netanyahu had indeed assembled a group of Likud ministers and come to Sharon with a threat, an ultimatum, an extortionist demand. It was as though Sharon's suspicion had materialized. He failed because Sharon did not panic. Because Netanyahu did not have a real case. Because if he had not voted in favor of disengagement unconditionally, he would had broken a commitment. Because he would have become a former minister.... As a result of last night's fiasco, the chances of a referendum have decreased, not increased.... Disengagement is increasingly dependent on the connection between the prime minister and the Labor Party, which rules out the referendum out of hand."
Haggai Huberman concluded in nationalist, Orthodox Hatzofe (10/27): "The Knesset's decision is illegitimate, because it is based on the Likud stealing the votes of the public that elected them. And a theft of votes, like any other theft or robbery, can never be legitimate. Someone who carries out illegitimate acts, loses the moral right to demand that his opponents act legitimately. Someone who tramples democracy, has no moral right to demand that the opponents of disengagement act democratically.... The demand for Sharon to turn to the people again, therefore, is not a mere whim or a search for obstacles. It is the essence of democracy, it is the last barrier against a deep rift in the Israeli public that could inadvertently drift into violence--and no one can predict where that will end."
WEST BANK: "Disengagement Through Negotiations Is The Solution"
Independent Al-Quds editorialized (10/28): “The Israeli government, people and public opinion must realize that making unwise unilateral decisions that harm the Palestinian people alone will only add to the complicated situation. How could one expect violence and counter-violence in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to end if the Israeli government insists on occupying the West Bank indefinitely? The Israeli authorities’ disregard for this serious risk indicates their lack of interest in protecting the blood and souls of both Israelis and Palestinians.”
Abdallah Awwad wrote in independent Al-Ayyam (10/28): “Disengagement from the Gaza Strip means strengthening ties to the West Bank through the annexation of major settlement blocs and more messing with the geography...in a way that blocks any chance for establishing a Palestinian state. The Gaza Strip will become a center for Palestinians expelled from the West Bank on the slightest pretext. What lies ahead for the West Bank after Gaza disengagement will be the worst in the history of the Palestinian cause. Withdrawal from Gaza is a lie. All that has taken place hypothetically and that will take place in practice is a redeployment of the occupation forces and settlements in a way that fits the Zionist project aiming to seize the land and preserving the Jewish character of the Hebrew state.”
"After Sharon's Mandate...Day-After Scenarios"
Hani Habib commented in independent Al-Ayyam (10/27): "The launching of the disengagement plan, after the Knesset’s vote in favor of it, is the start of a series of hard steps for Sharon and his government. Next Wednesday, Sharon’s government will submit the budget law for endorsement after a first reading.... Sharon can delay the budget issue until next March; however this will cause many problems if the budget law does not get approved by then, which will necessitate new elections--something all Israeli parties, particularly the Likud, try to avoid.... Most of the possible scenarios are gloomy for Sharon. The Knesset’s debate and voting over the disengagement plan coincided with the anniversary of the killing of former PM Rabin.... On many occasions there have been clear threats to kill Sharon, in addition to the rabbis’ calling for Sharon to be held accountable and demanding a confrontation against the forces that will carry out the evacuation.... Since last night, Israel has changed significantly while the Palestinian situation remains weak and frustrated.”
"A Plan Or A Plot"
Hafidh Barghuthi opined in official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (10/27): “The outcome of the Knesset vote on Sharon’s plan was expected.... Sharon could have submitted his plan to the Knesset since the beginning, but he preferred to make a public fuss about it.... Sharon’s plan is basically a plot to cancel the Roadmap despite the fact that the Americans tried to market it for him as a lead-up to the Roadmap. The truth is that it’s an end to the Roadmap.”
SAUDI ARABIA: "Peace Of Tanks Force"
Jeddah’s conservative Al-Madina editorialized (10/28): "Finally, after many meetings, discussions and negotiations the Israeli Knesset agreed to Sharon’s disengagement plan. It was a very difficult decision, which overcome the opposition of the Israeli hard-line groups, the Jewish extremist and angry settlers who refuse to evacuate the settlements. Yet, the difficulty in endorsing the resolution reflects a deep-rooted Israeli hesitation about peace and addressing problems related to the struggle with the Palestinians.... Lack of genuine desire to achieve peace in the region is a problem."
"Massacres In Gaza"
Jeddah’s conservative Al-Madina editorialized (10/26): "Israel’s crimes will not stop as long as the world is silent about the daily massacre of Palestinians. Now Israel has no reason submit to any international resolution calling for peace. The Arab League is an exhausted institution ripped apart by internal conflicts; the U.S. is busy with its election, and the two presidential candidates are racing to win Jewish voters.... The situation is hopeless; the only thing left is for us to wish that Arabs realized that only they can change their situation, and then work on changing it. Arabs must change the way they deal with Israel. This is the only way to achieve peace."
"Gaza Between Withdrawals And Aggression"
Riyadh’s moderate Al-Jazirah said (10/26): "In his plan for withdrawing form Gaza, Sharon is trying to represent himself as a man of peace. In fact, he is trying to hide his defeat at the hands of the strong resistance in Gaza.... On the other hand, Sharon’s plan intends, with America’s blessing, to impede the Road Map, which states the creation of the Palestinian State by 2004. Since the creation of the Palestinian State is not consistent with Israeli plans and Sharon’s mind-set, the accelerated withdrawal will not leave space for creating such State."
"Arabs And Sharon’s Plan"
Abha’s moderate Al-Watan asserted (10/26): "While Arabs are following the Knesset session today on the disengagement plan in Gaza, they must be careful not to jump to conclusions. Arabs must not hurry to offer help immediately. Instead they should observe and be aware of what is happening.... Sharon’s plan is just another way to secure the Israeli presence in the occupied territories.... Sharon’s plan has two consequences: first, it would oblige the Palestinian Authority, and other Arab parties to guarantee Israel’s peace. Second, the plan would give Tel Aviv the opportunity to make Israel’s aggression on Palestinian territories a legal and an internationally accepted action.... Israelis have one vision of Arabs. A good Arab is a dead Arab."
QATAR: "Knesset Vote Marks Start Of New Battle"
The semi-official English-language Gulf Times editorialized (10/27): "The withdrawal, if it happens, will be the first time that Israel has removed settlements from Palestinian lands. Sharon envisages Gaza as an area devoid of Jews but surrounded on all sides by strong Israeli forces, making it a prison.... The main battle will, however, be transferred to the West Bank, where Sharon wants to seize as much Arab land for settlements as possible.... The operation was part of a deliberate attempt to inflict so much suffering on Palestinians that it would be impossible for Hamas or Islamic Jihad to project the withdrawal as a victory over Israel. The plan to quit Gaza is divisive in Israel, where some people want to grab every inch of land they can from the Arabs, but the majority of Israelis favor leaving Gaza. The densely populated coastal strip has cost Israel a lot of lives.... After last night's vote, it seems certain that the withdrawal will take place, as a referendum is likely to support it, but that simply mark a new phase in the conflict in which it will be vital the Palestinians and their friends to resist even more determined efforts by Israel to steal land in the West Bank.... During his term in office, Sharon has had great success in stripping away the political rights of the Palestinians, destroying their democracy and wrecking their institutions.... It may be that Sharon's policies have shifted the balance in favor of militancy which will have negative consequences for the region. Indeed, after the Israeli wrecking ball has demolished every political structure that the peacemakers erected, it would be understandable if Palestinians concluded there is no future in negotiating with Israel."
UAE: "Gaza Strip For Peace--Gameplan Or Gamble?"
The expatriate-oriented English-language Khaleej Times declared (10/27): "Ariel Sharon thinks he has an ace up his sleeve--the evacuation of Jewish settlers from Gaza and four isolated West Bank settlements.... In a two-pronged strategy, he, on the one hand, is aiming to please the Palestinians by offering them some concessions, and on the other, his intention is to strengthen the existing West Bank settlements.... This is like giving from one hand and taking back from another.... Every trumpeted breakthrough invariably conceals a bigger gameplan. That could be Israel’s desire to wrest the initiative from the Palestinians.... In the absence of any Palestinian cards on the table, Tel Aviv wants to score a few brownie points with the West.... While Israel is attempting to sacrifice Gaza, it has no such plans for the fertile West Bank.... The security wall covers much of those settlements, trying to legitimize the Israeli occupation. For Palestinians, the sop of Gaza is like a slap on the face. A tiny slice of land, it is no compensation for the dispossession of much larger and fertile areas of the West Bank.... The trouble with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is that the longer it stretches; it becomes a case of increasing hopes with diminishing returns.... Perhaps Israel is banking on its adversary’s battle fatigue to pull it out of a deadlock. But lasting peace does not come from tactical maneuvers. It comes from a genuine desire to break from the past. Both sides have to move that extra inch forward, more so Israel because it operates from a position of strength and has a lot more to give."
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
AUSTRALIA: "Sharon Plan Is A Step To Peace"
The national conservative Australian observed (10/28): “Mr. Sharon has had to reach out to the opposition Labor Party, over the heads of his fractious Likud colleagues, for support in the cause of peacemaking in Gaza. And in a stunning confirmation the strategy is succeeding--so far.... If Mr. Sharon's plan goes forward it will be the first-ever Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian territory. But that is a very big 'if'.... Just as only a conservative U.S. president, Richard Nixon, could take relations with China out of the freezer, it is only Israel's toughest war-horse who can carry off this audacious unilateral disengagement. While it is not, strictly, a step along the 'road map' to peace brokered by George W. Bush last year, it is as close as we are likely to get until the Palestinians either off-load their discredited leader, Yasser Arafat, or Mr. Arafat – who is elderly and rumored to be seriously ill – dies.... Most important, if the Sharon plan holds there will be fewer flashpoints between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militias, and fewer innocent bystanders killed.”
CHINA (HONG KONG SAR): "Biggest test still ahead of Sharon over Gaza pullout"
The independent English-language South China Morning Post said in an editorial (10/28): "Israel's controversial Gaza pullout has moved closer to becoming reality with the nation's parliament giving it the green light. But Prime Minister Ariel Sharon still has some tough political battles to fight--with four members of his cabinet threatening to resign and strong calls for a referendum. Under the plan, settlers will be offered payments to move from 21 settlements in Gaza and four smaller ones in the West Bank beginning this year.... If the plan is to successfully end four years of armed conflict, it will have to be followed quickly by other measures that give Palestinians reasons to re-enter negotiations. That means putting them back on track towards better welfare, security and, eventually, statehood. So long as these elements are missing, there will be an endless pool of recruits willing to join the intifada resistance and the Palestinian side will see little motivation to keep promises made in the road map.... Now that the prime minister has the crucial test in parliament behind him, perhaps allies will prevail upon Mr. Sharon to moderate the plan's unilateralism. Some effort must be made to work with the Palestinian Authority to ensure a peaceful handover in the evacuated areas. Lack of negotiation on this front and absence of a clear authority could see Gaza consumed by factional violence once Israel leaves, thus undermining the purpose of the exercise."
JAPAN: "Efforts Needed To Achieve Peace"
Liberal Mainichi editorialized (10/29): "The Israeli parliament's approval of a plan to cancel Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip is a welcome step. However, the disengagement plan only refers to four areas out of some 120 settlements in the West Bank. Without the removal of such settlements, no peace is likely between the Palestinians and the Israelis. The Middle East conflict cannot be resolved without dialogue.... The two sides must respect the roadmap proposed by the U.S., UN, Russia and the EU. The mediators should immediately resume serious diplomatic efforts to put the derailed roadmap back on track. Their role is increasingly crucial to maintaining a peace framework following Palestinian leader Arafat's rapidly worsening health."
"Israel Should Not Give Up Peace Proposal"
Liberal Tokyo Shimbun argued (10/29): "The Gaza disengagement plan, approved by the Knesset, envisions the withdrawal of only four minor settlements from the West Bank. The Sharon government appears to be hoping to permanently maintain the rest of the 120 or so settlements. The plan is partly aimed at reducing massive defense expenditures used to protect the 8,000 Israeli settlers living in the tiny Gaza strip with its Palestinian population of 1.3 million. The token move to give up Gaza comes at the same time as plans to expand Israeli territory by constructing more separation walls in the West Bank. The plan pays no attention to the Palestinians plight.... If Arafat resigns because of poor health, the Palestinian leadership would be thrown into confusion. Prime Minister Sharon must tie the pullout plan to the roadmap."
"Roadmap Must Be Revived"
Conservative Sankei insisted (10/29): "Based on the roadmap peace initiative, Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the international community must move the Gaza disengagement plan toward direct talks between the two warring parties. The international community needs to place top priority on Middle East peace because the Israeli-Palestinian conflict lies at the very root of international terrorism by Islamic fundamentalist guerrillas.... In this context, the Knesset approval of the disengagement plan should be treated as a first step in the roadmap."
CANADA: "The Knesset Wisely Backs Sharon On Gaza"
The leading Globe and Mail opined (10/27): "After 37 years, Israel is withdrawing from Gaza.... Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the father of Gaza's Jewish settlements, has risked his political life, and perhaps his actual life, to uproot them.... This is a wrenching but necessary step for which Mr. Sharon and Israel deserve applause and international support.... But Mr. Sharon, by seizing the initiative, has been able to gain U.S. approbation for his beloved 'facts on the ground'--much larger and more strategically important settlements in the West Bank, home to 250,000 Jews. He has thrown the Palestinians on the defensive. Various factions have already begun a power struggle over who will fill the void in Gaza once the Israeli troops are gone. While that plays out, and while Yasser Arafat clings to power, Mr. Sharon can still argue that there is no legitimate partner with whom to discuss peace. By making unilateral moves, he can control the agenda.... In a region so prone to moving backward, even a small step forward seems huge. This is a pivotal moment for Israel. Wrenching as it is, leaving Gaza is the easy part; but for the moment, the Knesset vote is worth celebrating."
ARGENTINA: "The Hidden Benefits Of An Initiative"
International editor Marcelo Cantelmi commented in leading Clarin (10/27): "Ariel Sharon's extraordinary impetus to turn the Gaza Strip into an area free from Israeli troops and settlers seems a historically untranslatable initiative....which has aspects that are no so evident. There is an initial contradiction between this present decision and the recent past: Sharon has been the historic promoter of an unprecedented expansion of settlers in the Palestinian territories.... Actually, while military and civilians are removed from Gaza, the area will not become an autonomous territory but rather a besieged plot of land. As the occupying power, Israel will continue in charge of the surveillance of all Gaza Strip borders.... A change of status of the area...has never seemed to be part of Israel's plans. This is why it is possible to suspect other purposes in the measure passed yesterday by the Knesset.... Some weeks ago, Dov Wisgllass, Sharon's most influential advisor...harshly admitted that the purpose of (Israel's) withdrawal from Gaza was to frozen the political procedure with Palestinians while allowing Israel to strengthen its presence in the West Bank, the true scenario of the confrontation, where 240,000 settlers live in 120 settlements.... We should remember that not long ago, the U.S. president broke an old tradition and justified the Israeli advance on the territories. Never had Sharon received such support for his policies in the area. The measures related to Gaza could also include domestic purposes even at the cost of a schism in the government coalition."
BRAZIL: "Israel's Step Forward To Leave Occupied Territories"
Business-oriented Valor Economico editorialized (10/28): "The Israeli Parliament's decision to approve the beginning of Jewish settlers removal from the Gaza Strip and part of the West Bank has opened a slim crack of hope for a truce in the world's most disturbed region.... Ariel Sharon has become the unlikely and decisive character of a still uncertain land devolution to the Palestinians. Among the ironies of history is Sharon's tough coup showing to both Israelis and Palestinians that there are forces much more to the right than those that the prime minister represents.... The boldness of proposing a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza without having any guarantee of peace in exchange may lend itself to many interpretations--a Sharon maneuver to perpetuate the West Bank's annexation, an attempt to isolate Palestinian radical groups fighting Israel's intransigence, or a retreat to positions favoring Israel's best defense against terrorist attacks. None of them, however, invalidates the clear fact that the withdrawal from Gaza is by itself a historic step forward that may lead to future advances."
Liberal Folha de S. Paulo observed (10/27): "The controversy regarding Ariel Sharon's proposal to remove Jewish settlements from the Gaza Strip is leading to a realignment of forces in Israel's politics.... Although the decision is painful for the Israelis, it is not sufficient to ensure a mutual understanding with the Palestinians. On the contrary, there is among the Arabs a reasonable fear that Sharon wants to return Gaza to preserve settlements in the West Bank.... In order to achieve an understanding between Israelis and Palestinians it will be necessary to create a feasible Palestinian state, and this requires the Israeli withdrawal from all occupied territories. Without that, peace in the region will continue to be just a word used by both parties as a salutation."
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