January 5, 2005
MIDDLE EAST: A 'NEW AND FRAGILE PALESTINIAN LEADERSHIP'
** Non-Arab papers advise PLO Chairman Abbas to admit the need for "painful compromises."
** Despite Abbas' "cozying up to Hamas," dailies say he will "distance himself from terror."
** The "radical" settlers pose a "stark challenge" to Israel's plan to withdraw from Gaza.
** Arab outlets stress the difficulty of voting in a situation "dominated by Israeli hostilities."
The election is a 'step in the right direction'-- Calling Abbas the "last of the pragmatic Palestinian leaders," papers hoped that his expected victory in the PA's January 9 presidential election would lead to an "end to incitement and the disarming of the militias." These dailies advised that "it would be better" for Abbas to "tell the Palestinians the truth": that no independent state will exist without an end to terrorism. Asian papers agreed that there is a "new era of hope" for peace given what Israel's left-leaning Ha'aretz described as "Israeli determination to disengage [from Gaza] and the Palestinian readiness to change."
'Abbas must win the voters' confidence'-- Abbas' embrace of militants in Gaza spurred Israeli writers to carp that he "fraternizes with Hamas" and "snuggles up to Islamic Jihad." Popular Maariv cited Abbas' "biography of weakness in the face of Palestinian terror." Other papers dismissed the event as nothing but an "element of electioneering." The conservative Australian opposed attacking "Abbas for talking the talk of militancy while...walking the walk towards peace." The elite Jordan Times, however, expressed concern over Abbas' "patently contradictory positions on critical core issues." Palestinian papers insisted that the Gaza meeting spread a "message of peace and freedom." Independent Al Quds blasted U.S. criticism, wondering why Washington has the "right to determine who Abu Mazen should meet."
Settlers seek to 'foil the disengagement'-- Outlets agreed that the "dangerous" settlers who refuse to leave Gaza threaten Israel with a "terrible" civil war. Israel's conservative Jerusalem Post said the country faces a "choice between anarchy and democracy"; other writers insisted settlers "cannot coerce the state to keep Gaza." Israeli papers urged PM Sharon to "speed up the pace of the withdrawal" to head off settler resistance. Conversely, a settler assailed the "Stalin-like methods" used by Sharon to approve the "immoral" Gaza withdrawal plan. Leftist critics dismissed the withdrawal plan as a "typical Sharon bluff."
'Daily killing and destruction'-- Arab dailies wondered how Palestinians can "hold free and fair elections" in the midst of a "belligerent and abhorrent Israeli occupation." They slammed recent "hostile activities" such as the IDF's "50-tank sweep through Gaza" and how Israel "assassinated an innocent group of Palestinian children." The West Bank's independent Al-Ayyam demanded Israel "cease the military aggression" and accused it of trying to "inflame" the situation before the election. Other Arab writers doubted peace prospects given "Sharon's lust for killing Palestinians," while several concluded Israelis "must show maximum flexibility" since they "represent the stronger link in this equation."
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, email@example.com
EDITOR: Ben Goldberg
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion. 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 46 reports from 13 countries over 30 December 2004 - 5 January 2005. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.
GERMANY: "Arafat's Imitators"
Thorsten Schmitz filed for center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (1/5): "To the U.S. and Israeli dislike, Palestinian presidential candidate Mahmoud Abbas has been acting as proper successor to Yasser Arafat...but on Tuesday, he crossed the red line when he bedeviled Israel in the way Hamas and Islamic Jihad do...by speaking of the 'Zionist enemy.' The world may have been wrong with him and maybe he is only Arafat's copy. But even if Abbas's propaganda only serves to toady to the voters and to increase his votes, it shows that he is cowardly. Like Arafat, Abbas's shies away from breaking with the terrorist groups. He wants to integrate them and not, like it is put forward in the road map, disarm, and dissolve them. Abbas announced several times that he even wants to grant them' protection from Israeli persecution.' But with such a program, it will hardly be possible to create democratic Palestine."
Wolfgang Günter Lerch opined in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (1/4): "Only a while ago, there were chances for the formation of a new government made up of Likud and the Labor Party...but now there are radical rabbis who are obstructing such a move and want to prevent the establishment of a grand coalition. For biblical, religious reasons, they refuse to budge an inch from the occupied territories. Many Israeli soldiers are allegedly willing to disobey orders rather than removing adamant settlers from their settlements. And it may also be a damper for moderate optimism that came up after Arafat's death that Israel refuses to allow Palestinian prisoners to take part in the presidential elections in the autonomous regions at the weekend."
"As If It Were A Word By Him"
Clemens Wergin said in centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (1/4): "While Israeli government members hold back with statements to avoid obstructing Mahmoud Abbas's election, their moderate Palestinian favorite candidate does the exact opposite: Abbas swears to continue Yasser Arafat's path and declares fighting extremists 'heroes'.... At best this is election campaign fuss. Thus far, Palestinians considered Abbas a colorless, unpopular functionary. But now he wants to reroute some of Arafat's veneration on to him by using populist slogans. But since his election victory is not in jeopardy, it would be better for him to tell the Palestinians the truth, i.e. there will be no Palestinian state without an end to terrorism and without painful compromises. The world is ready to help resume the peace process and Israel does not want to be accused of having forfeited a chance for peace. But all this will be of no use if the Palestinian leader plans to follow in Arafat's footsteps. During the election campaign, Abbas missed the chance to break with this ominous tradition."
Heiko Flottau argued in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (1/3): "When looking at the wall that separates Israel from the Palestinians we can no longer speak of peace. This monster is depriving the Palestinians of arable land and water sources, cuts Palestinian settlements and cements the apartheid state Israel set up on the West Bank. Israel describes the wall as preliminary...but the first settlements that were built in 1967 were also considered preliminary. But settlements and the wall have only created new uncertainties, because they strangle the Palestinians even more.... George W. Bush already approved this robbing of land, and since Arafat's death, Israel and the United States have not renounced this policy.... It was Hamas's wave of killings that enabled Israel's Prime Minister Sharon to conquer the territory it was to hand over to the Palestinians according to the Oslo Treaties and build new settlements. That is why Hamas must also be blamed for the fact that the 22 percent of Palestine, which were left after Israel's foundation for a Palestinian state, have again been occupied by Israel. Ariel Sharon builds on these facts. His policy is tantamount to a long interim solution, which aims at the opportunity to incorporate the rest of Palestine in the long run. It is paradoxical, but Hamas's policy also aims at a lengthy interim solution, but with a contrary goal. Hamas is pinning its hopes on the prediction that the Palestinians will soon have a population majority and could force Israel to approve a bi-national state in which the Israelis would be the minority.... The apartheid wall is...the unsuitable attempt to guarantee Israel's existence. But those who want to keep Israel must give the Palestinians their own state. This maxim was true before Arafat's death, but is more valid today than before."
ITALY: "A Ray Of Hope In Palestine"
Sandro Viola noted in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (1/5): “As already happened three or four times in the last 30 years, it seems that in the background of the Middle East conflict there is a ray of hope.... The fact is that Sharon’s withdrawal plan and Arafat’s death stirred the waters of the Middle Eastern pond...so that on both sides of the conflict, but mainly on the Israeli one, people, while scared of being disappointed again, cannot prevent themselves from hoping.... To be sure, we should not be too optimistic. But we should acknowledge that the Israeli –Palestinian picture is less dark, convulsed and deadly than it has been over the last four years. And that many Israeli and Palestinian peoples believe they will see a light at the end of the tunnel.”
BELGIUM: "Palestinian Elections With Obstacles"
Mia Doornaert noted in independent Christian-Democrat De Standaard (1/4): "The Palestinian presidential campaign has entered its final stage. The question is not: who will win? It is virtually certain that it will be PLO leader and interim President Mahmoud Abbas. The main question is: how convincingly will he win and how much support will he receive for a peace agreement with Israel?.... That means that he will be walking on a tightrope after the elections. Israel expects the Palestinian leadership to act firmly against the perpetrators of suicide attacks and other violence. If that is not the case, it will refuse to start new negotiations. However, if (Abbas) acts drastically against extreme Palestinian organizations the new President may be accused of being ‘Israel’s policeman.' After his election Mahmoud Abbas will be able to test to what extent Hamas is willing to work together with him for a Palestinian state that exists together--and not instead of--with Israel. First, he will have to make Hamas accept a truce with Israel. Second, one will have to wait and see how Hamas behaves in its stronghold when Israel--as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has announced--withdraws its troops from the area this summer.”
ISRAEL: "Israel's Tsunami, 2005"
Eytan Haber opined in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (1/5): "The riots on Monday against the security forces in Shalhevet, a neighborhood in the settlement of Yitzhar, are the first shock waves of the Israeli tsunami, which are being detected mainly by seismologists. They will be followed by the deluge. One can understand the settlers: for 30 years they were deceived, taught that 'Judea will stand forever,' luxurious houses were built for them, all their demands were met, they were called upon to be the pillar of fire before the camp--and they, in their naivety, followed the voices.... The settlers whose world (and home) has been ruined, will do everything--everything!--to demolish Ariel Sharon's rule. They learned from the sad experience of Yitzhak Rabin's death, to which they were not even partners, that in Israel everything depends on one person: the prime minister. His removal from office also means the elimination of the nightmare of 'disengagement'.... The opponents believe that...chaos will topple Sharon, and they will be saved. Sharon and others also know that the first reactions by him and the security forces will be what will determine the nature of the battle in future. Sharon knows that his opponents are lying in wait for a moment of weakness. Therefore, it appears that he will make no concessions and compromises.... The single gunshot fired on Monday in Yitzhar is a bad harbinger. The coming period may bring violence with it, and also--woe is to the eyes that read this--bloodshed as well. We may be facing a great disaster, and may we be proven wrong. Israel, January 2005, the tsunami is on its way."
"Kiev And Jerusalem"
Uzi Benziman held in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (1/5): "The role that the settlers' leaders are playing these days is dubious and dangerous. They organize--with funding deriving from the state treasury as well--a sit-down strike opposite the Knesset under the slogan: We will do in Jerusalem what the Ukrainians did in Kiev.... This is a groundless comparison. The situation is actually the other way around: the settlers are the minority that has been imposing its will on the majority for 37 years.... The struggle of the Yesha Council [of Jewish Settlements in the Territories] is hopeless. It will not succeed in torpedoing the disengagement plan, and if it does, it will be seen as responsible for the collapse of law and order and the shattering of the state's authority. The settlers must internalize the fact that they are perceived as a minority group that is enforcing its whims on the majority. The Yesha council must realize that it cannot coerce the state to keep Gaza, and if it could, the price of the coercion would be too high."
"A Dangerous Game"
The conservative, independent English-language Jerusalem Post editorialized (1/5): "Our democracy is facing a supreme test. We can see as well as anyone the tortuous and, in some sense, troubling path by which the disengagement plan has reached its current stage, but it cannot be argued that decisions approved by the cabinet and the Knesset are illegal.... Sharon is right. Some of disengagement's opponents are playing a very dangerous game.... The irony is that, as the prospect of violent resistance grows, the settler leaders and the radicals they won't stand up to are driving all of us, the people of Israel, into a corner. They are forcing a choice between anarchy and democracy. And they are drowning out legitimate questions about disengagement, such as the warning this week that Samaria [the northern West Bank] could become like Gaza in the wake of a withdrawal. Even if democracy ultimately wins out, the result of such a terrible choice could be that we will all lose."
"Why We've Chosen Civil Disobedience"
Settler leader Pinchas Wallerstein wrote in the conservative, independent English-language Jerusalem Post (1/5): "Were anyone to suggest a transfer of Arabs from the tiniest of villages for the most important of security reasons, there would be an immense outcry, shaking the very heavens. But those who consider themselves the guardians of human rights seem to exempt Jews in Judea, Samaria and Gaza [i.e. the
territories] from their patronage. I've called the 'Evacuation and Compensation Law' immoral.... This draconian law was pushed through the Knesset using Stalin-like methods. It provides for refusing compensation to any Jews who protest being uprooted from their homes; it calls for three years' imprisonment for anyone who remains in his or her home once the evacuation call has been made. This law is immoral, first and foremost, because it attempts to legalize a crime which should never be repeated: the expulsion of Jews from their homes.... It is my opinion that thousands of soldiers will not find it within themselves to be partners in this endeavor. The damage Sharon and his government will have inflicted on Israeli society by placing them in this untenable position will require decades to repair. Nonviolent civil protest against immoral actions on the part of our government is the democratic right of all those privileged enough to live in a democratic country."
"Still No Partner"
Conservative Yosef Harif asserted in popular, pluralist Maariv (1/5): "Political leaders must be strong enough to make compromise possible. Can anyone view Abu Mazen as a strong man? I am talking about a compromise acceptable to Sharon and the Likud, not just about to Peres and most of his friends, who are prepared for a withdrawal almost to the 1967 lines and to the division of Jerusalem. In the meantime it is becoming clear that the Palestinians believe that time is on their side and that they therefore won't compromise. Abbas is the prisoner of a delusion that the U.S., which is interested in expanding its influence in Iraq, Syria and other places in the Middle East, will press Israel to make significant concessions to the Palestinians. Washington has promised Abu Mazen a visit to the White House after he is elected as the Palestinians' leader. This will be a proper opportunity to check his true intentions and to let them face reality."
"Blood Is Going To Be Spilled"
Avraham Tirosh wrote in popular, pluralist Maariv (1/4): "Let it be clear, Monday's struggle [at the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar], from the perspective of the settlers who clashed with the police and the soldiers, was not over those two patently illegal trailers stuck out there on some desolate hilltop. It was over the settlements in the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria. And it sent a message that is unequivocal, terrible and causes despair: when the time comes for the big evacuation, if we get there, there is going to be gunfire, blood is going to be spilled, and all the institutions in Israel will collapse. Kingdoms have already fallen because of civil war. And, terrifyingly enough, there isn't anyone who is capable of preventing it. Maybe just that old rabbi [United Torah Judaism party mentor Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv], who is shut in his house in Jerusalem right now, deliberating whether to breathe life into the Sharon government and the disengagement plan, or to force early elections that will delay and may even dash the big evacuation and, by so doing, the plague of fire and blood that threatens us."
"Free And Open To All"
Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (1/4): "Five days before the PA's election day, one gets the impression that Israel is uncertain that this is truly its heart's desire.... The elections, say the Palestinians, with the backing of international monitors, must be free in the fullest sense of the word. What such freedom means is that every person must be able to come to the polls without fear or pressure in order to exercise his right to vote. But it is doubtful that Palestinians fearful of IDF gunfire or lengthy delays at checkpoints will want to leave their houses to participate in the elections. Israel ought to have a keen interest in the political legitimacy that Abu Mazen is seeking.... Those who are demanding a new diplomatic program from the Palestinians--an end to incitement and the disarming of the militias and gangs--should know that this cannot be achieved via a Palestinian leadership that lacks public support. To achieve this result, Israel must cease the political miserliness that has characterized it to date and immediately take steps that will prove--not only to the Palestinians, but also to the Israeli public and international observers--that it truly intends the Palestinian Authority election to be free and open to all."
"Dancing With Wolves"
Dan Margalit held in popular, pluralist Maariv (1/4): "Mahmoud Abbas--a.k.a. Abu Mazen--is dancing with the wolves. He fraternizes with Hamas, snuggles up to Islamic Jihad and promises terrorists that he will not disarm them. Just the opposite, he says he will protect them. Israel is giving him credit, which boils down only to election PR. When the polls close on January 9, his romance with terror is meant to come to an end.... After all, the candidate for the PA leadership rejected the armed conflict at the beginning of the Intifada in 2000. We have to hope. But we also have to ask ourselves what will happen if this doesn't take place. Abu Mazen has a biography of weakness in the face of Palestinian terror.... In the lack of an agreement with Abu Mazen and with terror continuing, the IDF will not be able to withdraw from the Gaza Strip along with the settlers.... To evacuate Gush Katif under fire, Israel must announce to itself that the Gush Katif bloc is more of a liability than an asset. Will a Likud-headed government, even one that has already gone a long and dramatic way from what Sharon promised in the elections to what he is proposing now, be capable of doing this?.... The chances are still good that Abu Mazen will come to his senses and distance himself from terror after the Palestinian polling booths close. An orderly transfer of Gaza to the PA serves the interests of all sides, except for the terrorists. But when Sharon brings the issue of disengagement to his cabinet this month for a decision, the thinking on the worst-case scenario should already have been done. Withdrawal must be done with eyes wide open."
"Two Arab Elections"
Barry Rubin asserted in the English-language conservative, independent Jerusalem Post (1/4): "Strange but revealing: the two fairest elections in Arab history are about to be held due only to foreign pressure and presence. They also say a great deal about the direction of Arab politics and likely developments during 2005. In both cases the fact that Iraqi and Palestinian leaders will be determined via a ballot box is encouraging, signaling a growing interest in democracy, human rights, and moderation.... [Still,] the [Iraqi] election may lay the basis for a civil war, or at least heightened ethnic antagonism and strife. The Palestinian situation is somewhat parallel. Fatah is the dominant party and Abu Mazen will be elected because he is its candidate. That powerful (though undisciplined) organization is still in the hands of hard-liners, who are not ready for a real peace with Israel, or for genuine democracy. At the same time, Fatah is ready to make deals with other forces--its own young insurgents and Hamas--that will block any real change or hopes for peace.... The possibility of a popular regime exists in both cases, as well as a stable government in Iraq and a cease-fire for the Palestinians. Yet existing ideologies and political structures are in conflict with democratic processes, while the big problems and difficult choices remain to be confronted after Election Day."
"Sharon Is Already Reaping Rewards"
B. Michael held in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot read (1/4): "Those who have refused to understand by themselves the purpose of the disengagement [plan] received another chance to do so. In an interview granted by Atty. [Dov] Weisglass to Ha'aretz, he almost childishly detailed with frankness and pride the truth hiding behind the Sharon plan.... Sharon's true inclination can be uncovered when one compares the various aspects of his activity concerning disengagement. 'Activity' in the full meaning of the word is taking place in the West Bank: bulldozers are crushing, trees are being uprooted, fences are jumped over, houses are being built, roads are being paved, millions of shekels are being buried among the rocks. On the other hand, regarding disengagement, Sharon has (so far) taken care of its verbal...part.... No budget allocated to the settlements has been cut.... What to do, disengagement is a typical Sharon bluff. There indeed is no way but to support it, be it only in order to expose the cheat. But there's no reason to enthuse about it. However, God willing--or God forbid--should it be implemented, one wouldn't know whether it would then cause even greater harm."
"The Plan To Disengage From Abu Mazen"
Akiva Eldar opined in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (1/3): "Under cover of the enthusiastic support of the plan to disengage from the Gaza Strip and four negligible Jewish settlements in northern Samaria, Peres and his colleagues have lent a hand to the burial of a two-state solution on the basis of the June 4, 1967, lines. At its death, it will take with it the last of the pragmatic Palestinian leaders whose lives depend on it.... Sharon is not concealing his position that a cease-fire on the part of the Palestinians is also a necessary condition for the implementation of the disengagement plan.... In this way Sharon is making the new and fragile Palestinian leadership, and henceforth also the Labor Party, into hostages of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. In other words, what happened when the Labor Party walked out of Sharon's first government is what is going to happen in Sharon's second government. The death of Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat has not opened even a slit of opportunity. Until such time as peace is restored to the place it deserves, alongside security, there will be neither security nor peace."
"Firmness Is Needed In Advance"
Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (1/3): "At a time when the government of Israel doesn't yet know what it will look like, and the public knows only that the focus of its policy will be the disengagement plan, there are already those who are preparing themselves for violent conflict. 'The hilltop youth'...are already in Gaza.... Their people are undergoing training to help them forcibly oppose the IDF and foil the disengagement plan.... The government, the IDF and security officials have no right to endanger themselves by adopting an optimistic outlook and depending on the settlers to be obedient on the day of evacuation.... The government must...accelerate the decision-making process on everything related to evacuation and must come to agreements immediately, thereby assisting those settlers who want to leave the settlements to do so now. The government of Israel and the prime minister have made an appropriate decision, which could lead the country to a path that might one day bring about the end of the violent conflict.... It is advisable for the prime minister and the army to hurry up and demonstrate their determination before they are compelled to pass tests that will become more severe the longer the government tarries in making firm decisions."
"Speed Up Disengagement"
Yosef Goell wrote in the English-language conservative, independent Jerusalem Post (1/3): "Reports indicate that growing numbers of the fanatical 'hilltop youth' from the illegal outposts in the Samaria heartland and the Hebron environs have been shifting into the Gaza Strip to organize and lead the resistance there.... The best way to unbalance today's Jewish extremists before they get too established in the Gaza settlements would be to speed up the pace of the withdrawal. Now that there is a new government in place there is no reason to put off till June or July what can be done with less resistance in February or March."
"Year Of Truth"
Ari Shavit noted in left-leaning, independent Ha'aretz (12/30): "The two events that best define the outgoing year took place toward its end: On Tuesday, October 26, the Israeli parliament adopted the disengagement plan, and on Monday, November 12, the Palestinian people buried Yasser Arafat. In so doing, within a span of 20 days or so, the face of the country was changed, as was the face of the Middle East. The Jewish national movement decided in organized and democratic fashion to begin the long process of ending the occupation, while the Palestinian national movement separated in spontaneous, chaotic and perhaps temporary fashion from the ethos of terror of its founder. In so doing, without us even noticing, the war as we knew it ended. In so doing, without us having even rendered our opinion, a new peace process was launched.... The Israeli determination to disengage and the Palestinian readiness to change make the year 2005 a year of rare opportunity. In order to capitalize on this opportunity, however, we have to move from politics to diplomacy. We must domesticate the wild idea of the disengagement and make it into part of an overall Israeli plan."
WEST BANK: "What Do I Want From The Elected President"
Hani Habib commented in independent Al-Ayyam (1/5): "This is a Palestinian-Israeli week par excellence. A week during which the Palestinian presidential elections campaign is heating up, and on which Palestinian-Israeli rockets are pouring. Remarks and counter remarks are becoming more than just campaign rhetoric.... We believe the Israeli tank that directly shelled those in Bet Lahya...fully aware that its target was innocent children. The staff aboard the tank knew what they were doing and had a specific political vision...one that conveys a direct message: to inflame the rockets of remarks and accusations exchanged between the various active factions who considered Abu Mazen’s remarks a 'stab in the back'.... Only a few hours after his rockets remark, Israel assassinated an innocent group of Palestinian children in the northern Gaza Strip.... What do I want from the elected president? I want him to prevent his companions from appearing on the platform behind him during his speeches with such a huge amount of weapons pointed at the audience.”
"The Bet Lahya Massacre"
Independent Al-Quds declared (1/5): "The Israeli government should have implemented its promises and obligations it boasted to the world following the death of the historic leader Yasser Arafat. As opposed to its polished remarks such as maintaining ‘self restraint’ in strengthening the PA’s new opportunity and offering more convenient circumstances for resuming the peace process, hostile activities, incursions, assassinations and arrests have become worse than ever. What kind of peace can be achieved or resumed while the Israeli government continues to use a military solution as a means to oppress the will of the Palestinian people?”
"Will The Year 2005 Hold A Solution Or Will The Situation Remain The Same?"
Hani Masri commented in independent Al-Ayyam (1/4): "Powell has seen to it that Abu Mazen is demanded to take practical procedures against these brigades [Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades] and all ‘terrorist’ groups, for only then will he find an Israeli partner and the Bush administration would support him. We would like to ask Powell, and ourselves too, this question: what would Israel offer the Palestinians if they stop the resistance? Would it cease the military aggression, the settlement activity, the separation wall and the judaization and bring about new realities on the ground? Or would it just invite them for negotiations to coordinate the implementation of what Israel decides?”
"The Settler Challenge"
Independent Al-Quds editorialized (1/4): "Again, the settlers are raising their heads in a stark challenge not only to the Palestinians but also to the Israeli government itself. The settlers do not care at all about Palestinian and Israeli blood being shed because of the settlements' phenomenon. They only care for an existential war between the two sides in which they are the axis."
"Do Not Abandon Arafat's Policies"
Abd al-Rahim Mullawah observed in independent Al-Quds (1/4): "Today, our people are facing grave challenges in extremely dire conditions and hardships.... It has become clear to all in record time that the political rumours that Yasir Arafat was the main obstacle to a balanced peace were untrue.... We should not abandon his strictly-fixed national positions that he had refused to stop adhering to during his siege and sickness."
"The Pictures Powell Prefers To Ignore"
Independent Al-Quds editorialized (1/3): "If what’s been quoted from U.S. Secretary of State Powell about his disappointment at seeing pictures of Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen)...with leaders and members of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades is true, this can be a serious indication and a non-promising development of the American position toward the new Palestinian leadership, particularly that Powell gave himself the right to determine who Abu Mazen should meet or not meet with.... The strange thing is that Powell’s remarks coincide with a new aggression committed by Israeli forces in the northern part of Gaza.... It seems Powell chose not to see the pictures of this aggression with all its tragic consequences. He preferred not to see the pictures of settlements’ leaders who refuse peace and the Roadmap while they meet with PM Sharon or his military leaders. He also seemed to have ignored the pictures of thousand of right-wing young men rushing to the Gaza Strip settlements and the pictures of protests settlers carry out every day with the protection of the Israeli police and army.”
"Made In Palestine"
Adli Sadeq opined in official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (1/3): "The picture of Zakariya Zubeidi [Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades’ leader] and Abu Mazen is a message of peace and freedom that the American administration failed to read.... Instead of seeing Abu Mazen’s meeting with Zubeidi and others as a doubly positive sign, one that would enable him understand the nature of the resistance and the PA, Powell reiterates the meaningless and old statement that attempts to strip the resistance of its legitimacy.”
"Israeli Escalation Makes Elections More Than A Palestinian Necessity"
Talal ‘Ukal commented in independent Al-Ayyam (1/3): "Neither the election circus, which the Palestinians are handling with complete seriousness, nor the international remarks supporting the elections and what is being called the new Palestinian leadership, succeeded in changing the situation and the atmosphere that is dominated by Israeli hostilities and daily killing and destruction.... Journalists and news agencies reporters question the credibility of Israel’s claims that it is facilitating the election process, as they see the Apaches, tanks, bulldozers and showers of heavy artillery still ongoing…. Internal reform, the rebuilding process and the completion of all Palestinian democracy requirements are an urgent Palestinian need whose success would lead to a change in the international and regional atmosphere, but against the will of Israel.”
"General Slogans Are No Longer Enough"
Talal ‘Ukal observed in independent Al-Ayyam (12/30): "When we examine the Israeli positions and practices that make the racially-based separation wall a geographical and political border and not an issue of security, and when Sharon sees nothing in Europe’s political role in the peace process except as being a tool to exert pressure on Palestinians to implement political reform that would end armed resistance, we don’t understand how can we talk about an Israeli willingness to achieve the peace that the American President has talked about with such confidence…. Israel doesn’t believe in a Palestinian right of democratic change. Through its practices, Israel wants to remind them [the Palestinians] that it, as an occupying power, is the one who controls the Palestinians’ life, who determines their work and limits their actions, who never hesitates to blatantly interfere in their affairs and that everything occurring on Palestinian land goes according to its will and standards.”
"Towards The Democratization Of Political Factions And Forces"
Abdullah Awwad said in independent Al-Ayyam (12/30): "We, as Palestinians, try to be democratic simply because it’s in our nature. We can never accept anything but democracy as a way of living and believing, not because there’s a general tendency for that, but because of our democratic experience beginning with the 1976 municipal elections, which the occupation buried at its early stages, going on to student council elections, Fatah’s associational and regional elections and much more, proving that there’s no means other than democracy.”
SAUDI ARABIA: "Sharon And His Practical Response"
Abha’s moderate Al-Watan maintained (1/5): "In less than 24 hours after the statement of Abu Mazen, the popular Palestinian candidate, (who called for an end to armed operations of the Intifadah), Sharon took 12 Denums of Palestinian land.... The Israeli response to the peaceful Palestinian iniative demonstrates Sharon’s point of view towards peace in the region.... The Palestinian situation remains weak, and it will be weaker if the only winning card, which is the military Intifadah, is aborted.... The Intifadah is the only way to destabilize Israeli security and displace the Israeli settlers.... The PA must reconsider the resistance as a legitimate right.... The most important thing is not to leave the Palestinian resistance alone in the field. We must support this resistance until peace and justice are achieved."
"Violence Helps Sharon"
Jeddah’s conservative Al-Madina editorialized (1/4): "Since the death of Chairman Arafat the Israeli government is trying to put the ball in the Palestinian court and accuse Palestinians of obstructing any initiative to reach a positive settlement. The recent aggression by Sharon, and his latest statement that Israel would act alone in the coming phase is a clear message that force alone would be the deciding factor in the Israeli-Palestinian relationship. But reality says that the ball is in the Israeli court. Israel has many problems and issues to deal with. For example, Israeli soldiers are refusing the obey orders to evacuate the settlements, which puts a great deal of pressure on the unilateral disengagement plan in the Gaza Strip.... Sharon’s problems, which he is trying to pass on to Palestinians, are very complicated. Palestinians should not offer Sharon any help by resorting to violence in this critical phase. They should give the international community time to realize who is really obstructing the peace process in the region."
"Gradual Gnawing At Jerusalem"
Riyadh's moderate Al-Jazira stated (1/4): "Israel does not conceal its endeavours to grab Jerusalem from Palestinians...and make it its capital."
"Separation Barrier: An Example Of Israeli Racism"
Abdallah bin Abd-al-Muhsin al-Sultan wrote in Jeddah's moderate Okaz (1/4): "The U.S. would be able to compel Israel to stop building the barrier and to force Israel to cease its operations to kill Palestinian activists, destroy their houses and detain them without trial. However, the U.S. does not want to do so for fear of angering Israel."
"Israel’s Aggressive Behavior Won’t Change"
Abha’s moderate Al-Watan maintained (1/3): "Israel has committed aggressions against Palestinians before and after the death of Chairman Arafat. It is impossible to convince the world that the attacks on Palestinians during Arafat’s life were his fault because he was firm about his principles.... What kind of election are Palestinians expecting when Israel continues to launch military attacks against people? How can this nation practice its democratic rights when people are chased, arrested, and killed? Let us not forget the demolishing of homes and destruction of farms.... Palestinians have accepted the peace treaty in OSLO, as did the Israelis. Now it is time for Israelis, who represent the stronger link in this equation, to give in a little, and ease up rather than complicate maters."
The pro-government English-language Arab News declared (1/3): "To Israeli and American officials, it must have been disappointing.... There was Mahmoud Abbas, the would-be successor to Yasser Arafat, cozying up to Hamas.... If that was disquieting, his outright rejection of Israeli demands to crack down on activists, his refusal not to fight them and his saying that he would even go to the extent of shielding them from Israeli attacks could not have been reassuring.... Abbas is the man Israel and the U.S. say they want, the one they believe they can do business with and the one with whom they will eventually reach a peace deal. After seeing him on the shoulders of gunmen in black--courting the same groups that Israel and the U.S. call terrorists--the two countries must be wondering whether Abbas is Arafat reincarnate. Abbas seeks a peaceful settlement; of this there can be no doubt. He has called the intifada a mistake and has criticized violence.... At the same time, Abbas has associated himself closely with Arafat’s legacy, presenting an uncompromising list of demands for ending the conflict: Calling on Israel to end its occupation, withdrawing from Arab East Jerusalem, freeing all political prisoners and recognizing the refugees’ right of return.... Is Abbas playing campaign politics or is this a serious attempt to identify with armed groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad who are committed to armed confrontation? There is of course an element of electioneering involved.... Abbas still needs the support of the Palestinian street for a large margin of victory that will enable him to negotiate with Israel in the future. He must rally groups such as Hamas in order to push his agenda forward. Israel and the U.S. should not thus be too uncomfortable.... Abbas is committed to a negotiated settlement. He wants peace and not only between Palestinians and Israelis. He seeks intra-Palestinian calm just as much and as such will avoid a civil war at all costs. His courting of armed groups does not equate to supporting violence.... Democratic politics anywhere is essentially a balancing act. Nowhere is it as precarious as it is in Palestine."
"The Missing Partner"
Jeddah’s conservative Al-Madina stated (1/2): "The missing partner in the Palestinian peace process, and the murderer of the Road Map Peace Plan, is Israel. Genocide operations in Palestinian territories continue under different names. It has become obvious that Israel aims at killing any Palestinian quest for peace. The international community must be aware of these Israeli attacks, and act to stop them before it’s too late. If nothing is done, no one should blame the Palestinians for going back to the militant solution. It seems that violence is the only language of negotiation that Israel understands."
"The Year Of Palestinian Elections"
Maher Othman observed in pan-Arab London-based Al-Hayat (12/31): "The Palestinian people proved their awareness and institutions and leadership proved their ability to bear responsibility during challenging times that accompany the track of resistance in order to achieve liberation from the belligerent and abhorrent Israeli occupation.... The Palestinians will not be less enthusiastic for casting their votes in the presidential elections despite the fact that Islamic Jihad and Hamas announced their boycott for reasons pertaining to the unavailability of a prominent candidate from their parties.... With regards to the legitimate elections, all the Palestinian factions, parties and national forces are expected to participate, which will give the political Palestinian regime a lawful, democratic, popular and representative attribute. If the Palestinians win the battle of democracy they will be paving their way for their liberation."
JORDAN: "Worrying Signs From The Palestinian Presidential Campaign"
Rami G. Khouri noted in the English-language elite Jordan Times (1/5): "The Palestinian presidential elections that take place Sunday have been seen as an important potential turning point in the diplomatic stalemate and low-intensity war that define Israeli-Palestinian relations. Many Israelis, Palestinians, Americans and others hoped that the elections would generate a new Palestinian leadership with more clear and flexible policies that would open the way for a resumption of peace negotiations.... The signs this week during the presidential campaign are not encouraging.... Palestinians everywhere should use this democratic process to demand better leadership.... Israelis and Americans, for their part, should wake up to the obvious signs that nothing much is changing on the ground...and if this situation persists, so will the modern legacy of violent warfare and mutual terror. I am only addressing here the conduct of the Palestinian leadership, because they are the weaker, occupied party; and they are the ones going through a transition that allows them to fundamentally reassess and change their policies.... Mahmoud Abbas...is repeating the weaknesses and mistakes that have plagued the Palestinian leadership in recent decades--an inability to define a clear policy or a credible middle ground that reconciles between apparently irreconcilable forces. If Abbas is elected, as seems likely...then we are in for many more years of conflict and suffering. The basic problem is that Abbas is trying to appeal to his several different constituencies by advocating patently contradictory positions on critical core issues.... Abu Mazen is staking out the same ambiguous diplomatic landscape that Yasser Arafat occupied...speaking of negotiating peace with Israel while also promising his own people eternal resistance and a return to their homes.... The Palestinians deserve better than merely perpetuating failed policies based on contradictory positions, empty rhetoric and hesitant leadership.... At the same time, Israel and the U.S. also persist in their aggressive and rigid policies that ensure chronic warfare."
"The Israelis Are Threatening Unrest"
Center-left, influential Arabic-language Al-Dustour declared (1/4): "Now it becomes apparent why Sharon had devised the unilateral plan to withdraw from Gaza Strip. He wanted to present the withdrawal as a pure Israeli measure agreed upon by the Israelis for the higher good and benefit, and not as a measure that would otherwise indicate a peace agreement with the Palestinians or the implementation of the roadmap that was formulated by the U.S. in agreement with the EU, Russia and the UN.... Listening to statements made by Israeli settlement heads of councils shows the depth of their rejection and their readiness to wage a real battle against the withdrawal plan.... This crisis, which is threatening serious divisions, is happening when the main purpose is actually to achieve Israel’s security and get rid of the burden of its presence in Gaza. Imagine if the situation had to do with West Bank settlements or even establishing an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as the capital; a civil war would very much be possible.... All this is because of the political overbidding that took place in Israel in recent years, allowing politicians to achieve their popularity at the expense of Israel’s real chance for establishing peace with the Palestinians and the entire Arab world. We do not know and we do not care about the cost that the Israeli government is going to end up paying in return for altering impressions formed among the people of this region and the world with regard to the Israelis readiness or eligibility for making peace. We do care however that the international community would realize the lie in claiming that the Palestinians are the ones who are obstructing peace.”
OMAN: "Palestinian Elections"
Pro-government Oman opined (1/4): "The Palestinian election is an important event and a step in the right direction, making it possible for a new structure of national government to be formed by electing a president for the Palestinian state and also parliament. All these processes are important in giving impetus to the peace process."
QATAR: "Israeli Incursion Is Bad For Elections"
The semi-official English-language Gulf Times maintained (1/3): "The Israeli army advanced yesterday morning into the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun.... Palestinian factions like Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al Aqsa Brigades have refused to end rocket attacks on Israeli settlements, which are built illegally on Arab land. This infuriates Israel’s PM Sharon, who believes he has the right to impose his terms for peace on the Palestinian people. Sharon himself has always rejected the idea of a ceasefire, demanding instead a severe crackdown on the Resistance, which no top Palestinian official can agree to. However, leading Palestinian presidential contender Mahmoud Abbas has criticised the use of rockets for being useless and drawing disproportionate retribution from Israel. The Palestinian people will vote for a new president on January 9, but how can they hold free and fair elections amid Israeli tank fire and helicopter rocket attacks? The Israelis are complicating the election and their new deputy prime minister, veteran politician Shimon Peres, seems unable to restrain Sharon’s lust for killing Palestinians.... However, it is not clear that Sharon wants peace.... He may well do something...to wreck the prospects of the next Palestinian president making peace. Unless the Israelis abandon their policy of murdering Palestinians with bombs and rocket strikes it will be very difficult for any Palestinian leadership to introduce reforms and negotiate for peace.... It is the Israelis who are illegally occupying someone else’s homeland and it is they who must show maximum flexibility."
UAE: "Winds Of Evil"
Dubai-based business-oriented al-Bayan editorialized (1/4): "The golden opportunity for peace will not come unless Israel stops its aggression and withdraws from Palestinian towns. Without this, there will be no peace in our inflamed region."
AUSTRALIA: "Campaign Rhetoric No Blow To Peace"
The national conservative Australian maintained (1/4): "Despite false dawns over many decades, there is finally some reason to hope for progress towards peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel continues with its plan to pull its settlers out of the Gaza Strip. And since the death of Yasser Arafat in November, the Palestinian leadership has slowly started to edge towards renouncing violence in favour of negotiations with Israel. The frontrunner for Sunday's presidential poll, Mahmoud Abbas, has acknowledged that attempts to break Israel's will through violence have failed. And the fact that there is an election to replace Mr Arafat, instead of a deal done among factional warlords, is an enormous step forward.... If Mr Abbas is elected president, he will speak for the Palestinian people and, hopefully, will have the authority to make any deal with Israel stick among the terrorists who have not renounced violence.... But Israel and its American ally must also accept that as a politician running for popularly elected office, Mr Abbas must appeal to his constituents. In asserting Palestinians have a right to return to long lost homes and land that are now in Israel, that Jerusalem must be their national capital, and by declining to denounce the militant Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Mr Abbas is stating what many, probably the great majority of electors, want to hear. But not everything. Yesterday he criticised militants keen to keep fighting. Israel can certainly make Mr Abbas's job easier by abandoning operations such as the 50-tank sweep through Gaza on the weekend. Nor is US Secretary of State Colin Powell's criticism of Mr Abbas for not distancing himself from Al-Aqsa especially helpful.... Abbas must win the voters' confidence and for a Palestinian leader seeking a popular mandate to avoid the easy populist platform of denouncing Israel as the eternal enemy is in itself a welcome step forward.... There is no need to attack Mr Abbas for talking the talk of militancy while he appears to be walking the walk towards peace."
JAPAN: "The Year For The Middle East?"
The liberal English-language Japan Times editorialized (1/4): "The year 2005 may herald a new era of hope for the Middle East. The death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has provided the opportunity for all parties to push with renewed vigor for a negotiated peace.... Weakened, Arafat nonetheless was able to frustrate attempts to diminish his authority. As a result, a bloody stalemate ensued, Palestinians suffered and Israelis endured random acts of terrorism. Arafat's death has inspired hope among all participants that progress is now possible.... Despite fears of a violent succession struggle, it appears that Mr. Mahmoud Abbas will assume the Palestinian leadership in elections Jan. 9 without a real challenger. Mr. Abbas is a moderate.... He called for an end to the armed resistance against Israel and acts of terrorism. If he can stop the terrorism and restore order in the Palestinian territories, he will have met the chief Israeli precondition for negotiating a deal.... Of course, many of the old obstacles remain. Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian factions have resisted Mr. Abbas' call to put down their arms and end the violent resistance. Israeli settlers have vowed to fight Mr. Sharon's decision to withdraw from Gaza, even to the point of breaking the law and going to jail. And finally, even if all goes according to plan and the peace talks resume, Israeli and Palestinian positions on key issues remain far apart.... Still, the cup is more than half full. The transition in the Palestinian leadership offers the chance to change the environment surrounding the peace talks. Fortunately, the rest of the parties involved in the negotiations sense this opportunity and are trying to make the most of it. That alone is a reason to be hopeful in the new year."
BRAZIL: "Opportunity For Peace"
Liberal Folha de S. Paulo noted (1/3): "Deplorably, historic experience has taught us that in regards to the Middle East the pessimists are almost always right. Even so, there are indications that this year may show some significant advances.... What unites Israel’s main political forces--the Labor Party and the Likud--is the plan for a withdrawal from Gaza.... There are not many doubts that Mahmoud Abbas will be elected to replace Yasser Arafat in the Palestinian National Authority.... He is a moderate with whom Israel has agreed to talk. Sharon has already indicated that he wants the Palestinians to participate in what would have previously been a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. Various observers believe that an agreement in this issue might encourage the resumption of peace negotiations.... Strong international pressure to make this happen, including from the U.S., is expected.... Among Israelis, the major risk is that those who are occupying the Gaza settlements refuse to leave, thereby causing a violent reaction from the Army, which could divide public opinion. On the Palestinian side, the threat comes from the most radical groups.... Unlike the PNA, Hamas does not recognize Israel’s right to existence.... There are doubts regarding Abbas’ capability to control Hamas. And Sharon demands the end of Palestinian terrorist attacks as a precondition to any agreement. It is not impossible that 2005 will be a promising year for the Middle East, but it will not be a surprise if irrationality and barbarism eventually prevail.”
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