March 31, 2005
MIDDLE EAST: CONFLICTING U.S. REMARKS CREATE A 'POLITICAL TEMPEST'
** Papers evince "confusion" over the official U.S. position on Israeli settlements.
** Arab and leftist dailies slam Israel's "aggressive settlement plans."
** PM Sharon receives praise for his "rare achievements" in domestic Israeli politics.
** Muslim writers back PM Abbas' attempt to unite a "fragmented Palestinian community."
'Careful not to take a firm position'-- Writers noted a "contradiction in American remarks on settlements." They contrasted Ambassador Kurtzer's "total U.S. support for Israel's keeping" major settlements in the West Bank with Secretary Rice's "condemnation of Israeli expansion." Palestinian dailies predicted the U.S. will allow Israel to "annex" some settlements. Independent Al-Ayyam concluded the U.S. "assurances offered to Sharon are still in effect." Israeli papers were ideologically predictable: left-leaning Ha'aretz bemoaned U.S. "support and backing" for Sharon's plan to "fix the border," while the conservative Jerusalem Post demanded the U.S. "clearly and unabashedly" tell Palestinians to abandon their "unacceptable positions."
Stop 'bulldozer Sharon'-- Critics blasted Israel's "plans to build another 3,500 housing units" near Maale Adumim. They claimed Israel sought to "obstruct the territorial contiguity" any Palestinian state would need by dividing Palestinian areas into "impoverished enclaves." Spain's left-of-center El Pais accused Israel of trying to "almost completely isolate Arab East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank," and Qatar's semi-official Gulf Times blasted Sharon's desire to "swallow all of Jerusalem and much of the West Bank." Other writers argued that Sharon's plan to withdraw from Gaza while "tightening his hold" on much of the West Bank "undermines the foundation for a two-state solution."
'Determination and momentum'-- Sharon supporters noted his "steadfastness and leadership" in his recent parliamentary victories on Gaza disengagement and the budget. Germany's center-right General-Anzeiger advised skeptics to "apologize to the former warhorse" given his support for a "political solution." Israel's pluralist Yediot Aharonot said Sharon is "succeeding in leading" Israel to the "gates of disengagement" from Gaza, though a liberal Israeli observer assailed his "capitalist and regressive budget." A few papers stressed the danger posed to Sharon's policies by the "Likud rebel camp." Israel's popular Maariv argued that Likud, with Sharon as its "formal leader," is at "the point of collapsing."
The PA's 'democratic restoration'-- Arab outlets praised Abbas's effort to "coax Islamist militants" into joining the PA political process. The West Bank's official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida supported efforts to "establish stronger foundations" both within Fatah and among Palestinian factions as a whole. Non-Arab papers warned that an electorally engaged Hamas could "take hold of the PA" and "thwart the peace process." Germany's centrist Der Tagesspiegel criticized Abbas for trying to "integrate extremists instead of disarming them."
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, email@example.com
EDITOR: Ben Goldberg
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion. Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet. This report summarizes and interprites foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis was based on 41 reports from 11 countries over 24 - 31 March 2005. Editorial excerpts are listed by the most recent date.
GERMANY: "A Ray Of Sand On The Horizon"
Clemens Wergin stated in centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (3/31): "With the withdrawal, Sharon is not just implementing what Shimon Peres demanded years ago, he also marks a historic watershed. For the first time since the beginning of the settlement movement in the 1970s, settlers must pull out from territories on which a Palestinian state will be build. The settler's great resistance shows how much the move by someone they thought to be on their side disturbs them. Despite the murder threats, Sharon has shown a steadfastness and leadership that has become unique in western democracies. He deserves respect for this. However, it does not mean that he became a peace dove.... To continue building homes in Maale Adumim does not just violate Israel's obligations laid down in the road map, but it also endangers the rapprochement between Israelis and Palestinians. After the Knesset's decision, the U.S. administration has more leeway to criticize Sharon--and it should make use of it. Palestinian President Abbas is also not following the road map to peace, because he tries to integrate extremists instead of disarming them."
Pierre Heumann noted in business-oriented Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf (3/31): "Ariel Sharon is a very good political tactician.... The Prime Minister's policy is unprecedented. It is more radical than France's withdrawal from Algeria in the 1960s. Charles de Gaulle only forced the troops to withdraw from the colony, not civilians. Sharon asks his country for more than his assassinated predecessor Rabin did, because pulling out from settlements was not an issue in the 1993 Oslo Treaty. However, Sharon's fans should not praise him too loud, because the Prime Minister is only pursuing crisis management. He does not strive for a comprehensive solution of the conflict with the Palestinians. He simultaneously pushes for the withdrawal and tightens his hold on the West Bank. The continued expansion of the settlements undermines the foundation for a two-state solution."
Erik-Micheal Bader commented in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (3/30): "The future will be less violent that the settlers just claimed. The assessment of deputy PM Olmert, who said that the political defeat would reduce the number of disengagement opponents, is more likely to be correct. However, the referendum would have meant a powerful means for those who support the withdrawal plans. They could have shown very clearly and indisputably that the majority of Israelis welcomes the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, and they would not have needed to forge changing coalitions to achieve this goal. But a referendum would have delayed the pullout plans. Targeted sabotage actions could have put a stop to the disengagement plan."
Center-right General-Anzeiger of Bonn argued (3/30): "It is now clear that Israel will pull out from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank in July. Neither a referendum nor a change of government will take place. PM Sharon can implement his disengagement plan in time. Many people in Israel and abroad must apologize to the former warhorse: He gave up his former conviction to be able the resolve the conflict with Palestinians by military means and decided in favor of a political solution. Sharon is serious about separating both peoples and finally approves the creation of a Palestinian state."
"One Move Ahead"
Erik-Michael Bader commented in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (3/29): "Israel's head of government, Sharon, has made a good move towards reaching his goal of putting an end to the Israeli occupation and settlement in the Palestinian Gaza Strip. The opposition Shinui party's readiness to pass the budget prevented a rebellion in Sharon's own faction, which could have led to new elections and postponed the withdrawal from Gaza. Also the other delaying maneuver of holding a referendum on the Gaza withdrawal clearly failed in the Knesset.... Although the settlers and their ideological supporters view this differently, the pullout from Gaza is not a concession to the Palestinians, but it is a relief of a burden. The costs as well as political and demographic risks of a further occupation of this difficult territory, where almost one and a half million Palestinians live, is out of proportion with the benefit of the settlements of a few thousand Israelis."
Thorsten Schmitz observed in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (3/29): "Bush needs--like Sharon--the pictures of the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip to resolve the conflict with the Arab world. The price Palestinians must pay for this is high. They will get the Gaza Strip, but they have to drop their claims on the whole West Bank in return. The extension of the settlements in the West Bank also makes it more difficult for Palestinian President Abbas to convince terror groups to renounce violence, let alone their disarmament and dissolution. Abbas shies away from a direct confrontation with terrorists. Sharon's twofold strategy of pulling out of Gaza and promoting settlements in the West Bank serves him as an excuse. Sharon's settlement policy creates a niche for Abbas and keeps the Mideast in a miserable balance: The Palestinian government comes to terms with the terror groups instead of dissolving and disarming them--and Israel undauntedly continues to build Jewish settlements on land that the Palestinians need to create their state."
ITALY: "Rice To Israel: Halt To New Settlements"
Umberto De Giovannangeli wrote in pro-Democratic Left (DS) party L’Unitá (3/26): “The expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank 'clashes with U.S. policy.’ A serious j’accuse, all the more significant since it was issued in a Los Angeles Times interview by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, so far listed by Israeli PM Sharon among the closest ‘friends’ of the Jewish state.”
"Gaza, Withdrawal Without Referendum. Sharon Wins Another Battle"
Conservative syndicate Il Resto del Carlino/La Nazione/Il Giorno stated (3/29): “A bulldozer. Confirming his reputation, Israeli PM Ariel Sharon yesterday managed to make the Israeli Parliament reject his opponents’ attempt at halting his withdrawal plan by calling a referendum vote.... But the cost Sharon is paying for his parliamentary victories is the split of the party of which he is still the formal leader: only 13 out of 40 Likud parliamentarians, in fact, voted with Sharon.”
AUSTRIA: "Victor Sharon"
Charles Landsmann wrote in mass-circulation provincial Kleine Zeitung (3/30): "Many in Israel and above all in Europe will have to apologize to former war hero and war monger Ariel Sharon: He has abandoned his former conviction that the conflict with the Palestinians can only be ended by military means and opted for a political solution.... There is no doubt: Sharon is serious about the separation of the Palestinian and Israeli people and about his agreement to a Palestine state. The 'fat dictator,' as his opponents call him, risks a lot: The division of his Likud Party, for instance. However, there is also great danger for him personally: That of a single assassin from the ranks of the nationalists that he himself used to lead and from which Yitzhak Rabin's murderer came."
SPAIN: "Sharon Plays With Fire"
Left-of-center El País advised (3/28): "Everything seems to indicate that the evacuation from Gaza will take place in July.... But Sharon does not sew without thread, although it may serve everything except the advancement of the peace process in the Middle East. Together with such excellent prospects, he made it known...that another 3,500 houses are going to be built in the belt of colonies that already almost completely isolate Arab Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank. The move, apart from representing the usual double play, is transparent. On April 17 he is visiting President Bush at his ranch in Texas, and no one can ignore that if the U.S. wants the negotiation process to start once and for all, the (U.S.) leader will have to turn the screws on his guest (Sharon). That is why Sharon will arrive in Crawford brimming with 'concessions'.... The Road Map, which is being followed by Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas who has recently obtained an indefinite truce from the terrorist organizations, also establishes the obligation (for Israel) to freeze the expansion of colonies in the West Bank."
ISRAEL: "Let the Disengagement Go to Hell"
Former Labor MK Uzi Bar'am thundered in popular, pluralist Maariv (3/31): "The disengagement can go to hell, leave us alone and stop disrupting our lives. Enough to sacrificing every value for it.... If under the cover of the disengagement, a social democratic party votes for a capitalist and regressive budget, so be it; but if while so voting, Labor shares in the move of handing out political bribes to the (few) prime minister's partners without shame, this is more than I can politically take. If under the cover of enthusiasm about the disengagement, Sharon builds 3,500 apartments in the Maaele Adumim area...if under that guise, many good people turn a blind eye on government corruption and (usually non-secret) handouts; and if parties receive money to distribute as they please--than we must understand that all red-lines have been crossed in our ethically and publicly corrupt and socially and economically reckless behavior.... The disengagement has become the symbol of all evil.... Let us stop and think for a moment: should we abandon our political, social, and moral values--the fundamentals of the State of Israel--for the sake of the disengagement process?.... If this is all sacrificed for the disengagement, than let it go to hell."
"Between Thorns And Grapes"
Guy Bechor asserted in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (3/31): "Is Hamas joining the Palestinian parliamentary elections a positive or negative development for Israel? Is it an achievement for Abu-Mazen [Mahmud Abbas], which would reinforce his rule, or will it lead to his downfall? In theory, it is a PA achievement as Hamas, for the first time ever, will join the Palestinian Parliament and turn from a terror organization into a player in the official political game.... It could, however, after scoring impressively in the elections, thwart the peace process with Israel from within and even possibly seize power of the PA.... The pessimistic view seems correct, as Hamas makes no secret of its desire to take hold of the PA while acting from within.... Hamas does not intend to give up its reasons to exist--spreading Islam and resisting Israel. Here we may use the Arab proverb, according to which 'thorns will never produce grapes.'"
"A Split On Hold"
Conservative columnist Yosef Harif noted in popular, pluralist Maariv (3/30): "The cracks in the Likud walls have recently expanded to the point of collapsing.... Although Sharon came out victorious in both the referendum and the budget campaigns, there is doubt that peace in the Likud will be restored. The real test will be the practical execution of the disengagement, and the key question is, what will tomorrow bring. In two weeks, Sharon will travel to the U.S. and meet with President Bush. Should he manage to attain an approval for leaving the large Judea and Samaria settlement blocs in Israel's hands, the Likud may quiet down and Sharon's status will remain stable. If he does not, unrest will increase and there is doubt that Sharon, however popular he may be, would be able to subdue the rebellion against him. To regain unity, the Likud depends on just one person--Ariel Sharon. With his leadership skills, he managed to overcome numerous difficulties outside and at home, gaining rare achievements on the diplomatic ring. He cannot, however, abandon the domestic ring. He will not be able to lean for long on his camp, comprising only 12 MK's most of whom lack power in the Likud Central Committee. He will have to reach an understanding with dozens of MK's who did not identify with his stands. Otherwise, the split might become a fact and the Likud will crash."
"The Bulldozer Won"
Aluf Ben held in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (3/29): "On April 11, Ariel Sharon will go to a victory party at U.S. President George W. Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas.... But more than anything in Texas, Sharon will celebrate the victory of the bulldozer. At the heart of his conversation with the president will be strengthening the understandings regarding Israel preserving for itself the settlement blocs in the West Bank. Bush already accepted the principle last year. Now Sharon wants to make sure the American promise for an annexation of the blocs in the future is turned into permission to build, in exchange for the evacuation of settlers from Gaza and northern Samaria.... Bush's letter from April 2004, which the administration reaffirmed over the weekend, shows that America is not interested in the abstract justice of the International Court in The Hague or the cries of the occupied Palestinians. Recognition of the 'new realities on the ground' is the great victory of force, proof that Jewish settlement does set the border.... Those who thought Sharon had turned into a leftist and began worrying about 'the rights of the Palestinians' were very wrong. Sharon still believes the bulldozer and the housing units will fix the border, with America's support and backing. The upcoming meeting in Crawford is meant to grant him further strength."
"Not Everything Is Kosher"
Chief economic editor Sever Plotzker opined in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (3/29): "The vote against a referendum constitutes another important achievement for Prime Minister Sharon, who is succeeding in leading the cabinet and the Knesset to the gates of disengagement with determination and momentum.... Nonetheless, we cannot ignore the troubling and even dangerous aspects of the prime minister's conduct on the path to achieving his goals. Sharon is striving to get disengagement implemented at almost any cost, and the cost is not negligible.... The goal of disengagement from Gaza is very important for the future of the State of Israel, but not important enough to give a Kashrut certificate from the outset to any means to achieve it. The withdrawal from Gaza must not turn into a cover for all contemptible political acts, for every offense against integrity, for any malfunction in governmental doings and for the over-concentration of power in the hands of a few at the top. We must not devote ourselves to disengagement as if it were the vision of the end of days or an intoxicating drug. The annals of the State of Israel are not numbered until after disengagement; Israel will have to live with its problems even after the last of the soldiers and the last of the settlers leave Gaza."
"Provocation In Ma'aleh Adumim"
Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (3/29): "The desire to avoid doing anything that might sabotage the prime minister's political efforts to achieve a majority for the disengagement plan has postponed the public debate about the final border with the Palestinians. But no matter how strong the desire to support Ariel Sharon at this stage and to postpone debate over the future of the settlements to a later stage, it is difficult to accept the revelation that the government plans to build another 3,500 housing units...between Jerusalem and Ma'aleh Adumim, and thus obstruct the territorial contiguity needed for a Palestinian state, something Sharon has already agreed on. The construction plan for Ma'aleh Adumim is the basis for a new dispute between Israel and the U.S. and between Israel and the PA. Approval of the construction plans could cloud the atmosphere between Israel and the PA, and even spark a renewal of violence. It is impossible to continue demanding of the Palestinians that they prevent terror when Israel is not keeping its commitments to suspend all settlement activity."
"A Pure Fabrication"
Editor-in-Chief Amnon Dankner wrote in popular, pluralist Maariv (3/27): "Never before has anything like this happened: On the eve of one of the most fateful political weeks in Israel's history, a large-circulation newspaper threw out a main headline that made a huge noise, but which principally was all just a pure fabrication. Whoever tripped up Shimon Shiffer and Yediot Aharonot with this report had, by all indications, clear intentions: to create a tremendous uproar in which Sharon would be accused of having persuaded members of his party to support disengagement on the basis of American commitments that actually do not exist. Fact: U.S. Ambassador Kurtzer claims that there are no understandings between Israel and the U.S. on the matter of settlement blocs. Some of the top Likud officials who were persuaded, already have announced in the wake of this false report that they are reconsidering their support. The person who leaked the information achieved his goal. But what is the truth? The truth is that in the transcript of the statements made by Ambassador Kurtzer, the very same transcript Yediot Aharonot flaunts and says 'we have the full version,'
shows that Ambassador Kurtzer made no reference to that matter. Plain and simple. No settlement blocs, no understandings or misunderstandings about them, no commitments or the lack thereof.... This quote...created an enormous political tempest over nothing.... Is it conceivable that because of an incorrect report that is dealt with irresponsibly, a stick will be stuck in the spokes of the disengagement plan?.... The uproar...was over nothing. We can move on."
"The Kurtzer Flap"
The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post declared (3/28): "There is no reason to believe that [U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel] Kurtzer, a careful diplomat, contradicted existing presidential understandings. Since the Yediot Aharonot report, both Kurtzer and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have strongly reaffirmed Bush's April 14 letter. Yet confusion remains, and it arises from the Bush letter itself.... What is striking about both of these statements is that the U.S. was careful not to take a firm position on what it emphasizes are final-status issues. In other words, the U.S. is saying to Israel and the Palestinians, it is up to you to negotiate on borders and refugees, but if anyone asks us, we will probably back Israel on not returning completely to the 1967 lines and on not settling Palestinians in Israel.... If Israel cannot show a tangible diplomatic reward for disengagement, then disengagement can only be perceived as a reward for four years of terrorist attacks. Is it in the American interest, let alone Israel's, to fuel such a perception, much less such a reality?.... Israel, obviously, could not go to a final-status negotiating table denying the Palestinians right to a state. Yet the Palestinians are openly doing just that to Israel when they claim a 'right' to move to Jaffa, Acre and elsewhere in Israel. President Bush should do more than hint that it 'seems' that Palestinians have no right to move to Israel; the sooner the U.S. starts saying so clearly and unabashedly, the sooner Palestinians will start abandoning such unacceptable positions themselves."
"Sharon, Bush And The Settlements"
Aluf Benn asserted in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (3/27): "Sharon is in a bind. He needs to show he is holding onto the settlement blocs to avoid further desertions to the Likud rebel camp. Yet on the foreign policy front, he has had to keep a low profile on construction. But according to statements by U.S. Ambassador Dan Kurtzer to the mass-circulation Hebrew daily Yediot Aharonot, there is no understanding between the U.S. and Israel concerning the settlement blocs. Both left and right rejoiced at the report--here was the proof that Sharon had lied and had received nothing from Bush in return for the disengagement. Kurtzer subsequently denied the report, reiterated the president's promise regarding the settlement blocs, and praised Sharon's credibility. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also backtracked on her harsh criticism of the E-1 plan, and in a Washington Post interview returned to ambiguous requests for clarifications. Once again, Sharon came out on top, and paid neither a domestic nor an international price for his critical decisions to strengthen the 'blocs.'"
"The Price Of A Cease-Fire"
Alexander Maistrovoy contended in popular, pluralist Russian-language Novosty Nedely (3/24): A conditional Tahdi'a--a cease-fire limited in time...declared by PA President Abu Mazen. One can only guess what will be follow it.... IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon is not hiding his suspicions about Hamas using the 'tahdi'a' for regrouping and strengthening its forces before a new twist in the conflict.... The 'tahdi'a's' durability seems to be dubious. The terror will most probably stop in the short term--the period of disengagement from Gaza and [withdrawal] from northern Samaria [the northern West Bank], making Ariel Sharon's task much easier. The question is for how long the current cease-fire would make Israel's life easier.... Obviously, the pressure on Israel for a final resolution [of the conflict] would grow significantly after the disengagement is completed. Should Israel decline the Palestinians' demands, Hamas would definitely return to the track of war with...or without Abu Mazen as a formal leader."
WEST BANK: "Not To Hold Abbas Responsible, But..."
Talal 'Ukal observed in independent Al-Ayyam (3/31): "The position that Secretary Rice has repeatedly stated regarding Israeli settlement plans is not positive at all. On the contrary, Rice affirmed her commitment to the understandings of Bush’s letter of assurances to Sharon of April 14, 2004.... Rice did not object firmly to settlement expansion the Israeli government plans to implement; she merely warned that this threatens the peace process and that this issue needs to be discussed with Sharon.... It seems that little remains of international support for Abu Mazen’s policy except the results of the London meeting, which reflect a kind of trusteeship over the Palestinian situation.”
"Settlers Are An Obstacle To Calm"
Independent Al-Quds editorialized (3/30): "Most serious about settler threats is not merely [that they] warn of an internal Israeli civil war, but that they use the Al-Aqsa Mosque as a card to pressure the Israeli government to keep its troops distracted from the Gaza evacuation...without taking into consideration that the Al-Aqsa Mosque is a Palestinian-Arab-Islamic and international red line and that whoever sparks the flame of disorder [there] will end up burned by it.... If Israeli society wants to walk the road to peace, it has to remove the obstacle of settler threats and face these threats firmly.... Otherwise the Israeli authorities will lose control over these rebellious settler groups.”
"Sharon's Painful Concessions"
Jawad Bashiti opined in independent Al-Ayyam (3/30): “Sharon, who kept saying that the ‘wall’ he is building on West Bank land is not a ‘political wall,’ has finally decided to refute this claim. He asserted that Israel would maintain permanent control over settlement blocs inside the ‘separation wall’, clarifying that the U.S. supports this.... I believe Sharon’s assertion and clarification are evidence that there is no contradiction between the U.S.’ position on settlements and Sharon’s... Secretary of State Rice’s criticism of the Sharon government’s plan to expand Ma’ale Adumim settlement demographically and geographically was also meant to assert the Bush administration’s support for ending the final status negotiations with an agreement that allows Israel to annex the larger West Bank settlements.”
"Fatah And Real Madrid"
Yusuf Qazzaz commented in official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (3/29): "It’s their noble respectability, popular support, backward performance and lack of discipline that make [Fatah and the Real Madrid soccer team] alike.... Fatah has many...stars, but coordination among them is non-existent.... The Fatah movement is also approaching a new season that will begin after [Fatah’s] upcoming conference and elections. Some leaders will remain while others will be replaced...allowing the right person to be in the right place, which would help establish stronger foundations before the current ones crack and crumble.”
"Fixing Fatah's Engine Or Replacing It?"
Hasan Al-Batal opined in idependent Al-Ayyam (3/29): “Nabil Sh’ath said at the Revolutionary Council that the movement’s democratic restoration makes Fatah the most significant among other Arab parties.... In a month and a half we will see the initial results, concurrent with the outcome of the municipal elections’ third stage.... Also with the results of the legislative elections within four months, we will be able to know if Fatah needs a new engine.”
"Sharon: Removing The Main Obstacle Facing Disengagement"
Ashraf Ajrami observed in independent Al-Ayyam (3/28): “Sharon considers this leak...very dangerous and meant to harm him personally. It’s obvious that the Likud ministers who leaked this document were aiming to paralyze Sharon and put an end to the preparations for the disengagement plan. The Americans have made it clear through their officials that the American assurances offered to Sharon are still in effect and that the conflict with the Israeli government is only on the issue of the separation wall and settlement expansion.... Obviously, the direct aim of this leak was to harm American-Israeli relations and to cause a state of tension between the two sides, which might lead to negative effects on the internal Israeli arena, hindering preparations for implementing the disengagement.”
"Washington Made Its Position Clear"
Independent Al-Quds editorialized (3/27): “It appears obvious that Kurtzer has clarified the American position toward the expansion of Ma’ale Adumim and other settlements in the West Bank. He spoke unequivocally of the total U.S. support for Israel’s keeping these major settlements, even though they were built on occupied West Bank land after the year 1967.... The U.S. is pretending to forget that the only party who has ownership rights of West Bank and Gaza Strip land is the Palestinian people.... Now, given the American position that obviously supports the annexation of settlements, Palestinian officials must study its dimensions, especially in light of the White House and State Department statements in this regard, and come up with the right decision.”
"Washington Between Settlements And The 'Harbi' Deal"
Hani Habib opined in independent Al-Ayyam (3/27): "In the same day [of Kurtzer’s remarks on settlements] U.S. Secretary of State Rice launched her fiercest attack on Israel when she termed the Israeli plans to expand Ma’ale Adumim contrary to American policy and must come to a complete halt. This statement contradicts the ‘Bush declaration’ and the Kurtzer’s ‘corrective’ remarks.... We believe that this contradiction in American remarks on settlements is well calculated because Sharon will be the American president’s guest in two weeks at the latter’s ranch in Texas, where he [Bush] is expected to demand the acceleration of the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip settlements.”
Yahya Rabah commented in official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (3/26): "The worst news is that the Americans, to whom we were getting ready to complain so that they might pressure Israel in their own way, surprised us [with their view] that they see no need to complain. Moreover, their ambassador in Israel stated clearly that there’s no harm if settlements stay as they are. If the American ambassador is so generous with the Israeli government, how much generosity will General [sic] Sharon receive when he meets President Bush?.... Once again, we quote Shlomo Ben Ami’s [former Israeli FM] saying: ‘Can Israel make peace with Palestinians through deception? Or does Israel hate peace and want to close all doors in its face?”
SAUDI ARABIA: "The Hazard Of The Mafia’s Mindset Of Israel"
Abha’s moderate Al-Watan opined (3/30): "The Israeli Finance Minster, Binyamin Netanyahu, accused Ariel Sharon of managing the Israeli government with a Mafia mindset and he described him as dictator.... These statements prove the reality about the terrorist mindset leading the Israeli government since 1948.... The scary part is that this terrorist thinking is allowed to reform the future of the Middle East. Things were worsened by the coming of the second Bush to the American Administration. The first thing he did was to give the green light to Sharon to do whatever he wants...although Arab and foreign officials are leading political efforts, Israel insisted on neglecting international resolutions and taking advantage of American support."
"Step Back To The Worst"
Jeddah’s conservative Al-Madina editorialized (3/30): "The recent remarks by the Israeli Prime Minster about the Israeli insistence on maintaining big settlements in the West Bank doesn’t only reflect Israeli intentions about the peace process, it is also a bold challenge to the international community.... The American Administration must treat the Israeli and Palestinian parts equally. Especially is that the Palestinians had taken further steps including a cease fire, which is a clear indication of the new political trend and the Palestinian commitment to the peace process."
"Washington And The Israeli Settlements"
Abha’s moderate Al-Watan concluded (3/29): "After a state of an apparent confusion the U.S. administration made up its mind and announced that it supports the expansion of Israeli settlements. Moreover, the U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice added that there was a complete agreement with the Israeli government on that issue.... Support for the Israeli settlement programs has remained a firm U.S. policy; likewise it was part of a promise the White House committed itself to fulfill when it announced on several occasions its determination to protect the security of Israel as a Jewish state."
"Arranging The Palestinian House"
Jeddah's moderate Al-Bilad editorialized (3/29): "Arranging the Palestinian house is an important issue. Moreover, it is closely tied to the political process related to the Zionist occupation. Israel, through an American tongue, and Washington, through an Israeli tongue, attached Palestinian domestic affairs to the subject of peace.... The international community must put pressure on Israel and to hold her accountable. Israel remaining above international law is like jungle law, which the U.S. sponsors."
"[Developing] A Definition For Terrorism: An Arab Mission"
Dammam’s moderate Al-Yaum stated (3/28): "The Zionist media machine tirelessly works to associate the Arab nation and Islam with terrorism. Furthermore, it accuses anyone who opposes Zionism of terrorism...to the extent of harassing Muslim children in western and U.S. schools only because they are Muslims.... Developing a definition for terrorism will deprive the Zionist media machine of a major tool of hate it uses against Muslims and Islam."
"Condemnation Is Not Enough"
Jeddah’s conservative Al-Madina held (3/28): "It is appreciated that the U.S. Administration expresses its condemnation of Israeli expansion.... It is also appreciated that the U.S. Secretary of State Rice, who is close to President Bush, delivered this condemnation. However, this condemnation should have cleared what have been said by American and Israeli officials that the American Administration does not object to Israeli expansion.... Guarantee letters should not be an alternative to legitimate international resolutions.... The legitimate reference for the peace process is the Road Map. Any Israeli violation to its articles will harm the peace process, which cannot take more delays and tricks."
"Unclear U.S. Position"
Makkah’s conservative Al-Nadwah contended (3/27): "The U.S. position towards the Israeli settlements was at no time in the past confusing and unclear, it seems to be so now. The announced U.S. position was that settlements were a major element of provocation. This is exactly what former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell announced during one of his visits to the region."
JORDAN: "Ambiguity Does Not Help"
The elite English-language Jordan Times declared (3/30): "The PA and Israel are waiting for 'clarification' of a statement made by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Sunday about Israeli settlements. As it stands, her statement that any final Middle East peace deal will have to take into account the biggest Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian lands sends a message to Israel that Washington will support its annexation of these settlements.... The statement throws the stated U.S. policy of 'territorial contiguity' out of the window. Only few days ago, President George Bush was telling the world that his administration opposed the expansion of Jewish settlements in Palestinian lands. So now it's time to get back to basics. That is, respect for and, more importantly, implementation of UNSC Resolution 242 and the Quartet-sponsored roadmap. Conflicting signals from the White House at this time threaten to derail the carefully nursed roadmap for peace in the Middle East.... Last week, Israel said it would continue expansion of the three largest Jewish settlements in the West Bank: Maale Adumim, Gush Etzion and Ariel. Meanwhile, Israel's claim that it is dismantling settler outposts in Palestinian lands is only that.... Next month will be a year since Bush gave Israeli prime minister the infamous letter giving the first-ever US seal of approval to settlements. That step was a historic gaffe. Repeating such a blunder now, when there is a new Palestinian leadership taking courageous steps to get back to the negotiating table with Israel, is reckless. The reported leak about US Ambassador Dan Kurtzer allegedly telling Israeli officials that there was no understanding between Israel and the White House over the future status of the settlement blocs added to the confusion. Behind-the-scenes diplomacy and statements intended to appease parties to the conflict have worn thin. Washington needs to be direct, clear and consistent."
LEBANON: "Palestinians Must Seize The Chance To Bridge Differences"
The moderate English-language Daily Star held (3/30): "Mahmoud Abbas' bold efforts to coax Islamist militants into joining the Palestine Liberation Organization demonstrate a firm commitment on the part of the Palestinian president to implement the agreement he forged in Cairo with the leaders of militant factions. The effort also marks a badly needed attempt to consolidate a fragmented Palestinian community. There are naysayers who claim that the Islamic factions cannot be incorporated into the mainstream, but this is tantamount to saying that democracy just won't work in the Islamic world. The stark reality on the ground is that Islamist factions enjoy popular support among the Palestinian people. But Islam or Islamist parties needn't be synonymous with violence. While it is true that these factions have waged a war against a brutal occupying force, this war is not the be all and end all of their existence. These movements represent the dynamism of human nature, and as a result, they can evolve. Now that the world is showing a more serious commitment to the peace process, it is the equivalent of a national duty for the Palestinian parties to forge an agreement among the factions. The time is ripe for reconciliation and peace and the Palestinians must capitalize on America's open door. The differences of opinion among the Palestinian people can and must be bridged."
QATAR: "Settlement Row A Test Of American Sincerity"
The semi-official English-language Gulf Times editorialized (Internet version) (3/27): "During his trip to Europe in February, US President George W Bush addressed EU leaders in Brussels and made his position on Israeli settlement very clear..... Bush himself left no doubt about his position on the settlement issue.... Last week the Israeli government announced plans for a massive settlement expansion, adding 3,500 new homes to the existing settlement of Maale Adumin.... This violates the two principles Bush talked about in Brussels--the freezing of settlement activity and establishing conditions for a viable Palestinian State.... Bush was not playing to the gallery when he made his statement. He was serious. That was underlined by his Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Thursday, who said that the settlement plan was 'at odds with American policy.' However, this was countered by a conflicting statement from the US Ambassador to Israel, Daniel Kurtzer, who said his country supported Israel keeping large settlement blocks on Arab land in the West Bank. Inevitably, the Palestinians were outraged over the idea that Washington planned to give away their land to the Israelis.... In President Bush’s first term he showed little interest in pursuing peace between the Palestinians and Israelis, preferring to support whatever Ariel Sharon chose to do.... Since Bush’s re-election there appears to be some softening in his position.... However, it seems very unlikely that the strongly pro-Zionist neo-conservative cabal that surrounds Bush is any better disposed towards Palestinians.... Sharon still wants to swallow all of Jerusalem and much of the West Bank, dividing Palestinian areas into impoverished enclaves.... We must hope that Bush will now come out unequivocally against Sharon’s attempts to pre-empt negotiations by constantly seizing more and more Arab land. If the US president really wants a peace deal to crown his presidency, he is going to have to stand up to Israel’s 'Bulldozer' Sharon."
SYRIA: "Supporting Illegitimacy"
Ahmad Hamada commented in government-owned Al-Thawra (3/31): "The US position toward the Israeli settlement activity, as expressed by State Secretary Condoleezza Rice, is a serious development as it gives Sharon's government another green light to defy international legitimacy, bury the peace process, and impose a fait accompli on the Palestinians in any negotiations with them.... If Washington continues to deal with the settlement file in this way, which violates the international law, the situation in the occupied Arab territories will head toward further complication and tension, and every hope in achieving security and stability will be torpedoed."
"In One Basket"
Ali Nasrallah commented in government-owned Al-Thawra (3/29): "It has become obvious that Israel does not want calm in the region. This is not because an atmosphere of calm would compel it to refrain from implementing its aggressive settlement plans or would embarrass it before the international community, but because Israel, given its nature, believes that a constantly tense climate is the most suitable for its growth and for achieving its strategic objectives in the region. The scenarios of tension and volatility, which Israel creates and fabricates with the US upon the latter's direct support and absolute concurrence, are repeated every now and then to peddle a particular objective and consolidate it as a fait accompli which would be difficult to surmount at a later stage.... If President Bush constantly declares that he insists on the peace process and on his vision with regard to establishing two states, Palestinian and Israeli, side by side in accordance with the Roadmap, does support for expanding settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem serve this vision? Does such a US position, which conflicts with facts and with the resolutions and will of the UN and the international community, leave much credibility for the US Administration, or does it indicate strong harmony with Sharon's government; something that justifies the fact that observers, and the peoples of the region and the world place Israel and the U.S. in one basket?"
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