June 1, 2005
ABBAS IN THE U.S.: THE PA RECEIVES A 'CLEAN BILL OF HEALTH'
** Papers agree Bush evidenced "good will and a positive attitude" towards President Abbas.
** Arab and Euro writers say Bush still must "exert more pressure on Israel."
** Arab critics state that Bush has "not offered anything new."
** Restarting the peace process is the "easiest way" the U.S. can win Arab "hearts and minds."
'Necessary and welcome' support for Abbas-- Outlets praised the "warmth and many public declarations of support" Bush gave Abbas. Bush had become "more understanding of the Palestinian reality," said Palestinian papers, as independent Al-Ayyam hailed an "obvious American wish to support Abu Mazen." For other Arab analysts, Bush's "more balanced" stance was "encouraging and bodes well"; Syria's government-owned Tishreen was "optimistic about a near end to Israel's monopoly" over U.S. policy. Israel's pluralist Yediot Aharonot judged that Abbas had become the Bush administration's "favored son," while France's right-of-center Le Figaro concluded Bush "gave Abbas what he had come" for.
'Washington is doing too little'-- Euro critics of Sharon's "draconian" policy urged the U.S. to "keep up the pressure on Israel" so as to "remain true to the commitments" made to Abbas. Britain's conservative Daily Telegraph advised the U.S to "make sure that Israel negotiates a fair deal," because, as Germany's business-oriented FT Deutschland noted, it is "not enough to simply criticize settlement construction." Arab papers agreed that the U.S. must "push the Israelis to take more meaningful steps" if it desires "real progress." Bahrain's pro-government Daily Tribune opined "now is the time...to force Israel to change" its policies. Palestinian writers stressed the U.S. should not make "impossible demands" on Abbas.
Abbas sought a 'more effective' U.S. aid package-- Hardline Arab dailies dismissed both the "hoopla" over the "photo opportunity" at the White House and the promise of $50 million in aid, which "fell too short of Palestinian expectations." A Syrian commentator described the aid as "only promises and tranquilizing assurances," while Qatar's semi-official Gulf Times opined that the aid did not make up for the lack of "concrete suggestions" by Bush to "end Israel's occupation." Pragmatic analysts called for "necessary skepticism" in light of how the U.S. "decided to distance itself equally" from both the PA and Israel.
The 'warm welcome' for Abbas helps 'repair America's image'-- Moderate Muslim editorialists held that the U.S. could reduce the "prevailing sense of cynicism toward U.S. policy" in the region if its position were more "balanced." As Israel's occupation "is the biggest source of unrest and terrorism" in the Arab-Islamic world, Pakistan's center-left Dawn noted, "the U.S. owes it to the Arab-Islamic world to do something positive." The West Bank's independent Al-Quds added that if the U.S. "truly wants to improve its image," it must "be fair to the Palestinians." Rightist papers such as Italy's Il Giornale held up Abbas' administration as a "more genuine and efficient good example" of the type of democratization the U.S. seeks.
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, email@example.com
EDITOR: Ben Goldberg
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion. Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet. This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis was based on 45 reports from 17 countries over 25 May - 1 June, 2005. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.
BRITAIN: "Bush Needs To Give A Helping Hand To Disarm The Gunmen"
Diplomatic editor Anton La Guardia commented in the conservative Daily Telegraph (5/26): "When he meets the Palestinian leader today, President Bush should make the following pledge: deliver on security, and America will make sure that Israel negotiates a fair deal in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, within a reasonable timeframe. A freeze on Jewish settlements is essential. Mr. Bush must help convince Palestinians that they have more to gain from the olive branch than from Arafat's failed strategy of the gun."
FRANCE: "Abbas, The Good Student Of Democratization"
Patrick Saint-Paul asserted in right-of-center Le Figaro (5/27): “In matters of democratization, one of the Bush administration’s core strategies for the Middle East, Mahmud Abbas stands among the good students.... President Bush congratulated all Palestinian participants in the democratic process, including Hamas, which is on the State Department’s black list of terrorist movements.... Bush’s $50 million in direct aid is a strong symbolic gesture and a sign of confidence in Abbas and his efforts to combat corruption.”
"Bush Promises An Independent State For The Palestinians"
Philippe Gelie contended in right-of-center Le Figaro (5/26): “Yesterday President Bush gave Abbas what he had come to Washington for: humanitarian aid, strong political support and the promise of diplomatic intervention.... Without greatly altering his stance, President Bush showed that he understands the plight of the Palestinians, putting them almost on par with the Israelis.... Bush’s demands on Sharon prove that he is not blind to Sharon’s game.... But although Abbas is the first Palestinian President to have set foot in the Oval Office in five years, the White House does not want to dance faster than the music.”
"Abbas Wants Bush To Get Involved"
Philippe Gelie noted in left-of-center Liberation (5/26): “The American President is convinced of one thing: change in the Middle East will be slow and can only come from the two players themselves. This is what has been keeping him from getting personally involved in the peace process, unlike his predecessor Bill Clinton. But today President Bush is welcoming Mahmud Abbas, a guest for whom change is urgent. He needs to leave Washington with a U.S. commitment for more involvement in getting the peace process back on track.... The issue here is to get the U.S. to exert more pressure on Israel.... The Israeli PM has set draconian conditions for the ‘final settlement.’ And this is where Abbas absolutely needs Bush’s help.... In Washington’s circles the idea that the administration must no longer have the terms of its policy dictated by Israel is beginning to gain ground.... This new tone...could lead President Bush to overcome his reluctance to get involved and weigh in directly on the parties.”
GERMANY: "A Little Bit Strengthened"
Gemma Poerzgen argued in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (5/28): "Palestinian President Abbas did not return with many achievements. The delegation had hoped for more from the first U.S. visit after such a long time. The Palestinian leadership is desperately looking for a way to begin new peace talks soon. Given Israel's pullout from Gaza is scheduled for this summer, the talks are further postponed because the U.S. wants to wait for the withdrawal of the settlements. No progress is being expected until then. However, the Palestinian president can see U.S. President's financial aid of $50 million as a success; it will strengthen him. Bush's praise for the brave man is clearly different from Israel's attempt to portray Arafat's successor as a failure. The allegations that Abbas is doing nothing against the terror network have no effect on Washington. Prime Minister Sharon should learn this lesson."
Wolfgang Guenter Lerch commented in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (5/27): "The positive thing concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is that the parties involved continue to make efforts to boost the peace process despite all the problems. The U.S. President, to whom Arafat had become a persona non grata, has not just welcomed Abbas in Washington, but also promised Palestinians financial support. Their capable Finance Minister Fajjad will be happy to hear this, because the reconstruction of the Palestinian territories and institutions urgently require more money. The U.S. president apparently acknowledges that Abbas tries to put a stop to the violent Palestinian groups, Hamas in particular, as best as he can. Only illusionists can believe this is completely possible, given the circumstances of the Israeli occupation. Despite the necessary skepticism, it is a good sign that the agreements reached in Sharm el Sheik between Abbas and Sharon are not yet dead."
Jacques Schuster noted in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (5/27): "Politicians in Israel and the U.S. know about the danger of a new intifadah. They emphasize the assets of the democratically elected Palestinian leader and promise to support him. They know that Abbas cannot restrict the extremists in his camp without their help. He cannot successfully fight terrorism without their concessions. However, the real help he gets is insufficient. Last December, the international community promised Palestinians to pay over one billion dollars, but less the ten percent of that has been given to Abbas yet. President Bush now promised several millions, but it is unclear whether they will be paid. Washington is doing too little. Neither are Americans urging Israelis to materialize their promised concessions--Israel has only pulled out of two of the five towns--nor do they really support Abbas."
"New Beginning With Abbas"
Business-oriented Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg concluded (5/27): "It will be important for the peace process that the U.S. continues its current policy towards President Abbas and Israeli PM Sharon. It is not enough to simply criticize settlement construction. Bush must exert pressure because Abbas needs achievements, otherwise he would be soon seen as a U.S. puppet. In the Mideast conflict, we have often heard the starting signal for rapprochement. The constellation is promising this time."
ITALY: "To Abu Mazen 50 Million [Dollars] And A ‘Good’ License"
Alberto Pasolini Zanelli wrote in pro-government, leading center-right Il Giornale (5/27): “It’s the first time that a Palestinian leader goes home with something other than an American admonition or encouragement. In his first visit to the U.S. following his election, his ‘success’ was more concrete and quantifiable: 50 million dollars.... Although he never mentioned Hamas, the fact that Bush received Abu Mazen and gave his visit an unprecedented structure and publicity, indicates that Washington has most certainly decided to act against the fundamentalists and in favor of an organization like the PLO, that it has always considered an enemy. This ‘shift’ is likely a part of the revised strategy under way in the Middle East, meaning greater involvement, but also greater autonomy for long-standing political forces in various crucial points in that area of the world--a strategy that was experimented in Iraq with particular vigor and publicity. Free elections have for some time now been on the mind of this Administration, not as the point of arrival in the democratic evolution, but rather as a point of departure. This is a new conception with respect to America’s traditional doctrines. And the results obtained in Palestine have become a jewel in the crown for Bush, with a result that was much less ‘induced’ than it was in Iraq, but which could turn out to be a more genuine and efficient good example.”
RUSSIA: "The U.S. Pays Off Abbas"
Grigoriy Asmolov noted in business-oriented Kommersant (5/27): “The Palestinian leader was accorded a warm welcome and even offered good money for the PA. But Mr. Abbas’s hopes for support in his polemics with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon were not to be realized. Washington decided to distance itself equally from both.... As he talked with George Bush, Mahmoud Abbas heard non-committal words of support that resulted in no official statements. Instead, he won a few economic concessions offered as a consolation prize. In return, President Bush made it plain that he expected the Palestinians to step up reforms, democratization, and the struggle against terror in keeping with the Road Map.”
"A Serious Test"
Dmitriy Dubov filed in reformist Vremya Novostey (5/27): “The upcoming Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and the northern sector of the West Bank of the river Jordan is an important test for the Palestinian leader, as well as for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Letting the Israelis pull out, unhindered by Arab radicals, will cause the U.S. President to urge Sharon to step up the process of negotiations.”
IRELAND: "Middle East Progress"
The center-left Irish Times asserted (5/27): "Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas's visit to the White House yesterday is an auspicious and welcome event for the revived Middle East peace process, signaling publicly that the U.S. will be properly engaged with it. He received a pledge from President Bush that $50 million will be channeled directly to the PA and heard that secretary of state Condoleezza Rice will visit Jerusalem and Ramallah before the planned Israeli withdrawal from Gaza this summer. These are necessary and welcome moves to bolster the new Palestinian leadership elected after the death of Yasser Arafat.... Efforts to revive the peace process, based on the 'road map' prepared with the US, the EU, the UN, and Russia have sought a more even-handed approach in which Washington would play a prominent role. The reception given to Mr Abbas there this week suggests such a policy will be followed by this ‘quartet’ of international actors through the summer as Israel withdraws from Gaza. Originally Mr Sharon planned this as a unilateral act; now he understands it will have to be part of a wider effort to find a peace settlement. Mr Bush reiterated yesterday that Israel will have to remove unauthorized outposts on the West Bank and stop expanding settlements there.... It is to be hoped the Gaza withdrawal can lead to a momentum for renewed negotiations on a settlement. Parliamentary elections for the PA in July should bolster Mr Abbas's authority further against his opponents in Hamas who reject the roadmap. But unless he can show relatively rapid progress in the talks he will come under renewed pressure from his critics. They say neither Mr Bush nor Mr Sharon can be trusted as negotiating partners and that the roadmap cannot deliver a viable Palestinian state. Mr Bush must keep up the pressure on Israel to reciprocate in these talks if he is to remain true to the commitments he made yesterday to Mr Abbas.”
NETHERLANDS: "Abbas’ Haste"
Influential independent NRC Handelsblad editorialized (5/27): “Four months have passed since the selection of Mahmoud Abbas as president.... Since his election, followed by a more moderate Israeli attitude, it has been relatively peaceful.... Abbas has earned international support, but not just from American alone, but also from the EU, Russia and the UN. He, himself, must first come forward with initiatives which, up until now, has not happened.”
SPAIN: "Bush And Abbas"
Centrist La Vanguardia opined (5/28): "The summit, that can be described as historical, has also been important because of the political and historical support that President Bush has given to the Palestinian cause and to the Abbas's efforts to establish the needed institutions that could create a democratically viable state. In this sense Bush, after expressing his confidence that Palestinian authorities will combat terrorism, stressed that Israel should not increase settlements in Cisjordania and that it has to offer to a future Palestinian state territorial continuity and communications with Gaza. But, in addition to good words, the US must force all parties, especially Israel, to fulfill the negotiated commitments in the 'Road Map'. Not advancing on this road looses a beautiful opportunity that could frustrate the current hopes of peace."
ISRAEL: "Three Permanent Agreements"
Aluf Benn said in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (6/1): "It is easy for Bush to mortgage the American position on the permanent borders, wrapping it in different packaging for Israelis and for Palestinians. In so doing, he demonstrates involvement and accomplishment, fending off charges that he has washed his hands of the conflict. But the permanent-agreement talks are still far off, and it is doubtful they will come to fruition while he is still in office. In the meantime, the president makes do with Sharon's disengagement and Abbas's partial democratization, and softpedals on the evacuation of settlement outposts and dismantling of the terror groups. These will wait for 'the day after'--after the disengagement, and after both sides' elections."
"Is America Abandoning The Fight?"
Caroline B. Glick wrote in the conservative, independent Jerusalem Post (5/31): "The Bush administration is revising its counter-terrorism strategy. Whereas since the September 11 attacks the U.S. has concentrated its efforts on physically destroying al-Qaida to prevent it from carrying out another major attack by arresting and killing its operatives and leaders, now, according to the report, the U.S. will be widening the focus to include contending with the threat of militant Islam generally by trying to counteract it as a social and political force among Muslims worldwide.
This of course would be a welcome change.... And yet, from the Bush administration's actions on the ground from Teheran to Riyadh to Ramallah, it seems that rather than placing these terror regimes in the crosshairs, the President and his advisers are strengthening them. If this is the case, then Israel is in for one of the toughest periods in its history."
Akiva Eldar opined in left-leaning, independent Ha'aretz (5/29): "The declaration received by Sharon [from President Bush] and that made to Abu Mazen do not contradict one another.... Bush's statements do not stray in the slightest from the road map adopted by Israel.... The U.S.
position is that the reality in the field must be taken into account; but America most certainly doesn't have the ability or intention of forcing this position on the parties to the conflict.... First, the starting point for the talks must be the cease-fire line. Second, the U.S. believes the large population centers in the West Bank must be taken into consideration. And third, the border must be determined in agreement between the sides. One can safely assume that when the day of the final-status talks comes, the U.S. will serve as principal mediator. Therefore, one cannot undermine the importance of its position vis-a-vis the nature of the peace settlement. But if anyone has cause for complaint in this regard, it is Abu Mazen. Once again, as in the case of his letter from April last year, Bush did not say anything about what Israel will have to give to the Palestinians in return for the population centers it annexes."
"Love Around The Corner"
Nahum Barnea observed in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (5/27): "On Thursday...America reissued a clean bill of health to the Palestinian Authority.... It can be said that the Palestinians gained a few points on Thursday, and Israel lost some. Sharon frequently waves aloft President Bush's commitment to take into consideration the concentrations of Israeli population in the West Bank during negotiations on the final status arrangement. Yesterday, in response to the Palestinians' request, Bush gave a balancing commitment.... These statements weaken Sharon to a certain degree in his debate with the opponents of disengagement.... The religion that currently rules in Washington is democracy. Bush believes that democracy solves everything--including an existential bloody conflict over 100 years old. If the Palestinian state is democratic, he said yesterday, everything can be solved, including the problem of air space. Anyone who lives in the Middle East knows that this is a simplistic, naive, perhaps even dangerous approach. But anyone who holds a position of leadership in the Middle East knows that lip service must be paid. Abu Mazen contributed his part yesterday to this fairy tale.... The disengagement plan afforded Sharon control over the political agenda. This was its great advantage. But there is no perpetual control in the Middle East. The big brother's eye is watchful, especially since there is a little brother named Abu Mazen, who yesterday officially became a favored son of the administration. Perhaps not as close and important and Sharon, but no less beloved."
"Without a Letter, But With A Lot of Good Will"
Nathan Guttman wrote in left-leaning, independent Ha'aretz (5/27): "Bush's presents to Abu Mazen may not be dramatic, but they definitely evidence good will and a positive attitude toward the Palestinian leader. To a great extent, Abu Mazen will be able to mark the date of the meeting as an event equal in importance to the historic meeting between Bush and Ariel Sharon on April 14, 2004, during which Sharon received the commitment letter. What Abu Mazen got was actually not a letter, but much warmth and many public declarations of support.... President Bush and U.S. diplomacy also scored an achievement. After Sharon was granted a letter of guarantees a year ago, the President was criticized for having given everything already in the first round, and given Sharon so much in exchange of the disengagement--to the point that it wouldn't be possible to ever reach an accord with the Palestinians based on those understandings.... But Bush and his advisers proved on Thursday that there is more than one way to read the letter to Sharon.... The U.S. has now leveled the ground, placing on it two relatively contented Middle Eastern players. Each of them has received commitments and understands that they are blurred enough to allow Bush to maneuver between them after the Israeli withdrawal is completed.... For the moment, the administration prefers to deal with 'the day after.'"
"Same Words, Different Melody"
Akiva Eldar contended in left-leaning independent Ha'aretz (5/27): "In April, Bush said that Abu Mazen had taken a number of steps in the field of security, but that the PA had to do more against terror.... On Thursday, Bush termed Abu Mazen 'a man of peace,' who is acting with determination against terror.... If the disputes with regard to the settlements and Hamas didn't exist, Bush would have to invent them. They provide a pretty wide berth to the president, who is making do with actions that do not deviate from managing the conflict. According to the public statements, in the meeting with Abu Mazen, as in the case of the talks with Sharon, the issues of a timetable, verification mechanisms and enforcement measures were not on the agenda.... And the main issue: Abu Mazen can't present his voters with an American undertaking that after democratic elections, a reform of the security mechanisms, the disarming of the militants and a peaceful disengagement, Bush will bare his superpower claws in order to drag Sharon into a final-status agreement."
"Upon The Completion Of The PM's Trip"
Yaron London wrote in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (5/26): "Many countries in the world--such as Turkey, which abhors Israel's treatment of the Palestinians--strengthen their ties with us also because of how they perceive our influence in the corridors of the American regime. This power, both the real and the imaginary, is also the reason for concern of losing it.... The lobby's display of power is tantamount to a reminder to the President on the eve of the visit of the PA Chairman [President] to Washington. Mahmoud Abbas comes to the U.S. capital to receive some sort of reward from Mr. Bush for good behavior. He has an advocate: on the desk of the President and of the Secretary of State lies a positive opinion from General William Ward, the U.S. envoy on security matters in the Palestinian Authority. He believes that Abu Mazen is moving in the right direction and that he has taken real steps to reorganize the security organizations. The Palestinians hope that in light of their good report card signed by the general, the President will declare openly his loyalty to the promise that the Palestinian state will be established and that those who draw its borders will not take into account the ambition of the Sharon government to include the Etzion Bloc, the Ariel bloc and Ma'aleh Adumim."
"Abu Mazen's Hard Time"
Nathan Guttman asserted in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (5/26): "At the annual AIPAC convention that ended Tuesday the speech most sympathetic to the Palestinian cause came from Israeli PM Ariel Sharon, who showed more consideration for Abbas than either Condoleezza Rice or Hillary Clinton. With such a state of affairs, it's obvious Abbas won't be able to leave Washington with much. President Bush's associates were quick to announce yesterday the possibility of a direct American grant to the Palestinian Authority of 'several dozens of millions of dollars.' Such a grant would certainly improve the atmosphere and enable Abbas to return to Ramallah with something in hand, but he is still very far from aid that could bring about real change.... The Americans don't intend to ignite debate on Hamas' future or dismantling the armed organizations at this time. Rice stressed Wednesday that 'not everything can happen overnight.' From Abbas's standpoint, that stance is important because it makes clear that the U.S. won't back Israeli demands to dismantle the organizations immediately and won't consider that grounds for halting progress on the road map."
WEST BANK: "Security Now And Peace Later"
Yahya Rabah opined in official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (6/1): “The fundamental idea that [President Abbas] successfully conveyed in meetings with President Bush, a number of Bush’s assistants, heads of Congressional committees, and to American public opinion through the media, is that the time of transitional periods and solutions has come an end.... The Palestinians have proved in the past few months that when they agree in their political system on an insightful reading of the political scene, and when they reach mature decisions such as the period of calm, the truce, engaging in elections and continuing with reform, they can weaken the Israeli logic even in Washington.”
"Abbas's Visit To The U.S."
Abdullah Al-Ayyan commented in independent Al-Quds (6/1): “Abbas was indeed warmly welcomed by the American administration. What’s more important, though--that is, forcing Israel to abide by international resolutions--did not take place, which is problematic because a lack of seriousness in the American position makes Israel backtrack on its promises.... We believe there will be no peace in light of the international community’s lack of a serious policy and Israel’s noncompliance.”
"General Ward Is A Witness"
Yahya Rabah commented in official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (5/30): “Ward...received last week two presents he deserves: the first was President Bush’s praise of his work during the press conference with Abbas...and the second was the expansion of his mandate to make him a security mediator on the upcoming Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank. It’s normal that we, as Palestinians, are happy with General Ward’s success since we always demanded a neutral and trustworthy witness who sees facts and realities on the ground as they are and sees and supports the Palestinians’ just and reasonable demands.... Regardless of what’s being said about Abu Mazen’s visit, its advantages are numerous, mainly...the reaffirmation of the American administration’s confidence in this neutral witness and mediator, General Ward, which was clear in the language President Bush used showing that the U.S. administration has become more aware of the details, more understanding of the Palestinian reality...and more balanced in terms of Middle East diplomacy.”
"Bush's Address And Its Practical Embodiment"
Samih Shubayb wrote in independent Al-Ayyam (5/30): “President Bush’s remarks during his press conference at the White House with President Abbas left a positive impression on all Palestinians. Those remarks included new reaffirmations regarding the American commitment to establishing a Palestinian state.... President Abbas’s first visit to Washington as president brought new hope of opening a new page of American-Palestinian relations but left aside the other hope for American pressure on Israel to implement the Roadmap, halt settlement activity and stop wall construction.... What happened in Washington was clear. There’s an obvious American wish to support Abu Mazen’s leadership and to strengthen the PA’s role at the current stage; there is an American willingness to make efforts in this direction.... The content of Bush’s speech is important and valuable. However, at a Palestinian level, such importance and value can’t be achieved without exacting political action that translates the speech into facts on the ground in order to impede the continuation of Sharon’s racist project that opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state, regardless of what this state will look like.”
"He Gave The Palestinians What Would Not Anger The Israelis"
Jawad Bashiti held in independent Al-Ayyam (5/30): “Consistent with the principle of ‘give [the Palestinians] what doesn’t anger Israel,’ President Bush has given them an appeal to Israel to abide by the Roadmap, remove random settlements...and, once the Palestinians offer sufficient security in exchange, to return its troops to their Sept. 28th, 2000 positions. He called on Israel to continue the ‘wall’ or ‘fence’ construction but with pure security and not political considerations. He called on Israel not to carry out any action that would contradict its obligations toward the Roadmap or prejudge the outcome of final status negotiations on Gaza, West Bank and Jerusalem, as if it didn’t do that yet! This generosity is merely to modify the offer to the Palestinians [by giving them] some of what’s been taken.”
"President Abbas's Visit To Washington Has Positive Results"
Independent Al-Quds editorialized (5/27): "President Bush’s remarks at the press conference with President Abbas yesterday were generally positive, particularly the part on dismantling settlement outposts and freezing settlement expansion, his supportive position of democratic reform in Palestine and his wish to pledge the necessary financial and moral support to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state based on the Roadmap.... The American financial support allotted to housing in the Gaza Strip, even though significant, still don’t replace Washington’s effort to exert effective pressure on Israel to bring it back to the peace negotiation table and to convince it to implement the peace obligations.... Most important is to retract the green light Sharon claims Bush gave him about the possibility of Israel’s modifying the 1967 lines in order to annex large West Bank settlement blocs, as the Israeli PM aspires to do. While President Bush’s remarks last night are positive, the Palestinian people were expecting a more effective role by the American administration to achieve progress in the peace process, which alone, through a just and comprehensive settlement, can provide stability and security for the peoples of the entire region.”
"Abu Mazen In Washington: A Test Of American Seriousness"
Ashraf Ajrami commented in independent Al-Ayyam (5/27): "Most likely, President Abbas’s visit to Washington will gain specific financial support, but at a political level it’s obvious that there will be no substantial changes in the American handling of the Palestinian portfolio. The Bush administration will continue to wait for circumstances to ripen on both sides before intensifying its intervention or exerting pressure on Israel in particular.”
"The Bush-Abbas Old-New Meeting"
Samih Shubayb stated in independent Al-Ayyam (5/27): "There’s no doubt that President Abbas’s mission in Washington is a hard one and that Abbas has a comprehensive political vision to present directly to the American President. This vision constitutes a crossroads from which either matters will go well, and Abbas’s policy saves the day, or his policy fails, leading to chaos and problems in the Palestinian territories.”
"When Palestine's Head Is Higher Than The White House's Ceiling"
Talal ‘Ukal opined in independent Al-Ayyam (5/26): "If some believe that rules of diplomatic decorum do not allow abrasive criticism of the American policy and that it is better to express such criticism in the form of demands, such decorum should not make us hesitant about emphasizing our fixed national principles. [We] must reject any policy, regardless of its source, that can detract from these fixed principles, given that peace can never prevail in this region if limited to the political ceiling that Washington outlined in the letter of assurances, something that calls for cancellation. Nevertheless, this logical and necessary stance calls for action by the Palestinian factions...to support the Palestinian President’s position.... In any case, results of the Washington visit will strongly influence the internal Palestinian situation and the relationship with Israel.”
"Implementing The Sharm Al-Shaykh Understandings...Between Israeli Rejection And American Silence"
Muhammad Khader Qirresh stated in independent Al-Quds (5/26): “Just like the other previous agreements with the Israeli government, the Sharm understandings took place with American and Arab witnesses.... Of course the Palestinians were and still are committed to each and every item of these understandings.... What have the Israelis done in return? They pulled out partially from only two cities, released only 400 prisoners and did not remove the checkpoints that are humiliating to every Palestinian.... If America really wants to improve its image and unpleasant face, as a minimum it must take neutral political positions, hold accountable those who committed torture at Abu Ghraib, be fair to the Palestinians, end its bias toward the Israeli occupation and stop interfering in Arab and Islamic affairs.”
"Abu Mazen In Washington: Several Messages And One Goal"
Hani Habib wrote in independent Al-Ayyam (5/25): "Prior to arriving in Washington, President Abbas received several messages, chiefly the one sent by PM Sharon and his defense minister, Mofaz, that the evacuation of settlers from Gaza will take place on time, i.e., mid August (Sharon) and that this evacuation, which Israel calls withdrawal, will not occur under fire (Mofaz). The message is clear: in order for Israel to complete the evacuation on time, it may carry out an ‘early’ military operation in the Gaza Strip to prepare...a quieter withdrawal.... A second message came from Washington...via Secretary Rice’s [AIPAC] speech announcing absolute American support for the Hebrew state and encouraging Israel to go ahead with the evacuation as a brave step that can change history.... A more significant message that Abbas received before arriving in Washington is related to the strained internal Palestinian situation, following successes in terms of calm, relative strengthening of security and carrying on with internal reform.... [These internal problems] will make Abbas appear weak and vulnerable in managing the PA’s affairs.... The Palestinian president is in Washington for the first time since he was elected democratically. Nonetheless, Israel will be highly interested in thwarting the Palestinian-American summit. That’s why Sharon sent his advisor Dov Weisglass after hearing that Washington will listen attentively to the Palestinian President’s demands pertaining, according to the media, to an American recompense to Palestine equivalent to the letter of assurances to Israel.... Thus, here in Palestine, our main concern is that Abu Mazen arrive in Washington with the power of the president of each and every Palestinian.”
"The American Demands From Palestinians"
Independent Al-Quds editorialized (5/25): "It seems the timing of the rising pitch of American demands [to the PA] coincides with two events. One...is the annual AIPAC conference, where Secretary Rice’s address included...the demand that the PA ‘crack down on terrorism’, as the Israeli and international media summarized it. The other one is...the visit that President Abbas is making to Washington and his expected meeting with President Bush. It’s obvious that focusing attention on Palestinian obligations toward the peace process is meant to draw attention away from the Palestinian demands that Abbas is conveying to his American host.... What is certain regarding freeing the peace process from its present deadlock is that continuing the pressure on the Palestinians and weighing them down with impossible demands, instead of calling on the Israeli government to halt settlement activity, dismantle dozens of settlement outposts, evacuating Palestinian cities and releasing thousands of Palestinian prisoners, is simply a recipe not merely for maintaining the current stalemate in the peace process, but also for creating a tense atmosphere that could once again worsen the situation and return the region to an unnecessary cycle of violence.”
BAHRAIN: "U.S. Must Force Israel To Live Up To Its Obligations"
The English-language pro-government Daily Tribune editorialized (5/26): "Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is in Washington for his White House visit...to assure US President George W. Bush he is a serious partner for peace.... Abbas is hoping to get a clear political position regarding the implementation of the road map for peace in the Middle East as well as economic aid.... The Palestinian President is expected to show Bush maps that detail the expansion of settlement activity in the West Bank, including Arab East Jerusalem--a violation of the road map--and that show how the wall snaking through the West Bank jeopardises Bush’s two-state vision. It is time the American administration came clean. It is either with a permanent peace in the Middle East and against Israel’s expansionist policy or with Israel’s expansionist policy and against a permanent peace.... There can be no compromise on these issues any more. Abbas has arrived armed with his maps to prove beyond any doubt Israel’s hypocrisy when it comes to implementing the umpteen agreements reached with the Palestinians.... One hopes that Israeli PM Ariel Sharon’s pledge in Washington to bolster the peace process, notably by freeing 400 prisoners out of more than 7,000, will be seen by the US administration for what it is--just a ploy to impress them.... Israel has miserably failed to implement the deal.... Sharon claims that he wants to cooperate with the Palestinians. This is the time for the US administration to hold Sharon to his word and make sure he does what he says. Talk is cheap, especially when it comes from Israel.... Now is the time for the US to force Israel to change its hypocritical policy and meet Abbas halfway, for the Palestinian President has proven beyond any doubt his sincerity and seriousness to work for a lasting peace.... We only hope Bush will not indulge in a long-winded lecture on democracy but see the real facts on the ground.... For once we hope the US will end up doing the right thing and that is forcing Israel to live up to its obligations."
JORDAN: "Push In The Right Direction"
The elite English-language Jordan Times said (5/28): "Judging by the words of US President George Bush on the occasion of the landmark visit of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the White House late last week, the talks between the two leaders went just fine. Bush made several key statements which indicated that the US is serious enough in its bid to help the Palestinians establish their own free and independent state.... He appeared to speak determinedly.... His insistence, too, on a meaningful linkage between the West Bank and Gaza indicates an appreciation for a viable and contiguous Palestinian state and not one that is dissected by Israeli outposts, settlements and the controversial separation wall.... [It is] ...is encouraging and bodes well.... Lives, livelihood, identity and sovereignty are at stake. There is no question of good sportsmanship. It is a question of legitimate rights. And it appears that Abbas has shown leadership and, in return, is being accorded respect and appreciation. The assurances from the White House are appreciated as acknowledgement of the legitimacy of the cause and rights of the Palestinians. The $50 million in direct assistance to get infrastructure and housing up in a battered Gaza is also quite welcome. But those assurances will have to be acted upon if the Palestinians...are to feel secure that no more compromises will be demanded of them and that progress on peace will not put them to any further disadvantage. Genuine and determined US support for a free, independent and democratic Palestinian state will guarantee a sea change towards democracy, pluralism and vibrant economic integration in the Arab world. That's what the Arab world has been telling everyone for years. Maybe now someone is listening."
"Seizing The Moment"
The elite English-language Jordan Times opined (5/26): "Israeli PM Ariel Sharon's just ended meeting with US President George Bush...ostensibly to bolster the peace process, is being followed by the first ever visit by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who hopes to reach a diplomatic breakthrough.... Sharon made a gesture of sorts during his visit by announcing that he would soon release 400 Palestinian prisoners. It was clearly only meant to impress Bush ahead of Abbas' visit.... If they are released, however, the gesture will be a step in the right direction. The issue of Palestinians languishing in Israeli jails has long been a bone of contention with Israel. The fact that Sharon and Abbas scheduled their meetings with Bush to follow one another suggests that both leaders are banking on Bush's intervention to put the stalled peace process on the right track. If there is a world leader who can influence the course of events between the Israelis and the Palestinians, it is the US president; he holds the key to success in the peace process between the two nations long-beleaguered by war and hatred. Moreover, Abbas expressed the intention of holding his own summit with Sharon. This is a sign that the Palestinians and the Israelis want to keep the channel of communication open.... Sharon says that Israel is ready to make painful concessions for peace. Abbas more than just talks; he actually made such painful concessions, that cost him popularity, in order to kick-start the peace talks. It is up to Bush now to build on the apparent readiness of the two parties to move ahead in their search for a peaceful resolution of the conflict. And by doing so, he could score an immense victory in the region and in the fight for the hearts and minds of the Arabs."
LEBANON: "Washington Can Dispel Cynicism By Advancing The 'Road map'"
The English-language moderate Daily Star maintained (5/26): "For the fist time since U.S. President George W. Bush took office, he is welcoming a Palestinian president to the White House.... That Bush has now invited Abbas to the White House will help repair America's image as a balanced mediator and could go a long way toward erasing a prevailing sense of cynicism toward U.S. policy in the region. During his visit with Bush, Abbas hopes to secure a clear American commitment to the road map and thus to the establishment of a viable Palestinian state. The importance of Bush clearly expressing this commitment now cannot be understated. Abu Mazen's visit comes at a critical time in history that is characterized by renewed sense of possibility and hope for the Middle East.... Progress on the Israeli-Palestinian peace track is a cornerstone to the vision that President Bush hopes to implement in the broader Middle East. Without it, his broader vision will undoubtedly be undermined by the voice of cynicism that has prevailed in the Arab world. It is difficult to believe the U.S. is sincere about its desire to promote Arab freedom, democracy and prosperity while Palestinians remain under the heavy hand of Israeli occupation with the U.S.' silent acquiesence. It is all too easy to believe the voices that say that Bush's commitment to the prosperity and well-being of Arabs is insincere and that America's policy is merely serving its own--and Israel's--strategic interests.... The Americans can change their image in the Arab world and one of the easiest ways to do so is to make progress on the peace track.... The U.S. is in the political position to breathe new life into the road map. It is important that Bush take a first step now by reaffirming his complete commitment to the peace plan and to Palestinian statehood. The Arab public must be assured that the road map is not just the diagram of a haphazard and pointless journey, but that it is a concrete plan with a final and reachable destination."
QATAR: "Bush Can Do More To Help Palestinians"
The English-language semi-official Gulf Times declared (5/28): "Whatever may be the hoopla surrounding the visit of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to Washington, the truth is that the Americans have not offered anything new to make the aspirations of the Palestinians come true.... Bush has not made any concrete suggestions to end Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory and the establishment of a viable Palestinian state. It is true that Abbas became the first Palestinian leader to be hosted by President Bush. The American president also went out of his way to pour praise on Abbas.... Though Bush repeated his commitment to help in the creation of a Palestinian state, Abbas would have wanted the threat of sanctions.... Even the US promise of $50mn to help the PA...fell too short of Palestinian expectations. It came with a reminder that the Palestinian leadership had more work to do on rooting out corruption, on tackling militants and reforming their institutions. However, the significance of the meeting was as much in the symbolism as in the content. It was a public display of support for the new Palestinian leadership’s pursuit of peace and its efforts to rein in militants who seek a military solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.... Bush believes Mahmoud Abbas is committed to peace and has given him the full White House treatment. Abbas was hailed as a courageous and visionary leader who rejected terrorism. Bush promised to walk with Abbas on the difficult journey to peace. Though the American leader acknowledged the fact that a Palestinian state of scattered territories will not work, he did not mention the word contiguity, which is vital for the viability of any meaningful sovereign state. There is no doubt that the Palestinian president would have liked his host to have gone much further. But the summit still was proof that dialogue has replaced Intifada.... The $50mn pledge for building houses and repairing infrastructure is modest but it marked a renewal of American willingness to hand cash to the PA, the reputation of which had been marred by accusation of corruption and nepotism."
SYRIA: "Collaboration Torpedoing Credibility"
Umar Jaftali remarked in government-owned Tishreen (6/1): "While the US Administration gives Israel guarantees and full bias, it gives Palestinians only promises and tranquilizing assurances.... Statements of the American leaders made after their meetings with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas did not lack the ostensible kindness and the required diplomacy. But the meeting between President Bush and President Abbas did not result in real guarantees or in a presidential declaration similar to what Sharon got after his meeting with Bush.... Abbas found nothing more than a toned-down American-Israeli position calling for calm but not expanding the horizon of a peace settlement. This means that the situation in the occupied territories will remain unresolved and hostage to the Zionist practices and ambitions.... These practices make it impossible to achieve a fair settlement leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state.... This is exactly the most important part in the American-Israeli understandings and the clear feature of the American policy in the region."
Maha Sultan said in government-owned Tishreen (5/29): "In a departure from what is customary in his Palestinian dissertation, Bush's sentences vied with each, in loud tones, to publicly and clearly support the creation of a contiguous and viable Palestinian State, halting the construction and expansion of settlements, and returning to the Roadmap. It was another departure from habit to find in this dissertation none of the demands he had made until very recently to the Palestinian side to halt what he describes as 'terrorism', disarm the Palestinian factions, particularly Hamas, accelerate reforms inside the PA, and many other demands. Contrary to habit in its dealing with Palestinian visitors, the American Administration devoted much support to Abu Mazin's visit. It turned its back, perhaps for the first time, to Israel's demands that it should not provide him with any guarantees that weaken the written American pledges to Israel.... It was also a departure that the American Administration gave an attentive ear to Abu Mazin, as was evident from Bush's statements, after it had been used to deliberately ignore the Palestinian side as if it did not exist. Contrary to habit, the Israeli conditions that chained the visit of every Palestinian official to Washington to confine it to its minimum and make it come out with nothing went with the wind. It appeared as if Bush had not heard Sharon's address to AIPAC, which coincided with his talks with Abu Mazin, in which Sharon reiterated his known conditions on the road map.... Can we in the region--specifically the Palestinians--feel confident about Bush's assurance? Should we feel optimistic about a near end to Israel's monopoly that has gone beyond limits in controlling the form and style of the American policy toward this conflict?"
"Constant Presence With AIPAC"
Ahmad Hamadah observed in government-owned Al-Thawra (5/26): "Sharon visited the US and attended the AIPAC conference in order to head off Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas' visit and to apply further pressure on the US Administration to implement the Israeli agenda.... Sharon wants the withdrawal from Gaza to be a substitute for the Roadmap and the UN resolutions. The aim is to perpetuate the Israeli occupation of the remaining Palestinian territories.... Palestinian officials' meetings with the US Administration in the past years failed to change the direction of the political wind that supports Israel. Washington offered the Palestinians nothing but promises of some economic assistance."
UAE: "Hosting Abu Mazen"
The expatriate-oriented English-language Khaleej Times noted (5/29): "It's five years since a Palestinian leader was hosted at the White House. So there’s great symbolism in Bush warmly welcoming Mahmoud Abbas.... Bush lavishing rich praise on the Palestinian leader hailed his leadership as a source of inspiration.... In addition to offering an aid of $50 million (out of $350 originally approved by Congress) to the Palestinians, Bush sought to strike a balance by asking Israel to stop building new settlements. Doubtless, this expression of support by the US leader will boost the Palestinian leader’s standing at home and may convince his critics that Abu Mazen’s approach is the way to deal with Israel. Yet, is this all Abbas expected from his first visit to the US? The Abbas visit was a window of opportunity that was not fully exploited to open new vistas of peace.... Abbas has a lot at stake back home. Hamas is emerging as a major challenge to the governing Fatah.... At this moment, Abbas needs all the support he could get from the international community and U.S.... Abu Mazen would have expected Washington to be more forceful in dealing with Israel. True, Washington has expressed concerns over the continuing expansion of Jewish settlements.... But the US could have been more matter-of-fact with Sharon by insisting the new settlement activity must stop right away.... The Abbas visit...could have led to some bold and far-reaching steps on the road to peace if only the US had taken a more no-nonsense approach towards Sharon. After all, Abbas has kept his side of the bargain by cracking down on armed Palestinian groups.... Attacks against the Israelis have completely stopped. Is it not time for Israel to keep its part of the deal? If the US is keen on making real progress on the road map, it would do well to push the Israelis to take more meaningful steps.... Like releasing more than 11,000 Palestinians languishing in Israeli prisons. Like stopping the construction of new settlements. Peace cannot be a one-way street. The US and Israelis must make use of the window of opportunity Abu Mazen has opened."
The expatriate-oriented English-language Gulf Today held (5/26): "Palestinians do not expect anything dramatic to come out of the high-profile meeting.... Although Abbas is carrying a list of grievances against the posturing by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, he is not expecting much help from Bush.... Even before the Palestinian leader arrived in the US, Sharon has been doing the rounds among power brokers to ensure that there is absolutely no change in America's known position on the Middle East issue.... Bush can talk to Abbas only within these constraints: there is no change in the US position as the partisan peace broker. The Israeli strategy is to use the planned Gaza pullout as a ruse to build settlements in the West Bank and deny the Palestinians viable borders.... Despite that, Abbas is attempting to make Bush see reason: Israel has to do its bit as a peace partner.... Israel has failed to do its bit to advance the peace process. There is no change in its stand on key issues, which Sharon is pushing with American backing. Israel continues to assert that no peace process is possible without an end to Palestinian militant activity.... Ahead of the meeting with Bush, Sharon also made it clear that he would not negotiate over Jerusalem.... There is no credible Israeli offer to meet its obligations under the plan, such as freezing of the West Bank settlement activity. While the Palestinians continue to make compromises, Sharon insists he is not going to give up his demands. It means that the Abbas-Bush meeting would remain only a photo opportunity. Nothing more is expected unless Sharon relents and implements the roadmap."
PAKISTAN: "Bush’s New Stand"
Karachi-based center-left independent national English-language Dawn said (5/28): "Thursday’s statement by President George Bush is one of the most categorical declarations he has ever made on the Palestinian issue. Addressing a press conference with visiting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House, the American president said that...a Palestinian state was within reach.... This US administration came up with a roadmap in April 2003 calling for a complete halt to settlement activity and visualizing the emergence of a Palestinian state by 2005. However, later Mr. Bush had second thoughts and said 2005 was an unrealistic deadline for it.... Thursday’s statement by Mr. Bush, however, seems to hold out some hope that a Palestinian state may after all come into being. This assumes that Washington will not allow Tel Aviv to drag its feet, continue with settlement activity or proceed with the construction of the barrier. Nor must Israel be allowed to obfuscate the two-state issue by raising non-issues--like the PA’s internal matters. After all that has happened in Iraq, the U.S. owes it to the Arab-Islamic world to do something positive. The continued occupation of Al Quds and parts of Palestine is the biggest source of unrest and terrorism in the Arab-Islamic world."
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