International Information Programs
March 28, 2005

March 28, 2005





**  The Algiers "charade" took place amidst "general and popular Arab frustration."

**  Hardline outlets reflexively say Arabs "must unite" against "foreign dangers."

**  Writers blast Israel's "unjustified and incomprehensible" rejection of the summit peace plan.




'Political reforms' are 'most important'--  Writers argued the Arab world faced "morally serious" reform demands, both internally and from abroad.  France's left-of-center Le Nouvel Observateur saw a "movement for reforms and democratic aspiration" throughout the region, while Algeria's influential Liberte agreed there is "room today only for democracy."  However, critics dismissed the summit as "pompous and barren," providing a "disappointing performance" that failed to address the "new political order."  Dailies termed the Arab leaders "pathetic" and "scared" and "caught between U.S. demands and internal pressures."  Morocco's independent L'Economiste added that if Arab rulers don't "reorganize their internal political structures...they will see others do it for them."  The West Bank's official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida bemoaned how "Arab decisions are being made outside the Arab world."


'High time to show more cohesion'--  Saudi and Syrian outlets formulaically stated that "cooperation must be the spirit" among summit attendees and the Arab polity.  Saudi Arabia's moderate Al-Jazirah praised summit participants for "enhancing their unity and solidarity" and Syria's government-owned Tishreen hailed the "solid ground for better Arab cooperation."  Arab analysts urged their leaders to "close the gaps among themselves to stop attempts by others... to weaken the Arab nation."  Hardline Muslim papers assailed foreign demands for reform as a pretext to "melt Arabism and facilitate Israel's dominance."  Syria's state-run Al-Thawra opined that the Arab world faces a "foreign onslaught to impose hegemony on it in favor of Israel"; Pakistan's independent Din demanded Muslims form a "joint front against U.S., Western, Indian and Israeli imperialism."  Some media saw "Arab neglect" towards the "critical situation in Lebanon"; Beirut's moderate Daily Star panned the summit for "ignoring the deadlock" there.  Other papers sought "real" support for Syria in the face of "extreme U.S. pressure."


A 'precise and concise' peace initiative--  Moderate Arab papers praised the summit's proposal for a "final solution to the Arab-Israeli dispute" as proof of the "Arab determination to realize peace."  Saudi dailies backed the "land for peace principle" and supported using "negotiation and compromise"; the pro-government Arab News held that the summit was " once again offer Israeli leaders an olive branch" despite their "aggressive posture."  Following Israel's "arrogant" dismissal of the plan, dailies demanded additional pressure on Israel from the international community.  The West Bank's independent Al-Quds argued that Israel has proved its "lack of seriousness about achieving a just peace."  One Arab commentator backed "boycott procedures" against Israeli and sought "political and economic support" for Palestinians.  Uncompromising Muslim writers slammed the peace proposal as a "stab in the back of the Arab public" and a gesture of "Arab submission."


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 55 reports from 21 countries over 19 - 28 March 2005.  Editorial excerpts are listed by the most recent date.




ISRAEL:  "The Arab Summit"


The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (3/24):  "Arab League summits can hardly disappoint, since expectations are so low to begin with.  This time, however, there was some hope that the leaders gathered in Algiers on Wednesday would adopt a Jordanian proposal to begin normalization with Israel.  Instead, they opted to readopt the 'Saudi plan' passed in Beirut in 2002....  What Egyptian and Jordanian diplomats profess not to understand is why Israelis did not appreciate an element in the plan that, in their eyes, was a significant olive branch: 'A just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194.'  The great concession, we are told, is that the solution to the refugee problem must be 'agreed upon' with Israel....  Perhaps it is unrealistic to expect the Arab states to show leadership on this issue when Europe and even the U.S. have been reluctant to unequivocally state that there is no 'right of return' to Israel and that demanding such a right conflicts with the two-state solution....  The fact is that, once again, the governments meeting in Algiers missed an opportunity to lead toward the peace they insist they want, and to assuage Israeli concerns about their true intentions.  There is a simple measure of leadership: will these states take steps that encourage the Palestinians to moderate their demands, most importantly concerning the 'right of return'?  Will they encourage the Palestinians to take more realistic positions that are fully consistent with Israel's sovereignty and right to exist? The answer from Algiers was, unfortunately, a resounding no."


"Frightened Of Normalization"


Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz said (3/22):  "The Arab League summit that convenes today in Algeria will approve a document whose wording was agreed upon in advance.  In it, the leaders of the Arab states adopt what is termed the 'Arab Peace Initiative,' more or less as it was presented at the Arab League summit in Beirut in 2002.  Based on the draft resolution approved by the Arab foreign ministers two days ago, it seems that Arab leaders preferred not to deal with the changes that have occurred in the region, and especially not with the developments in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict....  The possibility that peaceful relations with Israel could actually advance the region's diplomatic moves is still viewed as giving Israel something for nothing.... The Arab League is thus once again letting slip through its fingers the positive role it could play in creating a new regional atmosphere.  It is also contradicting its own statement that the conflict must be resolved through peaceful means.  The sharp edges of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not be blunted if Arab states establish relations with Israel even before it ends.  But a decision in principle on such a move could influence Israeli public opinion, and thereby the Israeli government as well....  It must therefore be hoped that additional Arab states and leaders will discern the diplomatic benefits that could flow from establishing relations with Israel, and that these states, along with Jordan and Egypt, will lead the region into a new era."


WEST BANK:  "Israeli Rejection Of The Arab Peace Plan"


Independent Al-Quds stated (3/24):  "The strange thing is that the Israeli reaction to the Arab peace initiative, both at its declaration three years ago in Beirut and at its confirmation yesterday in Algiers, was negative despite [the initiative’s] advantages, including ending the Jewish state’s isolation....  This unjustified and incomprehensible Israeli rejection...arouses speculation about the actual intensions of the Israeli government and indicates the latter’s lack of seriousness about achieving a just peace based on the recognition of legitimate Palestinian national rights.”


"Another Summit"


Hani Habib opined in independent Al-Ayyam (3/23): “The Jordanian attempt to activate the Arab initiative that was approved at the Beirut summit did not pass peacefully, since Arab disagreement brought it back to where it was (emphasizing King Fahd’s initiative that puts conditions on normalization with Israel): complete withdrawal from Arab lands, establishment of the Palestinian state and recognition of the refugees’ right of return.  Despite that, talks based on the Jordanian proposal showed a new spirit--the need for improved Arab discourse that doesn’t only propose initiatives, but markets and revitalizes them every now and then."


"The Arab League"


Hafez Barghuthi commented in official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (3/23):  “I personally advise Amr Mousa head of the Arab League to resign in order for the League to collapse.  It the League is now overwhelmingly not playing any realistic role given that Arab decisions are being made outside the Arab world.”


“Algeria’s Summit: Adjustment Or Commencement Of Arab Peace Principles?"


Hani Masri opined in independent Al-Ayyam (3/22): “The Arab peace initiative needs to be taken seriously by Arabs, who need to convince the world, particularly the American administration, that not accepting it will negatively and directly affect Arab-American and Arab-Israeli relations.  Overlooking the initiative by some Arab countries right after approving it, allowing the Roadmap to pass without assurances that it will be implemented and calling for the amendment of this initiative will not improve the international stance toward the Palestinian cause.  It, nonetheless, will increase the appetite of the American administration and Israel to request more Arab submission in order to reach an Arab normalization with Israel prior to the latter’s withdrawal from Palestinian lands....  It’s essential that the Algeria summit puts emphasis on the Arab peace initiative, but more importantly, it must activate the initiative... and make sure the summit’s resolutions meet the policies of each and every Arab country.” 


“Algeria’s Summit And The Big Challenges”


Independent Al-Quds editorialized (3/22):  “While Arab leaders have disagreed on the Jordanian initiative to activate the Arab peace plan approved during the Beirut conference two years ago, the difference was seemingly over the issue of normalization, how could they agree on what’s more critical: showing enough support that is real and not merely words to Syria, who is facing extreme U.S. pressure?”


“The Summit of Normalization With Excellence”


Talal ’Ukal opined in independent Al-Ayyam (3/21):  “This time, the U.S. did not have to interfere blatantly in determining the direction Arab leaders must follow.  It has set in advance a number of guidelines to the Arab countries that are well-known, in addition to its awareness that the Arab League’s resolutions would as usual be even weaker than those made domestically by each Arab state.  Perhaps the American administration did not want to embarrass its friends among Arab leaders, as it is confident that those are more aware of what serves the American interests and are more able to present services that meet these interests.” 


SAUDI ARABIA:  "Post-Summit Summit"


Jeddah’s moderate Okaz editorialized (3/26):  "The region is facing much fears and tension.  The UN fact-finding report about the Hariri’s assassination indicates dangerous possibilities.  The stumble in the creation of the Iraqi government disturbs hopes for peaceful harmony between different Iraqi sects and parties....  All this is happening while the region and its countries are under tremendous pressure to reform the political map.  The theory of coincidence is not acceptable.  We need a wise position to regain the unity of this nation.  The post summit summit is an urgent need.  Those who care for this nation must meet together before it is too late." 


"Algiers Summit"


The pro-government English-language Arab News maintained (3/24):  "The two day Arab League summit which ended yesterday in Algiers, concluded with a restatement of the plan originally propounded by Saudi Arabia, in which peace with Israel will be made once an independent Palestinian state has been created and refugees have been permitted to return.  This latest top-level meeting of the league had been criticized in some quarters with suggestions even that the organization was now moribund and powerless. The harsh truth however is that the league has always been confronted by the seemingly intractable problem of Palestine. The endless frustration of this great injustice has been reflected in the powerlessness, not just of the league but the whole international community, to find a resolution....  It was of course no surprise that the summit’s final declaration on Palestine was immediately rejected by the Israelis. For good measure Sharon’s government also let it be known that it intended to expand some settlements....  This was undoubtedly a calculated affront to the league....  But a wind of change is blowing and Israel can no longer sustain its aggressive posture in the eyes of the international community.  No peace can be built upon the basis of a violent and illegal occupation. Nor is it any good Sharon giving the Gaza Strip back to the Palestinians with one hand while with the other he attempts to consolidate his theft of Palestinian land in and around Jerusalem and elsewhere in the West Bank....  The time for violence over the fate of the Palestinians is passed and only negotiation and compromise should lie ahead. Zionists fear the concessions they must make and fear even more the economic and political future of an Israel that can no longer claim to be surrounded by enemies....  Nevertheless Arab leaders were right yesterday to once again offer Israeli leaders an olive branch and their statesmanship could well be a significant contribution to the peace process."


"The Israeli Arrogance"


Abha’s moderate Al-Watan editorialized (3/23):  "Israel welcomed the Algeria summit with a rejection of the Arabian peace initiative, which was approved in Beirut in 2002...This Israeli reaction leaves the summit facing a real challenge.  The summit must respond with a firm position, stop normalization and activate boycott procedures.  Israel must know that it will not get anything for free.  The concluding statement of the summit must include the commitment of the participants to what the General secretary of the League called a, 'Step against a step, improvement against improvement, and implementation against implementation'....  The Israeli arrogance requires the summit to provide more political and economic support to the Palestinians.  Also the summit must emphasize the right of resistance for the Palestinians until they establish their state."    


"A Summit Of Logic"


Jeddah’s conservative Al-Madina noted (3/23):  "For more than half of a century, the joint Arab work has been wasted because it insists on dealing in a romantic way with political needs.  The dream of Arab solidarity remained far from happening because it was not realistic....  Things seem different in the current Algeria summit talks. Decisions are more rational as the Arab leaders are getting closer to their nations’ concerns.  The Arab citizen does not need a united flag, united passport, and united political system.  It is simpler. He needs a united market with no administrative and costumes barriers.  He needs wider investment horizons and the ability to move freely in the Arab land."  


"The Summit...The Challenges And Actions"


Riyadh’s moderate Al-Jazirah observed (3/23):  "When Arab leaders commenced their summit in Algeria, newspapers carried a bold headlines: Israel to build extra 3500 houses in settlements.  Evidently, the Israeli timing was set intentionally. In each Arab League summit Israel intends to send a special message that indicates its rejection to any Arab movement....  The Arab initiative for peace was welcomed internationally.  Hence, the international community is required to meet the genuine Arab desire for peace with pressure on Israel to comply accordingly.  Although Israel rejected the peace project, big countries showed no enthusiasm to make Israel change its opinion.  Arab nations must develop a mechanism to implement their demands. The best way is by enhancing their unity and solidarity.  They must be united in the face of Israel.  Then, Israel will realize that it should think a hundred times before neglecting peace initiatives."      


"Arab Peace Initiative And The Passive Israeli Response"


Jeddah’s moderate Al-Bilad commented (3/22):  "Previously the U.S. welcomed the Arab peace initiative as did other major countries of the world, but at that time there was no mechanism in place to give it necessary and appropriate momentum.  The Arab summit in Algeria has put in place such a mechanism to revitalize the initiative.  Therefore, the summit of Algeria confirms once again the Arab determination to realize peace....  Will the new mechanism succeed in convincing the international community to put pressure on Israel to implement legitimate international resolutions to gain the friendship of the countries and nations of the region?"


"A Day for the Arabian Hope"


Jeddah’s conservative Al-Madina wrote (3/22):  "As much as there is hope at the Arab summit in Algeria, there is also a lot of fear about the Arab future....  It is understood that the summit will not be a magical solution to the current crisis....  The Lebanese-Syrian issue, which is not included in the summit’s agenda, must be given more attention.  The recent situation in Lebanon could damage Arab hopes.  Therefore, we must activate the only hope we have and hold on to our single choice."  


"Starting From Fundamentals In The Summit"


Riyadh’s moderate Al-Jazirah editorialized (3/22):  "The confirmation of the Arab Ministers of Foreign Affairs approval of the Arab peace initiative without modification is a major foundation of this summit. Especially when the Palestinian question remains a hot issue in this region....  What is required is that this initiative be activated practically. This activation means that Arabs must talk to the world and demand the implementation of international resolutions."      


"The Test Of Algeria"


Abha’s moderate Al-Watan wrote (3/21):  "The scheduled Arab summit on Tuesday, March 22 represents a historic test for Arab leaders...  because this summit comes at a critical and difficult time.  Arab leaders must choose either to accept the challenge and confront its consequences or to accept and surrender to a de facto situation imposed on the region in the name of reform and moderation...  Today two Arab countries, Iraq and Palestine, are under direct occupation and two other Arab countries, Lebanon and Sudan, are subjected to clear foreign intervention, while a fifth country, Somalia, suffers a political and security instability."


"Arabs Look Toward Algeria"


Jeddah’s moderate Al-Bilad editorialized (3/21):  "The upcoming Arab summit in Algeria must present a united Arab view for a final solution to the Arab-Israeli dispute....  The world will respect Arabs when it sees that they want to achieve a well-defined goal which complies with international resolutions and the land for peace principle in order to realize peace for all parties in this important part of the world."          


"The Summit, A Look Into Major Crisis"


Damam’s moderate Al-Yaum opined (3/21):  "In each Arab summit while major issues are neglected, disagreements and discussions about marginal issues consume a lot of time and effort....  The most important issue before the League is reorganizing the League itself.  Its mechanisms also need to be reviewed.   We wonder why aren’t the Arab powers concentrating on maintaining the unity of Lebanon, who is facing a tough time and a decisive crisis....  Arab economic resources are wasted.  The League must create a system that organizes investments as well as implementing administrative reforms.  This will be considered as historic change and it will definitely help to reduce the unemployment rate." 


"The Summit And Success Obsession"


Jeddah’s moderate Al-Madina commented (3/21):  "Success is every Arab summit’s obsession...  The past 16 Arab summits proved that the success has changing criteria.  Nevertheless, holding the summit itself is a success...  The recent challenges before the Arab League are the most critical since the colonialism.  Resolutions resulting from this summit must be respected and applied.  Corporation must be the spirit.   We should ask ourselves a year after each summit, what have we accomplished since the last one? Did the previous summit succeeded in easing tension? Were our leaders up to the challenge?"


"The Summit And The Arab Street"


Jeddah’s moderate Okaz noted (3/20):  "When Arab leaders convene as legislators, and sit to discuss and defend their foreign policies, then failed of the summit is the given outcome... Arab leaders must realize that the future of their people will not be determined by political relationships.  There are other fields that are of concern to the people.  Economic development, education, exchange of expertise, and others issues are the common denominator that unites all Arabs in any country. People in the Arab world expect their leaders in the Summit to come up with solutions that address their problems and realistic needs."


"The Arab Summit And The Situation In Lebanon"


Makkah’s conservative Al-Nadwa editorialized (3/19):  "Arab leaders who would attend the Arab League Summit in Algeria must keep in the back of their minds the critical situation in Lebanon.  As long as the terms of the Al Taif Agreement are still valid, then all Arab leaders must do is send a special Arab delegation to Lebanon to convince people that the Taif Agreement is their best reference, and a way out of this crisis."


"A Summit For Self-judgment"


Jeddah’s moderate Okaz opined (3/19):  "Arabs must harden their lines, and close the gaps among themselves to stop attempts by others to penetrate their defenses.  There are those who are trying to weaken the Arab nation and make it look as if is has internal divisions.  The upcoming summit in Algeria is needed to form a uniting strategy for Arabs, and undermine any foreign attempts for change and enforced reform, which could prove harmful to our national unity.  If these demands are not met and results are not achieved, the summit will become another useless convention."


IRAQ:  "Iraqis And Arabs:  Between Dissension And Unity"


Zuhair Al-Jaza'iri contended in independent Al-Mada (3/24):  "At the same time the Arab summit is being held amid general and popular Arab frustration, there is a widespread Iraqi campaign demanding the Iraqi government to boycott its relationships with Arab countries....  It is very easy to explain these demands from a sectarian perspective by claiming that these calls represent an Iraqi Shiite disposition that is opposed to an Arab world dominated by Sunnis....  It is simple to explain these demands according to conspiracy theories. This ensures that the official and political Arab attitude will not be responsible for the disappointment that afflicts the Iraqi people regarding their Arab brothers. The Iraqi disappointment with the Arabs has a long history. As everyone knows, the official nationalist Arab position always supported the former Iraqi authorities in the past....  The Arab attitude disclosed its scandalous face during Saddam's regime. The official Arab attitude was silence, even when Saddam used WMD against his people....  Arab regimes are afraid of the recent political changes in Iraq because they think that they might have spillover effects in the region. Therefore, they attempt to present an ugly picture on the new Iraq through their satellite channels. They try to imagine that there will be a civil war in Iraq, as if this is the only alternative to dictatorship. The Arab regimes have dealt with Iraq's situation hypocritically....  Arab regimes want to make Iraq bleed so that it will not provide a good example for the neighboring countries....  It is clear that Iraq needs Arab assistance in order to reconstruct and rebuild the country. The Iraqi people also want to maintain our nationalist and Islamic identity. In order to prevent a fracture between Iraq and its Arab neighbors, we must call for mutual cooperation in order to achieve reform, which all Arab countries need. Therefore, do not deprive Iraq from its neighbors and do not deprive the Arabs from Iraq."


ALGERIA:  "Dream"


Influential independent French-language Liberte commented (3/23):  "First, there cannot be peace in the Near East and even less in the Greater Middle East until the Palestinian issue is resolved; even stability in the region cannot be established until people free themselves from control and become citizens of modern states, and until regimes become imbued with ideas of power, of opposition forces, and especially of separation of powers.  In other words, there is only room today for democracy.  Thus, the choice is clear:  either the Arab world resolves itself to begin reforms, or it will be compelled to do it by force and consequently go under the Caudine Forks of the international powers....  It is in this sense that the 17th Summit is of a major importance because it is introducing ideas of reform within an institution that has remained resistant to change.  In this context, we are surprised to find ourselves dreaming of a real parliament, of real inter-Arab institutions, of a common market, etc.”


"The Real Face Of The Arabs"


French-language independent small-circulation L’Expression declared (3/23):  "The Summit of Algiers will have, in addition to its innovative character defined by the leading theme on the agenda--namely, reform of the way in which the League works--the merit of unveiling the real face of certain Arab leaders....  These head of states and sovereigns, by not taking part in the Summit of Algiers, are actually expressing their fear of being placed before a fait accompli--that of adapting to the new political order, which consists of encouraging the emergence of democratic regimes.  Hanging on to power remains for these 'emirs' and other 'rais' their only preoccupation.’  Anything that puts into question these ‘acquisitions’ is synonymous with aggression and interference in their internal affairs.”


"Zapatero, The Star"


Influential French-language independent Le Quotidien d’Oran opined (3/23):  "The Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero was undoubtedly the star of the opening ceremony of the Arab League Summit workshops.  Just his presence would have been enough to make the event because he is the first head of a Western state to have been asked to speak at a summit of Arab sovereigns and heads of states.  Furthermore, Jose Luis Zapatero was not content with addressing to Summit participants just agreed-upon words as is the custom at events of this kind.  The head of the Spanish government traveled to Algeria for a specific goal:  to reveal the idea that he would like to see an 'alliance among civilizations in order to build bridges among the diverse cultures of the world.'  Zapatero's idea falls within the framework of the continuation of his initiative, which consisted on the first anniversary of the attacks in Madrid to organize in this city an international forum on the theme of 'democracy against terrorism'....  The alliance of civilizations advocated by the man of the Spanish state seeks to counter the theory in vogue for a while that substantiates the thesis that the world is reportedly confronted with ‘a war among civilizations, cultures, and religions.’  Explaining his project to sovereigns and Arab heads of state, Zapatero affirmed that this would allow ‘the opening lines of communication and practical cooperation among people in such a way that diversity will not be perceived as a threat but as something with rewarding potential.’  The attention and the interest of Arab leaders was drawn to the fact that Zapatero's proposal is radically different from the concept advocated by George W. Bush and his circle, who principally define terrorism as a radical and fanatical vision of Islam.”


"Tel Aviv's Attempt To Influence"


Small-circulation French-language La Nouvelle Republique commented (3/22):  “All the latest statements coming from high officials tend to indicate that Israel is trying to influence the atmosphere in which the workshops of the Summit are taking place.  After the unfortunate announcement of Sharon's visit to Tunisia, which was made recently despite the fact that the visit is expected to take place next fall, the Hebrew State goes in the same direction again by hoping that the Summit will allow moderates to convince others to normalize relations with countries in the region, thus implying that this Summit would shelter two clans, the moderates and the radicals, at the same time forgetting that both share the same convictions when it comes to the issue of the plundered lands since the War of 1967.”


"A League Without A League"


Small-circulation Arabic-language El Fadjr noted (3/22):  "Contrary to what was being said about the Algiers Summit, there has not been a record presence.  The League Summit did not gather everyone.  Letter of apologies started coming one after another, primarily from countries in the Gulf and Middle East.  Absent at this summit is Jordan the Jordanian King, who wanted Algeria to be the capital for normalization with Israel.  When his attempt failed, King Abdullah apologized for not coming.  He is currently in Washington, perhaps trying to defend from there his proposal, which poisoned the Council of Arab Foreign Ministers prior to the Summit.”


"Abdullah II Prefers Americans"


Independent French-language El Watan remarked (3/21):  "The Jordanian King, Abdullah II, will not take part in the Arab League Summit of Algiers....  The reason given by the Jordanian Monarch is both hilarious and astonishing.  Abdallah II remembered two days before the Summit that he had already made an appointment five months ago with investors in the U.S.  The author of the initiative regarding total normalization of the relationship of Arab States with Israel, which did not have the desired effect, thus reaffirms his very close leanings towards Americans to the extent that he prefers them to attending the Arab League meeting in Algiers.”


JORDAN:  "Sad Summits And Summer Clouds"


The elite English-language Jordan Times held (3/22):  "Today another Arab summit begins. This time Algiers plays host amidst new hopes for better inter-Arab relations and cooperation on major issues dominating the Arab scene. Yet with nothing solidly unifying the views emerging from the just concluded meeting of Arab foreign ministers, who have the arduous task of preparing the groundwork of the summit and agreeing on a final communique, one is again doubtful that much more can be achieved towards forging Arab unity and sharing a common vision for the future.  Summits are meant to arrive at decisive agreements on regional and international issues, and not watered down policy resolutions that are open to all sorts of interpretations.  Even the Jordanian proposal to breathe new life into the Arab Peace Initiative adopted at the Beirut Arab Summit in 2002 suffered a stream of accusations that it allegedly departs from initial Arab ideas.  Neither the Lebanese nor the Iraqi files received a fair or substantive hearing from the Arab foreign ministers who searched for a middle course on them that would be palatable to all but pleasing to none.  Perhaps the most striking decision to be taken at the Algiers summit is the Arab endorsement of Egypt as the Arab candidate to an expanded UNSC.  But an attempt to put the candidacy of Egypt as both an Arab and African representative is at best folly, at worst dismissive of the mighty continent that is Africa.  And while these issues are tossed about like a hot potato, Jordan is left to fend for itself against a smear campaign by groups with special agendas.  The 'summer cloud,' as Jordan diplomatically described the mounting tension arising from the accusations that the Kingdom supported insurgency in Iraq, should never have formed. Clouds blur reality, and the reality is that those who try to target the security and stability of Iraq are also targeting Jordan and therefore are the enemies of both countries."


LEBANON:  "Arab League Must Go The Extra Mile To Ensure Its Initiative Is Heard"


The moderate, English-language Daily Star declared (3/22):  "Arab leaders meeting for the summit in Algiers are set to endorse a resolution to revive their three-year-old Arab peace initiative....  The new three-point draft aims to make the language of the original document more precise and concise....  Now that the Arab League has professed a renewed commitment to its peace initiative, Arab leaders would do well to consider taking more creative and proactive steps to improve the reception of their historic resolution....  Encouraging broad support for the initiative will require effort--real effort--on the part of Arab leaders themselves....  Arab delegations must engage people around the world in a discussion of their ideas....  What is most urgently needed now is for Arab leaders to show a real commitment to the peace process. Arab states have revoiced their commitment to peace and normalization in exchange for the return of land, Palestinian independence and a just solution to the plight of Palestinian refugees. They must now show a commitment to act to achieve these goals.  With such heightened international resolve to achieve a Palestinian-Israeli agreement, the peace process looks likely to go ahead with or without Arab participation. Arab states must present the case behind their message to the world or be left behind in this historic journey." 


"Arab League Must Stop Playing Ostrich And Take A Stand On Syria And Lebanon"


The moderate English-language Daily Star opined (3/21):  "It would be appropriate that the Arab League summit in Algiers revisit the Taif process, which was endorsed by the Arab League in 1989. It achieved, after all, an Arab endorsement to try to help settle the Lebanese civil war and bring about national reconciliation.  Today the Lebanese desperately seek this reconciliation and only differ over minor aspects of the Taif Accord. All Lebanese parties have expressed a commitment to ensuring the accord's complete implementation. Even the issue of armed resistance has been put on the table by Hizbullah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah as an item that is up for discussion.  The Lebanese cannot achieve the process of reconciliation on their own because the problems in Lebanon are not homegrown.  Syria, Arab neglect and American influence are all involved in creating the present-day conundrum. Today, the Lebanese need a diplomatic umbrella under which they can gather for the purpose of national dialogue, which has been called for by all and sundry.  Syria has disqualified itself as a potential mediator because its U.S.-sponsored mismanagement of Lebanon for 15 years abandoned Taif....  Amazingly, the latter president has completely discredited himself and his post and so is unable to provide an abode for dialogue.  If the Arab summit does not agree to initiate a dialogue, does this suggest that they are leaving the Lebanese complications and Syrian folly to the wild winds of the West?  This should not be an option.  However, reports from the summit indicate that the agenda will ignore the deadlock that has occurred in Lebanon since the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Arab governments are once again proving themselves reluctant to take a stand on Syria and Lebanon. It's as if they are burying their heads in the sand and creating a whitewash on Arab interference over the war years in Lebanon. And if it was not for that atmosphere, Lebanon would now be in a healthy situation and not in such dire need of the attention and support of their fellow Arabs to achieve their dreams of independence."


MOROCCO:  "Summits"


Abdelmounaim Dilami wrote in independent business-oriented French-language L’Economiste (3/24):  "Arab summits have become moments of torture for the leaders of these countries.  In essence, Arab leaders are caught between U.S. demands and internal pressures for democratization and respect for human rights. For decades, Arab summits limited themselves to an exercise in rhetoric on the Palestinian cause. But now the Palestinian cause is no longer in Arab leaders’ hands. Furthermore, the (Algiers) summit dealt very superficially with Iraq’s occupation and carefully avoided referring to the U.S. as an occupying force.  If they don't reorganize their internal political structures, they will see others do it for them.  It’s a message Arab rulers understand, but can’t seem to accept. They are trying to adapt in a clumsy manner....  Syria is beating a hasty retreat from Lebanon, but that won’t allow Syria to escape internal democratization...As for the ‘poor’ Saudi regime, it hastened to organize municipal elections, hoping that this would get it off the hook with the U.S." 


"The Israeli Challenge"


Mohamed Idrissi Kaitouni wroite in nationalist L’Opinion (3/23):  "As the 17th Arab summit taking place in Algiers re-launches the Arab peace plan adopted in Beirut, Israel decides to pursue its policy of colonization and occupation of the Palestinian territories by building new Jewish settlements in the West Bank....  The Arab-Muslim world cannot accept Israel’s continued occupation of Jerusalem nor its policy for the 'Jewification' of Jerusalem, destroying its Arabo-Muslim character and its cultural heritage. Israel cannot keep the territories that it has occupied since the 1967 agression and must give up its policy of establishing settlements in these territories....  The defense of the Arabo-Muslim character of Jerusalem is a duty incumbent upon all Muslims and Arabs, who must put an end to their divergences and internal conflicts in order to take their place as interlocutors with something to say about determining the future of peace in the region. There are many grave challenges to be faced. It is high time to show more cohesion and a sense of responsibility so that the peace process can attain the hoped-for results, especially the re-establishment of full rights for the Palestinian people, and the declaration of a free, independent (Palestinian) state with Jerusalem as its capital."


QATAR:  "Summit Absenteeism A Sign Of Arab Divisions"


The semi-official English-language Gulf Times editorialized (3/23):  "The Arab Summit was inaugurated yesterday by Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika with the noticeable absence of nine Arab kings and heads of state. Just 13 of the 22 leaders attended, making it plain that there are differences and divisions afflicting the Arab world....  The aim would not be to normalise relations with Israel while getting nothing in return....  Israel had hoped that the Algerian summit would adopt a normalisation plan without waiting to establish the facts on the ground....  Any peace plan that talks about the return to the June 4, 1967, border lines is rejected by Israel, even though this contradicts UNSC resolutions....  The Palestinian delegation, headed by President Mahmoud Abbas, has been very helpful in stressing the Arab plan without making negative comments about rumours of normalisation. Hamas, meanwhile has called on Arab states not to rush to normalisation....  Arab citizens are not expecting much of this summit. It will adhere to basic principles of justice and any offer it makes will therefore be rejected by Israel. But it is interesting that the opening session was attended by Spanish Premier Jose Luis Zapatero who urged Arab leaders to back his initiative for an alliance of civilisations to crush terrorism and bridge the gap with the West. Such gestures of goodwill should be applauded and deserve support."


SYRIA:  "In The Heart Of Danger"


Isam Dari concluded in government-owned Tishreen (3/26):  "Although the Arab summit did not measure up to the expectations of the Arab peoples, it was positive in the sense that it preserved the Arab principles and prevented the collapse of the Arab order. Arab leaders managed to entrench the Arab peace plan, which was approved by the Beirut summit, at a time when more than one Arab delegation was trying to offer proposals and 'initiatives' to dwarf the plan and render it void and to offer gratuitous gifts to Israel under the pretext of encouraging it to get involved in the peace process....  Arabs' solidarity with Syria, their rejection of the American threats and warnings to it, and their rejection of the Syria Accountability Act were other achievements and a clear message to the US Administration indicating that the Arabs have a unified vision toward Syrian-American relations, which must be governed by constructive dialogue, not pressures and threats."


"Israeli Rejection And U.S. Passiveness"


Ali Nasrallah commented in government-owned Al-Thawra (3/25):  "The Israeli and American reactions to the outcome of the Arab summit in Algiers once again expose the two positions, especially in light of the significant international attendance of the summit and the broad welcome of its results, especially by Russia and the EU.  Israeli Prime Minister Sharon's announcement that he refuses to withdraw from the occupied Syrian Golan or to make what he called concessions regarding occupied Jerusalem, in addition to his adherence to the famous American letter of assurances on the border and the Palestinian refugees' right to return, show that Israel has no desire for peace. Not only that, but they also constitute something like a war statement closing all doors and negotiating channels and reducing all options to two: war or the abandonment of the land and the rights.  Israel believes in nothing but the logic of aggression and the perpetuation of the occupation and publicly rejects and challenges the international resolutions.  The international community, particularly the UN, should isolate Israel and apply pressure on it to force it to comply with the Security Council resolutions, the international law, and the world's will for peace."


"A Winning Bet On The Summit"


Isam Dari stated in government-owned Tishreen (3/24):  "The summit's final statement offers a solid ground for better Arab cooperation if the intentions are good and if the Arab countries remain faithful to what they agreed upon at the summit.  The Algiers summit is not a summit of normalization [with Israel]. If we are underlining this crystal clear fact, it is because there were attempts to deviate the summit from its course and get it to adopt initiatives that constitute a stab in the back of the Arab public before being a stab in the back of the Arab order....  The Algiers summit has succeeded; especially if we take into consideration the serious extraordinary circumstances the Arab nation is experiencing....  Perhaps the efforts that Syria made in this summit, in cooperation and coordination with many bearers of the pan-Arab banner and defender of the Arab existence, were behind the positions and resolutions that materialized in the summit."


"Algiers Summit And Reform"


Ahmad Hamadah commented in government-owned Al-Thawra (3/24):  "The Arab summit must adopt a plan for true reforms in the Arab world whereby the role and mechanisms of the Arab League are developed and democracy is promoted in every Arab country.  The calls for reform by the participants in the summit must not be merely reactions to the Western plans proposed for our Arab region, primarily the Greater Middle East Plan, but must reflect full convictions that reform is a natural need expressing a domestic Arab desire and a genuine will to fulfill this need....  The Arab summit must set up specialized committees to follow up the issues of democracy, reform, and development. Arab countries must immediately exchange views, ideas, and expertise to consolidate the spirit of citizenship and equality, expand the scope of political participation in public life, support the freedom of opinion, expression, and media, and uphold human rights."


"Bet On The Arab Summit Is Legitimate"


Muhammad Ali Buzah said un government-owned Al-Thawrah (3/22):  "The Arab world is coming under a foreign onslaught to impose hegemony on it in favor of Israel.... Arab leaders should rise to the level of the pan-Arab responsibility and should establish for a politically and economically different Arab stage, one that can deal with the challenges and help develop the performance and activate common Arab action.... What the nation needs today is not rhetoric on paper, attempts to find solutions to the crises and predicaments of others, or reaffirmation of the desire for peace as a strategic option at a time when Israelis and their American supporters are the ones who need to prove they have such a desire. The nation, rather, is looking forward to the formulation of a strategy and a specific, unified, mythological, and practical vision. This strategy and this vision should immediately translate Arab solidarity, even if at its minimal level, into action on the ground. They should reflect firm adherence to the principles and allow the production of an Arab discourse capable of reversing the equation, dealing from a position of power with a world that has no place for the weak, and imposing the peace of the international legitimacy, the peace that restores, not begs, the lands and rights in full."


"The Forthcoming Summit"


Izziddin Darwish argued in government-owned Tishreen (3/20):  "While the region is being subjected to a fierce storm of foreign dangers, some Arab leaders unfortunately are overturning pan-Arab constants and relinquishing basic factors of Arab unity so as to serve foreign goals, U.S. and Israeli in particular....  According to Eastern and Western analysts, the Greater Middle East project, led by the US Administration, aims to melt Arabism and facilitate Israel's dominance in the region so as to swallow Arab wealth.  Why the rush towards this project?  U.S. democracy means eradicating Arab personality and inflaming sectarian strife, sedition, and civil wars.  Arab leaders heading to the Arab summit should realize the real dangers."


UAE:  "Another Photo Op"


The English-language expatriate-oriented Khaleej Times maintained (3/22):  "The more things change, the more Arabs remain the same. As Algiers prepares to bring up the curtain on the Arab League summit today, there is little to suggest the Arabs are conscious of the unprecedented and most profound challenges confronting them.  The petty war of words, and egos, in the run up to the summit is sickeningly familiar....  The unpleasant bickering among members coupled with the decision of some to skip the meeting is unfortunately true to the pattern of League summits in the past....  The charade has become some sort of ritual religiously observed by honourable members of the League.  The Algiers summit gives you little confidence or reason to hope that the Arabs are alive to the threats facing their part of the world.  Most unnatural and surprising for a people under siege and at the heart of the world's most dangerous conflicts!  In addition to the Palestine-Israel conflict and Iraq, there are many pressing issues on the Algiers summit agenda.  Most important, however, is the issue of political reforms....  The U.S., whose presence in the neighbourhood has grown exponentially in the past couple of years, is steadily stepping up the pressure on the issue of reforms....  The US may have been at one time coy about democracy in some parts of the Arab world in view of its strategic interests. But today, Washington's agenda for the Middle East so far as reforms are concerned is universal and mortally serious.  The Arab leaders as they meet in Algiers today would do well to treat the issue of reforms with the seriousness it deserves.  Instead of presenting an opportunity for others to impose change on them, they should usher in the much-needed change.  It is in their own interest and in the interest of their people who have long craved freedom to determine their own affairs--a freedom given by God and celebrated by Islam. The Algiers summit should not end up as yet another photo op."


YEMEN:  "A Dead Arab League Summit Meeting"


Hassan Al-Haifi wrote in the pro-government English-language Yemen Times (3/25):  "The invasion of Iraq and its continued occupation by the United States two years ago was a clear sign of the pathetic weakness and effectiveness of the existing unified Arab regime, represented by the Arab League....  The real difficulty lies in getting the Arab League to represent any foarum of unified Arab action....  It is really hard to say what happened to make the Arab League so meaningless and so ineffective, especially now when the dangers confronting the Arab World have become so encompassing and so frighteningly real....  The Arab leaders, who are attending (and not attending) those ceremonious meetings have relinquished themselves from the very hopes and aspirations of their respective constituencies....  The rulers have set up the machinery to quell any opposition or even protest with an iron fist that has destroyed all the meaning of citizenship....  Thus, most Arabs are not surprised by the rather tenacious ineffectiveness of the existing Arab regime....  No matter how serious the enormous challenges that are now confronted by the nation as a whole, the Arab League can do absolutely nothing in terms of standing up to these challenges....  Arab leaders are scared to take any stand that coincides with the hopes and aspirations of their subjects....  Most Arab rulers view the hopes and aspirations as dangerous to the very existence of the regimes they have implanted, since these aspirations and hopes may collide with the interests and the perceptions of the world superpower that has defined its interests clearly in the region, without regard to the hopes and aspirations of the masses in the Arab World."




FRANCE:  "Tomorrow, Democracy?"


Rene Backmann asserted in left-of-center weekly Le Nouvel Observateur (3/24):  “The American intervention in Iraq has turned that country into a new powder-keg of Islamic terrorism, while also triggering a movement for reforms and democratic aspiration from Egypt to Saudi Arabia and Lebanon....  But how far can this Arab Spring go? Is the Bush administration doing what it needs to do to be credible in Arab countries, where the population perceives Washington’s policies as imperialistic? America’s designs for democracy in the Greater Middle East are also encountering difficulties from Europe, and essentially from France, with the warning that in the Arab world, weakening the regimes could generate chaos, as was the case with Iraq. Is democratization of the Middle East realistic, if the U.S. and its European partners continue to have diverging views on the goals as well as the means?”


GERMANY:  "Freedom Fairy Tale"


Frank Jansen noted in centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (3/22):  "The Arab League summit in Algiers today falls into a time of transformation that is fascinating....  The question is how the Arab League will react to the manifold signs of a new beginning?  But the meeting in Algeria that is governed by corrupt military officials will hardly inspire the participants for more democracy.  Much would be achieved if the participants did not strengthen Syria towards Lebanon....  The success of the [democracy] movement in Lebanon is making supporters of the regime in Damascus nervous....  Syria is on the defensive and the Arab League should not signal the opposite at its summit in Algiers.  But if it did this, not only the danger of a civil war would increase. We could also expect that Lebanon would take longer to find an understanding of a democratic perspective.  Even if the Syrian troops withdrew and free elections took place in May, Lebanon would only have reached a waystation on a long way.  The strict separation of state offices…is cementing the rule of clans and the Islamic Hezbollah....  It is also surprising that not even the young demonstrators in Beirut, who call for freedom in Lebanon, question the illiberal structures and have confidence in politicians who should be discredited in view of their biographies....  As long as Lebanon's post-war generation does not produce a new political class, democracy in the country remains undone.  It also depends on progress in other Arab countries when it can become more mature.  An indication could be the results of the summit in Algiers."


ITALY:  "Qaddafi Show--'We Don’t Import Democracy'"


Centrist, influential La Stampa declared (3/24):  “Thanks to the Colonel’s articulance and sincerity...this dull summit has come to life. If anyone in the Arab world will remember this...meeting in Algiers, during which the dramatic Arab reality was avoided at all costs, it will be thanks to Qaddafi. He spoke for one hour about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, terrorism, Western democracy....  He then urged Arabs not to import the West’s model of democracy, which is foreign to their traditions. He defended Syria against accusations of practicing terrorism and occupying Lebanon, saying that it’s not the only country to have ‘an army outside its borders.’ It was a clear allusion to the U.S." 


"Arab League, Summit Shows No Turnaround For Israel"


Antonio Ferrari commented in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (3/23):  “One of the most talked about Arab problems, the serious crisis between Syria and Lebanon, is the least discussed issue at the Algiers summit....  The summit, during which optimists expected a decisive shift, opened instead in the usual pompous and barren atmosphere: many proclamations, little substance.  It is not equipped to confront one of the most difficult moments in the history of the Arab League.”


RUSSIA:  "Arabs Will Make Up With Israelis On Own Terms"


Aleksey Bausin said in reformist Izvestiya (3/23):  "The Arab League summit, which opened in Algiers yesterday, is likely to become another illustration of disunity among Arabs.  This is especially true of their stand on normalization with Israel."


AUSTRIA:  "Arab Dinosaur"


Foreign editor Gudrun Harrer opined in independent Der Standard (3/24):  "The Arab League does not have a position on the pressing Lebanese-Syrian problem and neither does it have one with regard to the US presence in Iraq. The reiteration of the peace offer to Israel dating from 2002 is respectable--and Israel is wrong in arrogantly rejecting it--but stale:  It would be interesting to learn what the Arabs have to say about the very dynamic situation between Israel and the Palestinians at present. The reform steps towards the dinosaur institution Arab League--an Arab parliament, and elimination of the veto right in certain (but which?) cases--are formulated so vaguely that it is easy to imagine how the story will end. Above all:  What has become of the announced ambitious reform and development projects for the Arab world? Allegedly, the Arabs can do without outside interference; however, nothing is happening."


CZECH REPUBLIC:  "From Threat To Hope"


Zbynek Petracek commented in intellectual weekly Respekt (3/21-28):  "The latest developments in the Arab world put Bush’s doctrine to the test....  It is, naturally, not possible to belittle the risks, violence and terror in the region, nevertheless, the events which have followed the military attack against Iraq show that Bush’s idealism bears some fruit....  The first basic questions is:  Are fundamental changes taking place in the Middle East?  Nearly everyone has to answer in the affirmative.  The question--Are these changes related to the attack against Iraq?--would, however, bring conflicting answers.  Nevertheless, it would be too much of a coincidence if all the changes would have happened in this short span of time without the incentive of U.S. activities in the region....  This situation [changes in Libya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia]...are not mere consequences of the American effort to implant democracy in the region, but in creating an environment where local people can express themselves spontaneously....  Another surprising thing is how all attempts to integrate Arab countries a time when Europe, North and South America as well as Southeast Asia unite."




THAILAND:  "Arabs Fail To Face The Facts"


The moderately-conservative, English-language Bangkok Post declared (3/28):  “Another meeting of Arab leaders has let down the Middle East and their own people with platitudes so vacuous they appalled even the notoriously obsequious local media.  The summit last week in Algiers kissed off the Israel-Palestinian problem with a rehash of an old plan that is unacceptable even to the Palestinians.  Arguably worse, the leaders declined to discuss either the reforms already under way in places such as Iraq and Lebanon or the changes almost all their nations must make, sooner rather than later.  It was a disappointing performance from men facing such political and economic pressure and winds of change.”




PAKISTAN:  "Agents Of Great Satan"


Hafiz Shafiqur Rehman opined in independent Urdu-language Din (3/22):  "Remember, the Islamic world and Pakistan’s existence lies in unity and jihad.  This means that Muslims must unite and put up a joint front against U.S., Western, Indian and Israeli imperialism....  This means that they should move forward and make progress in higher education, botany, genetic engineering, chemistry, biology, computer technology and other fields of education.  It is also true that American and western imperialists--who raise slogans against religious extremism and religious prejudice--have turned American and western universities into prohibited places for Muslim students....  Rather than fighting amongst themselves, the Ulema must turn their cannons towards Tel Aviv, Delhi and the western imperialists....  The U.S. and its allied western powers are more scared today of unity among Pakistani Muslims and religious powers than they ever were of Russian communism, Chinese manpower, Japanese industrial prowess, Germany’s technical expertise, or the most destructive weapons in the world.  It is their (America and its allies’) utmost effort to foment a confrontation among them (Muslims).  Look around you, and censure any Maulvi who terms Muslims of another sect as infidel.  Try to understand that any such person is not an 'Alim' but an agent of today’s Great Satan."




CANADA:  "This President Deserves Credit"


Robert Fulford observed in the conservative National Post (3/19):  "The Palestinian election went reasonably well, the Iraqi election went better than anyone hoped, Egypt may soon become slightly democratic...and occupied Lebanon may soon say good-bye to its Syrian oppressors. All this has happened since the re-election of President George W. Bush. Each country has different reasons for shifting toward democracy and it would be ridiculous to suggest that Bush deserves all the credit. It would be equally ridiculous, however, to believe that these simultaneous appearances of the democratic impulse are unrelated to the inaugural speech of Jan. 20 in which Bush argued that the safety of Americans at home depends on democracy abroad....  Now Bush has moved toward something equally difficult, the widening of democracy. Naturally, he won't get any more credit than Reagan did, except among those who would rather examine reality than shelter behind dead ideology."



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