October 3, 2005
MIDDLE EAST: A "PROCESS OF CENTERING" FOR PARTICIPANTS
** "Bulldozer" Sharon's Likud Central Committee win "does not mean any progress."
** Hamas remains a "thorn in the neck" as its military wing rejects a secondary role.
** Israel's "Operation First Rain" revives a Hamas call for "tahya" or calmness.
** After "five years of intifada" the players are "re-reading the political map."
'Sadness over Sharon's victory'-- Media agreed Netanyahu's "failed attack" granted Sharon a "small triumph" that put "radical elements" in Likud "on the sidelines for the time being." Austrian analysts determined "peace is still a long way off" and held that debate about Likud's direction "has by no means ended." They added pessimistically, "A new conflict phase in the Middle East is looming." Denmark's center-right Politiken contended, "Sharon's victory could lead to a new intifada." Adding perspective, Germany's left-of-center Berliner Zeitung opined, "If he had lost, Sharon could have led a new center party, comprising many forces."
Hamas may be 'becoming unpopular'-- Italy's center-left Il Riformista asked, "Who’s been triggering Hamas rage in both Gaza and West Bank?" Many observers concurred Hamas is "better equipped" than PA authorities and echoed an Indian editorial that asserted the fundamentalist group may have to "shoulder the blame" if peace is "dashed to bits." Italy's elite Il Foglio pointed out, "Palestinians are becoming tired of the war actions of the armed group," adding, "In Gaza, people are not pleased with the chaotic situation that Hamas has brought into the Territories following the Israeli withdrawal." A few analysts offered another view: they saw a Syrian "hand in the new Hamas"; an anti-Syrian Lebanese writer declared that Syria sees itself "already involved in a war" against the U.S. in Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq.
'Terrorism may carry a high price'-- Editorialists remarked that Hamas' and Islamic Jihad's "launching of around 40 rockets at Israel" led to "massive air and artillery" retaliation, dubbed "Operation First Rain." In First Rain's wake, India's right-of-center Pioneer noted that Khaled al-Batish, Islamic Jihad's political leader and others--including Hamas--issued calls to "revive 'tahya,' calmness, towards Israel." Israel's pluralist Maariv commented on the "inflammatory rhetoric of Hamas," adding that Hamas, for its part, "proved once again that it is not afraid of a fight, so long as it is fighting only the Palestinian Authority, not the whole of Fatah."
'In the past' and 'in the coming months'-- An Israeli writer proclaimed "the Israeli public is looking for a direction, a vision, and a hope," while a West Bank writer determined, "After five years of confrontations...the very goal of establishing a Palestinian state, though recognized by the whole world including Israel, [seems to be] far off as it can be." Other analysts judged that the intifada has caused Israel's Left and Right to embrace a "moderate line" and undergo a "similar process" of "flow to the center." As for Hamas, some saw it promoting external extremism and eschewing moderation, terming it the "real enemy of peace"; the group is having trouble becoming a "political" rather than a "military" movement because its extreme "military wing is still quite strong."
Prepared by Media Reaction Division (202) 203-7888, firstname.lastname@example.org
EDITOR: Rupert D. Vaughan
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 39 reports from 12 countries over September 28 - October 3, 2005. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.
GERMANY: "Pragmatic Policy"
Business daily Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf observed (9/28): "Netanyahu's failed attack on Sharon put the radical elements in the Likud are on the sidelines for the time being. That is not just of internal significance, because the governing Likud Party now acknowledges Sharon's pragmatic and realistic policy of disengagement. That is not a peace policy as such, but the Likud gave up its dream of a Greater Israel.... In recent weeks, Sharon showed that settlements could be disengaged against a great parliamentary opposition, and he also managed to dismantle and dissolve settlements completely. However, Sharon's victory will not automatically resume the peace process. The prime minister's priority is not to reconcile with the Palestinians; he is not willing to accept them as partners.... Sharon, who wants to solidify Israel's security before he resigns, thinks in strategic categories. He gives up the fronts he cannot defend. That does not create peace, but it is an appropriate conflict management. At the moment, we can hardly expect more than that."
Inge Günther commented in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (9/28): "Sharon has won not because the Likud was impressed by Sharon's attendance at the UN summit. Such a peace-orientated speech might be received well across the world but certainly not by Israel's right-wing people's party, which is opposed to Sharon's disengagement policy. Netanyahu must now hold his horses, and also those who hope for a positive dynamism in the Palestinian-Israeli relationship must be patient. As much as we grant Sharon this small triumph, it does not mean any progress. On the contrary, you cannot create peace with Likud's hardliners. But it might also be difficult with Sharon, who likes to make unilateral decisions. However, he is a realist and understands that he must make territorial concessions. As long as Likud produces the prime minister, nothing will improve."
"Sadness Over Sharon's Victory"
Martina Doering noted in left-of-center Berliner Zeitung (9/28): "If he had lost, Sharon could have led a new center party, comprising many forces. Those Likud members who fed up with the radical nationalists, the Labor Party's opportunists, sectarian egoists and especially those who really want to start a peace process with the Palestinians. The potential members of such a party will be sad that Sharon has won the vote, but they can be sure that Sharon will try it again with his followers."
ITALY: "Assad Has A Hand In The New Hamas"
Unsigned analysis in elite, center-left Il Riformista (10/3): "Who’s been triggering Hamas’ rage in both Gaza and West Bank? The Palestinian National Authority indicated the culprit with name and surname. And it did it sensationally by handing over a confidential report to both Israeli and Egyptian authorities. According to Mukhabarat, central intelligence service of President Abu Mazen, Syrian President Bahar Assad originated this sudden wave of terrorism.... The reason is easy to explain. According to this Palestinian intelligence report, feeling the pressure of the international community, due to the U.S. accusations of supporting terrorism in Iraq, and also due to the probe by the UN over the killing of Lebanese PM Rafik HarirI, the Syrian president asked both Palestinian organizations [Hamas and Islamic Jihad] to resume their terrorist activity in the Territories and the Gaza Strip, in order to take attention away from Syria.... Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Ze’ev Boim endorsed this information.... And also Egypt has taken very seriously this report by the Palestinian National Authority. So much so that President Hosni Mubarak asked for and obtained an urgent meeting with Bashar Assad at Cairo."
"Also In Gaza And Among Arab Neighbors, Hamas Is Becoming Unpopular"
Unsigned analysis in elite, liberal Il Foglio declared (9/30): “They voted yesterday in Gaza and the West Bank to elect a thousand municipal councilors.... Palestinians are becoming tired of the war actions of the armed group [Hamas], even more so after yesterday when Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said that the military offensive against Hamas will continue. However, according to analysts in the Territories, it could be too early to see discontent reflected in [yesterday’s] vote. A good portion of the population would certainly like to punish Fatah’s leaders, ‘because they are divided and corrupted.... Hamas is asking to revive ‘tahya,’ calmness, towards Israel.... In Gaza, people are not pleased with the chaotic situation that Hamas has brought into the Territories following the Israeli withdrawal.... According to our sources, the armed movement opted for a truce urged by Egypt and Syria--the latter wants to loosen the vice of pressures and sanctions imposed by the United States after the killing of former Lebanese PM Rafiq Hariri.”
"Hamas Is Increasingly Less Centralized And The Video Of The Hostage Is Proof"
Unsigned analysis in elite, center-left Il Riformista stated (9/29): "An exclusively military response in Gaza and a military as well as political response in the West Bank.... Israel wants to affect the Palestinian political process, to prevent Hamas from becoming strong enough to win the January 27 parliamentary elections."
Unsigned analysis in elite, liberal Il Foglio (9/29): "The Israeli operation 'First Rain' in response to the Palestinian rocket bombing...has marked a change in the rules of the conflict, radically changed after the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.... The withdrawal desired by Sharon has permitted the 'externalization' of Hamas’s form of terrorism, to render it a greater problem for Abu Mazen--who cannot control it--than for the government of Jerusalem. Hamas wants to remain a thorn in the neck for Israel as well as keep its political consensus in view of January elections.... It’s now time that PNA settles the accounts with Hamas.... Hamas could thwart all Palestinian gains from the Israeli withdrawal."
"Hamas Is The Real Enemy Of Peace"
Analysis by Ugo Tramballi for leading, business daily Il Sole-24 Ore (9/29): "In a seminar at the University of Tel Aviv, General Aharon Zeevi, who is about to leave his office as director of the Israeli military intelligence, held a lecture on Hamas. Illustrating how the principal Islamic movement is in a state of crisis, Zeevi explained that some al-QaIda activists infiltrate the Gaza Strip through the Egyptian border, abandoned by Israel about ten days ago.... In Gaza, Hamas made its strategic choice and has turned into a political, rather than military, movement. However, its military wing is still quite strong and rejects any secondary role. This clash has triggered a new wave of violence against Israel.”
"The Iraqi Model"
Renzo Guolo opined in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (9/28): "The media handling of the kidnapping seems to point to the Iraqization of the Palestinian conflict. But such a shift would we counter-productive for Hamas. Israel would react harshly to the abductions strategy.... The distant kidnapping of soldier Wachsman, who was to be exchanged with the then prisoner Sheik Yassin, which ended in a bloodbath...should have taught Hamas something.... The tragic conclusion of the Nuriel kidnapping contrasts with the immediate needs of Hamas, that...has reiterated the suspension of all attacks for fear of a harsh reply on the part of Sharon and Mofaz.... It is no mystery that Zarkawi is trying to implant al-Qaida in Palestine and that it is looking for experts among Hamas hard-liners who are the most intolerant of the organization’s Islam-nationalist position, that is reluctant to become part of Jihad’s global network. But the competition concerning terrorism may carry a high price. Even for the Palestinians.”
"Old Ariel Between Two Fires"
R.A. Segre expressed the view in pro-government, leading center-right Il Giornale (9/28): "The dramatic ‘Iraqi-style’ video of an...Israeli in Ramallah …poses a serious question both for Abu Mazen and the Israeli security forces: whether also the authority of Hamas is intentionally attempting to divide up the territory with a command in Gaza...and with other terrorist organizations in the West Bank with complete freedom of action. In the West Bank the Israeli occupation continues and Ariel Sharon finds himself--as in Gaza before the settlers’ pullout--with his hands tied by the Geneva Convention in responding to the attacks that Hamas presents to Arab and international publics as ‘legitimate resistance’ to the occupation. In other words, the danger of seeing in the West Bank the political trap that the Israeli premier had hoped to close in Gaza with the withdrawal of the settlers. If that were the case, the strategy of the Islamic armed organizations, whose objective it is to hinder peace talks with Israel, would remain valid.... It will be difficult for Sharon to hold talks with the Palestinian Authority. But cooperation between the two is indispensable to improve the living conditions of the Arab populations in Gaza and the West Bank: it is the principal means through which to resume reciprocal trust and to diminish desperation, especially among the youth, that encourages recruitment by terrorist organizations. But the violence of the military reaction ordered by the Prime Minister (and not contrasted by Washington) in response to the rockets launched against the city of Shderot...is seen and denounced by the Palestinian Authority like the continuation of Sharon’s ‘electoral campaign’ within his party.”
RUSSIA: "Sharon Afraid To Let Sharon Go"
Sergey Strokan commented in business-oriented Kommersant (9/28): "The decision not to hold early Likud elections has not solved all of Ariel Sharon’s problems. It would be wrong to say that Sharon can relax now, the ‘incident is over,’ and there is no danger to his leadership in the party and the country. Even so, 77-year old Ariel Sharon may have won his biggest, if not the most impressive, victory. Clever, charismatic and telegenic Benjamin Netanyahu may reproach Ariel Sharon as much as he can that, under his premiership, things don’t work the way they should in relations with the Palestinians. He may be right there too. But Sharon has one important advantage. It is a program that he has been working hard to implement, demonstrating consistency and perseverance, qualities very few leaders have."
"Likud War To Go On Schedule"
Veniamin Ginodman said in reformist Gazeta (9/28): "General Ariel Sharon, the architect of famous anti-terrorist Squad 101 and a Yum Kippur hero, has proved he wasn’t dubbed 'Bulldozer' for nothing. He has held his own, gaining time to see disengagement through.”
AUSTRIA: "Narrow Path For Self-Defense"
Wieland Schneider,foreign affairs writer for centrist Die Presse remarked (9/29): "Any state, including Israel, ought to have the right to react to military threats with military means. However, with its recent offensive in the Gaza Strip, Israel has gone beyond self-defense. The bombs that were dropped from Israeli planes were not just aimed at Hamas hideouts.... They are not only a clear message to the Palestinians but also to Sharon's own party. He wants to demonstrate he is still the tough General--despite the Gaza withdrawal. But Sharon's game is a dangerous one. If he hits too hard, he is going to cause a counter-reaction that makes any peace negotiations impossible for a long time to come."
"Dried-Up Peace Hope"
Senior editor for independent Salzburger Nachrichten Helmut L. Mueller wrote (9/29): "A new conflict phase in the Middle East is looming on the horizon. Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is creating a fait accompli by enlarging the wall between the Palestinian territories and the Israeli settlements on the West Bank. This explosive mix could spark off a third intifada. Peace is still a long way off and as yet there are only first steps in the direction of conflict management."
"Standstill In The Middle East"
ORF correspondent Ben Segenreich commentd in independent Der Standard (9/28): "The vote which Ariel Sharon has won in the central committee of the Likud was officially to fix a date for pre-elections--but in fact it was about a conflict of direction. The Israeli Prime Minister's decision to go forward with the traumatic destruction of the Gaza settlements was legitimized after the fact. However, the debate about where the Likud Party will go has by no means ended.... The contradictions would only become acute in the case of negotiations with the Palestinians or unilateral concessions. Nothing of the kind is to be expected in the near future. For the next months and perhaps even years, the Gaza test case will be analyzed. True, after the fatal explosion of a missile transport vehicle, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has criticized Hamas more sharply than ever before, but his beseeching appeals to put an end to the chaos remain without effect. And after the Israeli withdrawal the situation is as bad as ever. It could only improve if Hamas were dissolved--something that is feasible only through a quick, forcible disarmament as provided for by the road map, or the integration of Hamas into civilian political life as Abbas has offered. Both options are utopian."
DENMARK: "Sharon's Gaza Pullout In Question"
Center-right Jyllands-Posten commented (9/28): "Sharon had promised that the Gaza pullout would increase Israel's security. The recent attacks from Gaza were not a good advert for this point of view. He now has six months to make peace with the religious right and prove the withdrawal was the right move. More attacks could leave the peace process in tatters."
"Sharon's Victory Could Lead To New Intifada"
Center-right Politiken stated (9/28): "There is no chance that the U.S. will put pressure on Sharon to accelerate the peace process. According to the Americans, it is up to Abbas to bring the militant Palestinians to order. The big question now is, how long will the Palestinian people put up with the on-going political paralysis that is threatening the peace process. Sharon's victory, however paradoxical it may seem, could lead to a third Intifada."
IRELAND: "Sharon’s Gamble On Gaza Fails To Stop Terrorists"
Conor Cruise O Brien commented in the center right, populist Irish Independent (10/1): “In his heyday Ariel Sharon was a brilliant military commander, without whose talents Israel might not have survived the massive attacks on it by five Arab enemies bent on destroying it, in the weeks immediately following its declaration of independence when Israel stood alone, without a single declared ally. Unfortunately Sharon is an incompetent and blundering politician.... It seems probable that, in order to save themselves and their peaceful citizens, the government of the relevant areas will take steps to end the attacks on Israel. When they do so, there will be no further need for Israeli retaliation. The government of Israel will welcome outside aid for Arab and Muslim countries preparing to live in peace with Israel. I know Mr. Netanyahu will hear me out and consider carefully what I recommend. He may not feel able to act on it soon. But he will get his colleagues to consider it, and I think in time Israel is likely to take it up. We shall see.”
"Likud Vote A Serious Blow To Palestinian Hopes"
Michael Jansen commented in the center left Irish Times (9/30): “By narrowly defeating the attempt to depose him as Likud leader, Ariel Sharon may have dealt a serious blow to the possibility of resurrecting the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process.... Sharon cannot hope to maintain this strong position unless he cleaves to the Likud's central ideology. By doing so, he may be able to rein in renegade ministers, Knesset members and central committee members, and contain the challenge from Netanyahu, who intends to run against him when the party membership votes, on schedule, next April, ahead of the November general election.... The dissolution of the Likud would have led to a dramatic realignment of the Israeli political spectrum.... Labour leftists could have joined with like-minded Peace Now to press the centre to resume serious negotiations with the Palestinians, transforming the current deadlock into peaceful dialogue accompanied by the lifting of restrictions on the Palestinians.”
SPAIN: "An Obstacle Race"
Left-of-center El País wrote (9/30): "The Israeli's forcefulness might have contributed to the announcement by Hamas and the Jihad of their return to the wobbly cease fire agreed upon in February. But most likely the decisive argument of this apparent change in reason was the Islamic's fear of their own Palestinian electoral reaction, which wants to embrace itself in the truce as the only hope to starting any type of life.... Sharon has been put to the test in his own party with an awkward victory over Netanyahu.... But Sharon has to take advantage of his triumph in the only possible sense: by not giving in to the pressures of the more radical Israelis, and maintaining the policy that brought about the Gaza withdrawal. This demands military moderation. Between the interests of one sector of one political party and those of Israel, which clearly are to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians, there is no doubt which option must be taken."
ISRAEL: "Helping Hamas"
Arab affairs commentator Danny Rubinstein wrote in independent left-leaning Ha'aretz (10/3): "Hamas clearly is the ascendant power among the Palestinian public. The movement is deeply rooted in public life.... Mass arrests such as those of last weekend, and the targeted assassinations, of course, make Hamas move backward, and strengthen its extremist wing. Since it is a movement that has won the admiration and respect of the masses, Israel's struggle against it must not take on a solely military character. An exclusively military campaign would not help. On the contrary, it would weaken Fatah and Abu Mazen and would fortify his opponents
Security and intelligence affairs commentator Amit Cohen wrote in popular, pluralist Maariv (10/3): "Senior Palestinian officials admit that Hamas is better equipped than most of the security agencies.... Therefore the aspiration of the heads of these agencies was to rehabilitate their forces quickly, to rebuild the command structure, to recruit new personnel, and--most important--to obtain arms and ammunition. Only after this had been achieved did they intend to go to war. But the Palestinian Authority was overtaken by events. The explosion at the Hamas demonstration in [the Gaza refugee camp of] Jabalya, the inflammatory rhetoric of Hamas, the Israeli military operation and the way in which Hamas backed down, led the Palestinian Authority to conclude that it was time to tighten the rope a little. A few days ago the Palestinian police received a clear order to arrest every armed person who was not in uniform. On Sunday, in contrast to many times in the past, an attempt was made to implement the decision on the ground, even at the price of a conflict. Hamas, for its part, proved once again that it is not afraid of a fight, so long as it is fighting only the Palestinian Authority, not the whole of Fatah. The next few days will prove which side is more determined, who is more hungry for victory."
"The Year Of The Turnabout"
Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (10/3): "Many years were wasted until Sharon--the leading provocateur against the left, the man who torpedoed every attempt to stop construction in the settlements, and extracted budgets from every nook and cranny of every ministry in which he served in order to nurture this unnecessary enterprise, the man who stood in the forefront of those who incited against Yitzhak Rabin and the Oslo Accords--reached this conclusion himself. There is no point in demanding regret or soul-searching over those lost years, but we should demand that he apply his belated diplomatic understanding without winking or playing for time.... This was the year of the turnabout, the year of the disengagement, and the year of the fence.... The question of what Sharon will do in the coming months is a political one.... When a politician leads rather than is dragged, his chances of victory increase."
"Elusive Long-term Success"
Military correspondent Amos Harel wrote in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (9/30): "Ari'el Sharon's week ended better than it started on both the political and the security fronts...and the two fronts are closely connected...as the military reaction in Gaza helped Sharon's standing in the Likud vote.... Yet, in both cases, success will be hard to preserve in the long run because they do not resolve the basic paradoxes in which Sharon performs.... On the Palestinian ring, Israel is currently taking steps to remove HAMAS from the PA political game, knowing that if it succeeds, it will be forcing the organization to resume its terrorist war against it.... Presently, the strong-arm policy in the Gaza Strip provides Sharon and Defense Minister Mofaz with political gains...but if the skirmishes should continue, Israel will apparently be facing a problem.... The question is, when will the IDF attacks boomerang because, instead of turning the Gaza public against HAMAS, they bolster hostility toward Israel.... The scenario where an escalation of the struggle against the organization would make it lay down its guns sounds too far-fetched, at least for the moment...and international understanding and sympathy could vanish in an instant."
"Sharon Must Use His Head, Not His Gut"
Political analyst Yoel Marcus wrote in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (9/30): "PM Sharon won the Likud Central Committee vote, but the truth is that he did not win the war, but only one battle.... His future rule is still hanging on a thread...with the budget vote that might advance the elections and the Likud primaries in April, where he needs his party to elect him candidate for prime minister. He must work with his head, not his gut...and first mend the rifts and win the next primaries on the ticket of forsaking the Greater Israel dream.... To reach the April primaries safely, if indeed they are held on time, Sharon will have to form an internal coalition in his party. He will have to pledge his adherence to the political arrangement and, speaking in a closed forum, he indeed pledged not to deviate from his political plan and execute it according to the road map, provided the Palestinians do their share.... Revenge against those who played their tricks on him can wait. It is always better served cold."
"Israel Can Continue"
Military correspondent Alex Fishman opined in Yediot Aharonot (9/30): "The interest at the heart of the U.S. policy in the region is: to safeguard Arik Sharon. Associates of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice were even disappointed by Sharon’s achievement in the Likud Central Committee. From their standpoint, it would have been preferable for him to fail and establish a new centrist party, which would make order in the Israeli political establishment. The polls carried out by the U.S. embassy in Israel regarding Sharon’s political situation strengthened their sense that he is the best investment they have in the region. Ostensibly, the Americans are demonstrating a great deal of activity in the Gaza Strip. For example, they are now looking for a replacement for the security coordinator to the Palestinian security services-General Ward, who is returning to command the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) in Europe. There is also extensive activity surrounding the economic envoy to the PA James Wolfensohn, who is threatening to leave his position, since he feels he has done all he can as fundraiser for the Palestinians. The job is too small for him. He wants to enter the emerging history of the region in a more central role, and he needs to be placated.... As far as the Americans are concerned, Israel’s pullout from Gaza gives it legitimization to expand the intensity and variety of the military responses to infringement of its sovereignty. The window that the Americans are giving us is a function of catastrophe. Until a catastrophe occurs-Israel can continue."
"A Reading Of The Numbers"
Military correspondent Amos Harel wrote in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (9/29): "Sometimes, dry statistics tell the story. Granted, it is not necessary to look at the numbers to know that Israelis' security situation has improved. It is sufficient to visit the cafes, which are filled to overflowing. Some of them have even fired their security guards. Nevertheless, the numbers are astounding: only 56 Israelis were killed by Palestinian terror in the Intifada's fifth year, which ends today--less than half the number of fatalities in the fourth year and one-seventh the number in the terrible second year. The number of Palestinian fatalities also fell, mainly due to a reduction in Israeli military activity in the territories in the second half of the year. But some military operations, such as last October's Operation Days of Penitence in Gaza, were still deadly, and that is the main reason for the growing imbalance in the casualty figures: eight Palestinian fatalities for every Israeli fatality this year, compared to an overall ratio of 3:1 for the five-year conflict as a whole. The security turnabout is due primarily to developments in the diplomatic realm. Of these, by far the most important was the death of Yasser Arafat and his replacement by Mahmoud Abbas. Even though Abbas took almost no practical steps against the terrorist organizations, his opposition to terror was clear, and in practice, the number of attacks dropped significantly."
"The Loss Of A Huge Strategic Asset: Deterrence"
Conservative columnist Nadav Shragai wrote in Ha'aretz (9/29): "The dozens of Qassam rockets that fell on Sderot are the instinctive response by those whom we have trained...to believe that Israel sees the 6,000 or so mortars and rockets fired on the residents of Gush Katif as nothing more than rain.... This Jewish New Year will be the fifth birthday of that war, and its cyclical nature embodies Israel's loss in its confrontation with the Palestinians, a huge strategic asset that Israel had but has no longer: deterrence. The loss did not happen in a day, but the 'Second Intifada,' as the terror war has been called, greatly accelerated it. Ever since 'Peace for Galilee' [the official name of the 1982 Lebanon War], the IDF has been fighting low-level wars, but despite many localized successes it has had difficulty coping with them.... Successive Israeli governments--from Yitzhak Rabin's to Ariel Sharon's--refused to go 'full tilt' against the Palestinians. The Palestinians were quick to understand this spirit. They were encouraged and made bolder by Israel's hurried withdrawal from South Lebanon, and thus initiated the last Intifada, which cost Israel 1,065 lives.... One of the main factors that led to the loss of deterrence was a significant reduction in offensive operations. The IDF, acting on the orders of the political echelon, restrained itself on many occasions for long periods of time, went into a hysteria of installing armor and other means of protection, and has above all become a reactive rather than an offensive force."
"Netanyahu Is Stuck With Beilin"
Liberal op-ed writer Yael Paz-Melamed commented in popular, pluralist Maariv (9/29): "[During the Intifada], the Left, overwhelmingly, realized that there are two sides to this coin, and that it was impossible to blame only Israel for the turn of events. Slowly but surely, the flow to the center began.... Five years later, once again with summer drawing to a close, once again with a new Jewish year about to begin, the Right is undergoing a similar process. The dream of the greater Land of Israel was dashed long ago, except for on the delusional fringes of that camp.... That is precisely the writing on the wall that Bibi Netanyahu failed to read.... He has continued to use the hackneyed slogans of the previous war. He doesn't realize that the Right is going through the same process of centering that the Left went through.... It is not because he is now perceived as a loser that Binyamin Netanyahu will not be Israel's next prime minister, but because he has remained a leader of the Right, which has since lost most of its troops. Yossi Beilin isn't going to be particularly pleased with the results of the next elections either, because he too has refused to abandon the positions of the old Left, which many of us no longer share."
"Terror Moves To A New Front"
Military correspondent Amos Harel wrote in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (9/28): "After two days of massive Israeli pressure, it seemed for a moment this week that the Palestinian organizations were raising a white flag.... But Hamas is also driven by internal political considerations, mainly its understanding that public opinion in Gaza objects to renewing the fighting with Israel. On Tuesday, hours after Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz threatened to wipe out Hamas leaders, the organization responded with its own horrifying propaganda. It released a videocassette of abducted civilian Sasson Nuriel, filmed shortly before he was murdered by his kidnappers in Ramallah. The film not only indicates that Hamas intends to continue with the kidnappings, but also that the main terror activity is moving from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank.... Israel's first response to the cassette's release was that this is an 'Iraqi-style' terror act. But Palestinian organizations have been abducting people since the '70s....
Meanwhile, the army is continuing with operation First Rain. For two days there have been no assassinations, but in contrast the air force is continuing its strikes in Gaza and the army is rounding up people in the West Bank. Cannon shells were fired for the first time at Beit Hanoun on Tuesday. This is intended to make the Palestinian public turn against the Hamas, which started the present round of violence. This morning, exactly five years ago, Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount, triggering a series of hostilities that few had anticipated. In view of the use of artillery batteries and Mofaz's threats, Israel again appears to be playing with fire."
"Palestinian Democracy Is Possible"
Arye Green, advisor to former cabinet minister Natan Sharansky, wrote in left-leaning Ha'aretz (9/28): "After the cloud of the withdrawal from Gaza scatters, the Israeli public will find itself exactly at the very point where it stood before the disengagement. After the two major illusions that had led Israeli politics--the dream of Greater Israel and the chimera of peace in our time--crashed, the Israeli public is looking for a direction, a vision, and a hope.... One must help the Palestinians create a free and democratic state.... According to [Natan Sharansky's book, The Democracy Advantage], three to five years will be needed to build the necessary civilian infrastructure: a free market, an education free of incitement to violence, the creation of political parties and organizations enjoying freedom of speech and association, and, of course, the total cessation of terrorist actions, and the dismantling of the terror groups. Only after this infrastructure is built, will elections take place. The leader who will be chosen in them will enter negotiations with Israel over the state's permanent borders, the status of Jerusalem, and the other contentious issues. The January  elections are important as one step on the path, but they do not meet that test, especially if Hamas's participation is allowed without the group being disarmed.... Such a state can be established, but it needs international support, to be made conditional upon true democratic reforms. The very recognition of [Palestinian] statehood, economic support, and the handing over of land, must be directly linked to progress in democratization. What is perhaps the most important should be to encourage those in Palestinian society who are attempting to promote democratic reforms."
"Beware Of A Pyrrhic Victory"
Hebrew University teacher and Likud Central Committee member Guy Ma'ayan wrote in popular, pluralist Maariv (9/28): "Sharon's victory is that of the moderate line within Likud. If the approval of the Labor Party's joining [the cabinet] around one year ago was seen as the initial approval of the disengagement plan, the rejection of the postponement of the primaries represents an expression of trust in the Prime Minister's moderate course. It grants a seal of approval to his speech at the UN General Assembly, to the Foreign Minister's efforts to translate the disengagement into diplomatic gains, and is evidence that the applause in New York was heard loud and clear at the Likud Central Committee's convention.... I have often claimed on these pages that the disengagement wasn't a passing whim, but the outcome of a long-drawn-out process, in which the Israeli public is increasingly inclined to move in the direction of the political center, to abandon ideological margins, and to adopt realistic positions in the fields of foreign policy and security.... This stance has been strengthened following the relative ease with which the disengagement was implemented, and the lack of secular protest against it. As a popular party, Likud...has understood that that diplomatic wisdom is no guarantee for remaining in power.... As historians have repeatedly pointed out, 'maximalists' have only been successful in the short term."
WEST BANK: "Third Phase Elections: Outcome Close To Reality"
Ashraf Ajrami commented in independent Al-Ayyam (10/3): “Hamas did not help [by launching rockets into Israel,] [prevent] Israel’s attempts to interfere in the election process [and keep Hamas out].... In such cases, people normally sympathize with whoever seems harassed or unwanted by the Israelis or the Americans. The mass arrests might have [actually] encouraged a limited number of people to vote for some arrested Hamas members. The general tendency, however, [would have been] to ignore the Israeli and American media campaigns that call for the necessity to disarm Hamas as a pre-condition for its participation in the elections and the political process."
"Not As If There Is Any Other Choice"
Yahya Rabah commented in the official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (9/30): “The Palestinian National Authority started yesterday with its planned campaign to prevent military displays and the carrying of weapons in public places. However, the Authority cannot succeed in this mission on its own, except through the use of unrestrained force, something it is surely not interested in doing. Others say that the Palestinian Authority could not fulfill this mission even if it wanted to.... Regardless, it has been proven and time again that disregarding the Palestinian Authority [by Israel or the international community] and ignoring the signed agreements... are a very dangerous step that would only inflict harm on all parties.”
"Five Years Of Deterioration And The Need To Be Honest With Oneself"
Ashraf Ajrami opined in independent Al-Ayyam (9/30): “The bitter truth is that the five years of Intifada have caused a significant weakening of the Palestinian national cause in more ways than one. Firstly, it has shattered the achievements that have been accomplished since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, not only in the areas of infrastructure and economic development, but also politically.... Also, Israeli society is now as far away from adopting a [political] resolution to the conflict as ever before. Now, the Israelis’ main concern is to worry about daily issues and the mechanisms needed to reduce the level of violence.... In a nutshell, after five years of confrontations, we seem to have reached such a deteriorated situation that the very goal of establishing a Palestinian state, though recognized by the whole world including Israel, is as far-off as it can be.”
"Hamas And Re-reading The Political Map"
Hani Habib opined in independent Al-Ayyam (9/28): “The bold and sudden decision declared by Hamas’s senior leader Mahmoud Zahhar will undoubtedly have a major impact on the internal Palestinian situation.... There is no doubt that the decision will help Sharon’s election campaign as much as it will rescue Hamas’s own election battle, that is, if elections are held as scheduled in January of 2006. There are indications that lead to the possibility of postponing those elections in light of internal Palestinian affairs and Sharon’s determination to place severe obstacles in the way of holding those elections, especially in the West Bank and Jerusalem.”
SAUDI ARABIA: "'Al-Durrah' Reveals Israeli Mask"
Abha’s moderate Al-Watan editorialized (10/1): "Mohammed Al-Durrah was not the first or last Palestinian child assassinated by Israel. Israeli occupation has built a country on the corpses of Palestinians.... Al-Durrah was killed before the world to be a living witness to Israeli crimes.... The history of the Israeli occupation is full of inhumane abuses.... The Palestinians and Arabs should focus on the atrocities of Israel and observe their anniversary.... We should observe the anniversary of Al-Durrah and hundreds of thousands of victims to remind the world of Israeli terrorism.... We need to reveal the real face of Israel."
LEBANON: "Syria On The U.S. Border--Not The Contrary"
An editorial by Sarkis Naoum in moderate, anti-Syrian An-Nahar stated (10/3): “Neutral sources and those who are close to Damascus believe that there is a huge difference between the Syrian and American point of view regarding the conflict in Lebanon and the region. The international and regional community believe that the U.S., after occupying Iraq, has become physically present inside the Arab region. This means that it has become a serious threat to all regional powers, particularly Syria.... As for Syria, it seems that despite Syria’s realization of the fragility of its situation, it believes that it is not as vulnerable as everybody seems to think. Despite the difference between the U.S. and the Syrian powers, Syria believes that it has the ability to obstruct any U.S. move against it and render an American victory over Syria difficult. The Syrian regime believes that no one can guarantee that a new regime in Syria would be more cooperative with the international community. As for the U.S. physical presence inside the Arab region, Syria believes that it (Syria) has become a threat to the U.S. and not the contrary, as everyone believes. Damascus is not only in a position to react but also to act.... It is believed that Syria is already involved in a war against the U.S. in Iraq, and Palestine, and Lebanon.”
INDIA: "Eyeless In Gaza"
The Pro-BJP right-of-center Pioneer editorialized (9/30): "The fundamentalist Islamist organisation, Hamas, must shoulder the entire blame if the hope of peace finally dawning in West Asia, which brightened considerably after the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza strip, is dashed to bits. It was its launching of around 40 rockets at Israel which brought about the massive air and artillery strikes by the latter in the last few days, which, besides destroying buildings and bridges, has claimed the life of the chief of the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad-Mohammad al-Sheikh Khalil.... Indeed, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who had taken the initiative for the Gaza evacuation, barely survived a challenge to his leadership.... Israel's evacuation of the Gaza strip [must be] followed by organisations like the Hamas stopping terrorist attacks and, should they not do so, effective steps by the Palestinian Authority to control them. In fact, the current air, artillery and rocket strikes by Israel, is, in a very large measure, a result of an effort by Mr. Sharon, who had claimed that Israel's withdrawal from Gaza would strengthen and not undermine its security, to prove that he was right. The recent statement by Khaled al-Batish, Islamic Jihad's political leader, that his and other groups had agreed to renew their 'commitment to calm while reserving the right to respond if Israel continued to attack,' indicates that the Israeli Prime Minister's strong response may well succeed. Clearly, it pays to be tough."
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