International Information Programs
July 26, 2005

July 26, 2005





**  Rice promotes Gaza withdrawal under a "truce...already full of contradictions."

**  Israel and the PA maneuver with "occupation" still "part of their mentality and in their soul."

**  "America recognizes the difficulties and challenges" ahead for Lebanon and UNSCR 1559.




Rice conducts 'crisis diplomacy' ahead of the 'impending' Gaza pullout--  Before her visit, Euro outlets said "Rice must exert pressure on both sides"; Germany's left-of-center Berliner Zeitung questioned "whether Washington is really willing and able to exert pressure on Israel's policy," while Israel's conservative Jerusalem Post countered, "Washington still seems to feel a need to search for some Palestinian demand it can endorse while publicly berating Israel."  The paper found her visit "profoundly disappointing."  After she left, Israel's independent left-leaning Ha'aretz declared that her visit "manufactured only statements, albeit in the right spirit."  The West Bank's independent Al-Ayyam said Rice delivered a "clear message" to both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority regarding terrorism and "financial support for Israel" in the upcoming Gaza pullout. The outlet saw Israeli "provocation against her personally when Sharon visited Ariel settlement and declared Israel’s intention to expand settlement activity there and in the rest of the major settlement blocs."


The 'sense of an internal rift' confronts the PA's Abbas and Israel's Sharon--  In accord, dailies noted Rice's second visit to the Middle East in a month aimed to prevent "failure" as Jewish settlers, Hamas and Islamic Jihad fueled on-going "tension in the air."  An Israeli writer highlighted the difficulties in "intra-Israeli mediation between Sharon and the Yesha Council of Jewish Settlements in the Territories and his opponents within the Likud, or, in a totally different context, between the warring factions in the PA."  Germany's centrist Leipziger Volkszeitung added, "Israeli settlers feel deceived by the father of the settlement movement" while "Hamas and Jihad want to establish an Islamic state contrary to the model of the PA."  An Italian writer cautioned that Hamas wants control over "a good portion of the houses, farms, factories...that the government will manage once the Israelis leave."  Ha'aretz proclaimed, Rice noted "how weak and frail [Abbas] is, and urged [Israel] to strengthen him." 


'When a high U.S. official visits Beirut'--  Lebanese media expressed praise that Rice "found seven hours for Lebanon"; an Israeli writer added it was an "historic" day "when for the first time she neither visited Syria first, nor coordinated the visit with Bashar Assad, nor reported to him about that visit's results."  Lebanese outlets said she did not come "with harsh and clumsy words over the issue of UNSCR 1559," instead "she affirmed that the U.S. position on Hizbullah has not changed despite the fact that Hizbullah has become a partner in the new Lebanese Government";  Her "reassuring message," said Lebanon's English-language Daily Star, nonetheless maintained that the "U.S. remains firm on the issue of disarming Hizbullah."  In contrast, independent Ad-Diyar found that Rice left "disappointed and sad,...angry because no one gave her the answer she wanted regarding implementation of UNSCR 1559.”


EDITOR:  Rupert D. Vaughan


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 36 reports from 10 countries from July 21-26, 2005.  Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.




FRANCE:  "For the Second Time In One Month Condoleezza Rice Goes To The Middle East"


Corine Lesnes wrote in left-of-center Le Monde (7/22):  “During Mr. Bush’s first term in office his Secretary of State--Colin Powell--was criticized for not traveling abroad enough…but less than six months after taking up the office of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has shown that she deserves the moniker of ‘globetrotter'…  The current Secretary of State is sparing no effort and this is already on her second visit to the Middle East in a month.  On June 20 she has created a stir in Cairo when she acknowledged the mistakes that the U.S. has made in dealing with the situation in the Middle East… During these visits, the Secretary always appears to be very comfortable and it is hard to believe that she was in part responsible for the foreign policy decisions of the first Administration.”


GERMANY:   "Traveling Rice"


Wolfgang Günter Lerch commented in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (7/23):  "It is not clear whether the Israeli PM Sharon knows what exactly should happen after the complete withdrawal of Jewish settlers and the army from the Gaza Strip.  The withdrawal is an important move in the peace process, as Secretary of State Rice said after meeting with Sharon.  She wants a Mideast conference after the disengagement to discuss the future procedures.  It should be about strengthening the regional cooperation.  Including Arab countries, especially Israel's neighbors, is the right policy.  Israel has a peace treaty with Egypt and Jordan, but not with Lebanon, which now has more political leeway after the retreat of the Syrian troops.  Ms. Rice surprisingly went to Beirut to check out the situation there and to generate assistance for the suffering country.  Neither Lebanon nor Syria can be excluded in a comprehensive peace agreement."


"Rice Exerts Pressure - On Whom?"


Arno Widmann noted in left-of-center Berliner Zeitung (7/23):  "U.S. Secretary of State Rice met Israeli PM Sharon on his farm in the Negev.   She said their talks were excellent.  That is nice for Sharon but bad for the peace process, because Sharon had just paid a visit to the controversial settlement Ariel and promised to expand it, making clear that it will always belong to Israel.  This might make him more popular among Israeli radicals, but it is not a contribution to a peaceful living together of Israelis and Palestinians.  It becomes more questionable whether Washington is really willing and able to exert pressure on Israel's policy.  The events in recent weeks rather indicate that Israel succeeded in letting the U.S. pay a high price for the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.  The Middle East conference scheduled to take place after the withdrawal does not appear to be more than another attempt to exert pressure on Ariel Sharon."


"Sympathy Factor"


Wolfgang Günter Lerch commented in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (7/22):  "There can be no doubt that Israel will pull out of the Gaza Strip.  The Knesset has confirmed this decision again.  However, the protesting settlers--who are a minority in the country--have regained some of the territory in the recent days.  They got some sympathy when TV stations showed pictures of them sitting in the desert under the merciless sun.  Sharon might now even bring the withdrawal forward in an attempt to end the matter that places an increasing burden on his government.  His deputy supports him and the matter will be discussed at Secretary of State Rice's upcoming visit.  Accelerating the withdrawal would also imply logistical problems, because the 7,000 settlers need a new home.  The opponents have meanwhile stopped their protests, but they will not give up."


"New Home"


Centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (7/22) editorialized:   "The Israeli settlers and their orthodox supporters have lost again.  If that was meant to be the climax of the protests against the removal then we can hope that the opposition will be much smaller when the day of the withdrawal finally comes.  The parliament's decision is definitive.  Ariel Sharon cannot be stopped; he will implement his unilateral plan.  Sharon has earned himself the name of a warmonger and an enthusiastic nationalist, a sarcastic settlement patron and a merciless occupier, and he deserves these images.  But if he now dares to make the historic move of giving up Erez Israel, skeptical Europeans should also support his plan unconditionally."


"Strong Words In The Three-Front War"


Thorsten Schmitz editorialized in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (7/21):  "Blind in anger radical settlers overlook their minority status.  Recent opinion polls show that the Gaza disengagement is becoming more popular among the Israelis.  The parliament's rejection of the plans to delay the withdrawal reflects the opinion of the people.  Secretary of State Rice's stopover is supposed to support the Israeli government in its efforts, so the retreat of 8,000 settlers does not fail in the last moment.  But it remains to be seen whether Rice's crisis diplomacy will be successful.  After her last visit a month ago, even U.S. media criticized her, saying that the peace process cannot be reactivated by nice words.  This time around, Rice must exert pressure on both sides.  She must help stop Palestinian violence and, simultaneously, condemn the protest of the radical settlers as an attack on democracy."


"Gaza And Then?"


Kostas Kipuros observed in centrist Leipziger Volkszeitung (7/21):   "The closer the day of withdrawal comes the more aggressively are Hamas and Islamic Jihad firing on Israel and the more resolutely settlers sabotage the disengagement plan.  First of all, this is about seizing power after the Israeli withdrawal.  Hamas and Jihad want to establish an Islamic state contrary to the model of the PA.  The settlers simply feel deceived by the father of the settlement movement.  But is that really the case?  Sharon has never been an ideologist.  The settlements were strategic posts for him.  That is exactly why the protests fit his rationale.  The more severe the resistance in the Gaza Strip, the greater will be his case against similar moves in the West Bank.  Sharon has never cast doubt on his intentions: He will give up Gaza in order to keep the West Bank and the territories gained by building the wall." 


ITALY:   "Israel Could Move Up Withdrawal From Gaza"


Alberto Pasolini Zanelli wrote from Washington in pro-government, leading center-right daily Il Giornale (7/22):  “Condoleezza might find a surprise at Ariel Sharon’s ranch: she arrived in Jerusalem with the habit of pushing Israeli leaders who are generally reluctant to withdraw from settlements in the Territories but instead this time might find herself before an interlocutor who wants to move it up....  The situation locally has become so tense that authorities in Jerusalem are seriously considering not waiting for August 15, the scheduled date for withdrawal...from Gaza....  It appears that U.S. diplomacy was not prepared, at least not officially, for such a context.  In fact, Condoleezza Rice left Washington with a proposal for Sharon: a new meeting with the Palestinian leader Abu Mazen before the beginning of the Gaza withdrawal....  Tomorrow, Bush’s envoy will meet with PNA representatives in Ramallah.  Her visit will last three days and it is possible that a historic gesture will be carried out right before her eyes.”


"Sharon Opens To The Settlers And Challenges Bush"


Eric Salerno remarked from Jerusalem in Rome-based center-left daily Il Messaggero (7/22):  “The fear that something could go bad in the Israeli withdrawal and the transfer of power to the Palestinian Authority induced the American head of diplomacy to modify her plans to come to the Middle East.  Yesterday evening, as soon as she arrived, Condoleezza Rice met with her colleague Shalom and today will meet with Sharon and the Defense Minister Mofaz, before going to Ramallah on Saturday to talk with Palestinian President Abu Mazen (Mahmud Abbas).  The Americans are worried about the disturbing actions of the settlers but also about the recent escalation of violence provoked by Hamas with the launch of Kassam rockets against Israel and Gaza settlements, and about the stability of Abu Mazen…  It’s probable that Condoleeza Rice will urge her interlocutors to disarm all their militias and unify all the security services under a single authority capable of maintaining order.”


"Rice Arrives, Abu Mazen Puts Together Truce With Hamas"


Fiamma Nierenstein in centrist, influential daily La Stampa (7/21):  “Condoleezza Rice arrives today to prevent the failure of the Israeli plan to withdraw from Gaza....   Abu Mazen wants to have a clean slate with the U.S. that wants terrorist organizations stopped; but above all he wants to guarantee that the vacated [sections of] Gaza to be his too and not only Hamas’, which is the numerically larger force. But Hamas also wants to guarantee itself a good portion of the houses, farms, factories...that the government will manage once the Israelis leave.  And most of all, he wants political hegemony.  Therefore, reports about the truce are already full of contradictions.”




ISRAEL:   "Leader Remodeling Inc."


Senior columnist and longtime dove Yoel Marcus wrote in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (7/26):  "This time, Rice's demands did not go through the filtering system of [top Sharon aide Dov] Weisglass. There was no sugar to sweeten the pill or make it easier to swallow. There was no beating around the bush....  When she visited the Palestinians, she praised Abu Mazen's leadership abilities and his 'war on terror.'  In Israel, she went on about how weak and frail he is, and urged us to strengthen him.  As if Israel were Leader Remodeling Inc....  The Bush administration wants to strengthen him because of his commitment to democratize the PA, whereas all we see is a man incapable of carrying out his most elementary obligation--cracking down and disarming the terrorist organizations.  With Israel taking its first historic step to leave the territories, one might expect something different....  But since the U.S. administration is doing the asking, Israel must help Abu Mazen to help himself.  If he needs a blood transfusion, we can donate some.  After all, we do want a strong and credible partner.  But we can't replace all his blood for him.  If he is really so weak that he can't curb terror, can't discuss compromise and can't come up with any painful concessions on his side, then he is not a worthy partner."


"U.S.-Lebanon Relations Are Warmer Despite Hizbullah In Government"


Senior Middle East affairs analyst Zvi Bar'el wrote in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (7/26):  "Lebanon can very justly view as historic the day of the Secretary of State's visit, when for the first time she neither visited Syria first, nor coordinated the visit with Bashar Assad, nor reported to him about that visit's results....  According to [Lebanese] sources, Rice was asked [by her Lebanese hosts] to pressure Israel to withdraw from the Sheba Farms, so that the Lebanese government can uncompromisingly demand Hizbullah's disarming....  But [Secretary Rice] asked what guarantees Israel would get as to Hizbullah's being satisfied with that pullout....  No less important was the message Rice conveyed to Syria.  A Syrian president hasn't received such an affront for years, although it is difficult to know what it'll serve.  Syria still has means of its own to deal with Lebanon."


"Rice Goes Soft"


The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post opined (7/25):  "U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's weekend visit to the region, intended to facilitate Israel's disengagement plan, was profoundly disappointing....  Though PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's foreign minister has candidly reneged on the PA's road map commitments to confiscate weapons and explosives in the hands of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and those elements within his own Fatah movement aligned with the rejectionists, Rice nevertheless complimented the Palestinian leadership for taking 'important steps' against terrorism.  Such praise strikes the wrong tone....  At just the moment when Israel is simultaneously under terrorist attack and tearing itself apart over dismantling settlements, Washington still seems to feel a need to search for some Palestinian demand it can endorse while publicly berating Israel.  This is called 'evenhandedness,' something that Rice's predecessor early in the Bush administration vowed would not continue under President George W. Bush, and yet remains a recurring touchstone of American policy....  This region needs more honesty and less evenhandedness.  Terrorism, we thought the Bush administration believed, would be met with unabashed moral clarity.  Perhaps even an unequivocal ultimatum would be insufficient to compel Abbas to take the steps he must take.  Clearly, however, anything less than an ultimatum will result in more of the same."


"Terror And The Political Process"


Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (7/24):  "On the face of it, the announcement of [Secretary] Rice's visit obtained more results than the visit itself, because all the local parties adjusted their actions to Rice's approximated schedule and expectations. Ultimately, the visit manufactured only statements, albeit in the right spirit, while in the regional reality outside the meeting rooms and the media briefings, events that could throw a shadow over the evacuation of Gaza are taking place.  The most troubling event is the series of terrorist attacks in Sharm el-Sheikh on Saturday, on the anniversary of the Free Officers Revolution of 1952, Egypt's national holiday....  We need a general mobilization--American, Egyptian, Palestinian and not only Israeli--for conducting the war on terror, which is trying to sabotage progress [toward ending the Israeli-Arab conflict]."


"Sharm El-Sheikh And Philadelphi"


Nahum Barnea asserted in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot  (7/24):  "If Egypt proved to be inept in a place where it has a clear interest in preventing terrorism, how will it deal with the smuggling operations into Gaza, which trouble it less?  We are in a bind: we cannot fully trust the Egyptian government and we can trust the PA even less, but we know that to leave the IDF on Philadelphi Road between the two of them will leave us with the worst of all worlds:  continued smuggling operations, continued casualties and continued occupation.  IDF lawyers have spent the past number of months trying to establish, along with some of the leading experts on international law around the world, how disengagement will change Israel's legal status.  The answer was nearly unanimous: only if Israel withdraws its troops from Philadelphi Road and allows the Gaza airport and seaport to function will it be alleviated of its responsibilities as an occupying force towards the residents of the Gaza Strip.  With Egypt or without it, that is the decisive point.  Sharon understands it.  Many people in the security establishment still do not.  The occupation is part of their mentality, it is in their soul."


"Success In The First Test"


Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (7/22):  "At the same time that the settlers' march was being stopped [on the way to the Gaza Strip], the Knesset rejected by a large majority a delay in disengagement.  The Qassam rockets, which threatened a renewal of fighting with the Palestinians on the eve of the evacuation, was defused by successful military and diplomatic pressure on the Palestinian Authority's leadership, without the IDF having to make good on its threat to open a ground offensive.  All these elements provide a convenient backdrop for the arrival of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.... In the time left before disengagement, the U.S. must bridge the gaps between Israel and the PA regarding the gaps between Israel and the PA regarding control of the land crossings, and the opening of an air and sea port.  The U.S. must also encourage PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to continue his struggle against Hamas and to ensure quiet in Gaza during the evacuation.... Rice's visit at this time illustrates the increasing recognition by the international community that the success of the plan, conceived as unilateral, will create a diplomatic horizon of hope for the future."


"The Threshold Of Washington's Mediating Ability"


Ultra-Orthodox Yated Ne'eman editorialized (7/21):  "The situation [in this region] isn't totally under control--on either of the sides.  While Sharon is acting under the increasing sense of an internal rift, the Palestinian Authority is finding it hard to control Hamas and Islamic Jihad.  The White House, which views itself, and justly so, as the sponsor of the diplomatic processes in the region, is incapable of helping either Sharon or Abu Mazen in this situation.  The tension in the air and the feeling of uncertainty, which have turned into key features of the Middle East, no longer are only the consequence of conflicts between neighboring nations, but also of discords within regimes.  Washington now feels that even a regional peace conference would be considered a plan that could be easier to implement than an intra-Israeli mediation between Sharon and the Yesha Council of Jewish Settlements in the Territories and his opponents within the Likud, or, in a totally different context, between the warring factions in the PA."


WEST BANK:   "The Policy Of Ignoring The Partner"


Muhammad Abdul Hamid commented in independent Al-Ayyam (7/26): “Secretary Rice didn’t answer Palestinian questions regarding the entrances, seaport, airport and safe passage between Gaza and the West Bank according to the Sharonian disengagement plan.  Israeli Security Minister Mofaz also refrained from giving the Palestinians any needed answers during his meeting yesterday with the Palestinian Interior Minister....  Ignoring the Palestinian partner under American mediation and with the presence of Secretary Rice dots the i’s and crosses the t’s and undoubtedly clarifies the Israeli disengagement policy at the this stage.  American promises to change the disengagement plan from a unilateral to a joint one have evaporated....  Under such Israeli policy that avoids the partnership of both international and Palestinian legitimacies with American support and amid an international silence, what are we waiting for?... Shall we continue to await American promises with no avail?...  The best way out is by adopting another strategy based on international legitimacy, where all Palestinians unite to influence the region and the world to face the Israeli-American lack of consideration for others.”


"From Beirut to Ramallah…Rice’s Booby-Trapped Messages"


Hani Habib opined in independent Al-Ayyam (7/25):  “We believe Secretary Rice has sent a message from Beirut to the Hamas movement through her announcement of an unchanged position toward Hizbullah, which is considered a terrorist party whose history is stained with blood, as she described it.  Rice stressed the necessity that Lebanon has to commit to the requirements of international resolution 1559, which stipulates the disarming of Hizbullah and Palestinian factions.  This was the clear message we believe Rice tried to send to Hamas as the latter continues to compare its role in Gaza with that of Hizbullah in Lebanon.  Her message to the PA, conversely, was sent from Sharon’s ranch when she announced Washington’s renewed commitment to provide the financial support Israel demanded for the withdrawal and for the development of Israeli areas in the Negev and Galilee... Rice failed, though, to mention the resumption of negotiations to solve issues related to the final status in accordance with the Roadmap.  The message here is clear: agreeing, even implicitly, with Sharon that the evacuation of the Gaza Strip and some northern West Bank settlements will be the last...  It wasn’t strange, thus, that Rice overlooked the Israeli provocation against her personally when Sharon visited Ariel settlement and declared Israel’s intention to expand settlement activity there and in the rest of the major settlement blocs.  I believe that we here in Palestine must send Rice a response that the Palestinian situation is still open for internal harmony, which will enable the Palestinians to manage the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.”


"The Urgent And The Deferred To Condoleezza Rice"


Official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida ran a commentary by Yahya Rabah (7/25):  “We must thank Rice for her visit to the region...her visit to us in the Palestinian territories and her meetings with the Palestinian leadership is evidence of consideration and attention. Like any Palestinian, I’m annoyed with the nice talk the Americans reiterate don’t act on... in the American-Israeli-Palestinian case, the nice American words are turned by the Israelis into very harmful actions against Palestinians….  Unfortunately, when the Americans ask us through Secretary Rice, LTG Ward and other [U.S.] envoys and their European allies to the region, for specific matters... we think to ourselves that this is normal, assuming that the Americans have already discussed such matters with their Israeli allies and have reached an agreement with them.  However, when we meet any of the [American] demands, the Israelis respond with ignorance and the utmost negativity, which makes us believe that it’s either that the American administration did not actually discuss anything with its Israeli ally... or that the American administration doesn’t have any strong or serious and objective influence on Israel.” 


"Rice’s Speech Must Be Directed To Israel"


Independent Al-Quds editorialized (7/24):  “Secretary Rice looked optimistic and possibly enthusiastic during her joint press conference with President Abbas....  Regardless of the issue of the calm that’s considered an internal Palestinian affair... the Secretary’s focus should have been on the Israeli government’s obligations and duties regarding the liberation of the Gaza Strip and the strengthening of geographical and economic links between the Strip and the West Bank....  Rice’s answers to questions were ambiguous, triggering more questions instead of giving clarifications.  She did not clarify Washington’s position on the Israeli government’s ignorance toward the international community’s demand to end the construction of the racially-based separation wall....  As we welcome the Secretary’s announcement that Israel must give full freedom of movement to Gaza citizens inside the Gaza Strip, the Rafah entrance and the anticipated safe passage to the West Bank, her remarks on this issue should have been directed to the Israeli government which did not hesitate to assert its intention to impose some sort of land, air and sea siege on the Gaza Strip.”


"Rice Between Two Fires: The Israeli Bill And The Palestinian Demands"


Rajab Abu Sariya opined in independent Al-Ayyam (7/22):  “Despite its importance, Rice’s visit to Tel Aviv and Ramallah seems like an ordinary one since it comes along with anticipation of what the next few weeks will carry in terms of the political aftermath of the Israeli disengagement plan.  Perhaps the significance of this visit lies in Washington’s need to check how this plan will be implemented and the commitments that will follow the day after...  Rice, who might be expecting pressure during her talks with Israeli officials as they tend to use blackmailing till the last minute before implementing the plan such as the demand for a USD 2.2 billion, might have tried unsuccessfully to overcome this pressure by calling for a trilateral summit with Abu Mazen, which Israel rejected.  Rice’s visit, according to the State Department, aims at urging both Israelis and Palestinians to cooperate closely as the withdrawal deadline approaches... Israel’s refusal of the U.S.’s proposed trio-summit has basically left the circumstances surrounding the visit run by the Israeli political framework.”


SAUDI ARABIA:  "Rice’s Visit To The Area"


Mekkah’s conservative Al Nadwa editorialized (7/25):  "The Palestinians were given promises in the Secretary Rice’s visit.  No pressure has been placed on Israel to proceed with the peace process. Urging Israel not to close Gaza remains vague. This raises worries for the Palestinian that Rice may have adopted the idea of connecting Gaza and the West Bank. This means that Israel has replaced the pullout by a military presence, which will be a provocation. The Palestinians will not have sovereignty over the lands Israel withdraws from."


"Rice In The Middle East"


The expatriate-oriented English-language Arab News held (7/25):  "Condoleezza Rice’s third visit to Israel and the occupied territories in the space of five months since becoming secretary of state clearly shows the urgency which the U.S. is placing on the impending Israeli withdrawal from Gaza....  However, the results of the secretary’s talks were a mixed bag at best....  While Rice tried to underline America’s commitment that Israel’s withdrawal goes ahead as planned, she could barely conceal Washington’s limits.  Rice rehashed what she has said on her previous trips, calling for greater Palestinian-Israeli cooperation over the Gaza pullout....  Rice firmly delivered Israel’s message to the Palestinians that security is the priority. But Palestinians have their own fears. Time is running out to resolve crucial problems in Gaza....  Rice did highlight an issue she had skirted in the past, urging Israel not to seal off Gaza following its withdrawal....  Rice’s commitment to 'connectivity between Gaza and the West Bank,' to 'openness and freedom of movement for the Palestinian people' was one loud and clear announcement that she did not share Israel’s plans about closing off Gaza as if it were one big prison....  While Rice wanted her trip to be seen as a sign that the U.S. planned to keep up the pressure for progress, her previous comments that the U.S. would take a back seat as the Israelis and Palestinians work out their differences suggest that, indeed, Washington does not carry as much weight as is commonly perceived."


"Rice At Sharon's Ranch"  


Al Arabia expressed the view (7/21):  “It appears that nothing can now undermine the Israeli-U.S. friendship, because Rice avoided bringing up the topic of settlement expansion, despite Sharon’s openness about it....  Rice got [some] details from Sharon regarding the disengagement plan, but it seems she came out [of the meeting] knowing more about Sharon’s huge ranch....  Washington again put its hand in the game of crisis management between the Palestinians and the Israelis.  It is intent on identifying with the Israeli position, and its steps cannot be [carried out] unless it pressures the weak side in the equation, the Palestinians.”


JORDAN:  "Some Progress"


The elite English-language Jordan Times declared (7/25):  "Secretary Rice's third trip to the Middle East...appears to have made 'some' progress on some fronts but still failed to kick-start negotiations on the broader issues affecting the peace process. It seems that this time Rice wanted to make sure that the planned Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip would proceed as smoothly as possible. But the withdrawal from Gaza per se was not all that was on her mind or the minds of the Palestinians and Israelis. Freedom of movement within the Gaza Strip, freedom of movement within the West Bank and above all keeping open a link between Gaza and the West Bank are still pending issues....  Palestinians are concerned and rightly so that Gaza will turn into something akin to a penal colony for its inhabitants in the wake of the Israeli withdrawal if Gaza residents are denied free movement....  Above all, the Gazans wanted to make sure that the link with the West Bank remains open....  The answers to the Palestinian concern about free movement to and from the Gaza Strip could make or break the deal over Gaza. It is as simple as this. If the Palestinians in Gaza are rendered prisoners in their own land, then any hopes hinging on an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza will swiftly dissipate.  Also awaiting resolution are the issues of control over the Gaza seaport and airport. Unless there is clear agreement over the Palestinians' right to enjoy sovereignty over their borders...returning Gaza to Palestinian control will be short-circuited.  The secretary of state appears to have made a determined effort to resolve these pending issues but it remains to be seen whether or not she has returned to Washington with positive commitments."


LEBANON:  "Rice’s Visit In The Ministerial Statement: The Relationship With Damascus Through Beirut?!" 


Talal Salman wrote in Arab nationalist As-Safir (7/25):  "The Secretary who is busy with the world’s issues...found seven hours for Lebanon....  She came to confirm the new tutelage:  She affirmed that the U.S. position on Hizbullah has not changed despite the fact that Hizbullah has become a partner in the new Lebanese Government.  She reminded the Lebanese of UNSCR 1559, leaving them to deal with it ‘wisely'....  Secretary Rice also gave Syria permission to stop its border conflict with Lebanon and begin organizing relations between the two neighbors under direct U.S. tutelage."

"The Explosive Response To Rice’s Visit Confirms That The Security Vacuum Will Continue"


Simon Bou-Fadel expressed the view in independent, non-sectarian Ad-Diyar (7/24):  "The explosion in Monnot street...was a clear response to Rice’s visit.  The explosion, which took place four hours after her departure from a city that was subjected to intense security measures...revealed that the perpetrators have the ability to move easily...even in supposedly highly secure environments.  Certainly, it is clear that since the attempted assassination of Hamade and all the explosions that followed, the perpetrators are one and the same and seem to own Lebanon’s security map....  Their activity also seems intent on punishing certain Lebanese forces for the political positions they are taking."


"Rice Left 'Sad'--What Did Condoleezza Say?"


Independent Ad-Diyar commented (7/24):  “Rice carried a project to Beirut...but she left angry because she was disappointed in Prime Minister Seniora....  Rice asked for the full implementation of UNSCR 1559, deployment of the Lebanese Army to south Lebanon, and to start a dialogue on disarming Hizbullah....  In this regard, Rice has already received Sharon’s approval for gradual withdrawal of his troops from the Sheba’a Farms if the Lebanese Authorities agree on deploying the Lebanese Army to fill the vacuum.   Prime Minister Seniora, however, focused on internal dialogue to pave the way for disarming Hizbullah.  Speaker Berri called for differentiating between resistance and terrorism and Lahoud talked about Lebanon’s ‘constants.’  Rice was extremely disappointed because she expected at least the Prime Minister and his allies would exert pressure to come up with a Ministerial statement that would talk about disarming Hizbullah....  Rice, who was disappointed and sad when she left Lebanon, said that the Lebanese have not yet realized the changes in the region.  She was very angry because no one gave her the answer she wanted regarding implementation of UNSCR 1559.”


"Rice's Message Of Patience And Support Reassures The Lebanese"


The moderate, English-language Daily Star editorialized (7/23):  "Like a world-class ballerina or concerto pianist, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice captivated her audience in Beirut yesterday with her grace and style.  Many thought that the highest-ranking U.S. diplomat would come to Lebanon with harsh and clumsy words over the issue of UNSCR 1559, which calls for disarming Hizbullah.....  While Rice insisted that the U.S. remains firm on the issue of disarming Hizbullah, she added an elegant polish to the American demands by expressing a message of patience, understanding, support and friendship for the Lebanese people in their democratic struggle to shape their newly liberated state....  Such a reassuring message was very welcome here in Beirut.  It seems that America recognizes the difficulties and challenges that the Lebanese people currently face and has the interests of the Lebanese people and Lebanon's stability in mind.  Rice's words also suggest that the U.S. could be willing to be patient to a certain extent on its demands over Hizbullah, provided that the Lebanese show a genuine commitment to reform and progress.  The United States is unlikely to budge on its demand that Hizbullah ultimately disarm, but this process can either be fast-tracked or gradual....  The Americans seem to have an astute appreciation for the volatile situation in Lebanon and have a sincere interest in promoting the stability of the country."


"She Repeated The Words ‘Support’ Eight Times And ‘International Obligations’ Seven Times"


Rosana Bou-Monsef speculated in moderate, anti-Syrian An-Nahar (7/23):  “Secretary Rice came to Beirut from Jerusalem and not through Damascus.  This is one of the rare times that a U.S. official comes to Beirut without going, after or before visiting Beirut, to Syria. In the past, meetings between American and Lebanese officials were mostly a continuation of meetings held in Damascus.  As is well known, three decades of Syrian presence in Lebanon practically placed Lebanese decision-making in Damascus.  Rice’s visit in the shadow of the deteriorating Lebanese-Syrian relations...means that the U.S. has confidence in Lebanon’s ability to take decisions independently without needing foreign tutelage. Rice tried to indicate that the U.S. supports the democratic process that was witnessed in Lebanon during the parliamentary elections....  Rice did not carry tough messages, but rather strong, firm messages that stipulated that Lebanon continue to be committed to its international obligations as a way to continue cooperation with the U.S.  She used the word ‘support’ eight times during her press conference, and the word ‘international obligations’ seven times.  Insisting on implementation of UNSCR 1559 is a firm position in the current U.S. policy towards Lebanon.  However, this position is based on supporting the Lebanese Government in its efforts seeking to implement the remaining articles in UNSCR 1559.  It is not based on exerting pressure on the Lebanese Government....  Supporting Lebanon seems to be a priority in the U.S. policy.  In this context, informed sources interpreted her visit to President a way to encourage him to cooperate and leave the past behind and look forward towards the future.”


"The Last Stop"


Sateh Noureddine opined in Arab nationalist As-Safir (7/23):  "Secretary Rice did not carry a new message to Lebanon.  She repeated the positions we have been hearing from different U.S. officials about the Syrian withdrawal and assisting Lebanon in political and economic reform, in addition to implementation of the remaining articles in UNSCR 1559....  It was noted, however, that Rice did not try in any way to embarrass or exert pressure on the new Lebanese Government.  She also avoided, at least in her public statements, continuing the U.S. campaign against Syria.  It was also obvious that she was really careful about the statements she used when she talked about the border crisis...characterizing it only as un-neighborly.  There is no doubt, however, that Rice’s visit in itself, is a direct response to the border crisis and an symbol of the official U.S. policy which believes that Lebanon’s release from Syrian tutelage and its path of reform and democracy is one of President Bush’s most important personal achievements.”


"Connotations Of Rice’s Visit To Beirut"


Aouni Al-Kaaki said in pro-Syria Ash-Sharq (7/23):  “It is clear that the real aim behind Rice’s visit was to recognize the new Lebanese Government.  The second aim was to meet President Lahoud, by that putting an end to the U.S. decision to boycott him....  It also seems that Secretary Rice deliberately visited Lebanon before the Ministerial Statement was drafted, because the U.S. wants the Lebanese Government to clearly announce its plans to implement UNSCR 1559.  However, it seems that Lebanese officials have informed Secretary Rice very frankly that this issue is not at all simple and that they have decided to undertake a process of national reconciliation before they tackle this issue....  The visit had also positive connotations.  When a high U.S. official visits Beirut, this means that the American Administration has decided to stop sending messages to the Lebanese from afar without knowing what is happening on the ground.  Direct dialogue...helps the two parties understand one another better, particularly that Lebanon is in need of international cooperation.  It is true that the Americans are not credible in dealing with Lebanon and other Arab countries.  They always have Israel’s interests at heart.  However, it is also true that by merely visiting Beirut, Rice indicated that Lebanon is regaining its international status and is a country that can look out for its interests and can, independently, open a dialogue with any other country.”


"An Expressive Visit And An Ambiguous Dialogue"


Rafiq Khoury wrote in centrist Al-Anwar (7/23):  “It is true that Secretary Rice has confirmed that the U.S. ‘supports the new Lebanon and does not want to dictate its future.’ However, it is also true that the U.S. ultimately expects Lebanon to disarm Hizbullah while Lebanon rejects this issue....  The dialogue that the U.S. and Lebanon talked about is only a mask for their differences.  Rice wants the Lebanese to have a dialogue in order to reach a formula for implementing UNSCR 1559.  The Lebanese, however, want a dialogue in order to reach a formula to protect the Resistance and its weapons.  The U.S. decision to give Lebanon time to implement UNSCR 1559, will not be a factor to solve this impasse--but to uncover true intentions.”


"The Lady Coming From Sharon’s (Farm)"


Charles Ayoub noted in independent Ad-Diyar (7/23):  "Those yellow faces that used to present their allegiance to Syria...have presented their allegiance to Rice.  These same faces were pro-Syria in 1967, pro-Israel in 1982, pro-U.S. in 1983, pro-Syria in 1987, in 2005.  Rice came to ask Lebanon to disarm Hizbullah.  Arabism should be expelled from Lebanon, but arms--including nuclear weapons--should stay in Israel’s hands.  As for Damascus, Condoleezza thinks that it should be isolated because Syria is against Israeli hegemony....  Officials in Beirut opened their arms wide for the lady who came from Washington and from Sharon’s farm, despite the fact that she accuses us of terrorism.  We tell all these officials that they are mercenaries.  We will not abandon our Arabism, our arms and our Arab rights.”


SYRIA:  "National Unity To Enhance Palestinian Steadfastness"


Ahmad Dawwa stated in government-owned Al-Thawra (7/22):  "Palestinians must be alert to Israel's attempts to undermine Palestinian national unity....  It is the responsibility of both the PA and the factions to realize the gravity of the situation and block Israel's attempts to divide the Palestinians and push them toward infighting....  Palestinians should not engage in any action that would harm their national unity....  It is also wrong to encroach on Palestinian cohesion to achieve political and popular gains or serve an American and international agenda that converges with Israel's demand that the Palestinian government dismantle the resistance factions....  Just as the Palestinian people desperately need security, they also need to preserve the elements of their existence and resistance against the occupation. No matter what the circumstances and the pressures, the decisions that weaken Palestinian steadfastness cannot be justified as long as the occupation continues."



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