International Information Programs
January 28, 2005

January 28, 2005





**  Abbas' ability to persuade militants to accept a cease-fire is a "ray of hope."

**  Israel must reciprocate "seriously and positively" to maintain stability.

**  Papers say the U.S. must stay "fully committed to the peace process."

**  Rejectionists blast Israel's "continuous attempts to disturb" efforts at peace.




Cease-fire proves Abbas is 'able and willing' to 'rein in' militants--  Papers saw a "really good opportunity for peace" with a "formal cease-fire" reportedly in place in Gaza.  Other "encouraging developments," such as the deployment of PA security forces to stop "anti-Israeli violence" in Gaza, spurred Israel's popular Maariv to say that "everything is flowing in desirable directions."  Germany's center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine agreed that Abbas has "seriously and successfully attempted to contain violence."  Lebanon's moderate Daily Star concluded that things "are more promising today than they have been for years," given "good signs of movement in the right direction."


Sharon must 'act in response'--  "Without Israeli concessions, Abbas' efforts will soon fizzle," outlets warned.  Singapore's pro-government Straits Times declared that "Israel must move fast to grasp this opportunity" for peace, while Canada's conservative Gazette added that "to consolidate his control, Abbas needs forbearance from Israel."  Euro papers stressed that Abbas can only "gain authority" if the "deplorable situation" of Palestinians improves.  Hungary's center-left Nepszabadsag urged Israel to "make life more bearable for the Palestinian masses," through what Brazil's liberal Folha de S. Paulo called "a virtuous cycle of concessions aimed at peace."


The U.S. should 'stay engaged'--  The "encouraging" visit to the region by Assistant Secretary Burns sparked hopes that the U.S. is embarking on a "fresh bid to jump-start the Middle East peace process."  Outlets agreed "there will only be a breakthrough" if the U.S. "engages more"; an Israeli liberal called on the U.S. to "exploit the momentum...and provide immediate assistance."  Other outlets emphasized that the U.S. must act "justly and fairly" by being "fair to the two sides."  The independent Nigerian Tribune advised that Washington must serve as a "worthy and impartial arbiter." 


Israel 'is not interested' in a just peace--  Several Muslim commentators accused Israel of continuing to execute the "cruelest massacres" against Palestinians, proving it "does not intend to hold peace talks."  Palestinian dailies judged the cease-fire a chance to "put the government of occupation on the spot" and place "restraints on Israel's use of oppressive force."  But the West Bank's independent Al-Ayyam complained that despite the cease-fire, Israel "has not taken any tangible facilitating step" towards peace.  Liberal Israeli papers focused on "dangerous" radical settlers, while nationalist Israeli outlets noted an "increase in anti-Semitic incitement" by the PA. 


Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888,


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 interprites foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government.  This analysis was based on 39 reports from 15 countries over 26 - 28 January 2005.  Editorial excerpts are listed in the most recent date.




GERMANY:  "Rethinking"


Gemma Poerzgen commented in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (1/28):  "In his short time as new Palestinian president, Abbas has managed to surprise Sharon.  Jerusalem did not appear to be prepared for Abbas' clear message on violence and that he swiftly acted on it.  The Palestinian proposal to deploy Palestinian police officers at the border of the Gaza Strip has been successful so far.  That is why everybody praises Abbas.  The situation has changed for Sharon....  His recent strategy is no longer adequate for Abbas."  


"Ray Of Hope"


Business-oriented Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg noted (1/27):  "Apparently, both sides are serious about rapprochement.  Israel wants to renounce targeted killings of militant Palestinians and Abbas makes efforts to put a stop to anti-Israeli violence in the Gaza Strip.  He negotiates with militant groups about a truce.  That is a ray of hope after a long time of violence.  But there will only be a breakthrough if the U.S. engages more in the Middle East peace process.  In this respect, there are encouraging signals as well, as the responsible U.S. Undersecretary of State Burns traveled to the region yesterday for talks in Israel, Palestine and Egypt.  The clear order of his president is to create peace."




Josef Joffe commented in center-left weekly Die Zeit of Hamburg (1/27):  "Thanks to a dead man the miracle continues.  After 40 years, Arafat disappeared from the Palestinian policy and suddenly things are moving.  He was the evil force that made rapprochement impossible.  His successor, who looked like an apparatchik, gets things moving that appeared to be fortified on the bloody soil between Gaza and Nablus....  Israelis also react appropriately and praise Abbas.    A small window has opened, which is the best news since the failure of Camp David in 2000.   But miracles in this region have a short life.  Two or three terror attacks could revive Arafat."


"The Offer"


Wolfgang Guenter Lerch commented in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (1/26):  "So far the newly elected Palestinian president meets the hopes that many, not least Israelis had put in him.  He seriously and successfully attempts to contain violence.  Even the radical Islamic organization Hamas announced it is ready to accept another truce.   Once before, the organization renounced attacks for several weeks.  Because Israel killed its influential leaders Hamas is weaker today.  But is also more conciliatory?  It combines its offer with the demand that Israel must put a stop to the occupation and release prisoners.  Israeli PM Sharon will not agree to this.  However, his deputy Peres said one must reduce the military presence and, with it, the visible intensity of the occupation regime to set a signal that can help Abbas.  That is where they can find agreements.  Without Israeli concessions, Abbas' efforts will soon fizzle out."




Jacques Schuster noted in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (1/26):  "It is too early to come to a conclusion about Abbas.  Anything can still happen.  However, the first moves of the newly elected Palestinian president are hopeful.  Abbas does everything to prevent bloodshed between Palestinians and Israelis.  He also has the guts for measures his predecessor would not have taken....  Hamas' announcement could be the first move towards civilizing extremists and a peaceful transition of the power in the Gaza Strip to Palestinians.  No one can know whether this will happen....  But there are numerous indications that Hamas will cooperate to accomplish Abbas' great mission.  The group has been weakened by targeted killings and is not fully capable to continue its resistance permanently and with the same scale of violence.  Hamas also noticed that it is losing ground among the Palestinians.  However, to believe that Hamas has completely changed its mind would be unwise.  But that is not really necessary.  Contracts based on interests are more solid than those based on sympathy."


"Encouraging Signals In The Middle East"


Susanne Knaul asserted in leftist die tageszeitung of Berlin (1/26):  "The fundamentalist Islamic group Hamas is considering joining the PLO.  Given that the Palestinian president credibly tries to resolve the conflict diplomatically, this is an encouraging signal.  However, this unity between Hamas and PLO is only positive for Israel in peaceful times.  At the height of the first Intifada, the Israeli army had hoped for an internal Palestinian confrontation....  The PLO and Hamas differ in their policy as well as methods.  Whereas the PLO has officially renounced violence, Hamas insists that the truce is only temporary until the fight for the whole of Palestine can be taken up again.  To renounce jihad, the core of Hamas' ideology, would make the organization redundant.  The PLO has erased all lines from its Charter that called for Israel's destruction.  Although it does not explicitly talk of renouncing violence, PLO head Abbas will not allow terror to continue, contrary to his predecessor.   The partnership between Hamas and PLO will therefore only exist as long as there is a ceasefire."


RUSSIA:  "New Leader. Old Problems"


Mikhail Chernov said in business-oriented weekly Ekspert (1/27):  "Israeli-Palestinian confrontation intensified after the election of Mahmoud Abbas as chairman of the Autonomy....  As well as foiling the plans of the Israeli, U.S. and EU governments for a new peace process in the Middle East, the escalation of violence can make Ariel Sharon give up the idea of one-sided Gaza withdrawal.   More and more Israelis become unhappy with

official policy."


AUSTRIA:  "More Maneuvering Room For Abbas"


Senior editor Helmut L. Mueller observed in independent Salzburger Nachrichten (1/28):  "What is important now is in how far Abbas will succeed in securing his position as leader of the Palestinians. His efforts to keep the militant forces quiet by integrating them politically is risky:  the success of this strategy is by no means certain. However, Abbas has weighty arguments on his side:  The armed intifada has lost focus, the majority of the Palestinians are tired of the fighting and favor a two-state solution, and in the slum quarters the radicals regard as their territory, the new President has gotten many votes. Abbas can gain authority if the deplorable situation of the Palestinians improves. That, however, will take reforms in the Palestine camp just as it does a readiness on the part of Israel to compromise. Above all, however, the international community has to help the parties in conflict find their way back to the negotiation table--at the latest after the Iraq elections and in time before a dawning Iran conflict."


"Abbas Massaging The Isalmists"


Foreign editor Christian Ultsch wrote in centrist Die Presse (1/27):  "The latest attempt at saving the peace process undertaken by Palestinian President Abbas gives some reason for hope. His method of 'massaging the Islamists' is showing first positive results. Suddenly, the radical Hamas is ready to participate in a political process. In the north of the Gaza Strip, Palestinian security forces can be stationed to prevent missile attacks on Israel. And lo and behold:  Israel obliges, halts the purposeful killings of militant Palestinians for the time being and agrees to a summit with Abbas. However, optimism will really be justified if the moderate forces survive the attempts at disruption on the part of the radicals. For the next attack will certainly come."


HUNGARY:  "Silence"


Endre Aczel opined in top-circulation, center-left Nepszabadsag (1/26):  “If it is in Israel’s interest that Mahmud Abbas’s reputation should grow among his people, it must make life more bearable for the Palestinian masses. It will not do that while Abbas keeps enjoining silence on his flock, operations against Palestinian resistance groups in hiding and against individuals guilty of real crimes continue on a daily basis; that bulldozers destroy Palestinian homes on a daily basis and kill (often) innocent people; that 'traffic restrictions' between Palestinian cities are more than frequent occurrences; in other words, that there be no normal life; that crossing points between Israel and Palestine are closed, and that protecting walls continue to be built at the expense of Palestinian arable land.”




ISRAEL:  "Stop Shooting"


Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (1/28):  "The sense that each individual soldier in the field could end the partial lull between the PA and Israel--a lull that has created a positive atmosphere between the parties and enabled talks aimed at arranging a meeting between Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen)--is no illusion.  Regrettably, it seems that uncontrolled outbursts of shooting are not confined to the Palestinian side....  Upon Condoleezza Rice's assumption of her new job...she announced that she would become personally involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and even agreed to consider American involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian mechanism that will resolve disputes between the parties during implementation of the disengagement plan.  Given the current fragile situation, in which the cease-fire could be shattered by loss of control, military caprice, or insufficient coordination between the sides, the U.S. Secretary of State ought to exploit the momentum that has been created and provide immediate assistance, thereby injecting a little more goodwill and motivation into both sides."


"The Good Bang"


Ben Caspit wrote in popular, pluralist Maariv (1/28):  "Arafat has gone; the U.S. and France are joint applying heavy pressure on Syria to curb terror; Egypt is acting in favor of the [disengagement] move; the Palestinians are exhausted and hope for something else; and Ariel Sharon is ripe for big moves.  Everything is flowing in desirable directions.  Bush is serious, so are Sharon and Abu Mazen; [Egyptian intelligence chief] Omar Suleiman is very serious....  A new galaxy has been forming before our very eyes....  There is a reasonable chance that the worst is behind us (giving way to a different sort of unpleasantness: an accelerated road map with the cessation of terrorist attacks, but without the crushing of terror).  Abu Mazen will apparently succeed in reaching a cease-fire.  The situation on the ground will calm down."


"An Unholy Alliance"


Yoel Marcus contended in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (1/28):  "Every morning we open our eyes and can't believe it.  Is this for real?  Another day without mortars, rockets, and suicide bombings?  It makes us want to stretch out in bed and heave a sigh of relief at the thought that we're on the verge of a turning point in our relations with the Palestinians.  Only we're not sure that it's really happening or that it will last....  [Mahmoud Abbas] has not only silenced the guns, but also managed to rein in Sharon and stop the gunfire on this side....  Sharon has embarked on a historical move, and he is more determined than ever to complete it.   He has all the public support he needs to crush this unholy alliance between the Land of Israel zealots and Hizbullah, who are working in the name of God and Allah to destroy the State of Israel."


"The Skin Is Coming Off"


Ofer Shelach opined in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (1/27):  "As the date for the implementation of the disengagement plan draws near, the sides are shedding their skin....  On Wednesday settlers from the Katif Bloc attacked Palestinian police who came to hold a coordination meeting with IDF commanders prior to transferring responsibility over the southern Gaza Strip to them.  After that they also clashed with the police who came to disperse their violent demonstration.  The rioters did not conceal the fact that although this was the implementation on the ground of an agreement between the IDF and the PA, at the orders of the political echelon, this did not change a thing in their eyes.  They thus made it clear that the state's institutions exist on condition--the condition being that they serve their worldview....  And it now turns out, in a totally predictable manner, that the only IDF that the settlers recognize is an aggressive and occupying IDF, not an IDF that dares to reach agreements with the enemy....  It is very unlikely that the Gaza Strip settlers are winning any political converts by this manner of combat, but it appears that they have long since moved beyond a political battle....  From now and until the implementation of the plan, the battle is actually over the government's ability to enforce its decisions.  On Wednesday we received a clear hint that this battle will not only be waged by democratic means."


"Dismantling The Arrangement"


Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (1/27):  "The decision by Maj. Gen. Elazar Stern, commander of the IDF Manpower Branch, to disperse soldiers from the hesder yeshivas [in which yeshiva students combine military service with religious studies] throughout the army and not allow them to continue serving in religiously homogeneous companies and regiments was correct and courageous.  Over the years, the hesder yeshivas have changed from an instrument used to encourage religious youth to enlist in the army to a separatist, inegalitarian phenomenon that could even be dangerous for the army and society....  The decision is particularly appropriate now, before the disengagement, and in light of letters from individuals and groups in the religious Zionist community promising that they will refuse orders to take part in the disengagement, and calls by some rabbis to refuse orders."


"Beware The Demographic Demon"


Meron Benvenisti asserted in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (1/27):  "Every now and then, with inexplicable timing, we suddenly encounter rumors that the demographic demon--the one that lies in the recesses of the Arab woman's womb--has raised its head once again and is threatening to wipe out, God forbid, the entire Zionist enterprise....  The right-wing circles have discovered that the demographic demon had been abducted from them, and is being used by others to justify the evacuation of the Gaza Strip; and if the demon doesn't serve the purposes of the right, one has to pretend that it doesn't exist.  In a reversal of roles, the Left is now nurturing the paranoia of the 'demographic demon' and writing its own charm for it: a withdrawal from populated territories while continuing to discriminate collectively against the Arab citizens of Israel."


"Not The Time For Chest Beating"


Uzi Benziman maintained in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (1/26):  "The cease-fire hangs by a thread....  Israel will make a mistake if it makes do with the minimum.  It must seek a permanent solution and not take comfort in a period of calm for a few months or, at most, an interim agreement for a few years.  Arafat's departure, the disengagement initiative, the deeper involvement of the Americans in the region (in Iraq, Iran and Syria), and the intensified awareness of the international community of the Palestinian demand for independence all reflect the opportunities and constraints now facing Israel.  Now is the time to break free of the delusions about the Greater Land of Israel and to accept the fulfillment of the Zionist vision inside the borders delineated by the Green Line.  It would be terrible if Israeli society only reaches this sober conclusion after another round of bloodshed."


"Giving Abbas Some Space"


Aluf Benn wrote in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (1/26):  "The events of the last week raise serious questions about the Israeli leadership.  It's not difficult to guess what would have happened if it had behaved with routine reflexes and sent the army into Gaza for another punitive raid after the attack at Karni and the Qassam barrage at Sderot.  The Palestinians would have counted their dead, and the government would have explained there was simply no alternative....  Abu Mazen acted without waiting for Israel to respond to a list of Palestinian complaints, like freezing the fence, freeing prisoners and lifting checkpoints.  That won him a hefty credit line in the international arena.  Sharon understood that there's no point now in demanding an absolute elimination of terror before any progress and that it would be best to let Abbas do what he can.  Those are good signs ahead of the renewal of the negotiations between the two leaders."


"A Look At Abu Mazen's Strategy"


Haggai Huberman stated in nationalist, Orthodox Hatzofe (1/26):  "According to Israeli defense sources, the [current] cease-fire blends in with Abu Mazen's readiness to cooperate with Israel during the disengagement [process], and to turn it from a unilateral one to a coordinated one.  Abu Mazen views the disengagement expected for the summer of 2005 as a further stage in the road map.  He will try to bring about toward the end of the year ... an international conference with the Quartet...and particularly with the U.S., which will lead him to a permanent-status agreement.  As a reminder, there is such a clause in the road map.  Speaking of a permanent-status agreement, Abu Mazen's strategic goals are no different from those of Arafat in their four components....  Palestinian statehood; Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state; full withdrawal to the 1967 or land swap in a 1:1 ratio that will amount to a 100-percent withdrawal; and the attainment of the right of return."


"Diplomatic Track Vs. Anti-Semitic Track"


Ultra-Orthodox Yated Ne'eman editorialized (1/26):  "A special report released on Tuesday by...Palestinian Media Watch brings particularly worrying data about the increase in anti-Semitic incitement in the PA....  The report's compilers say that all stories and broadcasts in the Palestinian media are fraught with portrayals of the Jew as essentially inferior and as an existential threat to Muslims and the rest of the world.  The proposed solution to the problem is the annihilation of the Jews--as simple as that....  The proponents of disengagement point at efforts being made by the Palestinian leaders, headed by Abu Mazen, to prevent dozens or hundreds of Palestinians from carrying out terrorist attacks and launching rockets and missiles at Israel.  But what value do these efforts, which are positive per se, have as at the same time the Palestinian media directs the increase in anti-Semitic incitement among the next generation?  How useful are all the slogans coming out of the Israeli Left about the importance of the diplomatic track, while the Palestinians have picked the anti-Semitic track?"


WEST BANK:  "Positive Atmosphere, But The Fire Burns On"


Ashraf Ajrami commented in independent Al-Ayyam (1/28):  "The U.S, represented by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, is showing willingness for greater involvement in the political process in order to bring the Roadmap into effect.  It is also showing noticeable satisfaction with the performance of Palestinian President Abu Mazin....  Bush has also promised to demand that the Israelis fulfill their promise of easing movement restrictions on Palestinians and releasing Palestinian funds it still holds.  The U.S. is also expected to announce $200 million in additional assistance....  All that is good news, but it still doesn’t change the facts of the difficult and complex reality, which keeps the situation fragile and ready to collapse any minute....  Up to this moment, Israel has not taken any tangible facilitating step, including dealing with...Israeli soldiers’ behavior at checkpoints, nor has it removed a single checkpoint....  Regarding the internal Palestinian situation, we can’t say things have stabilized or that reform and the work of the [PA] have actually started.”


"Can We Take The Political Initiative?"


Muhannad Abdul Hamid speculated in independent Al-Ayyam (1/25):  "The Palestinian experience indicates that armed struggle from the outside failed to end the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories in past decades. Likewise, negotiations that were adopted as the sole technique and a strategic choice for ending occupation and establishing the independent state also failed.  If the situation remains as it is now, the Intifadah, which was transformed into armed resistance, faces the risk of failure.  This serious possibility necessitates intervention before it is too late....  It is wrong to talk about an agreement regarding a mutual cease-fire.  The important things are the following: regaining the previous notable status for the Palestinian struggle as a struggle for freedom and not terror; rebuilding the alliance of international relations so as to impose some sort of restraints on Israel's use of its oppressive force; stopping...collective punishment and humiliation, the expansion of settlement activity, and the construction of the racial separation wall; and dismantling settlement outposts, which the Israeli Government is responsible for building, supporting, and consolidating according to Sasson's report.  Also, rebuilding the Palestinian house and saving it from corruption, divisions, multiple authorities, and bureaucracy that obstructs the work of institutions.  These consecutive unilateral Palestinian measures will definitely put the government of occupation on the spot and force it to give more than can be achieved through a mutual cease-fire.”


"Palestinian Policy, From Defense To Offense"


Talal ‘Ukal contended in independent Al-Ayyam (1/27):  “It’s clear that what Abu Mazin is doing is sending the message that the Palestinians doing what they’re supposed to under the Roadmap, which stipulates in its first clause that they [Palestinians] must end the so-called violence and deal with terrorism.  [Abu Mazin] then will move on to confront Israel and the world with the long list of obligations and commitments the Roadmap imposes on Israel.”


"A Reform Government:  A Priority That Brooks No Delay"


Jamal Zaqqut opined in independent Al-Quds (1/27):  “While calm, truce or mutual cease-fire is a means of putting the ball in Israel’s court and launching an effective policy at regional and international levels...the building blocks for organizing the internal situation are not based on this approach alone, despite its significance....  Reality imposes a strong need for the reform process to move ahead, in addition to the [Palestinian] citizen’s wish for a genuine change in his economic, social and security life under an effective and independent judicial system.”


"Calm Needs Serious Israeli Steps"


Independent Al-Quds declared (1/26):  "The least the Israeli government can do as a step to build trust with the Palestinian side is to act in response to the Palestinian leadership’s demands put forth by Mahmoud Abbas: mainly an official declaration of a halt to its military campaigns, assassinations of Palestinian activists, arrests and house demolitions, and the release of prisoners in Israeli detention centers.  Such demands are the common denominator that all Palestinian agree on.  Israel must deal with these demands very seriously and positively in order for calm to continue and for the peace process to resume after a long pause.”


"Calm Doesn't Mean Defeat"


Ahmad Majdalani opined in independent Al-Ayyam (1/26):  “Despite differences on the issue of a cease-fire or calm resulting from the various understandings of the regional and international situation and from serious Israeli and American threats, the bottom line is that Sharon is the one who had to retreat and accept a cease-fire after...announcing that he would not stop until the resistance and the Intifada were eliminated.  The calm or cease-fire choice is not a defeat of the national and Islamic forces; rather, it’s a chance to catch our breath, put things back in order, disclose Sharon’s pretexts and his intention to continue using more force against the Palestinian people so he can carry out his unilateral disengagement plan.”


JORDAN:  "More To Mark Time"


Mahmoud Rimawi asserted in semi-official, influential Al-Rai (1/27):  “U.S. Assistant Secretary of State William Burns started another tour of the region....  One is likely to rule out the possibility that Burns’ tour would yield concrete results, with the exception of some cordial talk and positive statements, since the Republican administration does not have a project based on international legitimacy to implement peace on the ground, and since this old-new administration has given a free hand to Sharon....  What will Burns then talk about?  He will speak of calm, conducting reforms in the Palestinian institutions, easing the suffering of people.  Right.  But for what?  Most likely, it is to continue to mark time and prolonging the life of the colonialist and military occupation.”


"America And Israel Address The Arab Mind"


Fahd Fanek wrote in semi-official, influential Al-Rai (1/27):  “Is it true that the neo-conservatives and extremist right-wing who have control in Washington and Tel Aviv do not care about the opinions of people who criticize America and Israel?  To say that the neo-conservatives, who are ruling in Washington and Tel Aviv, are not responsive to international and Arab public opinion would be true.  Yet, this does not mean that they do not care about international or Arab public opinion or that they do not seek to improve America’s image in the eyes of the world and the Arabs.  The proof of that is that they spend hundreds of millions of dollars on media outlets that address the people of the world in their own languages, most significantly of which are the American Al-Hurra TV and Radio Sawa and the Israeli Radio.  Did these American and Israeli media outlets succeed in attracting the Arab people?  This is a big question, but the certain thing is that media in itself does not create facts, but tries to polish them and set them forth.  The reality of American and Israeli behavior in Iraq and Palestine is ugly and an image the media is unable to twist convincingly.”


LEBANON:  "It Is Time To Make The Most Of A Promising Moment For Peace"


An editorial in the moderate, English-language Daily Star read (1/27):  "It is a very promising moment in the history of the Middle East peace process.  These are the words of the U.S. A/S Burns....  The stew is, indeed, thickening and may be ready for savoring very shortly.  Or so it appears.  We have, however, seen it all before - apparent progress, raised hopes, and then...nothing.  We cannot afford to be overly optimistic, yet the signs are more promising today than they have been for years.  If there is to be progress, nobody can afford to let up on the efforts that will be required to see this promising moment fulfilled.  The Palestinians are doing their part....  Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is ready to resume diplomatic contacts with the PA, and a formal cease-fire is reported to be in the making....  So far, so good.  History, however, tells us we cannot put too much faith in the protagonists to come to an agreement without assistance....  If there is to be real progress toward a settlement...then Washington had better make good on its words....  The Europeans must make their presence felt.  It is also vital for regional states to contribute--Turkey in particular has a role to play....  It is time to wrap up a deal, and the sooner it is done the better. Let 2005 be the year that sees the declaration of a viable, sovereign Palestinian state."


SYRIA:  "As Long As Israel Is Refusing Peace...!"


Ali Qaseem remarked in government-owned Al-Thawra (1/27):  "Not only that the conditions of Mr. Silvan Shalom to pursue the Peace Process are a new obstacle or a way of escaping, it is also the continuous Israeli attempts to disturb any possible international efforts towards this process.  Today, in its reply to the plain and clear Syrian invitation, the Sharon government is going far away with its illusions to the extent that it talks about substantial paradoxes, comes on top of them, is what is related to the so called Syrian support to the Palestinian groups.  This practice of the Israeli side is assuring that the Israeli concept, overstuffed with the American response to all its demands, is still far away from accepting peace. It is even refusing peace and its pay ability, and when Israeli concept is overstating with its conditions, it is actually giving the proof for this refusal.”


"The Racism Inclination In Israel Is Ascending"


Ghassan Mahfouz said in government-owned Tishreen (1/26):  "They were raised on racism and terrorism, killing Arabs and spoiling their rights, all in the name of untrue claims that they are 'God’s selected people' and that Palestine is a land without people for people without land, executing the cruelest massacres and expelling against the Palestinian people for the last 50 years, accompanying this bloody attack by all sorts of biased propaganda with the pretext of the holocaust event, which their gangs participated in. Those are the leaders of the Zionist movement personified by the experienced criminal...Ariel Sharon and other killers and racists who surround him....  An investigation by Ha'aretz unveiled the increasing presence of 'kakh' racist movement in the occupied Jerusalem and the West Bank Settlements, where they execute more violence against Palestinians, and is leading the 'anti Sharon plan to withdraw from Gaza' movement, and call for kicking Palestinians out and killing them.  This expatiation is coming in a time when all public opinion agree that 'Israel' is forming a dangerous threat to the region and world‘s security. A thing which poses the following question: How far will this racism go in providing elements of survival and continuation for this occupying body, especially if it is confronting with a nation that is exceeding every effort to return their spoiled national rights.”


UAE:  "A New Opportunity"


The expatriate-oriented English-language Khaleej Times editorialized (1/27):  "A thaw seems to be taking place in the Middle East. Israeli and Palestinian officials have met in Jerusalem amidst what appears to be rapidly improving relations between the two sides. The meeting followed Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s decision to lift a freeze on diplomatic contacts with new Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.  An agreement has already been reached to deploy Palestinian security forces in the southern Gaza Strip in an effort to reduce attacks on Israel. Israel too is reported to have agreed to stop the targeted killing of Palestinian militants. There has been a marked drop in violence since Palestinian security forces were deployed along the Gaza-Israel border last week. Militant group Hamas has also said it is considering a temporary truce.  All these are good signs of a movement in the right direction for peace. However, given the reality of the Middle East scenario and decades of hostility, distrust and suspicion, one should proceed cautiously. None of the parties should expect miraculous results for it would be unrealistic to do so....  To achieve a breakthrough in this, some measured risks have to be taken....  That is the real challenge facing both Mahmoud Abbas and Ariel Sharon. That will be a test of their commitment to brokering peace and breaking fresh ground. How they remain steadfast to the aim of bringing peace to the violence-scarred region is something that will be watched by not only their own people, but the whole world. What should be remembered is that history has given them a wonderful opportunity to end decades of hostility, and a new public mood to move forward on the peace path. They should not let the world down."


"Our Man In Mideast"


The expatriate-oriented English-language Khaleej Times observed (1/26):  "The U.S. is in a fresh bid to jump-start the Middle East peace process. Washington’s pointman to the region, William Burns, the Assistant Secretary of State, is in Brussels holding meetings with the officials from the UN, EU, and Russia, who along with the U.S. form the so-called Middle East peace quartet. The next stops on Burns’s agenda are Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza and Cairo.  What are the prospects of Burns’s mission to Middle East? The latest US initiative comes at a time when there is talk of peace and hope in the air. The Palestinians and the Israelis are said to be close to clinching a peace deal. The new Palestinian leader Abu Mazen appears to have succeeded in his attempts to persuade the Palestinian groups not to attack Israel. The groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad have agreed to a temporary ceasefire with the Jewish state. Certainly, these are encouraging developments. The positive vibes in the air would help the fresh US bid to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. This appears to be a really good opportunity for peace.  However, the Burns mission can’t lead to any miraculous outcome if both sides do not demonstrate an equal keenness for peace. That Abbas has managed to persuade the Palestinian groups for a ceasefire is no small achievement. However, Abu Mazen can’t control the armed groups if Israel itself does not call off its daily deadly strikes on the Palestinians and their leaders. Peace process can’t be a one-way street. After the Palestinians, it’s time for the Israelis to demonstrate that they’re interested in peace and want to resolve the dispue with the Palestinians. The US official, Burns, would need all the luck and best wishes for his mission to Mideast."




SINGAPORE:  "Abbas Acts, Israel Next"


The pro-government Straits Times held (1/26):  "The newly elected Palestinian President, Mr Mahmoud Abbas, has scored a major success by persuading radical Palestinian groups in occupied Gaza to accept a ceasefire....  More significantly, it shows that Mr Abbas, only in office for little more than a week, is able and willing to exercise his authority and rein in renegade Palestinian groups....  Israel must move fast to grasp this opportunity, and the U.S. should bring its influence to bear to ensure that Israel does....  It should respond boldly and imaginatively so as to convince the Palestinian ground that peace does have a chance. If Mr Abbas is to convince his people that peaceful negotiations, not violent insurrection, will gain them what they want, he must have something significant to show for his approach. At this point, a full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, something Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has promised but not delivered, would be in order. News that the Israeli government is planning to confiscate land in East Jerusalem belonging to Palestinians is definitely not what is needed....  The recent election of Mr Abbas...shows that the majority of Palestinians too desire peace and are willing to accept Israel's existence. If 2005 is to be the Year of Hope, moderates on both sides must combine to set the agenda."




NIGERIA:  "Opportunity For Peace"


The Ibadan-based independent Nigerian Tribune maintained (1/26):  "The recent successful presidential elections of the Palestinian Authority in which Mahmoud Abbas, former Prime Minister, was victorious and the inauguration of a new coalition government of the Likud and Labor parties, still under the Prime Ministership of Ariel Sharon in Israel, represent yet another hope for concrete peace in the Middle East, particularly in carrying forward the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict....  The two sides have to be helped to stay on the course of peaceful negotiations and this would principally be through the engagement of the international system in the process, with an abiding commitment to provide help where necessary.  In particular, the U.S. has a responsibility in this regard, as it is uniquely placed as the only superpower to help provide the right context and atmosphere for the two sides to stay engaged and not pull out again from the peace process.  This responsibility would entail the U.S. being fully committed to the peace process and the road map, with the readiness to apportion blame where necessary and being fair to the two sides, in order to enjoy their confidence as a worthy and impartial arbiter."


TANZANIA:  "Israel Should Stop Looking For Excuses"


Pro-Islam Kiswahili-language independent weekly tabloid Nasaha observed (1/26):  "Early 2001, the Israeli government put the late Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat under house arrest, accusing him of supporting terrorist attacks against Israel. Israel continued to declare Arafat a hindrance to peace in the Middle East, a view that was shared by America and their puppet nations.  When the courageous Palestinian leader died, Israel could not hide its joy and announced that the doors to a peaceful dialogue were now open. But now, even before Palestinians have finished mourning their departed leader, Israel has come up with new excuses. It says it is not ready to resume talks with Palestinians until the new Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas can stop Palestinian fighters from attacking Israel.  In principle, these are nonsensical excuses that prove that Israel does not intend to hold peace talks with Palestinians, and that it is not interested in the emergence of an independent Palestinian state.  It is totally unacceptable for Israel to demand that Palestinian fighters lay down their weapons whereas Israel itself continues to invade and attack the people of Palestine. Who does not know that it was Israel that killed Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Dr. Rantissi without any justification at all?  The international community is also to blame for tolerating Israeli high handedness towards Palestinians. Israel should stop its dirty tactics of delaying the peace talks, and the international community should discharge its responsibilities justly and fairly.”




CANADA:  "Daring To Hope In The Middle East"


The conservative Montreal-based Gazette opined (1/21):  "What [Mahmoud Abbas] has actually done so far is rather different, mixing pressure with cajolery. He has deployed security police in the northern part of Gaza, an area that has been a launching pad, literally, for attacks on both Israeli-occupied areas and adjacent parts of Israel. But besides this show of force, such as it is, Abbas has undertaken to negotiate with Hamas leaders....  Hamas and other groups have apparently given him a qualified limited promise to keep the peace for a while. Israel, meanwhile, has said only it will greet calm with calm. In an area so heavily militarized and infected with violence, more killing is inevitable, even if neither leadership wants it....  In the long, or even the medium term, Abbas will need to find ways to stop Hamas and other groups that use terror tactics from using them anymore. By definition, a state has a monopoly on the use of force in its territory.  Until the terror groups are tamed, Palestinians do not have a state. To consolidate his control, Abbas needs forbearance from Israel and encouragement from the rest of the world. Both are likely. A U.S. envoy is already dusting off the almost-forgotten "road map" for peace. The Israelis are balancing their hopes and their fears. Abbas is continuing his efforts. The rest of us are watching and hoping."


BRAZIL:  "Steps Towards Peace"


An editorial in liberal Folha de S. Paulo read (1/28):  "Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas seems ready to announce a truce of radical groups’ attacks against Israeli targets....  The new PA leader might also reinforce the suspension of hostilities conducted by radical factions.  It would be a replacement of the vicious cycle of violence by a virtuous cycle of concessions aimed at peace.  Abbas and Sharon are already making plans to meet in a few weeks, an event that would represent an important symbolic advance....  The progress is significant when one considers the political climate following Abbas’ election....  Abbas’ gesture seems to have improved Israeli officials’ willingness....  Skilled and realist, the new Palestinian leader seems to have realized that the Israelis are the stronger side and that peace will be negotiated according to their terms, not the Palestinians’. It may not be the fairest way, but it is unquestionably the feasible way. And besides, good peace is the one that becomes true.”  



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