December 3, 2004
PALESTINIAN ELECTIONS: 'GATEWAY' TO PA REFORM, REVIVED ROADMAP?
** To global media, an Abbas victory would create a "new atmosphere" for peace.
** Arab papers see Palestinian unity "shaken" by Barghouti's candidacy.
** Skeptics expect exercise in "fake democracy," others spy "gateway" to reform.
** Arab writers criticize Israel for not actively seeking a "comprehensive" peace.
Abbas 'offering hope for peace'-- Indonesia's independent Kompas praised Mahmoud Abbas for remaining "credible" both among Palestinians and the West, despite the "many challenges" he faces. A conservative Israeli paper similarly observed that Abbas is the "only conceivable Fatah candidate" who could bring peace. Jordan's semi-official Al-Rai remained skeptical, arguing that Abbas would need to make sure that "not a single bomb or gun or even a bullet stays outside the jurisdiction and control of the security forces," if he wants the Israelis, Americans, and European countries to "treat him differently from...Arafat." Germany's business-oriented Handelsblatt pessimistically noted that "it won't take a lot to destroy Abbas' initial success," such as terrorist attacks by radical Islamic groups, targeted killings of suspected terrorists by Israel, or "an assassination of Abbas."
Barghouti, a 'Palestinian Mandela'?-- Some Euro dailies stated that the "future belongs" to Marwan Barghouti, an alternative to the "rigid and corrupt" PA establishment. Russia's business-oriented Kommersant asserted that "the road to the top is open for the young." Arab outlets countered that Barghouti's "disruptive" application only worsens "deep divisions" among Palestinians. The West Bank's independent Al-Ayyam warned that by running "Barghouti fundamentally incurs a big risk to his own political future and the unity of Fatah" and predicted that he will "clearly be the loser."
Danger of 'fake democracy'-- Israeli and Arab analysts split on whether or not Palestinian elections will be fair and free. To Israel's conservative Jerusalem Post, elections will closely resemble "those regularly held in Arab dictatorships." An independent Palestinian outlet remained mildly optimistic, suggesting that the upcoming elections may serve as "a gateway to unity, legitimacy, reform, and democracy through the involvement of as many people as possible." The West Bank's independent Al-Quds hailed that Palestine is moving "hastily and intensely in the right direction."
Israel trying to 'flee' from peace-- Arab writers continued to doubt Israel's commitment to peace, complaining that Israel has "not yet shown any good intentions." According to Saudi Arabia's moderate Okaz, Israel's goal is to "take advantage" of Arafat's death to redraw the Roadmap "as it sees fit." The paper lamented that under these conditions there "will never be a comprehensive peace" in the region. A German commentator shared a measure of this cynicism, stating that Sharon "no longer has any excuse" for rejecting a dialogue with Palestinians.
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, firstname.lastname@example.org
EDITOR: Gloria Kim
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 51 reports from 20 countries over November 27 - December 3, 2004. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.
BRITAIN: "Crucial Choice On Path To Statehood"
Chris McGreal commented in center left The Guardian (Internet Version, 12/2): "For the first time on their path to statehood, Palestinian voters are confronted with a real choice. The decision by Marwan Barghouti, the 45-year-old military commander serving multiple life terms in an Israeli jail, to run in the January 9 presidential election offers voters a choice between his commitment to violent resistance to an illegal occupation and the strategy of the establishment candidate, Mahmoud Abbas. Mr Abbas also known as Abu Mazen, the chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation who emerged as the main Palestinian leader following the death of Yasir Arafat, is committed to ending the violence.... Mr Barghouti's challenge is likely to split the Fatah movement and could upset Mr Abbas's power bid. But the turn in the election race also offers opportunity for Mr Abbas. If he defeats Mr Barghouti it will give him a legitimacy he is lacks and weaken accusations from some groups that he is a collaborator. Even from prison - and Israel insists it will not release him - Mr Barghouti offers a powerful challenge.... He is outspoken in his criticism of corruption among the 'old guard' that surrounded Arafat.... Mr Abbas' popularity was not enhanced by a brief period as prime minister last year.... Critics portrayed him as a puppet of the US and Israel. But despite Mr Barghouti's popularity in the occupied territories his victory is far from assured.... Mr Barghouti faces a number of obstacles if he is to win. He is in prison which may discourage some potential supporters, particularly older voters, who are exhausted by the intifada and occupation and would like to see negotiations with Israel swiftly resumed."
Dietrich Alexander argued in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (12/3): "Sharon knows instinctively that he will do the right thing for Israel if he withdraws from Gaza. The insistence on the Jewish settlements in this region is too expensive and the blood toll among young soldiers who are sacrificed is too high.... The majority of his compatriots have a similar view, but not all of them, including the affected settlers and their lobby groups. It is totally open whether a government of national unity...will be able to resolve the dilemma. The governing coalition broke especially because the prime minister wanted to serve his ultra-religious supporters with 45 million euros from the state budget, something the secular Shinui was unwilling to accept. In a new constellation, similar conflicts are looming like the one between Labor and Shas or the ultra-orthodox Thora Party. Sharon is forced to pursue a policy of dichotomy, because his own party is not totally willing to support him. But he will subject all partisan intrigues to his goal to withdraw from Gaza. Egypt's President Mubarak is right: Sharon can achieve solutions and he will get the necessary majorities for them."
Center-right Kieler Nachrichten said (12/3): "The sly fox Ariel Sharon outmaneuvered them all: the Shiuni parliamentarians, who played too risky a poker game; his own Likud Party, in which many would like to see Sharon leave his post, but who will keep calm because of the fear of new elections, and the national religious party whose resistance to the withdrawal can be bought with a few million shekels. It is likely that the government crisis will strengthen Sharon's position. And what about Marwan Barghouti who is trying to succeed Arafat from a prison cell in Israel? The last word has not yet been said about his candidacy. Israel will probably not release him. PLO and Fatah advocated moderate Mahmud Abbas, but with his candidacy, Barghouti is provoking a division among Palestinians. This can hardly be a goal. Nevertheless, the future belongs to this 45-year old man, who is very popular among the people. He must only show patience."
Center-right Maerkische Oderzeitung of Frankfurt on the Oder judged (12/3): "The candidacy of the very popular Barghouti could divide Fatah. There was a reason why Egypt's President Mubarak expressly said Barghouti's striving would be detrimental to the Palestinians. What he also said is taking many by surprise: Mubarak, who plays an important mediation role in the Middle East conflict, described Prime Minister Sharon as the best chance for peace, an assistance for a colleague who is faced with a difficult formation of a new coalition."
"Abbas Ends Chaos"
Pierre Heumann noted in business-oriented Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf (11/29): "There is no doubt that the post Arafat period began successfully. The Israeli government must take this new constellation into account. The West accepts the new Palestinian leadership as partner for peace negotiations. Prime Minister Sharon no longer has any excuse for rejecting a dialogue with Palestinians. The Mideast quartet sees the presidential elections as an opportunity to put Arafat's succession on a stabile foundation. Fair elections are also in Israel's interest, as it could expect positive impulses from a democratically elected Palestinian leadership. Abbas has called the intifadah a mistake when Arafat was still alive, saying that it has only resulted in misery for Palestinians.... However, it won't take a lot to destroy Abbas' initial success: a terror attack by radical Islamic groups, targeted killings of suspected terrorists by Israel, or an assassination of Abbas. Then, a return to the peace process would be very difficult."
"The Future Leader"
Wolfgang Guenter Lerch observed in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (11/28): "Barghuti has little to do with the radical Islam of Hamas and Islamist Jihad. Since his days as student he believes in a secular Palestinian State. His militant groups also see themselves as an alternative to militant Islamic organizations. Their influence will rise after the death of Arafat - the elections will show that.... But the conflict between the younger and older generations will only be postponed with Barghuti's decision not to run in this election. The conflict will arise even if he were to spend the rest of his life in Israeli prison, because the old PLO guards have become pensioners long ago. Although Palestinians - like all Arabs - highly respect elderly people, the Tunisian exiles are no longer trusted. They are politically burnt out and corrupt. Both is not true for Marwan Barghuti."
RUSSIA: "The Dinosaurs' Swan Song"
Leonid Gankin observed in business-oriented Kommersant (12/3): "Mahmoud Abbas, if elected, won't stay on top for long. Time is running out on the old guard, late Yasser Arafat's comrades-in-arms. Their war exploits are history now. In the years of their exile, a new generation has grown up, and it has its own leaders, of whom Marwan Barghouti is one. With Arafat gone, the road to the top is open for the young. The Dinosaurs' Swan Song is what the January 9 election is called in Palestine."
AUSTRIA: "Power To The Young"
Walter Friedl stated in mass-circulation Kurier (12/3): “The marriage of convenience between Ariel Sharon and Simon Perez has a deadline. As soon as the Israeli troops leave the Gaza Strip, the coalition of the two old men--Sharon is 76, Labor boss Perez is 81--will have had its day, and new elections will be unavoidable. The new government, whatever it may turn out to be would have one great advantage: Freed from the old burden of the Gaza withdrawal, it could enter into open negotiations with the Palestinians.... Who their counterparts on the Palestinian side will be is going to be decided on January 9. With his pugnacious candidature for the presidential elections from an Israeli prison, the popular Palestinian leader Barguti has launched a bombshell. He represents the ‘young wild men’ who do not want to have anything to do with the rigid and corrupt establishment. This decision by the 45-year old Barguti sends a clear signal: It is a claim for a change of generations within the Palestinian leadership. This should happen and it is going to, even if for this once, the old guard around PLO-boss Abbas prevails. In such a case, the 70-year-old Abbas would be well advised to let the future decision makers participate. For sooner or later, a changing of the guard has to take place--on both sides. Faint-heartedness would be wrong: The young cannot do much worse than the old.”
Ben Segenreich opined in independent Der Standard (12/3): “Even if the coalition with the Labor Party comes about, Sharon will be permanently in danger of being toppled on account of the two parties’ differences in economic policy. And on the Palestinian side, the seemingly smooth transfer of authority is called into question through Marwan Barguti’s candidature. Quite apart from the question whether one holds Barguti to be a terrorist or a freedom fighter: With a President who is at the same time a prison inmate, a dialogue would not be possible and a poisonous quarrel about his release would overshadow all important and urgent issues. One can only hope that the start into the Arafat succession era is not getting off on the wrong foot.”
"The Poker Player"
Foreign affairs writer for centrist Die Presse, Thomas Vieregge, commented (12/2): "At the moment, not everything is going according to Sharon's wishes. While his government is crumbling away under his touch and he is left with the hope that the Labor Party will join in, the Palestinians are reshuffling the cards. Marwan Barghuti, the candidate who can win people's hearts, has, almost at the last minute, let himself be talked into running for office of President of the Palestinians and so thwarted the old guard around Sharon and PLO boss Abbas."
BELGIUM: "Barghouti, The Troublemaker"
Baudouin Loos wrote in left-of-center Le Soir (12/3): "Barghouti's candidacy for the upcoming January 9 Palestinian Presidential seriously sets the cats among the pigeons and drastically changes the scenario for Arafat's succession. Until then, it was almost certain that the Palestinian establishment's 'natural' candidate, Mahmoud Abbas, was going to romp on January 9.... In Israel, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon confirmed that he would not release Barghouti if the latter got elected.... Some people will soon consider that Sharon's statement means that the Israeli Prime Minister would welcome the election of a radical Palestinian--who, in addition, sits in jail--since that would enable him to revive the slogan that he so often repeated at the time of Yasser Arafat, i.e. 'we do not have any partner to make peace.'"
FINLAND: "No Grounds To Expect A Quick Breakthrough In The Middle East"
Leading centrist Helsingin Sanomat editorialized (12/3): "Yasser Arafat's death, PM Sharon's preparedness to withdraw from Gaza and the beginning of the second Bush term have strengthened the hopes for progress in the long-standing feud between Israel and Palestinians. The U.S. and Israel refused to negotiate with Arafat. Sharon has changed from the godfather of the settlements to the supporter of partial dismantling of the colonies. After the election, Bush has free hands to put pressure on the parties if he so decides.... If Bush has a vision of his mission in the Middle East, its contents and usefulness are unknown.... The peace process should be based on the so called Road Map.... In reality the whole plan was allowed to become diluted almost immediately, and Israel has approved the Road Map only in principle with many significant reservations.... President Bush wasted his first term vis-a-vis the Middle East. The task is not any easier during the second term."
ITALY: "Here’s Why Ariel Will Win In Any Case"
R.A. Segre commented in pro-government, leading center-right Il Giornale (12/3): “Wednesday night Sharon walked out of Parliament a satisfied man following his government’s defeat over the budget bill. The rejection allowed him to fire...four ministers of the anti-clerical Shinui Party.... This defeat allows the prime minister to resume negotiations with members of the Labor Party...who support Sharon’s Gaza withdrawal plan.... Sharon plans to take advantage...of this time to find international support for his disputed plan. In Washington he has already obtained Bush’s written promise that once Gaza has been evacuated, the U.S. will accept his request to include nearly all West Bank settlements in Israel’s redefined borders, where Palestinian refugees will no longer have the right of return.... His policy has always been to buy time in order to avoid making irreversible decisions (including the one to withdraw from Gaza: many have reservations on the prime minister’s true intentions) and to give the Arabs a chance to make the first mistake.”
"Sharon Loses His Allies, Government Crisis"
Leading business daily Il Sole-24 Ore editorialized (12/2): “The Israeli Parliament rejected yesterday the budget bill put forth by Ariel Sharon’s government - a humiliating defeat for the prime minister.... And now the defeat in Parliament could trigger a government collapse, early elections and a freeze of the Gaza withdrawal plan.... In order to avoid an indefinite postponement of Sharon’s plan to withdraw from Jewish settlements and from part of the West Bank, the premier must attempt to substitute the Shinui Party with votes from the Labor Party.... The more conservative wing of the Likud Party would undoubtedly oppose such a plan. And it certainly wouldn’t help Sharon seek votes for the Gaza plan among ultra-orthodox members, who view the plan ‘as a reward for Palestinian terrorism.”
"Barghuti Reconsiders: I Will Run For The Palestinian Presidency"
Fiamma Nierenstein commented in centrist, influential daily La Stampa (12/2): “Marwan Barghouti has decided to participate in the upcoming January 9 presidential elections. Currently, Barghouti does not have a majority, but he can count on a growing broad consensus that could give him the presidency, which would mean trouble for Israel.... Barghouti’ s line is tougher than Abu Mazen’s, who thinks he can to return to the negotiating table simply by advancing some kind of promise to take care of terrorism. Barghouti, however, says he wants to negotiate and be at war at the same time.”
SPAIN: "The Palestinian Mandela?"
Centrist La Vanguardia speculated (12/3): "Barguti can aspire to the role of being a Palestinian Mandela for the Palestinians, confronting an Abbas who is represented as a man willing to come an agreement with Israel and Washington. That is to say that Palestine and Al Fatah can be divided between the those who chose the way of a path to an agreement and the those who chose radicalization. That the world wants peace is clear. But, what will be the preference of the 'hawks' of Likud?"
TURKEY: "The Palestine Issue After Arafat"
Yilmaz Altug opined in the conservative/mass appeal Turkiye (12/2): "One wonders if Arafat’s death is going to help to end the Palestine-Israel war. During the Clinton administration, President Clinton exerted great effort to solve this problem, and presented a reasonable plan for a settlement. Arafat declined to take it.... When Clinton presented a revised plan and managed to bring Arafat and Israel’s PM Barak together in December 2000, there were even more positive elements from the Palestinian point of view. Based on that plan, for instance, Israeli forces would have withdrawn from Palestinian land within three years and an international force would have replaced them. Arafat rejected this proposal as well.... Regarding assistance to the Palestinians, none of the 22 Arab states has given any significant aid to Palestine. In fact, the Arabs are divided among themselves. Bush’s re-election has now postponed hope for a settlement for another 6 to 7 years. Arafat managed to bring together the Palestinians in the Diaspora, and that is about all. He passed away without seeing the liberation of Palestine.”
ISRAEL: "A Solution Is Wanting"
Aluf Benn wrote in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (12/3): "On Monday, America returned to work after the Thanksgiving holiday. A senior administration official...hopped over to New York to outline the new American policy.... Those present at the briefing heard and recorded: 'Whoever believes in a two-state solution cannot support the right of return.... At the end of the process, the settlement blocs will remain in Israel's hands and the rest will not.... The key to progress is to build democratic institutions in the PA and the war against terror, and this depends on the Palestinians.... Israel is not acting with sufficient transparency with regard to the settlements.' These remarks indicate that U.S. President George W. Bush's plan for a final accord is very similar to that of his predecessor, Bill Clinton.... From Sharon's perspective, there are many positive notes now being sounded in Washington.... If Sharon has cause for concern, it derives from the message expressed by a delegation of senior senators who visited him this week.... They explained that, in their view, there is a connection between American successes in one place and failures in another place. Therefore, in order to improve their situation in Iraq and increase public support for American activity there, some success must be demonstrated in the Israeli-Palestinian arena."
"Egypt's Seal Of Approval"
Zvi Bar'el held in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (12/3): "Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak described Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as the Palestinians' virtually last hope. The sharp turnabout in Mubarak's public stance toward Sharon did not begin on Thursday.... The details [of Egypt's agreement with Israel]--particularly the exchange of letters that would enable Egyptian soldiers to be stationed on the Gaza border without amending the Camp David Accords--had been settled three weeks earlier via American mediation. Mubarak's declarations Thursday are thus a continuation of these official steps. They are meant to give legitimacy to Sharon, but also to Egypt's own diplomatic moves.... Mubarak's statements were...a way of 'preparing hearts and minds' for an active Egyptian role in the peace process. This role has gone into high gear since Yasser Arafat's death, due to the need to influence the future structure of the PA. However, these statements also reflect an important working assumption: that Egypt believes in Sharon's willingness and ability to implement the disengagement plan.... Egypt is once again playing the role for which it is most suited: Even when it cannot call the shots, it can give them legitimacy. This is particularly important in light of the role that Egypt is expected to play in uniting the various Palestinian factions, as well as in advancing prospects for negotiations between Israel and Syria."
"One Candidate, One Party"
The Director of the Interdisciplinary Center's Global Research in International Affairs Center, columnist Barry Rubin, wrote in conservative Jerusalem Post (11/30): "To begin with, the Palestinian elections will be proclaimed as a near-model exercise in democracy. Yet it is easy to see that Fatah bosses chose the sole candidate, and Fatah bodies then unanimously endorsed him. Other candidates were pressured to quit. This election will be like those regularly held in Arab dictatorships, the establishment's man monopolizing media coverage and active regime backing. The sole difference: a few minor candidates can run.... Arafat is gone. But the Palestinian leadership is now being contested by one group, most of which (though not Abu Mazen himself) argues that Arafat was always right, while the other group simply wants to adapt Arafat's strategy for a new generation. Even today only a small minority of Palestinian leaders envisage a two-state solution -- along with settling all Palestinian refugees in their own state (and receiving more than USD 20 billion in compensation) -- as ending the conflict completely. Abu Mazen may want such a peaceful solution, but he knows compromise spells political suicide. Barghouti's on-and-off candidacy is intended to remind him of that.... True, Abu Mazen is the only conceivable Fatah candidate offering hope for peace. But the real test is whether he makes a single speech to his people realistically analyzing the conflict and its solution outlined above, and whether the PA-controlled media reduces its incitement to violence.... Is any real pressure going to be put on violent groups to stop terrorism against Israel, especially post-election? These steps, not interviews in the Western media, will show where the movement is heading."
"'Restraint in Incitement' -- But Incitement Goes On"
Nationalist, orthodox Hatzofe editorialized (11/30): "Abu Mazen, who is running for president [of the PA] in replacement of Yasser Arafat, declared in recent days that he remains loyal to the 'Rais's' policy regarding all aspects of an agreement with Israel. He even demanded a complete Israeli withdrawal to the pre-Six Day War borders, including in Jerusalem. He stressed this was not a demand 'for election purposes only'.... Thus, there is no practical reason to take notice of apparent moderate sounds on PA radio or television, in order to create an array of assessments leading to the conclusion that there has been positive change in the Palestinian street.... Even considering the moderation, incitement goes on -- perhaps more softly, but without substantial change. It is directed at the Jewish state and Jerusalem. The struggle continues."
"Pulling Out -- In Jerusalem, Too"
Aqiva Eldar commented in left-of-center Ha'aretz (Internet Version, 11/29): "On the Friday when the late Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat was buried in the courtyard of the Muqata, the media reported that because of the fear of riots, the Israeli government had decided to close the Temple Mount mosques to residents of the territories.... The world will see how generous Sharon is. Not only is he suffering from the separation from one and a half million Gazans, and from four settlements in the northern West Bank that are stuck like a bone in the throat of the Israel Defense Forces. For the sake of the democratization of the Middle East, he is even willing to undermine the holy of holies -- Israeli sovereignty in Isawiyah, and the integrity of the Shuafat refugee camp.... Abu Mazen's style differs from that of Arafat.... However, a unification one day of East Jerusalem and the West Bank will not satisfy even one-eighth of the appetite of the Palestinian leadership that will be elected on January 9, no matter how pragmatic this leadership may be. A Palestinian leader who surrenders Palestinian interests in Jerusalem will not last long, which is unfortunate, politically speaking. A short tour of East Jerusalem, along the concrete walls, reveals that when the myths and the hollow slogans are sifted out, Israeli and Palestinian interests are not so far apart.... The four reasons why Israel should disengage from East Jerusalem are surprisingly similar to its reasons for disengaging from the Gaza Strip. Occupation: Sharon's diagnosis regarding the residents of Gaza and the northern West Bank, who are living under foreign occupation that cannot continue forever, is also true of the residents of East Jerusalem. Security: Imposing the artificial separation from the Palestinian state-in- the-making, including centers of social services, education and culture, is liable to increase the motivation of young East Jerusalemites to harm Israel. Demography: According to the forecast of Jerusalem demographer Prof. Sergio Della Pergola, in 2020 the number of Arabs in Jerusalem will reach 358,000, and the percentage of the Israeli population in the city will decline to 62 percent (as compared to 84 percent in the peak year -- 1972). Economy: In order to change the term "united Jerusalem" from a slogan into reality, it will be necessary to distance the poverty line in East Jerusalem from the level in Gaza, and to bring it closer to the poverty line in Israel, at the least. The budgets required for that will lead to a lengthening of the lines at the soup kitchens on the western side of the poorest city in Israel. What do we really gain from "sovereignty" in "united" Jerusalem? For the first time in many years, even the candidates for the U.S. presidency stopped promising to move the embassy to Jerusalem, a neglected capital that is not recognized even by its best friend, and that is being abandoned by its best sons."
"Silence The Incitement Chorus"
Columnist Amos Gilboa wrote in popular, pluralist Maariv (11/29): "The wondrous thing is many good people among us [Israelis], over the last decade, grasped onto any benign statement and sugary utterances by 'moderate' Palestinians, ascribed heaps of analysis to it, based on their own personal desires, and did not want to see or hear the deafening chorus of incitement. Therefore, if and when a legitimate Palestinian leadership arises, and should elections take place in January 2005, it should be asked, in my opinion, as a supreme obligation, to begin to take two steps. One, immediate and tactical: to stop every type of institutional incitement.... The second, for the longer range: a fundamental change in the Palestinian educational system towards the recognition of the State of Israel (with the 1967 borders) as the country of the Jewish people. This means, for instance, that the State of Israel would appear on maps that are studied in geography and history classes, as well as on maps hanging in teachers' rooms.... Today no Israeli community appears there, except for Arab communities from before 1948! And now a bit of a funny question comes up, but very saddening: does the State of Israel have its own high quality mechanism to monitor all types of Palestinian incitement and to present it all over the world? I am very doubtful. Today, anyone who wants to study the fountain of incitement and hatred of Palestinian youth, could do this only in one private place in Israel: at an exhibition of the non-profit Intelligence and Terror Information Center."
"Today We Are Saving You, Mr. Sharon"
Yahad party head and Geneva Accord co-initiator Yossi Beilin "addressed" Ariel Sharon in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (11/29): "Dear Mr. Prime Minister: The fact that Yahad, which I have the honor of heading, will save your government from being brought down today, in the no-confidence vote that is being submitted against it by the Labor faction, is causing me sleepless nights. After all, we don't have even an iota of confidence in you.... The disengagement from Gaza, which is the reason why we won't bring you down today, does not bring us great joy, either.... Afterward, you will do everything possible to place any possible political process into formaldehyde.... And in spite of all this, we believe that the fact that you intend to evacuate the settlements in Gaza is an important contribution to the political process, and provides a significant precedent for the future.... For the time being, we will overcome our justified desire to see you leave the Prime Minister's Office, because we believe in our ability to cause political developments to deviate from your original intentions. Just as we made it possible for the Geneva Initiative -- as you specifically admitted -- to raise the idea of unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, we will also work after the withdrawal to promote negotiations with the new Palestinian leadership, toward a final status agreement. This agreement will be based on the Clinton plan and on the Bush initiative. It will be carried out in the context of the road map peace plan and when it is signed, it will be surprisingly similar to that same Geneva Initiative from which you tried to flee."
"The Horsetrading Begins Amid The Sharon-Abbas Charm Offensive"
Independent electronic newsletter DEBKAfile (11/28): "Welcoming the seemingly-moderate Abbas in place of the architect of Palestinian terror, American and Israeli officials are leaning over backwards to ease his path into government in Ramallah -- even to keeping their distance until the election is in the bag. However, this hands-off policy has a price. It has given Abbas a free run that he is nimbly exploiting to lay down a few facts that the Bush administration and the Sharon government may come to regret later. DEBKAfile's Palestinian sources have learned how the incoming Palestinian leader perceives the post-election period when he is head of the Palestinian government.... Abbas wants no hand in Sharon's disengagement and settlement removal plan.... As matters turned out, Abbas, unlike his predecessor, believes he can count on American, European and world backing for a Palestinian state by the end of 2005. His acceptance of temporary borders is based on his judgment that the Palestinians have no chance of satisfying all their demands in negotiations with the Israelis.... But Palestinian statehood need not be delayed. He also figures that by accepting half a loaf, the Palestinians can demand that Israel reciprocate and make do with temporary arrangements, such as the continuation of Palestinian terror and incitement to hatred and violence, notwithstanding Sharon's stipulations for dialogue. Above all, Abu Mazen is counting on the goodwill lavished on him by Washington and Jerusalem carrying over beyond January 9 and placing the Palestinians in position to redouble their demands. Abu Mazen believes he is empowered not only to sterilize the Sharon disengagement plan by shrugging off a Palestinian role, but also to scupper Sharon's long-term objective to draw a line on the Gaza and northern West Bank pullbacks and make them Israel's last territorial concessions. Playing down Sharon's disengagement is Abbas's way of minimizing its significance in the larger scheme of major territorial concessions to the Palestinian state.... While Sharon tends to be insensitive to popular opinion and unable to harness it as a political instrument, Abu Mazen recognizes "people power" as a natural Palestinian modus.... Aware of Abbas's pre-negotiation maneuvers, the Sharon interview in the same Newsweek issue reflects a certain hardening of line.... This was a message to Abbas that he had better not toy with the prospect of a Palestinian state in 2005 and more Israeli withdrawals - unless he first carries out the prior, pre-conditional clauses of the roadmap with regard to terrorism and incitement.... Both leaders continue to exchange smiles and pats on the back in the run-up to the January election and promise to rendezvous after the vote. But their words often negate those smiles. The hard bargaining is already in full swing."
WEST BANK: "About The Nomination Of Barghouti"
Ashraf Ajrami noted in independent Al-Ayyam (12/3): "There’s no doubt that by deciding to nominate himself again after declaring that he would not run for the elections against Abu Mazin, Barghuthi fundamentally incurs a big risk to his own political future and the unity of Fatah.... Whether by insisting on running for election regardless of how many votes he will get, which probably will not allow him to beat Abu Mazin, or by having to withdraw his nomination once again, Marwan will clearly be the loser. He will first lose his position in Fatah and second will lose a lot of his prestige and significance, and his influence on Fatah will weaken.”
"Abu-Mazin May Be Viewed No Differently From Arafat"
Adli Sadiq commented in official Al-Hayat al-Jadidah (12/1): "When Abu-Mazin was prime minister, he received the road map agreement signed by the late President Arafat. There was no difference between the two men apart from the fact that Arafat the martyr was in the eyes of the occupiers and Americans a leader personally responsible for the resistance, while Abu-Mazin was not. However, we might hear again that Abu-Mazin is responsible for the opposition just because he would not and cannot agree to a Sharonist settlement."
Hafid al-Barghuthi editorialized in official Al-Hayat al-Jadidah (12/1): "Those who are responsible for crimes in Israel are the same ones asking the Palestinian Authority to fight corruption and reform, [while] they encourage settlement and defend the crimes committed by occupation soldiers on a daily basis. The reason that Israel had become a state run by gangsters is the occupation".
"Stability Before The Vote Required"
Basim Abu Sammiah opined in official Al-Hayat al-Jadidah (12/1): "There are three issues that need to be settled before the presidential election so that the new leadership would be able to regain control of the political decision and the security situation: First, Israel has to declare its acceptance of the road map and end its incursions. Second, the political and military leaders in Israel should stop using words of threat and incitement [Lastly], the Palestinian Authority has to impose its authority on the street."
"Democracy Is Solution"
Ahmad Majdalani commented in independent Al-Ayyam (12/1): "The calm and smooth transfer of power has paved the way towards resuming reforms which were started more than two years ago then faltered. The pluralistic democratic solution is the best and easiest option that could mobilize all the people and consolidate the ranks to achieve the national project."
"Elections: The Competition, The Institution"
Hani Masri commented in independent Al-Ayyam (11/30): “The key to founding a Palestinian institution is to establish a state of competition, by utilizing elections in all issues and at all domestic, legislative, presidential and sectoral levels, as well as in associations, federations, charitable societies and NGOs.... Therefore I believe that it is extremely important that the upcoming elections (local, legislative and presidential) be a gateway to unity, legitimacy, reform and democracy through the involvement of as many people as possible.”
"Telling Lies In Incitement"
Hasan Al-Batal wrote in independent Al-Ayyam (11/30): “The Palestinian printed media (the three dailies) almost lack incitement compared to the Israeli printed media. This comparison is simple and available to the average Palestinian reader, who reads translations from the Hebrew press in the Palestinian newspapers. We admit that Palestinian audio and visual media are infected with a lack of professionalism and morale-boosting fever, and are contaminated with incitement, whereas their Israeli counterparts mask their incitement with a high level of technical and professional excellence.”
"The Palestinian Leadership"
Rajab Abu-Sirriyah commented in independent Al-Ayyam (11/30): "There is also no doubt that the Palestinian leadership that is now proceeding with quick steps on the road to straightening out the Palestinian situation, in the wake of the internal chaos and political paralysis, profoundly understands that its strategic requirement is, ultimately, to confront the Israeli side on the political issue. But it must be able to shuffle all of its cards so that it will be in the best possible negotiating position.... If the Israeli side were to try, within the narrowest of limits, to coordinate the withdrawal from Gaza on the basis of the disengagement plan, the Palestinian side would see this as a return to political negotiation for a [final] solution. The Palestinian side sees the bare minimum for this as the road map and its general framework is the fixed Palestinian principles and the essence of the Palestinian position, which has not changed.... On the subject of the elections themselves, the Palestinian leadership is confirming that regional and international oversight will be provided for the elections.... It is clear that Palestinian external activity is impossible until it gets past the internal bottleneck following the death of President Arafat.... The new thing that inspires joy is that the Palestinian leadership is one that is tested and experienced."
"Action Full Of Promises"
Talal ‘Okal commented in independent Al-Ayyam (11/29): “At an internal level, which is the most important, Fatah has been able to unify its choice...over the nomination of Mahmud Abbas for the presidency, increasing his chances of winning especially following Marwan Barghuthi’s decision to withdraw his candidacy.... There is a general Palestinian understanding, reflected by events on the ground, of what is needed at this stage. There are also clear signs that the factions will take into account the PA’s general circumstances that weaken Israel’s justification to continue its aggression. Moreover, the number of political activities and meetings with the U.S., Russian and British foreign ministers, in addition to the UN and China’s peace envoys, carry promises that compel Israel to take measures to facilitate the elections, return to negotiations and activate the peace process.”
"Important Steps In The Right Direction"
Independent Al-Quds editorialized (11/29): “The Palestinian scene clearly is moving hastily and intensely in the right direction amid obvious Arab and international support. The remaining concern is the indication that Israel has not yet shown any good intentions. On the contrary, it continued its hostility and began to come up with new pretexts, showing lack of interest in the free, democratic elections that would produce a Palestinian leadership. Thus it’s necessary that Arab and international efforts continue to compel Israel to implement the Roadmap and to prevent it from thwarting the Palestinian efforts to rebuild what the occupation has ruined.”
"The Presidential Elections: Important Developments But..."
Ashraf al-Ajrami commented in independent Al-Ayyam (11/29): "Two important steps have been made within the past few days on the way to Palestinian presidential elections. The first was Fatah's complete support for Abu-Mazin, Mahmud Abbas.... The second development was the announcement of the disbanding of the Death Squad.... Yet, for all their importance, these steps do not cancel out the fragility and sensitivity of the domestic Palestinian situation or the inherent dangers that could overturn matters and wreak havoc.... Reforming the security apparatuses and designating their function based on laws that determine their responsibilities and authority is a matter of the utmost importance in order for the election of a new PA president to be meaningful on both the domestic democratic and general political levels. This will lead to a restructuring of the Palestinian institution and improve the PA's image among the civilian population and influential international parties. The democratic process cannot advance without first advancing the rule of law, public order, and the population's sense of safety and security. Nor can it advance without reconsidering the chaos of weapons and the over-militarization of Palestinian society in the last few years. The PA cannot find a solution to the lawlessness without restraining, unifying, and pinpointing the jurisdiction and responsibilities of its security apparatuses and ending the entanglement and contention among them.... Abu-Mazin's greatest challenge will be his ability to revive Fatah's institutions and control its various offshoots, some of which still threaten to hinder the electoral process. Another challenge will be his success in pulling Fatah's ranks together and uniting them behind the democratic process in preparation for the movement's sixth general conference.... In the remaining time before the elections it is important to impart to the people that there is a new opportunity for serious reform and change in the political system."
Basim Abu Sumaya opined in official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (11/28): “What harms the presidential election campaign most is that the fantastical plethora of candidates (10 so far) is nothing but fake democracy.... We say fake because this rush by the majority of those who are running with no sensible agendas is a kind of misrepresentation of democracy and constituency awareness. It is naive when six out of ten candidates for presidency say that they are seeking funds for their campaigns and that they depend on assistance from their friends and charitable donations, or that some of them rely on their broad national vision and firm desire to challenge corruption, the U.S. and Israel. What’s this meaningless talk?.... Since the talk is about true presidential elections and not a bazaar or a workshop, it would have been better if each one of the political parties, including the silent independent current, nominated their best candidates to represent them so that the elections have a flavor of real democracy and a taste of true competition.”
"To Mahmud Abbas...With Love And Best Wishes"
Faysal Abu-Khadra commented in independent Al-Quds (11/27): "There is no doubt that it is a great honor for Mr. Mahmud Abbas -- Abu-Mazin -- to have the confidence of the Palestinians to succeed the late President Yasir Arafat.... This honor, of which Abu-Mazin is definitely worthy, necessarily requires the one upon whom it is bestowed to preserve and protect it with everything he has. It was not by accident that the nomination of Mahmud Abbas took place simultaneously with the funeral of the late President Yasir Arafat. On the contrary, Abu-Mazin deliberately wanted to convey loudly to the spirit of Arafat that he would be loyal to the pledge, the companionship, and the date. As for the fulfillment of these promises, they require the president to stop and have a long talk with himself, before God, and before the hopes of the Palestinian people, and then reach the following conclusions. First, Israel is a very strong and very developed state, and has very long arms.... Second, it is extremely necessary for President Mahmud Abbas to understand this fact -- and we know that he does -- and to behave on the basis of searching for an honorable way out that does not push people into fire and destruction. This way out necessarily requires the preservation of a maximum, not minimum, amount of national dignity. National dignity is not just to fight Israel as an eye fights a needle, because such a fight will only lead to the loss of the eye, but it is to work intensely as one hand, behind which stands every Palestinian on earth, to snatch away everything that can be snatched away through politics, unity, and a firm determination. Third, it is necessary for President Mahmud Abbas to make the Palestinians understand that the political solution brought by the Oslo agreement is a settlement and not a solution. Fourth, there are three demands in front of President Mahmud Abbas that no one can erase or cancel out from the final settlement, and which are the same demands of the late Yasir Arafat: Jerusalem, the right to return, and the land. In conclusion, President Mahmud Abbas, the chairman of the PLO Executive Committee, now has the opportunity to consult his people...and to come up with a unanimous agreement.... Mahmud Abbas would have to go to the negotiating table with an absolute mandate from his people giving him absolute authority to agree to the suitable and the unsuitable, to the good and the less good, and to the possible and the impossible; otherwise, we will spend another 50 years without knowing who we are, where we came from, and where we are going."
EGYPT: "Abu-Mazin And Reformulating The Sources Of Legitimacy"
Leading government-owned Al-Ahram editorialized (11/29): "It was only logical that a new Palestinian leadership after Arafat would face a problem with legitimacy, despite the fact that this leadership relied on direct presidential elections and Arab support. It is necessary to reactivate the relationship between this political leadership and the Palestinian people, and to rely on a clear quantitative estimate of the stances of the Palestinian people regarding the basic crucial issues. This is the condition that Abu-Mazin [Mahmud Abbas] realized very clearly when he started his election campaign. He started it by confirming his commitment to holding a general referendum on the final solution issues, particularly Jerusalem, the refugees, the borders, and water. For Abu-Mazin, the referendum could turn out to be a method to make his way out of any pressure he might come under from the United States or the Israeli Government. However, relying on the referendum mechanism on its own represents a new style for confirming the legitimacy of the Palestinian policies. This is necessary to confirm the transformation from equating the Authority with one person and personal charisma to political institutionalism."
SAUDI ARABIA: "The Peace That Israel Wants"
Jeddah’s moderate Okaz editorialized (11/30): "Israel wants to take advantage of...(the) sudden death of former Chairman of the P.A., Arafat. Israel wants to redraw the peace project as it sees fit, and from its own perspective. Under these conditions, there will never be a comprehensive peace in the region.... If Israel is looking for a real peace, then let it negotiate with the P.A. the terms that have been put in previous summits. In previous negotiations, the Palestinian side demanded a guarantee of Palestinian rights, including the right of return, and establishing a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital."
"A New Palestinian Reality"
Jeddah’s conservative Al-Madina editorialized (11/29): "Political reality in any country sometimes requires that people give up some of their immediate needs in return for a public interest in the long run.... Palestinian solidarity and prevention of political chaos is contingent upon the Palestinians’ ability to hold on to their cause, especially after the loss of their historic leader, Arafat. One person cannot symbolize the Palestinian cause. Institutional efforts are required in this phase. The winning leadership, regardless of its members’ identity, must have a crystal clear vision for its political mission. A vision that is both realistic and clear. Otherwise they would once again lose any chance for a peace settlement.
"Negotiations In The Cell Saved FATEH [Palestinian National Revolutionary Movement]"
Abha’s moderate Al-Watan editorialized (11/29): "Marwan Al-Barghouti, The Secretary of the FATEH Movement in the West Bank, did well by announcing that he has given up his chance to run in the P.A. election. Al-Barghouti has saved the FATEH movement from a definite division. Al-Barghouti believes that the Intifada, [the armed Palestinian uprising] is the only way to win back the occupied territories; whereas, the current Chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization Mahmmoud Abbas, nicknamed Abu Mazen, and other P.A. leadership members like P.M. Ahmmed Quraei, Abu Ala’a, support the concept of reaching a peaceful settlement through political diplomacy. These people are in favor of actions such as the OSLO Accord, and the roadmap for peace, which have been sponsored and supported by the Bush Administration during its first term. Now we are waiting for the execution phase in the second presidential term."
BAHRAIN: "Palestine Unity Efforts In Danger"
The pro-government English-language Daily Tribune warned (12/3): "Collapse looms over the Sharon government with the parliament divided.... But neither are developments taking a better course in Palestine. The declaration of jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouthi to join the polls, only days after being reported to have backed out only casts a shadow over the anticipated bright prospects that the January 9 elections are supposed to offer. Palestinian politics, with Arafat’s demise, continue to take unusual twists and turns over the recent days which highlight nothing but deep divisions between and within Palestinian power camps. Barghouthi’s latest announcement...can only lead to the splitting up of the Fatah movement further shaking the already not-so-robust political ground for Palestinian politics.... An uneasy feeling hangs in the air that this latest backing out and comeback episode from Barghouthi can lead to the collapse of unity efforts in Palestine.... Things don’t augur too well. The world is watching but there is yet much to await if indeed Palestinians can pull their act together and indicate their capacity and seriousness to run their own sovereign state.... As in the usual case, elections are not really occasions to unite. In many cases, they can divide a nation. The way things are shaping up now in Palestine, unity seems to be last on the agenda.... Theatrics and vested interests have no place in a crucial electoral exercise especially for a nascent state emerging out of the ashes of oppression. Barghouthi, Abbas and other politicians are intent upon the top prize--the presidency--but there is concern that these political skirmishes will backfire.... As such they lose the ultimate prize--which is running their own independent state."
JORDAN: "Good Performance But…"
Former Jordanian Minister of Information and columnist Saleh Qallab wrote on the back-page of semi-official, influential Arabic Al-Rai (11/30): “It has been nineteen days since the death of Yasser Arafat. So far, one can say that the performance of his successors has been good and quite impressive.... If Abu Mazen wants the Israelis, Americans and European countries to treat him differently from their treatment of Arafat, he must make sure that not a single bomb or gun or even a bullet stays outside the jurisdiction and control of the security forces. The situation would not handle well the Palestinian Authority having two faces: one for a peaceful solution and the other for resistance and force.”
LEBANON: "The Last Stop"
Sateh Noureddine held in Arab nationalist As-Safir (12/3): "National unity was always a grave concern for the Palestinians.... Protecting this unity was never easy...within the various internal Palestinian-Palestinian conflicts.... Nevertheless, this unity remained...because it was the only weapon in the hands of the Palestinians.... Following the death of Yasser Arafat...this unity has been shaken.... However, no one expected that unity be shaken within the Fatah movement as well.... It is possible that Bargouti’s decision to present his candidacy for the Palestinian presidential elections is only a personal reaction to underscore that his imprisonment has been ignored by Mahmoud Abbas and Abou Mazen.... But Bargouti’s motives are certainly not only personal motives.... His decision to present his candidacy raises a lot of questions about future national Palestinian activity."
UAE: "Who’ll Save Sharon?"
The expatriate-oriented English-language Khaleej Times asked (12/3): "Ariel Sharon of Israel may have overplayed his hand when he sacked ministers from the Shinui party, a key member of the coalition government. What looked like a comfortable political future for the Israeli leader until some days ago now appears perilously uncertain.... It may be curtains for the hardline Likud party prime minister if he fails to rope in the opposition Labour party into his coalition.... Even if Labour agrees to offer a helping hand to Sharon’s shaky government and joins the coalition, it would like to have its pound of flesh.... The party, if it joins the coalition, is almost certain to push its own agenda. The hardline governing party, Likud...is already a divided house. If Labour opts to stay out of the coalition, the Sharon government is certain to come down. And Israelis will be looking at an early general election.... But regardless of what happens in occupied Jerusalem and who gets to lead the Israelis, the direction and policies of the Jewish state are not going to undergo any dramatic changes.... Israel will continue to be guided by its fundamentally flawed vision.... If Sharon is booted out, will the Gaza plan follow him into oblivion? We wouldn’t bet on it.... A majority of the Israelis seem to favour Gaza disengagement. It is the only exit strategy that allows Israel to withdraw without hurting its self-respect and ego.... It is a rarely acknowledged fact that the Gaza withdrawal is a face-saver for Sharon and the Jewish state. By withdrawing from certain parts of Gaza and keeping rest of the occupied territories with itself, the Israelis would rid themselves of troublesome Palestinian attacks. At the same time, they would be in a better position to manage what they have."
"Barghouti Shows Political Brilliance"
The expatriate-oriented English-language Gulf News declared (12/3): "The sudden entry of Marwan Barghouti into the Palestinian presidential elections may show more political nous than many have given him credit for.... As he is serving five life sentences plus 40 years, it was seen as disruptive and likely to split the Fatah movement.... In the light of overtures from senior Palestinians to Barghouti...Barghouti decided to stand aside and allow elections to proceed, endorsing Mahmoud Abbas as candidate. This was seen as a breakthrough by the old guard who had feared direct confrontation with the younger elements in the movement.... It could be this last reason why Barghouti has had a change of mind and now decided to stand in January's election...as an independent.... However, it is unlikely the international community will allow elections in Palestine to proceed while one of the principal candidates rots in an Israeli jail. Knowing this may be the reason why Barghouti decided to throw his hat in the ring. For it is likely that only international pressure on Israel could effect the release of Barghouti. Once out of jail, Barghouti, for the sake of unity, may then decide to stand aside again on condition that younger Palestinians get to serve."
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
CHINA: "New Palestinian President Unlikely To Fill In The Gap Arafat Left "
Saud Abu Ramadan wrote in English-language Xinhua (11/29): "The election of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) president, due to be held on Jan. 9, two months after the late leader Yasir Arafat passed away, will contribute a lot to activating the Palestinian political life. However, analysts also believe that it is unlikely that any coming president will be able to fill in the gap that Arafat has left.... The ongoing presidential campaign in the Palestinian territories has brought out surprises to the people almost everyday as new candidates, some little-known, present themselves onto the volatile political arena.... The main stream Fatah movement's candidate Mahmud Abbas, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) executive committee, is widely seen as being in the inside track of the election.... It is expected that several more candidates will declare to take part in the election.... However, neither the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) nor the Islamic Jihad (Holy War) Movement has declared to participate in the election so far. The two hardline groups have enjoyed soaring popularity, especially among the young, during the past four years of the Intifada (uprising) against Israel.... Analysts said the reason that a booming number of candidates decide to take their share of the election was the absence of Arafat, who was considered as a charismatic fatherly figure as well as a symbol of the decades-long Palestinian struggle for statehood.... Many Palestinians believe that the coming election would contribute in a way or another to activating the Palestinian political life."
INDONESIA: "Boycott Of Palestinian Leaders Ended? What A Development"
Leading independent Kompas commented (11/30): “Since Yasser Arafat died, there has been speculation...ranging from pessimists who argue that Palestine-Israel will become unstable, to optimists who say that there will be a new direction promoting peace between the two nations. If we are to believe the recent reports, the optimistic view will become the trend in the future. Yesterday it was reported that Ariel Sharon was ready to end the boycott he imposed on Palestinian leaders. Last Sunday he said he was ready to meet with the new leader of the PLO, who is a prospective Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas.... Amid the many demands that Abbas has received and the many challenges he faces, Abbas is lucky because he is credible both among the Palestinians and the West. Under such a perspective, one can see that the peace process between Israel and Palestine can be more prospective. That is to say, if Abbas is elected to replace Arafat, he will have the opportunity to create a new atmosphere in the Middle East.”
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
PAKISTAN: "A New Crisis In The Middle East"
An editorial in independent Urdu-language Din read (12/3): "While Palestine has always been mired in administrative and political crises, this time it is the Israeli government that is facing turmoil. The Israeli parliament has rejected, in the first reading, the budget presented by the Sharon government, which shows lack of confidence in the present government.... Once this happens in a country, the government must either dissolve the parliament and announce fresh elections, or establish a new alignment within the existing set-up.... In a survey, a respected Israeli newspaper has asked for opinion on whether people want a new government or whether a coalition government would be preferable.... Earlier on, the conservative Likud Party had rejected the proposal to share power with the Labor Party. Given the new scenario, it is quite possible that Mr. Sharon might convince his party for a partnership and Likud-Labor coalition government might come into being. However, such a partnership would be conditional and Mr. Sharon would have to soften his extremist stance and policies."
"Boycott Of Palestinian Presidential Elections From Hamas"
Karachi-based pro-Taliban/Jihad Urdu-language Islam concluded (12/3): "The role of Palestinian resistance movements has been quite illuminating till now and they have handled the situation very well even in very difficult circumstances. The leaders of the Islamic world should comprehensively represent the point of view of these movements before the international community so that the problems of Palestinians could be resolved at the earliest. Election of the Palestinian leadership is the personal issue of the Palestinians and if they were not allowed to take this derision then the situation here would be no different than Iraq and Afghanistan."
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