News

April 24, 1998

MIDDLE EAST PEACE: STILL HANGING BY A SLENDER U.S. THREAD

Dismayed over the near derailment of the Oslo accords, foreign observers judged that even a modicum of success in Secretary Madeleine Albright's talks with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Arafat in London in early May could keep the peace process from running completely aground. Commentators judged that in the run-up to the talks, the focus this weekend is on the mission of U.S. Envoy Ross and Assistant Secretary Indyk to the region. While holding out hope against hope, most judged that the U.S. team would not succeed in convincing Mr. Netanyahu to relinquish to the Palestinians more of the West Bank territory captured in 1967, a move that would persuade Mr. Arafat to return to face-to-face meetings with the Israeli leader.

U.S. IS STILL THE 'KEY ARCHITECT'--Observers judged that although Secretary Albright had made clear Washington's impatience with Messrs. Netanyahu and Arafat, the U.S. remains "the key architect of the Middle East peace process." Although some in the Arab media put their trust in European efforts to champion the Palestinian cause, most expressed their preference for U.S. leadership in the ongoing mediation. Outside the region, editorialists commended British Prime Minister Blair's "infectious enthusiasm and plain doggedness" in hosting the London talks, but judged that it is hard to see how he could succeed where repeated visits to Washington by Israeli and Palestinian leaders have failed. European writers in particular were quick to point out that "the role which the Europeans could play in this process...should not be overestimated." In London, the centrist Independent reported that the International Institute for Strategic Studies' annual survey warned that unless the United States uses its influence to pull the peace process back from the brink, warfare, led by more extreme Islamic elements, could break out anew in the Middle East.

ANOTHER CUL DE SAC?--Writers in the Middle East and beyond worried that with Israelis and Palestinians still far apart on Israel's second redeployment in the West Bank and other contentious issues, such as Palestinian statehood and the status of Jerusalem, the EU initiative could result in another dead-end. Nevertheless, they hoped that Washington, and also London, would continue to stay engaged in the peace process for the sake of their "prestige" in the region. Germany's left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau maintained, "Since nobody really knows how to assist the peace process, one does not want to leave anything undone to get it going again." Several editorialists directed their ire toward "the Israelis' procrastination and the Palestinian's prevarication," which they said had held hostage lasting peace and security in the region.

This survey is based on 39 reports from 19 countries, April 14-24.

EDITOR: Gail Hamer Burke

To Go Directly To Quotes By Region, Click Below

|  EUROPE  |    |  MIDDLE EAST  |    |  EAST ASIA AND THE PACIFIC  |    |  SOUTH ASIA  |   

MIDDLE EAST

ISRAEL: "Senior U.S. Official: Next 10 Days Crucial For Peace Process"

Washington correspondent Hillel Kuttler wrote in the lead story of the independent Jerusalem Post (4/24): "The United States believes that diplomatic moves over the next 10 days will determine whether the peace process will emerge from its year-long freeze, a senior administration official said in Washington yesterday.... This time Washington believes the two sides understand the gravity of the situation and the United States' desire to resolve the stalemate, the senior official said."

"Jerusalem Sources Predict 2nd Redeployment Next Month"

Diplomatic correspondent Ben Caspit reported in popular, pluralist Maariv (4/24): "Senior Jerusalem sources said that Prime Minister Netanyahu is planning to have the 2nd redeployment carried out within a month. The word from Washington is that it is going to be a double-digit pullback. According to confidential reports from Washington and London, Secretary Albright is not going to spend her time in London negotiating with Israel and the Palestinians. Rather, she will demand of both to make up their mind. 'The game is over, no more footdragging,' the Americans reportedly decided."

"An All-Too-Familiar Land Dispute"

Settler spokesperson Emuna Eilon wrote in top-circulation, pluralist Yediot (4/22): "They say that the killing of the Israeli resident in a Jewish farm near Hebron Sunday was nothing more than a land dispute. They are right. The entire history of the State of Israel revolves around a land dispute. Our fallen soldiers have all been the victims of a century-old land dispute. This is what the entire Israeli-Arab conflict boils down to.... The Israeli peace camp maintains that Jews would not have been killed in the territories had they not moved into land that isn't theirs. The Palestinians agree. Only they see no difference between Hebron and Tel Aviv."

"Another Nail In The Peace Coffin"

Gideon Samet opined in anti-Netanyahu Haaretz (4/22): "For over a year now, Benjamin Netanyahu has been leading the U.S. administration by the nose. President Clinton has been unable to extract from him even the most minor concession, not even a fraction of a redeployment. Finally, the Americans turned to their friend, Prime Minister Blair, for help. And so Blair came here and organized what is going to be a meaningless ceremony in London.... Netanyahu has not the slightest intention of making any progress in the peace talks.... Who is to blame for this state of affairs? Certainly not Netanyahu. He is only taking advantage of the public's sluggishness in order to wear out the Americans who, due to their utter helplessness, bear the brunt of the responsibility for the death of the peace process."

"Premature Expectations"

Anti-Netanyahu analyst Hemmi Shalev commented in mass-appeal, pluralist Maariv (4/21): "The prime minister said that he was prepared 'to go anywhere' to advance the peace process, but he has yet to make his mind up about what exactly he would do once he gets there. Netanyahu wants to avoid a clash with the Americans, but the composition of his government forces him to dodge as much as he can the decision on the second redeployment. The eventual inclusion of the Moledet Party in the government would further strengthen the anti-Oslo elements in the cabinet."

"A No-Win Team Must Go"

Anti-Netanyahu analyst Yoel Marcus opined in Netanyahu-critic Haaretz (4/21): "Even if SMEC Ross and his peace team manage to wrap up a second redeployment agreement, it is high time to replace the team which has by now become worn out, lacking a creative touch and bogged down in insignificant details.... It is embarrassing to see how for two years now Dennis Ross has been spending so much energy on such utter trivia."

"There Is No Peace Without Security"

Nationalist Hatzofe stated in its lead editorial (4/21): "In light of the fact that London has for years been supporting the PLO, it is difficult to take seriously British Prime Minister Blair's peace initiative."

WEST BANK: "A Peace Process That Augmented Palestinian Tragedy"

Editorials (4/21) responded to an open letter to Palestinians and Israelis from Tony Blair that was published in papers (4/20). Moderate, pro-Palestinian Authority Al-Quds's columnist Rashid Hijazi stressed (4/21), "Your visit coincides with the deep worry about the peace process. This peace process which you came here for did not and will not achieve peace, since it did not meet any of the Palestinian demands. On the contrary, it increased the size of the Palestinian tragedy because of the American and Israeli policies against the Palestinian people. The U.S. government provides absolute support for Netanyahu and gave him the green light to grant Palestinians the 'charity' of a withdrawal of few percentage points of their own land. If your policy continues to be based on Israeli security and the total disregard for Palestinian security, then suffering will continue and the consequences will be grave. Mr. Blair, you are forgetting the Israeli repressive policies, the latest of which was the bulldozing of hundreds of my fathers' and forefathers' graves in my hometown Yazor near Jaffa."

EGYPT: "U.S. Initiative: Arab Hope Or Despair?"

Pro-government Al Akhbar said (4/22): "The United States announced the visit of Dennis Ross on April 24 to break the stalemate in the peace process. The State Department statement, however, did not indicate the reason for this stalemate. A London report said that if the Palestinian and Israeli parties do not reach an agreement on resuming the talks, the peace process will be dead. It did not mention who is the responsible party. Ross' visits have become an object of ridicule and boredom in the region. The current position seems to serve U.S. interests, so that Arabs and the region will be in constant need of the United States. The American policy makers cannot see the danger of this position, which will lead to violence and threaten everybody's interests, including American interests. The United States has not announced its initiative. Will this initiative give hope or will it consecrate Arab despair?"

"U.S. Peace Monopoly Has Not Achieved Anything"

According to columnist Sanaa Al Said in opposition Al Wafd (4/20): "The United States has monopolized the peace process since 1973, but nothing has been achieved. The Israeli occupation persists."

JORDAN: "London Meeting A Waste Of Time"

Managing editor Saleh Qallab judged in independent, mass-appeal, Arabic-language Al-Arab Al-Yawm (4/21): "Netanyahu's statement that he is ready to go anywhere at any time to push the peace process forward is a joke. It is a clear maneuver and an attempt to make the world believe that the peace process is being blocked not by Israel, but by the Palestinians. The peace process does not need conferences or bilateral meetings. There are agreements that

Israel committed to in view of the entire world.... Conferences and meetings are a waste of time and they only serve to prolong Netanyahu's designs and schemes to postpone the implementation of the Oslo accords long enough for him to bury the peace process forever."

"Cautious Optimism"

Center-left, influential, Arabic-language Al-Dustur's editorial held (4/21), "We share with everyone their cautious optimism about efforts leading to what seems to be another international conference in London to salvage the peace process. We would like to see the Western countries exercise sufficient pressure and responsibility to prevent Netanyahu from doing away with another opportunity to achieve progress on the Palestinian track."

KUWAIT: "Netanyahu Rejects EU Mediations"

In the view of Mohammed Musaed Al-Saleh (liberal) independent Al-Qabas (4/20), "The British prime minister is currently visiting a number of Arab countries to get the Middle East peace process going. Prior to his visit, the region was visited for the same purpose by U.S. secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, and Dennis Ross. The Arabs want the implementation of the Oslo Accords and the Washington agreements. The United States, the biggest and the greatest country in the world, is the peace sponsor. Nevertheless, America's attempts have failed. So will the attempts of the British prime minister for a simple reason, namely, that the Israeli prime minister, Netanyahu, rejects European mediations. Netanyahu also knows that he can control the decision of the American administration through the Jewish lobby in America. In fact, America is not independent, but a satellite under the Israeli influence."

QATAR: "Value Of Such A Meeting In Doubt"

An editorial in the semi-independent, English-language Gulf Times stated (4/21): "The value of such a meeting in the absence of any apparent Israeli flexibility must be in doubt. The expectation is that the London meeting will offer little that is new, with the United States continuing to press proposals which Israel has already rejected and with Netanyahu lecturing all and sundry about his 'security concerns.'"

"Ray Of Hope"

In the editorial view of semi-independent, Arabic-language Al-Rayah (4/21): "Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's willingness to attend the proposed London conference...is a ray of hope. The participation of the EU in sponsoring the MEPP is important."

SAUDI ARABIA: "Ultimate U.S. Aim Is Lasting Security For Israel"

Jeddah-based, conservative, Al-Madina's editorial stressed (4/23): "Two days ago during his visit to occupied Jerusalem, U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen said that one of the basic elements of Israel's continued security is achievement of a comprehensive peace. Cohen added that it is not enough that Israel wins wars.... Israel should also win peace in order to achieve a lasting security. Two days ago also, the U.S. administration announced that U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will meet in London with Arafat and Netanyahu...in order to push the peace process forward. It is not difficult to find a link between Cohen's remarks and Albright's invitation.... It shows the extent to which the U.S. administration is willing to go to save the peace process,...the aim, of which is to win for Israel a peace that realizes its needs for lasting security.... Israel's nuclear arsenal is not a subject for negotiation. Israeli settlements...are not for negotiation. No Palestinian independent state is allowed.... Here we must ask, what would a London meeting of Albright, Arafat and Netanyahu achieve?... Will the

U.S. administration be brave enough to at least announce its promised peace initiative? Perhaps it would, but its ultimate aim would be to accomplish a durable security for Israel. Goodbye to peace for Arabs."

"Don't Focus On Concessions From Palestinians"

London-based, pan-Arab Al-Hayat opined (4/23): "If the London meetings focus on obtaining further concessions from the Palestinians, the result will be the killing of the peace process, whether or not the concessions are obtained. We should not take seriously Washington's threats that it might give up its role of sponsoring the peace process. That would mean that (the United States) had finally publicly endorsed Netanyahu's approach in thwarting the peace process."

"U.S., Europe Must Exert Pressure On Israel"

Influential Al-Jazira maintained in an editorial (4/20), "Following Blair's and Arafat's visits to the kingdom (of Saudi Arabia) there are to be important meetings in London between Albright and Arafat, and Albright and Netanyahu which prove there are sincere intentions to continue the peace process. There is no doubt that Israel is the only one that does not want peace. It believes there are no geographic borders for its greedy expansion. We hope this fact will convince the United States and Europe to exert pressure on Israel to change its current policies."

SYRIA: "Israel's Hostility To Peace"

An unsigned editorial in government-owned Tishreen (4/22) said, "Blair was received with coldness and indifference in Israel. The Netanyahu government had already adopted a stand that aimed to abort Blair's peaceful efforts and to make his mission a failure, especially since the Israeli contempt and negligence of the European role was above all expectations, in spite of Europe's indication that its peaceful role does not contradict the American role."

"The Next American Step...Whereto?"

Fouad Mardoud commented in the government-owned Syria Times (4/21): "Dennis Ross is coming back to the region to consider next steps ranging from yet another diplomatic effort to a dramatic shift that could culminate in an American determination to use its might, will and power to push the already stalled peace talks forward. This might force a negotiation breakthrough between Israel and the Arabs; it also might abruptly end the entire peace process."

YEMEN: "Syria And Likud's False Masks"

Government Al Thawra held (4/14): "From the very beginning, Syria has opened its doors to all efforts to achieve a just and lasting peace in the region in negotiations with Israel. The Rabin government recognized Syria's rights over the Golan Heights and showed its readiness to withdraw. The negotiations suddenly stopped, following the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin by Israeli extremist forces. And then came Netanyahu's government, which has worked consistently to freeze the entire Middle East peace process. Netanyahu lied to the Egyptian president, the U.S. administration and European leaders by making promises and not keeping his word. Israel is now trying to eliminate America's role as an active partner in the peace process. Recently, it came up with a new tactic by expressing its interest in withdrawing from southern Lebanon when it very well knows that the peace track on the Lebanese front is closely linked with the Syrian front. Israel must know that its security is based on a comprehensive and just peace."

EUROPE

BRITAIN: "Middle East On Brink' Of Military Flare-Up"

The centrist Independent reported 4/24: "Ten days before the vital London summit between Ben Netanyahu and Yasser Arafat, a leading security policy think tank warned that unless the United States used its influence to pull the peace process back from the brink, warfare could break out anew in the Middle East. In a sharp critique of Washington's policies, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) declared that the extreme patience thus far displayed by the United States in its role as mediator between Arabs and Israelis was turning from virtue into vice. Unless it acted now, the peace process could collapse completely--leading to a renewed Palestinian uprising, led certainly by more extreme Islamic elements.'

"The assessment heightens the urgency attending the Israeli-Arab summit promoted by Tony Blair next month.... But the fraught situation in the Middle east is only one worry voiced by the IISS's annual Strategic Survey. From the Balkans to the Gulf to financially troubled Asia, its message is the same: In the crunch, almost everything depends on American leadership; and all too often, that leadership is found wanting. The United States is the dominant world power, but it is often late into crisis management and oscillates unpredictably between unilateral and multilateral approaches to international problems."

"Blair Breathed New Life Into Peace Process"

BBC-TV aired this (4/21): "Tony Blair's visit has breathed new life into the Middle East peace process. He came to the Middle East with an old and simple idea: that leaders locked in conflict need to sit down and talk. It worked in Northern Ireland; it needs to work here. The United States has long tried to break the deadlock. American proposals are still the only ones under discussion. But Mr. Blair has added his prestige and influence and created what seems to be a new momentum."

"Bibi's Evasions"

The independent Financial Times' editorial said (4/21): "Anything Mr. Netanyahu says about his willingness to advance peace should be weighed for content. His approach to date has been all about process--and ways to empty that process of the substance of real negotiation. The only way Israel can secure peace with the Palestinians--and with other Arab neighbors whose land it occupies like Syria and Lebanon--is by returning that land in exchange for their recognition of Israelis' right to live in security. Whatever talks may or may not take place, those hosting and facilitating these negotiations should not cease making this clear to Mr. Netanyahu--and that everything else is evasion."

GERMANY: "Europe, U.S. Must Do More To End Mideast Stalemate"

Hans Tschech commented on national radio Deutschlandfunk of Berlin (4/22): "Europe and the United States must do more to end the stalemate in the Middle East.... At the moment, both sides seem to be pursuing a dual strategy. Blair's charm is followed by gloomy threats from the United States indicating that the Americans will withdraw from the peace process if things do not finally get going. But as it looks now, such threats need to become more concrete and much more massive if anything is to happen. The United States has already let Benjamin Netanyahu get away with too many things."

"Give Peace A Chance"

Left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau's editorial held (4/22), "The chances that the London summit will give the Middle East peace process a new momentum are rather meager.... Israel's master of public relations, Benjamin Netanyahu, had hardly launched a hopeful balloon when the air began to leak from it. Netanyahu said that he would go anywhere if it would help peace...but it soon became clear that he has little to contribute to this peace.... But since nobody really knows how to assist the peace process, one does not want to leave anything undone to get it going again. This is all the more true because the loss of prestige is smaller for London than for Washington. The main thing is that the talks and negotiations continue."

"Do Not Overestimate European Role"

Manfred Pantfoerder said in an editorial in right-of-center Berliner Morgenpost (4/21), "Tony Blair's attempt is to be welcomed since it is an attempt to keep the talks flowing. The role which the Europeans could play in this process, however, should not be overestimated even after the Blair coup. They could at best support the Palestinians who are in a really weak position. Only the Americans are able to exert pressure on Israel, but they do not want to do so."

FRANCE: "Netanyahu's Unacceptable Refusal To Implement Oslo"

The celebration of Israel's 50th anniversary prompted this assessment by Charles Lambroschini in right-of-center Le Figaro (4/22): "Israel is a model of Western-style economic development. This remarkable success makes all the more unacceptable Netanyahu's refusal to implement the Oslo accords.... His inability to consider a peaceful cohabitation on an equal basis with the Palestinians is the cause of a major break within Israeli society.... It would be extraordinary if Zionist ideology were to take a back seat to religious nationalism. Israel must not give in to extremism, a banal commodity in the Middle East. The day must not come when religious extremism based on the Bible is added to extremism based on the Koran."

"Unrealistic To Expect Anything Positive From This Meeting"

Dominique Bromberger concluded on government-run France Inter Radio (4/21): "Arafat and Netanyahu will come to London together, and there is a chance they may meet, even if the United States is still incapable of imposing the slightest thing on its Israeli ally.... Washington has already warned Europe that its role is simply to pick up the tab, not to give its advice. Even if Netanyahu gives in to a make-believe concession in order to keep Washington happy, it would be unrealistic to expect anything positive from this meeting. Netanyahu and Arafat are on a collision course for lack of strong outside intervention. A disaster may only be a question of time."

ITALY: "Europe, Led By Blair, Is Going To Count Again In Middle East"

The news analysis on the front page of provocative, classical liberal Il Foglio read (4/22): "The summit among Netanyahu, Arafat and Albright to be held in London in May will take place under the aegis of the White House, but the latter is realizing that the American monopoly over Middle East negotiations is destined to fail at this point. New partners are needed, albeit in a more subordinate position. And here is where the new activism on the Middle East front by Great Britain, serving its term as EU president, as well as by France and Italy, can productively join American diplomacy. Europe has been confined so far to the role of a silent note-taker, but is gradually regaining a second-lead role in a Middle East which is rapidly evolving."

"Mediterranean Forum: Israel Should Withdraw From Territories"

According to centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (4/22): "The foreign ministers of the 11 countries of the Mediterranean Forum...concluded their meeting in Palma de Mallorca asking for the creation of a Palestinian state and urging, in the final communique, 'a credible, satisfactory and adequate Israeli withdrawal' from 'the occupied Palestinian territories.'... All participating countries reiterated their commitment towards the Middle East peace process, looking with hope to the London talks on May 4.... Spanish Foreign Minister Abel Matutes, who hosted the meeting, pointed out that the U.S. proposal which will be discussed in London...is the only viable one if we want to revive the peace process."

"Blair Offers U.S. Plan Under EU Guise"

Ugo Tramballi commented in leading business Il Sole-24 Ore (4/21): "We cannot deny it: Following the solution of the Ulster crisis, today people see the halo of a miracle maker around Blair.... In reality, Tony Blair cannot have a new solution which would satisfy those who are full of hope: because the Oslo agreements are the best of the formulas for reaching peace in the Middle East.... Therefore, there is no alternative to the Oslo scheme.... But, at this point...the Israeli and Palestinian people are ready to listen to Blair, to participate in a summit in London, to accept from him things they rejected from others. Netanyahu does not have many concessions to make to the Palestinians, but he cannot allow himself to remain isolated from the world as he is now. Arafat does not accept anything less than a Palestinian state, but he needs to see that things move one way or another.... Tony Blair...is the much-hoped-for geographic and political path between two poles. On one side there is the American mediation which is not working; on the other one there is the EU which does not have any Middle Eastern policy."

BELGIUM: "Risk-Free?"

Foreign affairs writer Frank Schloemer observed in independent De Morgen (4/22), "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has invited the far-right Moledet Party to enter into the government. Moledet is a totally racist party which strives for the 'removal' of all Palestinians and Arabs from Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and their transfer to Arab countries.... The news does not bode well for the London conference which British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced unexpectedly earlier this week.... Anyway, with his initiative Blair is helping Washington out of the deadlock and bringing Europe back on the stage again. Moreover, Washington will not run any risk: If (the) London (conference) is a failure, the United States cannot be blamed."

CANADA: "The Irresponsibles"

French-language liberal La Presse held (4/23), "British Prime Minister Tony Blair is telling himself that his remarkable success in Northern Ireland this past week justifies a certain optimism and he has therefore proposed an Arafat-Netanyahu summit.... But Mr. Blair spoke in the name of European Union, of which he is presently president.... But Europe has never played a dominant role in the peace negotiations between Israel and Egypt for example, unlike the United States.... In the end, the Mr. Blair's intervention is traditionally British. He has simply raised to his lips the American trumpet in a field where France would like to see Europe become more active. This little game is far from being inoffensive, because it tends to turn attention away from the real problems which affect the negotiations: the Israelis' procrastination and the Palestinian's prevarication."

HUNGARY: "Some Minor Results Would Be Welcome"

Influential Magyar Hirlap stressed (4/22), "Netanyahu faces the dilemma of either seeking consensus with the Palestinians, which implies compromise and defeat by his own coalition, or holding on to his post. Netanyahu has, for the time being, chosen the latter alternative and, because of his insistence, he has gotten his only potential negotiating partner, Arafat, into a fix. Since Netanyahu's takeover, the Palestinian Authority has not received anything from Israel but Hebron. Consequently, more and more Arabs are lining up with the extremists. The circle has been completed and the key architect of the Middle East peace process, the United States, is also admitting it now. It would be better if the coming London round brought some minor results, which could foster further efforts and could be helped by Great Britain and the EU, after all."

THE NETHERLANDS: "U.S. Will Be In Charge, As Usual"

An editorial in centrist Algemeen Dagblad (4/22) concluded, "As usual, it will be the United States that will be in charge of the upcoming summit. It is unrealistic to think that the UK or the EU could compete with the United States economically or diplomatically. There is also reason to be skeptical about the 'summit,' because the different standpoints exclude the possibility of a compromise."

SOUTH ASIA

PAKISTAN: "Europe's Bid"

In the editorial view of Islamabad's sensationalist, anti-U.S. Muslim (4/22), "Blair has shown his credibility and positive orientation by asking Israel to honour its commitments under the signed peace accords to carry out further troop withdrawals from occupied West Bank, which are months overdue."

EAST ASIA

AUSTRALIA: "Blair's Timely Israel Push"

The liberal Sydney Morning Herald opined (4/23), "The London (Middle East peace) meetings...cannot be viewed with much optimism.... Mr. Blair's infectious enthusiasm and plain doggedness has counted for something. It is hard to see though, that what has been impossible to achieve in repeated visits to Washington by Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Arafat will be possible in London. As always, the real determinant progress in the peace process will be internal politics in the Middle East, especially Israeli politics.... Much more by Israelis and Palestinians alike will be required to shift the parties toward actual agreement."

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4/24/98

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