International Information Programs
August 24, 2005

August 24, 2005





**  Withdrawal, a leading "matter of security," also "marks the way [ahead] and gives hope."

**  The "sly fox" Sharon deserves credit but the area's future remains "risk-fraught."

**  Gaza initiates a "new political phase that requires both internal and external work.”

**  The Greater Middle East Peace Road Map "has yet to be negotiated and resolved."




'Gaza withdrawal...a move in the right direction'--  The center-left Irish Times noted the Israeli PM said the relocations "will ease Israel's security burden and help preserve the country's Jewish character."  France's left-of-center Liberation spoke for many who were hopeful the evacuation marked the "end of a taboo" over restitution of land in a "region so full of bad news."  Norway's independent VG saw the evacuations as an "historic opportunity" that might offer "new advances in the peace process."  However, hardline pro-Muslim outlets called it a "theatrical act" that "absolutely has nothing to do with peace." 


Sharon bucks 'Israeli politics...enslaved to settler rhetoric'--  Many Western analysts considered Sharon dispassionately but skeptically.  Canada's conservative Ottawa Sun joined China's official Global Times to ask of Sharon, "why now" and what led him to take "such a painful step?"  While Italian outlets penned "Bravo, Sharon," an Italian analyst opined that Sharon's "dream of a Nobel not sufficient explanation."  Others credited Sharon with braving "stiff opposition within his own Likud Party," but saw him drawing "the borders" of his [own] Palestine.  A British analyst stated Sharon's action would preoccupy Palestinians...and allow Israel to "accelerate the de facto annexation" of West Bank and Jerusalem settlements.  


Hamas' "loudmouths" quell peace to provoke PA 'crisis management'--  The Israeli pullout has pitted Hamas and the PA against  each other while "opening a political perspective for Hamas," according to one French analyst.  Others contended "Mahmoud Abbas’s success is largely superficial," whereas "for Hamas, it is a day of glory," a "victory" that confirmed the "effectiveness of its combat."  Germany's center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine declared, "Hamas insists that it 'won'."  Brazil's center-right O Estado de S. Paulo opined, Hamas's goal is to "weaken the Palestinian Authority so as to Islamize the society.”  Right-of-center Badische Neueste Nachrichten added, "Palestinian President Abbas will have difficulty keeping extremists in his own camp under control." 


Gaza settler resistance sets 'a marker for the future'--  Most global media cheered the lack of violence accompanying the "settlers' sacrifice."  Echoing many, Singapore's pro-government Straits Times asked, "What next?"  A Canadian outlet asserted, with Gaza "Israel isn't giving up much, and it will test Palestinian sincerity."  Some writers see "momentary delight" in Sharon's "unilateral disengagement" but note "hostile slogans from the settlers are now surfacing again."  Thai writers saw "hope for peace," but added it was not "part of the U.S.-backed Roadmap to Peace."  They asserted that the "man remembered for Sabra and Chatila" has taken a "leap of faith" but the "real tough nuts" have yet to be cracked to achieve "durable peace."


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 94 reports from 29 countries from August 18-24, 2005.  Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.




BRITAIN:   "Gaza Must Not Be Israel's Last Territorial Concession"


An editorial in the left-of-center Independent expressed the view (8/23):  "The that even hinting at the expansion of existing settlements in the West Bank is bound to prompt questions about Israel's good faith and trigger a new show of strength from militants in Gaza.  Such a turn of events would undercut the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, at the very time he most needs to prove his authority.  It would also mean that the best chance of progress towards peace for many years had been squandered."


"Next Move, Mr. Abbas"


The left-of-center Guardian editorialized (8/22):  "Mr. Sharon has a history of setting goals for the Palestinians that are impracticably high.  This should not become yet another pretext for stalling on moves to achieve an overall peace settlement.  Determined effort and steady progress in Gaza by Mr. Abbas is one thing:  perfection is too much to expect."


"A Marker For The Future"


An editorial in the far-left Guardian stated (8/18):  "Mr. Sharon has yet to convince the world that the withdrawal from Gaza is the beginning of a sustained strategy for peace, based on the kind of two-state solution that George Bush himself now endorses, rather than a tactic for dealing more effectively with Israel's demographic and security problems....  Doomed though the Gaza settlers' resistance may be, it lays down a marker for the future....  Mr. Sharon, for whatever reasons, has created a rare opportunity that must be pushed forward.  He must keep up the battle against his rejectionists, as must Mr. Abbas on the Palestinian side.  They will need help from the rest of the world.  Above all, that means real engagement by Washington."


"The Risk Of A Third Intifada"


Marwan Bishara, a lecturer at the American University of Paris, commented in the far-left Guardian (8/18):  "As a new Palestinian slogan goes, they hope for 'Gaza today, tomorrow Jerusalem and the West Bank. That is precisely what Ariel Sharon's plan aims to prevent.... Once Palestinians are preoccupied with rebuilding their shattered lives under international scrutiny, Israel will accelerate the de facto annexation of the settlement blocs in the West Bank and Jerusalem....  If the Bush administration goes along with Sharon, a third intifada will follow the one that erupted five years ago when American and Israeli leaders tried to corner another Palestinian president at Camp David."


FRANCE:   "The End Of A Taboo"


Gerard Dupuy remarked in left-of-center Liberation (8/24): “While evacuation does not mean peace, it is the beginning of a process… On the Israeli side, the evacuation of the settlers did not trigger the resistance predicted by some… The little reaction that could be noted among the ultras, who predicted a bloodbath, marks the end of a taboo regarding the restitution of land occupied by force. A psychological threshold has been crossed and everyone knows that peace will require similar restitutions. On the Palestinian side, the calm promised by Mahmud Abbas was delivered. The President of the Palestinian Authority was sufficiently convincing to restrain the troublemakers.... The departure of the Israeli settlers from Gaza is the first positive result he can be credited for.... In a region so full of bad news, good news should count double.”


"The Morality Of Disengagement"


Ariel Colonomos of CERI commented in left-of-center Liberation (8/24):  “Today Gaza, tomorrow Afghanistan, and the day after tomorrow Iraq… International relations are haunted by the self-fulfilling prophesy that disengagement is a sign of weakness....  The unilateral disengagement from Gaza is at once a mask and a symptom of the fear of showing one’s weakness....  If disengaging poses a problem, is it then useful to engage? What is at stake is the notion of permanence in a territory which is not fully under control....  It is essential to take into account the deep transformation of war as seen from the West: In Afghanistan and Iraq one can detect pre-emptive and preventive actions.... There cannot be interventions without thinking ahead to a limited presence of the occupied land. We must therefore redefine the notion of just war....  If tomorrow the West goes to war against a nation on the way to nuclearization, it will need to reflect on three points. It will need to be convincing about the legitimacy of the nation declaring war: the coalition must be as wide as possible and prove the dangerousness of the invaded nation, both to its people and to the community at large....  The duration of the occupation must be anticipated… and the transfer of sovereignty to pre-identified partners must be planned… The West, with its unequaled capacity for killing, grants itself a tremendous power: destroy who it wants when and how it wants.  Reflecting upon the length of time to devote to the war has the merit of limiting this madness… It establishes a relationship between the political timeframe and a moral timeframe.”




Denis Jeambar observed in right-of-center weekly L’Express (8/22):  "Against all odds, Sharon has proved that peace still has a chance in the hottest spot on the planet… Only a great democratic nation aspiring to living in peace and security could have led an operation which opened such old and painful wounds....  We must recognize Sharon’s courage for having delivered what he promised....  The skeptics were wrong....  Ariel Sharon has made a political choice with an exemplary strength of character....  He has given a new chance to peace...influencing along the way the Palestinians’ strategy and helping Abbas to lead his people on the road to peace.   A token for peace has been given and yesterday’s wars are no longer inevitable.” 


"For Abbas, A Superficial Success"


Thierry Oberle opined in right-of-center Le Figaro (8/22):  “Abbas is filling the political arena in Gaza.  By announcing the date of the next legislative elections for January, he is also opening a political perspective for Hamas in exchange for the truce during the Gaza disengagement.  The military arm of Hamas has nevertheless announced that it does not plan to give up its armed fight against Israeli incursions.  Since the beginning of the Israeli disengagement this is the kind of duel which has pitted Hamas and the Palestinian Authority against each other....  Mahmoud Abbas’s success is largely superficial and very much dependent on Hamas, whose more extreme members do not hesitate to use force....  The kidnapping of a French television sound technician is proof that the Palestinian Authority cannot impose order and that autonomous clandestine groups are operating outside the known political structures.”


"The Two Sharons"


Left-of-center Le Monde editorialized (8/19):  “What will the post-Gaza look like?  One might be inclined to wonder whether Sharon’s latest declarations about ‘pursuing’ the settlements in the West Bank will not go the way of passed declarations about ‘maintaining at all costs’ the settlements in Gaza.  Even if Sharon’s unilateral disengagement from Gaza went probably against his own deep beliefs, he has, by going through with the pullout, unleashed a political earthquake of historical proportions for his country and its relationship to the Palestinians. Sharon has done what none of his predecessors, whether Labor or Likud, did in 38 years: dismantle settlements without any ‘counterpart’, simply because Israel can no longer keep them and has an obligation to leave.  In short, Sharon has embarked on a new road. Tomorrow, Sharon will have to deal with the problem of the West Bank.  It is fair to hope that, as was the case for Gaza, he already knows deep down that the future of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship passes necessarily through that same new road.”


"Sharon And The Test Of Gaza"


Yves Threard wrote in right-of-center Le Figaro (8/19):  “The disengagement from Gaza was quicker than expected. We must nevertheless remain cautious....  Sharon prepared the military and financial aspects of the pullout well and far in advance… On the Palestinian side, Abbas is not Arafat: He deals in politics, not psychology....  For Hamas, it is a day of glory.  It is savoring its victory as if the Israeli disengagement was proof of the effectiveness of its combat. Hamas is a terrorist organization and will remain so.  Both sides have much at stake, but more in the days to come than today....  The peace process is not back on the rails, the conflict remains, only its premise has changed....  The West has an important card to play in the economic development of Gaza to keep it from falling into chaos and becoming a breeding ground for terrorists....  Sharon for his part has made a gesture no one expected. The man remembered for Sabra and Chatila has been, during his career, both a hawk and a dove… Many accuse him of acting without a plan....  Sharon has never shared in the dream of Eretz Israel.  Political realism is what dictates his policy.   And he knows that in the end the road to peace will begin and end in Jerusalem.”


"First Step, Gaza"


Right-of-center Les Echos editorialized (8/19):  “Sharon has won the fist set of his game plan. The main question now is whether the second set will be played out around a negotiating table or in the streets. There is little time left before choosing.”


GERMANY:   "Withdrawal Speaks Volumes"


Center-right Westfälischer Anzeiger of Hamm observed (8/24):  "The pictures from the Gaza Strip speak volumes.  By using force, crying Jews are carried away from their homes.  They have the Torah in their hands, the Jewish star on their chest and are wailing about the razing of their synagogues.  It is difficult not to think about the crimes of the Nazis in view of this orchestration of the evacuation.  But those who seriously make this comparison will fall victim to the propaganda of radical settlers.  These are Jews who are carrying their brothers in faith away from the enclaves and that is no scandal but the mission of a society whose wish for peace is stronger than the fear of a territorial loss."


"Pragmatism At Work"


Center-right Westfalenpost of Hagen opined (8/24):  "Idealism is not the driving fore behind Sharon's actions.   His reason to give up his role as a supporter of settlements…is mainly based on pragmatic and financial reasons.  This does not diminish his merits of having implemented his plan even against massive resistance and wild threats.  But the announcement to expand other settlements on the West Bank…already made clear that Sharon has not recognized the settlement policy in the occupied territories as false."


"A Minor Miracle, What Next?"


Center-left tabloid Berliner Kurier had this to say (8/24):   "The Israelis have withdrawn from Gaza.  A minor miracle happened.  But what will happen next?  A little bit of peace will not happen in the Mideast.  Premier Sharon must once again shed old skins.  Following Gaza, the evacuation of all Jewish settlements in the West Bank is now a priority.  There are more than 100 and each of them is a thorn in the Palestinians' flesh.  But Sharon is unable to bring himself to do this. That is why there is no reason to cheer.  The great miracle still has to occur in the Middle East."


"An Important Step"


Right-of-center Reutlinger General-Anzeiger noted (8/24):   "Whether the withdrawal from Gaza will bring the Middle East closer to peace depends on whether ex-general Sharon considers the pullout the closure of one front in the conflict with the Palestinians or whether it is indeed an important step to implement the international peace plan."




Wolfgang Günter Lerch judged in an editorial in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (8/23):   "The Middle East is (also) a region of miracles.  After decades of brute force and a conflict that did not offer a way out, Ariel Sharon had the Gaza Strip and four settlements on the West Bank be cleared....  When looking at the terrorism of the one side and the state-sanctioned killings of civilians on the other, we often tend to forget that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians want an agreement.  But both sides are afraid of each other.  It would be a good timing to push for an agreement now that Gaza has been cleared.  But hostile slogans from the settlers are now surfacing again, and they are stylizing the withdrawal from Gaza as trauma; and Hamas insists that it 'won.' The number of miracles is still limited."


"Advantage Israel"


Jerusalem correspondent Thorsten Schmitz filed the following editorial for center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (8/23):  "By withdrawing only settlers and soldiers from the Gaza Strip, Ariel Sharon is putting Israel in a favorable situation with respect to military strategy.  The front line is now shorter.  He also sacrificed the Gaza Strip to keep the six large settlement blocks on the West Bank and the ones in the valley of the River Jordan and in Jerusalem.  The protective fence lays down the borders of the future state territory of Israel and Palestine on whose shape George W. Bush and Ariel Sharon agreed.  It comprises the six Jewish population centers and integrates them into Israel's core country.  The scattered settlements that are situated east of the fence are likely to be cleared at the end of Bush's term, too, to improve Israel's reputation.  But the majority of the 200,000 Israelis in the Arab eastern part of Jerusalem will stay."


"A Question Of Security"


Right-of-center Fränkischer Tag of Bamberg noted (8/23):  "One thing is certain:  A government chaired by the sly fox Ariel Sharon will do nothing without a strategic plan.  'Land for peace'--the slogan of the Israeli left-wing--is much too vague for the ex-general.  No, Gaza was not cleared as a concession to the Palestinians, but because expenses for the protection of the settlements were just to high and met with less and less support among Israelis.  The international peace plan...would certainly not have been good enough to antagonize his former supporters, the settlers.  For him the surrendering of land is simply a question of the security of his country."


"Momentary Delight"


Right-of-center Badische Neueste Nachrichten of Karlsruhe had this to say (8/23):  "The delight among the Palestinians at the withdrawal of Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip will not last long if the next steps laid down in the 'road map' do not follow.  Despite international pressure, government leader Sharon only plans to clear a few settlements on the West Bank, but otherwise continue his well-known tough course.  But without further concessions by Sharon, Palestinian President Abbas will have difficulty keeping extremists in his own camp under control."


"It's Up To The Palestinians To Respond"


Center-right Ostsee-Zeitung of Rostock (8/20) opined:  "Of course, the withdrawal is risky.  It will deepen the division among Israelis, even though the majority approves the pullout.  And radical Arabs could, like Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2002, misuse it in their propaganda as a victory of resistance and terror.  There is still a long way to go before peace is achieved.  It is now up to the Palestinians to respond.  But it was not only the head of the autonomous government, Qureia, who wore a T-shirt saying: Gaza today, the West Bank and Jerusalem tomorrow."


"Sharon Deserves Respect Of The World"


Center-right Märkische Oderzeitung of Frankfurt on the Oder (8/20) noted:  "We can (and must) criticize Ariel Sharon for many things he did during his political and military career, but he deserves the respect of the world for the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.  It is the first time in Israel's history that settlements are cleared.  No other leader, not even Yitzhak Rabin...managed this.  In Israel, the withdrawal has led to a political quake, and it is courageous to risk such a quake.  But Sharon must be well aware of the fact that the withdrawal from Gaza can only be the first step, that the path to peace in the Middle East must include a surrendering of further settlements on the West Bank.  The future of Palestinian-Israeli co-existence depends on it."


"Gaza As A Turnabout"


Josef Joffe judged in an editorial in center-left, weekly Die Zeit of Hamburg (8/18):  "The withdrawal of the 7,000 Israeli settlers is to be completed in early fall.  And then?  It will depend on the Palestinians whether they will again forfeit a chance or create a state, which conquers the future.  For the first time in 500 years, they have a piece of land on their own.... The world is willing to pump more money into Gaza than into any other country in the world.  But are the people of Gaza able to pay the necessary price: the end of terror, fraternal strife and corruption?  They should do so....  The Palestinians may consider the withdrawal a 'defeat' of the enemy, but the wiser Palestinians will have recognized the historic turn: separation instead of rule, for the Israelis know that Haifa will not become safer by occupying Hebron.  That is why the long fence signals separation, the willingness to end the rule.  But the wise Israelis should signal to the Palestinians something else: that the fence does not serve to occupy land but will be there only to reject terrorism....  The only solution would be a 'spiral of the good,' a trial that begins with separation but does not end in a tragedy.  The decision lies in the Palestinians' hands.  If bombs no longer go up in Netanyha, the majority of Israelis will certainly like to give up Nablus, step by step."


"Clearing Villages In Gaza"


Right-of-center Landshuter Zeitung/Straubinger Tagblatt noted (8/19):  "Numerous Israelis, mainly Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, no longer understand the world, let alone Ariel Sharon.  The inventor of the bulldozer and concrete policy is now letting the army clear the villages of his compatriots on Palestinian territory.  Does he want to initiate the turn to the better to a peaceful and fair balancing of interests in the Holy Land?  Whatever the plans of Israel's prime minister, the Palestinians should take advantage of the favorable situation and prove after the quick withdrawal that they have the ability and the will to set up their on state in peace."


ITALY:   "Bravo Sharon, But Now More Than Ever He Needs Help"


Italian Foreign Affairs Undersecretary and Forza Italia Senator Giampaolo Bettamio in conservative, top-circulation syndicate Quotidiano Nazionale (8/24): "The Israeli disengagement from Gaza represents an epic event and evidence of political realism that definitely redeems Sharon’s figure....  In the background are the merits of political forces that, such as ours, after the outbreak of the second Intifada, decided to offer the Israeli people and the government that represents democratic expression, the utmost political solidarity....  The denouncement of Herez Israel’s chimera offers the two populations a prospect of practicable coexistence.  The path that separates us from the goal forecasts rough obstacles and, as always, is not exempt from the risk of derailment.  To contain these risks Sharon has assumed all of the responsibility of the decision of the removal, offering himself as a target for extremist groups that, from one side and the other, will attempt to kill the new season of hope in the cradle.  The Italian government will consistently continue to maintain its efforts and, similarly, to do everything possible to support the President of Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, in the difficult but necessary business of preventing other violence and overcoming the sore of terrorism that pains the territories.”      

"Sharon Opens Another Front"


Ugo Tramballi from Migron in leading business daily Il Sole-24 Ore (8/24):  “Why did Sharon decide to denounce himself and the entire Israeli political system?  The dream of a Nobel Peace not a sufficient explanation.  Sharon has in mind the borders of his Palestinian State and has already created premises in the field, as no other Israeli Prime Minister [has ever done].  They are not the same borders that the Palestinians, the Europeans, nor the Americans have in mind, but they could be negotiable under Sharon’s new political approach.  The border is the wall that is to be completed from the North to the South of the West Bank.  Beyond there, there are 105 outposts and another 40 settlements, which in Sharon's plans, should also be evacuated, sacrificed for something of greater importance.  From here however, there is the Arab part of Jerusalem, the great settlements Gush Etzion to the South, Ma’ale Adumim at the shoulder of Jerusalem and Ariel to the North.  There are three wedges that enter the depth of Palestinian Territories.  Also, even if it is a violation of the ‘road map,’ this will be the center of peace negotiations that will resume when the Americans decide to return down here.  Ariel Sharon has already written the rest of the story.” 


"The Eight Days That Changed Israel"


Fiamma Nirenstein in centrist, influential La Stampa (8/24):  “The settlers’ sacrifice was accomplished without violence, the risk taken by Sharon has before it many dangerous twists and Israeli Society is undoubtedly split and suffering: in order for this to make sense, the Palestinian leadership must at least take a part of the responsibility into its own hands. The telephone call from Abu Mazen to Sharon is a courageous gesture, but the key now is to fight terrorism.”


"Sharon Now Awaits The Palestinian Move"


R.A. Segre in pro-government, leading center-right Il Giornale (8/24): “The evacuation of Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip and from four settlements in the West Bank demonstrated that the much dreaded civil war will not take place in Israel. But everyone is asking what will happen on three ‘hot’ fronts: The parliamentary front, the Palestinian front, and … the front regarding Ariel Sharon’s relation to the country…. The victory over the settlers has increased the authority ... of the Israeli premier, an authority comparable only to that of Ben Gurion. And although the majority of the country might not love Sharon, … for the first time since the disappearance of the country’s father, the Israeli people feel governed by a leader. In conclusion, the confused phase in which politics were concentrated on the reaction to the Palestinian attacks or influenced by opinion polls, has ended.”


"The World’s Praises, The Solitude In The Homeland, Hardest Test Awaits The Former General"


Antonio Ferrari from Jerusalem in the centrist, influential Corriere della Sera (8/23): “The dismantling operation, one of the riskiest in the entire history of Israel, closes with indisputable success: for the premier Ariel Sharon, who wanted it, and for his army, that conducted it with exemplary humanity and professionalism, demonstrating itself to be the mirror of the democratic will of the great majority of Israelis.” 


"Netzarim Falls Without Resistance, Israel Leaves Gaza"


Aldo Baquis in centrist, influential la Stampa (8/23):  “The Israeli civil presence in Gaza is removed and the military remains for now.  In the next two weeks the complete demolition of thousands of buildings will occur.  Then the land will be handed over to the Palestinian National Authority, which in these days has managed to prevent any attacks against the departing settlers....  From Abu Mazen, Israel is expecting the dismantling of the Intifada’s armed groups, while in Gaza, Hamas does not miss the opportunity to show its muscles.  The obstacles to the Quartet’s road map to peace remain numerous and dangerous.”


"Gaza’s Rift And Sharon’s Reasons"


Sandro Viola wrote on the front page of left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (8/21):  “We are only at the beginning of the post-Gaza, and many weeks must still go by before the Palestinians will overcome the burden of proof, demonstrating themselves to be credible interlocutors of an Israeli society that has decided to abandon the occupied Territories.  But if it is true that the Gaza withdrawal has thus far been a success for Sharon, it is also true that the Palestinian leadership, and Mahmud Abbas in particular, has made a significant contribution.”


"Condi’s Hastiness"


Franco Venturini stated in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (8/21):  “If Sharon wants to transform his unilateral effort into an action of peace, he should immediately listen to Ms. Rice and offer elsewhere a hand for negotiations.  Mahmoud Abbas, who is strengthened by a guaranteed victory that until yesterday he lacked, should increase pressure on Hamas and utilize the elections to appeal to the desire of peace of the majority of Palestinians.  George Bush, punished by polls on Iraq, should rediscover the opportunity for political and strategic success that the new phase of the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation offers him.  And the Europeans, with U.S. support, should promptly increase their economic aid to the Palestinians with the intention of offering a concrete dividend to those who reject violence.”


"Gaza-Cologne Axis Of Peace"


Managing Editor, Giancarlo Mazzuca observed in conservative, top-circulation syndicate Quotidiano Nazionale (8/21):  “Sharon...has taken away various excuses from the Palestinian fundamentalists that gained strength in Gaza for their demand of ‘revenge.’  In this way, the PM has taken the strong protests from the settlers, but in return he has obtained a great international success restarting the role of moderate Arab countries, primarily Egypt and Jordan.  If in the past the Americans appeared to be indifferent to dialogue, today, under the impetus of Condoleeza Rice, they seem instead aligned and sheltered by the new course of Sharon also because the second Bush Administration, after the failures of the Iraqi campaign, has decisively changed route in Middle East policy.”


"It Takes Courage To Withdraw"


Giuliano Ferrara held in leading centrist newsweekly Panorama (8/25):  "[Here is] the truth of the matter:  the settlers are withdrawing after a defensive wall was constructed to protect from terrorism the population of a country besieged and fought only because it exists, and in reality the violent refusal of the settlers, the shoddy anti-settler rhetoric, and the impossibility for the Arabs to consider the co-existence part of the peace the terrible sign of the persistent refusal of the Arabs to acknowledge the reality of Israel.  Peace will come when Jews in a minority among Arabs will be treated with the same multi-ethnic and multi-cultural civility with which the minority Arabs in the land of Israel are treated."


"Gaza, The Army Conquers Synagogues"


Lorenzo Cremonesi stated in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (8/19):  "It is a race against time.  Sharon does not want to uselessly protract these harrowing images.  The end of the Gaza withdrawal is expected by Monday....  Then will come the time for negotiations to transfer Gaza’s control to the Palestinians.  They will not be easy.  Especially after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday said that she expects 'other' pullouts after Gaza, which Bush described as 'heroic'--signs that reiterate that the Americans would like to transform Sharon’s unilateral style of action into a gradual resumption of a negotiation process with the Palestinians."


"Lesson of History And True Democracy"


History professor of Rome University Giovanni Sabbatucci on the front page of Rome center-left daily Il Messaggero (8/19):  "It is too early to tell whether Sharon’s strategic withdrawal from Gaza will constitute a first step toward the resumption of the peace process....  However, it certainly constitutes the necessary premise...for the sign that the Israeli government is sending to the world regarding the seriousness of its intentions and its ability to put into practice the decisions it made without allowing itself to be conditioned by the pressure of national religious extremism....  Indeed the peace process in the Middle East would take a huge step forward the day the Palestinian National Authority shows a firmness of decision and the ability of control faintly comparable to the one shown by the Israeli government: the credibility and the representativeness of the interlocutors are the first condition of every authentic dialogue."


"First Injuries Occur In Gaza, But The Withdrawal Is Working"


Carla Reschia in centrist, influential daily La Stampa (8/19):  "All things considered, the unprecedented Israeli-Palestinian cooperation to watch over the various factions of Islamic extremists worked well…. This rather encouraging scenario induced Sharon to announce that pullout operations will be concluded by Monday.  But it is his own future that is at risk, and not only politically.… And on the scenarios of the post-withdrawal Palestinian analysts are divided: ‘Who will govern Gaza: Israel, PNA, Hamas, or chaos?’ questioned yesterday the Pan-Arab daily Al Hayat."


"'We’re With Sharon, But He Must Do More'"


An article from New York in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (8/19):  "Four days following the official beginning of the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, the White House is once again playing the role of protagonist in the Middle Eastern game.  In a dual intervention--President Bush from his ranch in Crawford, his national security advisor Condoleezza Rice in the New York Times--the United States expresses its support for Ariel Sharon's ‘brave’ political move and launches a signal to the Palestinians: now the ball for the peace process is in their court."


AUSTRIA:   "Sharon’s Metamorphosis"


ORF Washington correspondent Raimund Loew editorialized in liberal city weekly Falter (8/24):  "It is the policy of unilateral measures without negotiating process that leaves so little hope for the Palestinians.  Washington also seems somewhat doubtful in the meantime about whether the Israeli government is still planning to agree to revive the 'road map' to peace.  Mahmud Abbas has been in office for half a year now, and nobody denies his legitimacy as Palestinian President.  Nevertheless, all that Israeli-Palestinian meetings have produced so far is minimal relief on a local level.  The armistice is more or less holding up, but the political dialogue that was allegedly prevented by scapegoat Yasser Arafat earlier, is still nowhere in sight..... The goal of this policy of small steps seems to be to force the Palestinians – with the help of the U.S.--to accept an independent state at unacceptable conditions.  However, without a compromise, which Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiators have been striving to achieve since Oslo, such a construct would have minimal legitimacy....  Optimists in the Israeli peace movement believe that the political weight of the settlers’ movement will decline after the defeat in Gaza--and that there will be a chance for reconsidering former positions.  The symbolism of the withdrawal, however, seems to point in a different direction:  Apartments are being burnt down and green houses are being flattened--so as to prevent them from falling into the hands of the Palestinian neighbors."


"Reason Reigns In The Middle East"


Managing editor for independent  Der Standard Eric Frey, editorialized (8/23):  “The fast withdrawal from the Gaza Strip is a success for Israel’s political center to which about 70 percent of the population, and now even the former political hardliner Sharon, belong.  True, the orange-colored uprising of the religiously motivated withdrawal opponents held the entire country in suspense for months, however, it has missed its political goal and its exaggerated rhetoric has even appalled many sympathizers.  Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas can likewise count himself among the winners:  The armistice he promised has held and he now has the chance to prove to his people that their renunciation of terror can bring them a life with economic perspectives and without Israeli occupation....   The political dynamics in the Palestinian camp are crucial for the future in the Middle East.  Many Palestinians see the Israeli withdrawal as proof that terror pays off and thus as inducement to further bloodshed. However, a restart of the missile and suicide attacks would quickly turn Sharon’s domestic triumph into defeat, which he would probably compensate with military toughness, perhaps going as far as to reoccupy the Gaza Strip (without settlers).  That, in turn, would nullify Abbas’ strategy and put him in between the two chairs Israel and Hamaz.  With his weak apparatus, Abbas cannot meet the Iraeli demand for disarming the radical Palestinian groups.  His only slight chance lies in the hope that the Hamaz will prove to be as rational as the settlers’ movement in Gaza and opt for a future as a political party in a Palestinian state instead of a martyr’s death.”


"The Sharon Miracle"


Foreign editor for independent political weekly Profil Georg Hoffmann-Ostenhof opined (8/23):  “A miracle has taken place in the Middle East. No, it is not the miracle that the religiously motivated settlers in Gaza had hoped for and expected:  That Ariel Sharon would, at the last moment, stop Gaza from being vacated, or that Israeli soldiers would refuse to obey their orders, or that God would find some other way of preventing Sharon’s withdrawal plan from becoming reality. This kind of miracle has not happened.  And just that is the miracle....  The Gaza withdrawal has left the right-wing religious camp and the settler’s movement weakened.  Paradoxically, it was the ultra right-wing Sharon who shifted Israeli politics slightly to the left.  Of course, everybody knows that Sharon’s goal was to get himself more room for maneuver for his settlement policy in the West Bank and obtain the blessing of the international community to keep and expand his settlements there....   In any case, there has been movement.  In Israeli politics, no stone remains unturned with the division of the Likud Party by Sharon’s old enemy, Bibi Netanyahu, and the current defeat of the settler’s movement.  In the Palestinian camp, things are also in flux.  The radical part of Hamas has so far exercised surprising restraint and, for the first time, has announced its intention to participate in parliamentary elections, which are to take place the coming January.  The preconditions for the resumption of negotiations have improved considerably.  There is a window of opportunity. It is now also up to the international community, and primarily the U.S., to recognize this and show more engagement. The window of opportunity may not remain open for long. Perhaps George W. Bush should cut his mountain bike vacation on his ranch a bit short.”


"Pragmatic And Peaceful"


Commentator for independent Salzburger Nachrichten Gil Yaron opined (8/18):  “The settlers deserve credit:  It took a great deal of idealism to hold out in Gaza even while it was hit by thousands of grenades and to believe to the last that withdrawal could be prevented. When the hour of truth finally came, the settlers proved themselves to be law-abiding Israeli citizens....   This is obviously one of Israel’s great moments. Pragmatism and brotherly love have triumphed over the ideology of a larger Israel.  The photos that show soldiers and settlers in tearful embrace are proof that, despite the many differences of opinion, a flourishing democracy is possible in Israel.  Much can be learned from the community of settlers provided they are kept within ‘ideological’ bounds.  Initiative, a readiness for sacrifice, and now peaceful protest are values that Israel should adopt from them.  The withdrawal from Gaza could give Israelis an idea of how much they might be able to enjoy their country if they did not invest all their energies into building new settlements and fighting the Palestinians.”


"Sharon’s Fight For Power"


Commentator for mass circulation provincial Kleine Zeitung Charles Landsmann wrote (8/18):  “The opponents of the Gaza withdrawal have failed:  The withdrawal has begun and is being quickly pushed through despite resistance.  Everybody who is familiar with the actors in the play, primarily with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, knew what was coming....  It is possible that Sharon now has his eye on a few isolated settlements in the West Bank--nobody knows exactly.  However, it is hardly to be expected that he will actually implement further withdrawal plans--not as a result of the current difficulties in vacating of the settlements, but because he will probably swing to the political right in order to preserve his power.  If he does not succeed in doing so, as the poll results of the last few days seem to indicate, neither the opponents of the withdrawal nor the police will emerge as victors from the present confrontation.  The real triumph will fall to Benjamin Netanyahu, Sharon’s rival in the Likud Party, who will probably succeed him.  'Bibi’ Netanyahu’s record shows a bad term as head of government, obstruction and even prevention of all progress in the direction of peace and finally his resistance against what he called Sharon’s one-sided withdrawal plan.  It is likely that even Ariel Sharon’s sharpest critics will soon wish they had the hated ‘Arik’ back again.”


HUNGARY:  "Division Of Land"


Columnist Oszkar Fuzes asserted in center-left Nepszabadsag (8/19):  "While the drama of the Jewish Greater Israel will soon be over, the Palestinian act is about to start in Gaza, and it will be eventful.  It will be a live model of what sooner or later will begin in the whole of Palestine: the great division of land, of water and of roles between the Jewish and the Arab states.  Sooner or later the wars will be over.  I mean the armed wars, the wars of propaganda, the political and psychological life-or-death fights.  And the fights that will start, or to be more precise, will continue will not seem so sharply-defined from the here and now: the battles of the demographic and of the possession processes....  No matter how bitter Israel is these days, it will not only win greater security and maybe peace with the given-up land, but also a market, business deals and an economic area with Gaza.  And if this model proves operational, then with time the whole Palestinian land can be divided--if not justly since everybody has his or her own truth--at least in a mutually beneficial way.”


IRELAND:  "Settlers Throw Acid At Troops As Pull-out Continues"


Nuala Haughey in Neveh Dekalim from Gaza Strip commented in the center-left Irish Times (8/19):  "With most of Gaza's Jewish settlers removed from their homes in the first 48 hours of forcible evacuations, Israeli troops yesterday rounded up the diehards who were determined to cling to this occupied land which they believe God promised them....  The evacuations have gone more swiftly than anticipated and the army hopes to finish the bulk of the operation before the start of the Sabbath today, when the operation will be suspended.   The evictions are part of Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw Gaza's 8,000 settlers from occupied land they share with 1.2 million Palestinians, a move he says will ease Israel's security burden and help preserve the country's Jewish character....  America's Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday that while she felt for evacuated settlers, Israel will be expected to make further concessions that would ultimately lead to an independent Palestinian state."


NORWAY:  "An Historic Opportunity"


Independent newspaper VG commented (8/23):  “We highly doubt that the old warrior Ariel Sharon has all of a sudden turned into a peace dove.  It is more likely the military and political strategist who has acted....  In any case, it is brave of the PM who is meeting strong resistance from the right wing of his own party.  The evacuation has created an historic opportunity; there might be new advances in the peace process.  However, this requires continued pressure from the international community and, first and foremost, from the U.S., which has to do its part to make sure the withdrawal from Gaza does not become the first and last [withdrawal] from Palestinian territories.  Even though the Gaza Strip has presented great challenges, these become miniscule compared to the problems in the West Bank, where there are approximately 240,000 Jews.  The development there will most likely determine if new generations of Israelis and Palestinians will grow up surrounded by violence and bloodshed.”


"Stop The Demolition"


Independent newspaper Dagbladet commented (818):  “The father of all Israeli settlers, Ariel Sharon, is now pulling Israel out of Gaza....  Israel’s occupation of Gaza has been the most glaring example of the Israeli settlement policy.  Approximately 7,500 settlers have controlled most of the water and 33 percent of Gaza.  At the same time, 1.3 million Palestinians have been shut off, living in extreme poverty.  But what is most surprising is that Ariel Sharon [in his broadcast address to the nation] now says that Palestinians living ‘without the prospect of hope’ is not the road to peace.' The the world now waits for the Palestinian answer.  An outstretched hand toward peace or more terrorism.  We will answer with an outstretched hand holding an olive leaf. Or we will answer with fire,’ he continued. Sharon’s statements are on the verge of implausible. But they are worth rejoicing over.  If Sharon wishes, he could create an even bigger surprise. The PM still has the opportunity to stop the Israeli army from destroying the 2000 homes in the Gaza settlements. The ongoing withdrawal from Gaza could be used as an attempt towards reconciliation if the Israelis demonstrate good behavior.  The British did not destroy.  Nor did the Turks. Now,  Sharon as well should stop the bulldozers’ destruction in Gaza.”


POLAND:  "Sharon’s Gesture, And What Next"


Jerzy Haszczynski wrote in centrist Rzeczpospolita (8/24):  “For his determination, the Israeli Prime Minister is receiving words of appreciation from abroad--also from the leader of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas.  Ariel Sharon is going down in history, and has a chance of winning the Nobel Peace Prize.  Most importantly, Sharon made the gesture without waiting for what the Palestinians would do.  And he dared to do it in spite of strong resistance in his own country and among his party members.... While Sharon and the Israelis who support him made a big step toward peace, it is not certain whether it will be sufficient. Also, such a difficult decision may cost Sharon a lot--including, some say, an attack on his life.... The next move is for the Palestinians to make. They finally have their own contiguous piece of land; but being that small, will it suffice to provide decent living conditions for million and a half people? Many of them called Gaza Strip a prison.  Will they now think otherwise? Will Gaza Strip not become a hotbed of terrorists? Will the Palestinians accept the fact that, for the time being, their state can exist on this small strip of land?”


ROMANIA:  "Rebirth Of Hope"


Liviu Rotman commented In the intellectual weekly Revista 22 (8/24):  “The presence in Gaza of several thousand Israeli settlers--surrounded by an extremely hostile mass of two million Palestinians--has been one of the permanent absurdities of  Israeli reality....  The Gaza disengagement gives a chance--a fragile chance, but still a chance--to the peace process. Of course, it would have been much better for this disengagement to take place as part of a bilateral agreement, but that was not possible because of the lack--at least until November--of a discussion partner. It’s not a bonus for the Arabs or for the Palestinians; it’s a deep necessity for Israel. These settlements and their defense at a massive military cost, diminish Israel’s defense capacity, which means that they are strategically counterproductive. Israel’s problem is not only peace with its neighbors, although that is extremely important as well, but the answer to the following question is just as vital: what will the future state look like?”


"Farewell, Gaza!"


Journalist Nando Mario Varga expressed the view in the intellectual weekly Revista 22 (8/24):  “August 2005.  The Middle East is on fire, both literally and figuratively....  Israel is withdrawing from Gaza.  It’s a historical moment for international political analysts, a debate topic for media representatives, and also one of the rare occasions when Israel, the ‘buddy’ of many Western powers, is gently caressed being offered expired chocolates which rustle nicely in their shining wrapping....  Soon, the Palestinians will be the only rulers of Gaza.  What will they do now?  They who haven’t managed to build anything on the millions of dollars received as financial aid for the past years?  Moreover, they are starving. It is true that until now, they blamed the Israelis for that, but now that excuse is gone.”


SPAIN:  "Sharon’s Triumph"


Centrist daily La Vanguardia wrote (8/24): "It’s true that the Israeli retreat from Gaza is only a first step, but the firmness with which Sharon has given this step forces the Palestinians to measure up to this historic opportunity. Abbas, Arafat’s successor, will also have to satisfy the expectations that the operation has caused in Gaza. If he doesn’t, the extremists of Hamas will try to capitalize on popular support that they enjoy at the next legislative elections in January."


"Gaza: Peace Es Still Far Away"


Conservative daily La Razon wrote (8/18): "The Plan of Disengagement, now almost finished, should be considered as another step in this endless and tiring road to peace in Palestine.  But only as that.  It should not be talked of with optimistic ends, but with prudence in this region where the enemies of peace are still numerous, and the obstacles in eradicating violence are too many....  The Road Map to Peace marks the way and gives hope."


"Good Bye To Gaza"


Left-of-center daily El País expressed the view (8/18):  "The historical operation can already be considered a success for the government of Sharon.  But it will only have the desired effect--of opening the doors to a real process towards peace--if it is continued in other similar steps in the Cisjordania... The total return of Gaza to the Palestinians is a big step in the right direction that should facilitate the necessary climate to drive towards a hard solution.  Now it is essential that Israelis and Palestinians, with lots of support from the U.S. and the EU, make the most of the moment and do not allow it, once again, to belong to the radicals of either side through their provocations that would, for the nth time, frustrate the hopes awakened by this operation in Gaza."


TURKEY:  "Sharon As A Deterrent Example"


Mim Kemal Oke opined in the conservative/nationalist Halka ve Olaylara Tercuman (8/23):  “It was Ariel Sharon who settled the Israeli fundamentalist, racist, and fanatical masses in the Gaza Strip in a bid to safeguard the region.  He came under heavy attack by Jewish extremists for evacuating Gaza.  Sharon defined the extremist settlers who resisted Israeli troops as ‘Jewish terrorists’ and ‘barbarians.’  Sharon now says in a postmodern, neo-liberal, urban manner that you cannot achieve security through the use of force.  This shows that human beings can be tamed by history.  Palestinians, who claim the Gaza pullout as been a victory won by resistance groups like Hamas, should learn from Israel’s experience that they cannot advance too far with such a mentality.  You can capture a country by violence, as seen in Iraq, but you cannot keep it.  Sinn Fein is striving to disband the IRA, and the US is exhausting itself to win the global war against al-Qaida, a group the Americans had propped up for use in the Afghan war.  Those who will write the history of Israel will devote a chapter to Sharon.  Reading it is not so important.  What matters is to take a lesson from it.”


"Who Will Clear The Debris?"


Ferai Tinc observed in mass-appeal Hurriyet (8/19):  "Until now, the Israeli government had never withdrawn from land it occupied during the 1967 war without first signing a peace agreement.  The current withdrawal does not include such an agreement.  Negotiations on security issues between the Israelis and Palestinians have been continuing for some time.  Israel wants the Palestinian administration to become stronger against violent Palestinian elements.   By encouraging the Palestinians to strengthen their security institutions, Israel is preparing the ground for a Palestine state.  Sharon is not betraying Israel through his Gaza withdrawal plan.  On the contrary, he is paving the way for a new peace process.  He has also ensured the support of the Israeli people for this plan.  Outside of the occupied Gaza Strip, sixty percent of the Israeli people support Sharon’s decision.  As part of the Israeli pullout, the infrastructure will be left untouched,  but Israeli homes, schools, and other buildings will be demolished.  The reason is to prevent Hamas or the Islamic Jihad terror organizations from claiming territory and victory.  Every detail has been discussed and agreed prior to the withdrawal, except for one issue.  Who is going to clear up the debris?  In fact, this is a very important question.  Clearing the debris has always been an important element in the peace process.  Of course, the most important thing of all is to clear the debris which remains in people’s souls."




ISRAEL:   "The Eight Days That Changed Israel"


Editor-in-Chief Amnon Dankner and senior columnist Dan Margalit wrote on page one of popular, pluralist Maariv (8/24):  "It is too early to assess the magnitude of the change that Israeli society has undergone in the eight days of the evacuation, but it is already clear that it has changed beyond recognition.  The myth that settlements cannot be evacuated without a bloody civil war has been shattered.  The myth that Israelis are not capable of meticulous planning has been shattered.  The keys were not inadvertently taken away by the absent-minded red-head [as in the story by the late Israeli satirist Ephraim Kishon].  They were in capable, wise and efficient hands. Israel proved to itself as a society that it is rock-solid.  We got through a gigantic crisis with nothing more than a few scratches and bruises, and we can allow ourselves to heave an enormous sigh of relief.

For, in spite of everything, we got through it unharmed and together."


"We Got Out Safely"


Senior columnist Nahum Barnea wrote in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (8/24):  "[The completion of the evacuation under the disengagement plan] was a very sad moment for anyone who holds sacred the settlements in the territories. For all others, it was a moment of relief.... Israeli governments have refrained in the past from evacuating illegal settlement outposts on the grounds that the army and the police do not have the ability to complete the evacuation without bloodshed.  This excuse was rendered invalid on Tuesday. Whatever [the government] wishes to evacuate can be evacuated.  The question is whether Sharon wants to, and whether he is politically capable of it. The determination he displayed during disengagement had a profound effect on his image in the world and in Israel as well.  Some see him as an intrepid leader, a winner, and others view him as a dictator without inhibitions. Sharon has won his place in Israeli history."


"What Next?"


Veteran columnist Yaron London wrote in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (8/22):  "The chances of holding substantive negotiations will not increase much in wake of disengagement.  Sharon...will not budge an inch.  The 'big bang' [in Israeli politics] is a mirage.  After wallowing in sterile negotiations, Israeli politics will once again be enslaved to settler rhetoric and the manipulations of the Settlers' Council....  The Palestinian Authority is shaky....  The immediate meaning of the democratization of Palestinian society is the greater influence of the fundamentalists....  The road map should still be adhered to because the world, mainly its American patron, is pinning all its hope on it, and because we should not despair of the aspiration to peace, but our policy should not be based on the slim chance that this road map will result in a stable agreement....  We should not expect that recognition of the necessity of another and much tougher disengagement will take root quickly.  First, all the myths and longings, scare tactics and dirty tricks have to be defeated, but slowly and surely we will face reality.  Opposition from the Left could speed up this coming to grips, but where is it?" 


"From Messianism To Sanity"


Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (8/22):  "Using...spiritual terrorism, the rabbis and their spokesmen terrorized the entire country.   They said blood would be spilled, promised that the evacuation would be violent--and worst of all, assured the public as a whole that its pure prayers would stop the government and the army....  And now, a few days after the disengagement has started, it has become clear that it will be.  Virtually no refusal has been recorded; bloody violence has been directed, as usual, at the Arabs.  The messianic leadership has disappointed, not just deceived....  Most of the religious public in Israel does not want to disengage from the Zionist state and is not planning to turn it into a theocratic state by means of a demographic victory.  The way in which the disengagement has been conducted until now provides a message according to which it is still possible to establish a life shared by the vast majority of the religious public and the secular majority.  The revelation of the emptiness and the lies of the radical messianic vision leaves other religious leaders--more realistic and more moderate--to make their voices heard bravely and to lead this important public back to the bosom of Zionistic sanity."


"Descent Into Perdition"


Yossi Ben-Aharon, who was director-general of the Prime Minister's Office under former PM Shamir, argued in popular, pluralist Maariv (8/21):  "Since the Palestinians aren't reliable, [Sharon] decided to forge an agreement with the United States, which would determine Israel's borders.  People with a smidgen of knowledge about international relations and their history will agree that this is a unprecedented, foolish...idea.  I served in the U.S. for years and I admire the alliance between our two countries.  But the U.S. isn't our partner in an agreement with our neighbors; it isn't our neighbor; and it doesn't have common borders with Israel.  President Bush has justly said that even if he, too, approves the continuation of Israel's holding on to settlement blocs, the determination of Israel's borders is conditioned upon an agreement with the Palestinians....  The Palestinians haven't been impressed by Bush's promises to Sharon.  The view the pullout as yet another victory in their attrition war against us, and an encouragement to continue it."


"This Is Just the Beginning"


Senior columnist and longtime dove Yoel Marcus wrote in Ha'aretz (8/19):  "Hamas is already boasting that Israel has left Gaza with its tail between its legs.  My answer to these guys is that humiliation, if you want to call it that, is better than stupidity.  What do they want to do?  Bring back terrorism and catapult Israel's fanatics and rebels into power?  And an aside for those loudmouths in Hamas: quit the heroics.  Nowadays you can't even go out without your masks on for fear of being identified.  Now it's the Palestinian Authority's turn not to miss an opportunity that has fallen straight into its hands like a gift from heaven.  Tone down the hostile rhetoric, disarm the terror organizations, stop pelting Israel with rockets and mortars, and muster the seriousness and courage to negotiate a settlement with Israel.  Only Sharon could evacuate Gaza, and only he can take the next step toward peace.  Don't pass him by."


"The Plan Wasn't Born Of Terror Or Corruption"


Senior columnist Dan Margalit wrote in popular, pluralist Maariv (8/19):  "The question regarding the reason why Ariel Sharon broke his promise to the Likud voters and adopted the unilateral disengagement plan is significant at this time and charged with meaning for the future....  Disengagement was born in the Prime Minister's entourage.  The idea wasn't even new.  [Then-Likud cabinet minister] Roni Milo proposed it to Yitzhak Shamir during the 1992 elections.  It was rejected and the Likud lost.  Amram Mitzna presented it on a smaller scale during the 2003 elections, and lost too.  It was later revived [among Sharon advisers].  This was neither because Palestinian terrorism succeeded, nor because Sharon became entangled in a corruption quagmire, but because he wanted to dodge the implementation of the 'road map' and was afraid to deceive George W. Bush.  Therefore, he was compelled to offer him an alternative plan."


"The Two Faces Of Disengagement"


Senior columnist and chief defense commentator Zeev Schiff wrote in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (8/19):  "There are two faces to the disengagement from the Gaza Strip that, in fact, may be mutually contradictory.  The positive aspect is reflected in Israel's success in shortening the military lines logically and ceding territory that effectively is of no strategic importance to the country....  The negative aspect of the disengagement is reflected, above all, in the uncertainty of who will rule in the Gaza Strip after the evacuation and whether a new round of violence will erupt.  This situation is compounded by the fact that the Palestinians feel, and to a large extent justifiably, that the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza is their victory....  The Palestinians do not accept the fact that Israel took an important, risk-fraught move via the disengagement and now it's their turn to play their part....  [If terrorist activity is resumed], Sharon and the Israeli government will be unwilling to go ahead with implementing the road map.  This will certainly be the case if it turns out that lifting the siege of the Gaza Strip is bringing about large-scale arms smuggling and the entry of international Islamic terrorists.  The Palestinians' political aspirations will again be halted and the prospect of another disengagement will vanish."




Political parties correspondent Sima Kadmon wrote in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (8/19):  "Sharon finds it hard to find a political direction at this time.  Reason makes him turn rightwards; however, he would then lose the camp he has recently acquired--this being conditional support, anyway.  Sharon has no illusion:  that Left/Center camp didn't really discover a new Sharon.  He just found temporary partners who would implement his worldview.  Should Sharon turn leftwards, he would deepen his preexisting problem, despite the fact that he refuses to recognize its might:  his relations with the Left and his cradle--the Likud."


"Lesser Israel, Greater Palestine"


Editorial Page Editor Saul Singer wrote in conservative, independent Jerusalem Post (8/19):  "Greater Israel is dead; long live Greater Israel, said [Ethan Bronner in] The New York Times [Tuesday]....  Reading the might think there was nothing more alive and menacing that the 'threat' of Greater Israel.  After briefly praising Israel for 'finally' taking such an obvious step, the paper frets that 'Sharon seems to think that withdrawing from Gaza will buy Israel time to consolidate in the West Bank'....  In the Times's eyes, the night during which soldiers gathered to evict settlers was the night of the living dead, when the ghost of Greater Israel returned to haunt the region, a ghost so powerful that its exorcism must be Bush's top peacemaking priority.  Could we return to earth for a moment, please?  Settlements and Greater Israel are no longer the principal obstacle to peace, if they ever were.  Another dream is:  Greater Palestine....  Even the most moderate Palestinian asserts that Israel in its entirety sits on 'stolen' Palestinian land, and that while Israel must be recognized de facto, a Jewish state has no moral or legal right to exist."


"Sharon Is Putting Out Gush Katif's Candle"


Nationalist, Orthodox Hatzofe editorialized (8/19):  "Prime Minister Sharon and his cabinet members turned a blind eye to the fact that Jews have resided in the Gaza Strip for six centuries.  The Strip is an integral part of the Land of Israel.  For some reason, they decided that Gaza wasn't a part of the Land of Israel.  Moreover, Sharon also ignored the fact that Kfar Darom was 1946, before Israel's independence, on land purchased by the Jewish National Fund....  Gush Katif used to exalt Israel; the Sharon government is blowing out that candle."


WEST BANK:   “The Next Phase:  Axis Of The Political-Diplomatic Effort”


Independent Al-Quds editorialized (8/22): “Certainly, the visit of American official David Welch to Gaza after a prolonged boycott [of visiting Gaza] and Secretary Rice’s remarks emphasizing Israel’s need to conduct other steps after the disengagement, are particularly significant on two levels.   Firstly, they reflect the ongoing American commitment toward the peace process, including considering the Gaza withdrawal as a step toward the implementation of the Roadmap.  Secondly, they indicate the efforts toward the desire to improve bilateral political and economic relations, which will help support the process of establishing an independent Palestinian state and strengthen the Palestinian economy.  Welch’s remarks expressing the U.S.’s interest in wanting to maintain excellent relations with the PA and its democratically-elected leadership are in total harmony with the Palestinian requests....  There is a clear positive development in the American position toward the peace process and the international community’s efforts to establish an independent Palestinian state.”


“Has Israel Won the Media Battle?”


Ashraf Ajarami commented in independent Al-Ayyam (8/22):  “There is absolutely no need for the [Palestinian factions’] militant demonstrations.  Israel is withdrawing from the Gaza Strip and parts of the northern West Bank without the Palestinians having to pay any price in return; thus it is in the Palestinian interests to ensure that the withdrawal is completed quietly and without any armed displays....  The Palestinians should focus on the next phase, including on how to utilize this accomplishment following the Israeli withdrawal.  They should be able to prove that they can set a good model of managing their affairs based on a better political system, free of corruption, mismanagement and disorder.  Such a political system should also be under one authority with equality to all.  Of course the upcoming [legislative] elections are an important step toward building such a system.”

“Pre-Disengagement Talk And Post-Disengagement Priorities”


Talal Okal observed in independent Al-Ayyam (8/22):  “The U.S. and Israel don’t seem to stop talking about the need for the PA to dismantle and disarm the so-called terrorist organizations as a post-disengagement obligation.  They ignore the fact that the Palestinians have succeeded, in most cases, in containing all differences and divisions that many thought would eventually lead to violence and fighting.  That said, [the use of weapons] will depend on Israel’s behavior.  If Israel attempts to keep its direct or indirect control over the Palestinian lives in the Gaza Strip, then it will surely provide the needed justification for the use of resistance weapons.”


"The Disengagement Drama: An Indication of an Israeli Trick"


Rajab Abu Sariya commented in independent Al-Ayyam under the headline (8/19): “When PM Sharon announced that he wept when he saw the settlers leaving their homes, his intention was to dramatize the difficulty of evacuation in order to sway public opinion....  Most probably, Sharon and his government will use the emotional scenes aired on televisions to transform the settlers from being the aggressors and inhabitants of illegal settlements into victims.  They will also make use of these scenes to convince the Americans and Europeans that it will impossible to carry out another similar compromise in the future.”


"Withdrawal From Gaza:  What Do Palestinians Need To Do?"


Naji Sharab opined in independent Al-Quds (8/19): “The withdrawal from Gaza is not a final solution to the conflict; rather, for the Israelis, it is form of crisis management.  For the Palestinians, on the other hand, the challenge is how to turn this withdrawal from being crisis management into a solution to the crisis.  This is not easy.  The Israeli withdrawal will undoubtedly impose a new and substantial political reality that will add to the existing complexity of the situation both internally and externally.  The most important aspect of this reality is Israel’s claim that it had offered a major compromise, demanding that it is the Arabs’ turn now to compromise....  The other challenge facing the Palestinians is their ability to deal with the international community, including the U.S., the Europeans and the Muslim countries, especially on the issues of Jerusalem.  Thus, the withdrawal from Gaza is the beginning of a new political phase that requires both internal and external work.”


SAUDI ARABIA:  "Withdrawal From Gaza, A Palestinian Victory" 


Abha’s moderate Al-Watan editorialized (8/21):  "Nobody can ignore the significance of the withdrawal from Gaza....  The withdrawal was a victory to the Palestinian people who forced the occupation to withdraw unilaterally....  Israel ignored the Roadmap as well as the latest American innovations and Oslo Agreements.  Israel made things worse when it assaulted the West Bank and Gaza.  Israel placed Arafat under house arrest and built the partition wall....  All these things did not prevent the Palestinians from resisting and achieving an initial victory."      


JORDAN: "The Withdrawal From Gaza"


Daily columnist Fahd Fanek  commented in the semi-official, influential Arabic Al-Rai (8/24):  It is not yet clear who is the winner and who is the loser from the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and the pullout of Jewish settlers.  Sharon considers himself the winner because he achieved the plan that he talked about and worked on for the past two years.  The Palestinian Authority considers itself the winner because the withdrawal from Gaza constitutes the beginning of a movement that cannot be stopped and will, sooner or later, include the West Bank.  Hamas considers itself the winner because the withdrawal took place as a result of the Palestinian resistance and not because of negotiations.  America considers itself the winner and wants to claim responsibility for this step that paves the way for a peaceful solution....  What determines whether the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza constitutes a victory or defeat for one party or another will depend on what happens after the withdrawal.  If Palestinian internal fighting over the authority breaks out, then Sharon would be the winner.  But if the Palestinians prove their worthiness of independence, then it would be a victory for them.  If America exercises more pressure on Israel leading to more withdrawals and pullouts, then America would be the winner, and if the Palestinian Authority fails to control Gaza from the security and political aspect, then Hamas would be the winner."


SYRIA:  "What Is After The Pullout?"


Omar Jaftali, an editorialist in government-owned Tishreen, wrote (8/24):  "Israel does not consider the Gaza pullout as the first step towards a settlement on the basis of the Land for Peace principle and the UN resolutions....  Sharon said that Israel will continue to build settlements in the West Bank...and that the Roadmap can only be implemented in case the Palestinian Authority dismantles the resistance arms.  Sharon wagers on a Palestinian civil war....  Strengthening the Palestinian national unity at this delicate juncture is not only important but is also the main thing that will determine the next steps in the peace process. When Palestinians unify their efforts and resolve, the objective becomes very clear and the people will be able to continue their steadfastness and efforts to regain the usurped rights and lands.  This is what Ahmad Quray heard from President Bashar al-Asad in Damascus.  The priority now must be given to the consolidation of the national Palestinian unity."


"Why The Clamor And Lamenting?"   


Ezz-Eddin al-Darwish editorialized in government-owned Tishreen (8/22):  "The Gaza settlers' resistance to the evacuation process was a theatrical act....  It is regrettable Western media, including some Arab media, are focusing on the eviction of the settlers and portraying them as innocent people being driven out of their land....  Why all this commotion, weeping, dramatization, and military and media mobilization for the sake of 8,000 people who were originally planted forcibly in occupied Gaza and offered huge amounts of money and many other incentives to accept living in this small spot of Palestinian land where about 1.5 million Palestinians live....  Sharon withdrew his settlers from Gaza for reasons that absolutely have nothing to do with peace. He said that their stay in Gaza was financially and militarily costly and useless....  The geography, the high population density, and the determined national resistance forced the Israeli government to withdraw the settlers from Gaza, but without leaving the region for its people.  For, the siege will continue...and the crossings will remain under direct Israeli control."


"Medals for War Criminals"


Muhammad Ali Buza commented in government-owned Al-Thawra (8/22):  "Why should Sharon be thanked for withdrawing his troops from Gaza?  Why this withdrawal should be described as a courageous step toward peace?  Sharon has been involved in genocide against the Palestinian people and deserves to be tried as a war criminal....  The Gaza pullout is a maneuver and an evasion tactic, not a peace plan showing credibility, good intentions, and atonement for the atrocities that the Tel Aviv rulers have committed....  Peace cannot be achieved without full withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories to the 4 June 1967 lines and the acknowledgement of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people."   




AUSTRALIA:  "The Risky Gaza Game"


Senior columnist Tony Parkinson, writes in the liberal newspaper, The Age (8/19):   "What should be acknowledged is that Israel’s prime minister is implementing a policy demanding great fortitude....  Who can dispute that Sharon has demonstrated considerable political will by foisting on his nation a dramatic policy shift that helps prise open the window of opportunity for peace negotiations?...  The hope must be that the withdrawal of Israeli forces behind the security perimeter will reduce the misery of occupation in Gaza, ease friction between Israel and the Palestinians, lower the casualties on both sides, and create sufficient freedom of movement and economic activity to persuade most Palestinians that there is a way forward that need not involve bombs, bullets and bloodshed. Here, international supper (and pressure) will be crucial....  Israel is also entitled to a better deal, especially from the United Nations....  The Bush administration...has an acute strategic interest in securing progress for the Palestinians, as part of its wider efforts to stabilize the region.  But not if it comes at the cost of capitulating to terror, in Israel or anywhere else."


CHINA:  "Why Does Sharon Forcefully Want To Withdraw?"


Yi Lian commented in the official Communist Party international news publication Global Times (Huanqiu Shibao) (8/19): "Sharon’s unilateral action has been conducted painfully and with difficulty.  Why does he have to make such a painful step?  In fact, this is a scheming and calculating move by Sharon at a strategic and political high point.  First, Sharon hopes that after the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and a small part of West Bank, they can build up the separating wall and include most of the West Bank land in Israel’s territory to form a de facto border with the Palestinians.  Second, by expelling millions of Palestinians outside the separating wall, Israel wants to deprive them of their right of return.  Third, by keeping Palestinians away from Israelis, Sharon wants to improve Israel’s security and decrease the occurrence of suicide bombings.  Fourth, the withdrawal could improve Israel’s image internationally and release international pressure.  Fifth, it could put aside the Middle East Road Map and take back the lead on the Israel-Palestine issue.  Secretary Rice recently expressed sympathy to the settlers in the Gaza Strip and referred to them as part of a critical moment in Middle East history.  There are still other factors that may change Sharon’s plan: International society will continue to pressure Israel to return to the Road Map, and right-wing forces in Israel are not giving up.  The test for Sharon has just started."


INDONESIA:   "Gaza Strip’s Symbolic Meaning"


Leading independent Kompas remarked (8/19):  "The withdrawal undoubtedly has great symbolic meaning. It is an important breakthrough considering that Israelis had been so reluctant to abandon even an inch of Palestine’s soil....  The increasing international pressure, together with escalating resistance from Palestinian guerillas, have forced Israel to pull out, although still only partially. Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip has not yet resolved the problem, especially if not immediately followed by withdrawal from the West Bank.  Furthermore, the Middle East conflict will not end unless an independent Palestinian country is immediately established in the Palestinians’ land."


MALAYSIA:  "Israeli Pull-Out From Gaza Strip 'First Positive' Step"


Sarawak's independent, leading Chinese-language International Times commented (8/18):  "While we can view the Israeli pull-out from the Gaza Strip as Israel's first positive move toward resolving the pending Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it would nevertheless be a great mistake for Sharon to think that he has resolved the outstanding plight of the Palestinians in the eyes of the international community.  Sharon can only consider his withdrawal plan from the Gaza Strip as part of the Greater Middle East Peace Road Map that has yet to be negotiated and resolved.  The majority of the lands that belong to the Palestinians remain in hands of the Israeli authorities.  We are certain that Palestinians will continue their long and hard fight for independence and freedom.  It is only through implementation and negotiations on the Greater Middle East Peace Road Map that we can hope to see lasting peace established in the Middle East."


SINGAPORE:  "Gaza Now, What Next??"


The pro-government Straits Times observed (8/19):  "In the four decades of occupation after the 1967 Six Day War, only the return of Sinai and now the Gaza disengagement have lit up a bleak scene of failed, abandoned and often unrealistic intercessions. This is a heartening development, for which Prime Minister Ariel Sharon earns credit.  It took character to win over a public deadened to feuds and vengeance that leaving Gaza serves both Israeli and Palestinian interests.  It would make an eventual settlement more feasible....  Observers note the provisional return of captured land also helps make U.S. President George W. Bush look more even-handed in his mediating efforts.  But quitting Gaza and 500 sq km of smallish settlements on the West Bank cannot be 'concessions' to last the next few decades.  A move on to talking about withdrawing from the West Bank proper would be natural, to build on the momentum.  One hesitates to mention East Jerusalem in the same breath.  These are the real tough nuts to crack if a durable peace is to be made.  Some 450,000 settlers are camped in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.  As a matter of formality, the latest formula of a 'road map' to peace has to take into account the steps that can realistically be forced upon Israel for the return of remaining occupied territory.  The next move actually is Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's.  He must show that the Palestinian Authority can make a go of running Gaza.  He has to control the militant freedom fighters, now more than ever.  If Gaza fails as a functioning entity, the Israeli leadership will feel no compulsion to show any more yield. This will be storing up trouble."


THAILAND:   "Gaza Evacuation Draws Ironic Parallels"


The lead editorial in the top-circulation, moderately conservative, English language Bangkok Post read (8/21):  “The unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza strip has focused long-overdue global attention on the illegal occupation of Palestine, a root cause of global terrorism.  It is also helping trash the myth that 'Islamic terrorism' is the only form of terrorism around....  More important, who has funded the illegal occupation over the years? Just as it is critically important to identify the funding sources of 'Islamic terrorists', so too should it be asked who has funded this illegal occupation that leads to so much violence, controversy and bitterness worldwide.  The answer is very simple: the American tax-payer and the extremely well-off Jewish diaspora outside Israel.  For them, this evacuation is just a cost-cutting exercise, terminology very well understood by any businessman....  Amazingly, American tax-payers don't seem to mind.  Totally numbed by the vigorous disinformation machinery, few Americans are inclined to ask what this occupation has cost them.  How many American lives have been lost to terrorism spawned by the decades of Israeli occupation?  How much global goodwill has it cost them?  Those who have been disinformed into thinking that evacuating Gaza will help eventually settle the conflict should think again.  Israel is giving with one hand, and taking away with another.”


"Pullout Brings Hope For Peace"


The independent, English-language Nation editorialized (8/19):  "It must be a painful and difficult decision for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to make, given the fact that he had been championing the cause of Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories for the better part of his political career.   Certainly, one can question his motive for the pullout, which is not even part of the U.S.-backed Roadmap to Peace.  But the immediate impact of the dramatic action will serve as a catalyst to restart the stalled peace negotiation between the Jewish state and Palestine.  Sharon should be given due credit.  He has the courage to go against the stiff opposition both within his own Likud Party and among a divided Israeli public....  Such goodwill from Israel must be reciprocated by Palestine.  The least that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas must do is to rein in armed militant groups like Hamas, and prevent them from attacking Israeli military and civilian targets....  Both Israel and Palestine must realize they have so much more to gain from this high-stakes political gamble.  Numerous UN resolutions, which have been ignored, must now be respected.  The momentum for the creation of a Palestinian state must be followed through....  Sharon has taken the leap of faith.  Now both sides must suspend their sense of disbelief that peace between the two estranged peoples cannot be achieved without humiliation or destruction of the other--and make peace happen."




PAKISTAN: "Pull-Out Of Jews From Gaza"


The right-wing, pro Islamic unity Urdu Jasarat stated (8/19):  "Gaza is being vacated not out of love for Palestinians.  It is due to the fact that Israel had failed to control the resistance movement there.  Now, the Israeli Prime Minister assumes that the Palestinian Authority would itself deal with the resistance movement.  And, if it fails, Israel will make this failure an excuse to attack the entire Palestine.  Israel has absolute support and assistance from the U.S.  It will not be difficult for Israel to recapture Gaza yet again, and it might say that it had provided the Palestinians a good opportunity to live in peace side by side with Israel, but they didn’t avail this chance.  The reaction of the Jewish settlers in Gaza shows that what Palestinians went through when they were displaced from their homeland in the past.  Even now, hundreds of thousands Palestinians are homeless.  But, is the Palestine being chastised because of the weaknesses and differences among the ranks of the whole Muslim world?"


BANGLADESH:  "Israel Leaves Gaza"


The independent, English language New Age editorially comments (8/19):  "Part of the reason why Mr. Sharon has decided to leave Gaza stems from his realization that holding on to the territory does not really solve his country's security problems.  In the past few years, the activities of Palestinian extremists such as Hamas have more or less convinced people all around that sooner or later the Israeli authorities would need to look inwards about whether or not they need Gaza as part of the bigger Israel they have in mind.  It is now obvious that the prime minister has accepted fully the thought that Israel without Gaza will be a better proposition than with it....  While the Gaza withdrawal is surely a move in the right direction, there is the general feeling that Israel needs to come up with a lot more in its search not only for accommodation with its Palestinian neighbors but also for its own security.  It is the West Bank which should now be the focus in any peace consideration....   A few crumbs here and there will not satisfy the Palestinians, for crumbs are not the ingredients that go into the making of a state."


"After Gaza, The West Bank?"


The pro-left English language weekly Holiday commented (8/21):  "The withdrawal from welcome.  But that does not mean that it solves all problems for either Israel or the Palestinians.  There is still the matter of what the Israelis plan to do about the West Bank and the future status of Jerusalem.  The Israeli government has lately demonstrated what it thinks is its agreement to live with a Palestinian state beside it.  But the way in which it has gone about promoting the idea has only convinced men like President Mahmoud Abbas that it expects a Palestine to be established on the crumbs of territory it has on offer.  Obviously, such an attitude can only exacerbate the issues.  Which is why it is important that, with Gaza dealt with, the Israeli authorities now focus on the West Bank." 




NIGERIA:  "Good News From Gaza"


Respected Lagos-based independent The Guardian editorialized (8/23): "The ability to rise above primordial beliefs and personal idiosyncrasies to advance the interests of the state, even when it goes against the grain of popular belief, is the true test of statesmanship.  On that score Sharon has demonstrated pragmatism and statesmanship.  He has made a move that is clearly in the long-term security interest of Israel and is in conformity with the two-state solution advanced by the Roadmap to Peace in the Middle East.  It is therefore imperative that all stakeholders seize the momentum created by the disengagement programme to move the peace process forward. Israel should maintain the spirit of pragmatism and realism it has demonstrated with its withdrawal from Gaza. The Palestinians should demonstrate restraint in their jubilation and be prepared to take those hard and unpalatable decisions which the peace process will impose upon them. The Palestinian leadership should avoid fratricidal divisions and work together to bring succour to their people.  The international community, particularly the promoters of the Roadmap to Peace - the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia--should intensify diplomatic support for the peace process.  President Bush has publicly acknowledged that it is U.S. policy to have a Palestinian state. That is as it should be. We hope that the United States will do all that is necessary to bring this policy to fruition....  The Israeli withdrawal from Gaza has created a new dynamic in the political landscape of the Middle East, which, hopefully, will mark the beginning of the process for the final resolution of the Middle East crisis on the basis of the two-state solution."


"Commendable Action"


 Lagos-based independent This Day editorialized (8/23): "Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon deserves credit for following through his Israeli disengagement plan in Gaza and the West Bank.... Sharon's action is particularly momentous considering that it was under him as defence minister that most of the settlements were erected. His hard-line position in support of the establishment of settlements then makes it a paradox that he is the one carrying out the pull-out despite strong opposition by prominent fellow members of the Likud Party.... We strongly believe that Sharon's policy bodes well for peace in the violence-weary Middle East. It will certainly enhance the prospects of security for Israel in part because most Arab nations had placed evacuation of Jews from Gaza and West Bank as a pre-condition for any peaceful relations with Israel. Understandable as the refusal of some of the Jewish settlers to leave may be, the process must proceed to its logical conclusion. For the peoples of both countries the pull-out represents a great opportunity to forge lasting peace and to reduce the high cost of mutual distrust between them. Sharon's gesture must, however, be reciprocated by the Palestinian Authority. Prime Minister Mahmond Abass needs to demonstrate that he has the capacity to contain the excesses of the more militant elements in his country."


"Lessons From Gaza"


Kayode Idowu stated in Lagos-based, independent Punch (8/22):  "The mere reports could make you cry.  These were people who found themselves on the opposite sides of the law, but they neither nursed any ill will nor destructively deployed force against the other.  Even the prime minister and architect of the entire experience, Sharon shared in the pain....  Watching the settlers kick and scream as they were loaded onto buses, the prime minister who had championed the settlements for years said the images were heartbreaking....  I can’t help wondering if such scenarios as these could happen in this country (Nigeria).  The history of demonstrations against government policies hasn’t been without records of fatalities resulting from excessive use of force by security agents against unarmed protesters.  Even for mere demolition of purportedly illegal structures, the toll in sheer deprivation has always been enormous.  I just wonder, could we ever have the Gaza experience in this country?"




CANADA:  "Sharon Tears A Strip Off Opponents"


Columnist Peter Worthington commented in the conservative tabloid Ottawa Sun (8/23):  "The biggest mystery of Israel's pullout of Gaza is why? Why now?  Why would Ariel Sharon do it unilaterally when he's always been adamantly opposed to it--and even won the last election by campaigning against it?  The world is puzzled by this change of policy--unexpected and undemanded at the moment.  Sharon is risking his political career.  The Bush administration is flummoxed, the Brits are puzzled, European countries are at a loss, and neighbouring Arab countries are uneasy, albeit superficially pleased.  So why is Sharon proceeding so adamantly and toughly?  Is there a hidden agenda?....   Sharon's decision has nothing to do with appeasing either Palestinians or critics of Israel.  More than anyone, he knows you can't appease the unappeasable.  Regardless of how much Israel compromises or bends, it will never satisfy its enemies.  Compromise is seen as weakness and only encourages Palestinian militants to be more demanding, more violent, less accommodating.  Palestinian extremists do not want peaceful coexistence with Israel. They want victory.  They want Israel destroyed.  Period....  The core of Sharon's decision may well be the inability of the Palestinian leadership to form a government that will be at peace with anyone.  In other words, the Gaza thorn will no longer be just in Israel's side but in the side of those who pretend to want justice and a sovereign Palestinian state....  Although headlines about the Gaza trauma are large, look at the map; it is an insignificant strip of land that can't be defended and verges on the useless.  Except for Israelis who lived there, Israel isn't giving up much, and it will test Palestinian sincerity."


"Israel's Wisdom In Leaving Gaza"


The leading Globe and Mail opined (8/19):  "Israel's forced removal of the remaining Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip has been marked by scenes of high emotion, but considerable restraint in the circumstances....  PM Sharon made the difficult decision to end nearly four decades of occupation in Gaza for sound reasons, regardless of whether his true motivation was to breathe some life into the moribund peace process, as Israel's allies fervently hope, or to buttress plans to strengthen considerably more important Jewish settlements in the West Bank....  For Mr. Sharon, it has been a show of true leadership by a politician who was the architect of the very settlements he is now dismantling....  The Gaza disengagement is only a small step whose true value lies in its symbolic importance....  There will be the battle for political control of Gaza between the PA and Hamas in the wake of the Israeli pullout.  If Hamas continues to hold the upper hand, the prospect of greater conflict looms.  Yet the only way for Israel to ensure its security is through a viable Palestinian state, where hate and hopelessness are replaced by hope and opportunity."


"Israel's Agonized Exit From Gaza"


The liberal Toronto Star editorialized (8/19):  "That so many have been moved, without more loss of life, is a tribute to the security services' professionalism and their sense of duty in the greater national good.  What now, as the pullout continues?  One settler had the right thought: 'We need to find a new life.'  That's a sentiment Palestinians should also embrace.  If the Gaza withdrawal is to be but the first step in a wider process of handing back occupied Arab land, as international commitments and law require, Israelis must have confidence that Palestinians are themselves prepared to turn the page on violence.  Israelis can help, of course, by signalling that Gaza is not a dead end but rather the first step toward a Palestinian state encompassing Jerusalem's Arab areas and most of the West Bank.  The coming evacuation of a few West Bank settlements can be a sign of good faith in that regard. Israelis can help, too, by letting Gazans open an airport and seaport, travel freely to Egypt and the West Bank, and ship goods across borders.  People must have a chance to build Gaza into something better than an arid prison compound encircled by Israeli barbed wire.  But Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in turn, must prevent Gaza from becoming a cradle of violence, and must warn his people against launching a 'third intifada' in the West Bank....  If the Gaza pullout merely triggers a third intifada, hope will again be put on hold."


"Israel's Wisdom In Leaving Gaza"


The leading Globe and Mail opined (8/19): "Israel's forced removal of the remaining Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip has been marked by scenes of high emotion, but considerable restraint in the circumstances....  Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made the difficult decision to end nearly four decades of occupation in Gaza for sound reasons, regardless of whether his true motivation was to breathe some life into the moribund peace process, as Israel's allies fervently hope, or to buttress plans to strengthen considerably more important Jewish settlements in the West Bank.... Yet despite a consensus in Israel that the country will be more secure after the withdrawal, Mr. Sharon has had to put his political life on the line to make it happen.... For Mr. Sharon, it has been a show of true leadership by a politician who was the architect of the very settlements he is now dismantling.... The Gaza disengagement is only a small step whose true value lies in its symbolic importance. There are major challenges ahead on the road to meaningful peace negotiations, including the far thornier issue of Israel's settlements on the West Bank. Then there will be the battle for political control of Gaza between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas in the wake of the Israeli pullout. If Hamas continues to hold the upper hand, the prospect of greater conflict looms. Yet the only way for Israel to ensure its security is through a viable Palestinian state, where hate and hopelessness are replaced by hope and opportunity. The Gaza withdrawal is the necessary first step."


"Israel's Agonized Exit From Gaza"


The liberal Toronto Star editorialized (8/19): "Sadly, the process of winding down four decades of Israeli occupation has not been without bloodshed. In the West Bank, a settler killed four Palestinians. A woman protestor set herself on fire. Yesterday, fierce clashes between the security forces and a relatively small number of extremists left scores injured, and raised fears of worse to come. But removing 8,500 settlers and 5,000 supporters from an area many felt God had given them was not going to be easy. That so many have been moved, without more loss of life, is a tribute to the security services' professionalism and their sense of duty in the greater national good. What now, as the pullout continues? One settler had the right thought: 'We need to find a new life.' That's a sentiment Palestinians should also embrace. If the Gaza withdrawal is to be but the first step in a wider process of handing back occupied Arab land, as international commitments and law require, Israelis must have confidence that Palestinians are themselves prepared to turn the page on violence. Israelis can help, of course, by signalling that Gaza is not a dead end but rather the first step toward a Palestinian state encompassing Jerusalem's Arab areas and most of the West Bank. The coming evacuation of a few West Bank settlements can be a sign of good faith in that regard. Israelis can help, too, by letting Gazans open an airport and seaport, travel freely to Egypt and the West Bank, and ship goods across borders. People must have a chance to build Gaza into something better than an arid prison compound encircled by Israeli barbed wire. But Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in turn, must prevent Gaza from becoming a cradle of violence, and must warn his people against launching a "third intifada" in the West Bank. That would only stiffen resistance in Israel to ceding sufficient land for a viable Palestinian state. The Palestinian Authority must move swiftly to control Gaza and to suppress attacks from its soil. International donors like Canada must make that a condition of support. Israelis are crossing an historic psychological line by quitting Gaza and by dismantling West Bank settlements. A majority have broken with the nationalist/religious myth that settlements equal security. That means hope for the Middle East after decades of strife. If the Gaza pullout merely triggers a third intifada, hope will again be put on hold."


"New Hope For Peace"


The nationalist Ottawa Citizen opined (8/18): "Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip has changed the dynamics of the Middle East peace process. What happens next could answer many of the questions about whether a lasting peace is possible.... Building confidence is a necessary step in any peacebuilding process. To date, the Palestinians have lacked confidence in the Israelis, and given the Israelis little reason to have confidence in them. How both sides act after the withdrawal will be crucial to this confidence-building. Leaving Gaza is just a first step; the huge questions of the West Bank, where more (and more determined) Israeli settlers live, and of East Jerusalem, remain. But Mr. Sharon's grand move could be just the push the peace process needs."  


BRAZIL:  "Disengagement Does Not Mean Only Joy For The Palestinians"


Center-right O Estado de S. Paulo’s Paris correspondent Giles Lapouge wrote (8/19): “Nothing guarantees that the destiny is smiling at the Palestinians....  The Palestinian Authority is torn between factions....  Arms are everywhere.  What we are watching is a situation similar to what took place in Lebanon, Somalia and Afghanistan: the emergence of warlords. They know that this is the moment to confiscate places and benefits. In each neighborhood, in each street, a leader intends to speak on behalf of all.  Such anarchy that has existed since Arafat’s death is being incited by the illusory joy following the disengagement. The military chiefs have taken credit for the Israeli withdrawal. Each one of them is dreaming about controlling liberated Gaza....  The goal of the powerful Hamas is not to take power, but to weaken the Palestinian Authority so as to Islamize the society.”


"Front And Border"


Political analyst Demetrio Magnoli commented in liberal Folha de S. Paulo (8/18):  "The return of Palestinian territories is an operation of war, not a step towards peace.  The logic under which it is being carried out is that of consolidating a front, not the delimitation of borders.  The Israeli unilateral decision represents a rupture with the brightest prospects created by the Oslo Accords in 1993....   According to Ariel Sharon’s plan of operation, the 'disengagement' from Gaza will be followed by a consolidation of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the unilateral delimitation of Israel’s borders.  Such borders constitute a military front: the 'security wall' in the West Bank and the barriers, fences and checkpoints around Gaza.  Withdrawing settlers are predicting that the Gaza strip will become a 'Hamas state.'  It is more than that: Sharon’s plan is aimed at fabricating 'Hamas states' in the West Bank as well, because they will seal the Palestinians into unconnected territories and will disconnect Palestine from Jerusalem.  The victory of the front over the border represents a tragic option for a permanent war and a service that Israel, with Washington’s support, is providing to Osama bin Ladin’s terrorist army."



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