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SLUG: 6-125671 Likud Palestine Vote











INTRO: Sunday's vote by the leadership of Israel's ruling Likud party to never accept a sovereign Palestinian state has prompted widespread comment throughout the American press.

Most of the editorials were sharply critical of Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli former prime minister who orchestrated the vote, after current Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had left the meeting. The newspapers generally said this further complicates U-S-Israeli relations and could not have come at a worse time in the Middle East peace process. We get a sampling now from V-O-A's ________________ who joins us with today's U-S Opinion Roundup.

TEXT: Many U-S editorials viewed the non-binding vote by Likud's Central Committee as a not very subtle political ploy by Mr. Netanyahu. Most papers say he is trying to embarrass Mr. Sharon and split the party to gain support for an electoral challenge to Mr. Sharon. We begin our sampling with The Detroit [Michigan] News.

VOICE: Israeli leaders pushed the Middle East further from peace this week . The dominant Likud Party, acting in defiance of its own leader, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, adopted a . resolution .[that] it would never support a Palestinian state. . Without hope of gaining independence, the Palestinians have no reason to come to the peace table. . The alternative to statehood for the Palestinians is for Israel to either commit itself to forever being caretaker to a hostile people, or to expel the Palestinians from the territories. Both are unacceptable.

TEXT: Thoughts from The Detroit News. In the same city, Detroit's Free Press calls the vote "both defiant and dangerous."

VOICE: Just when you think the prospect for peace in the Middle East could not get worse, Israel's ruling Likud Party finds a way to ratchet things up. . an independent Palestinian nation of some kind is inevitable and essential for any lasting peace in the Middle East. The Palestinians will accept no less - - nor should they be expected to. . By opposing a Palestinian nation, the Likud Party, in effect, is rejecting a political solution to the decades-old conflict. Instead, it is calling for a military solution, which is impossible. The carnage will continue for decades to come.

TEXT: In Ohio, Cleveland's Plain Dealer finds some hope in a recent Israeli public opinion survey.

VOICE: If the Central Committee of the Likud Party reflected the thinking of all Israelis, then any peace process in the Mideast would be in real trouble. [But f]ortunately, the latest polls indicate that [Mr.] Netanyahu's naysayers do not reflect Israeli opinion as a whole.

TEXT: Still in Ohio, Cincinnati's Post explains:

VOICE: The Bush White House dismissed the vote as "internal domestic politics" and reiterated the president's support for an independent Palestinian state. And in part it was domestic politics. The no-state resolution was engineered by .[Mr.] Netanyahu . who hopes to oust [Prime Minister] Sharon and regain his old job.

TEXT: Turning to New England, the Boston Globe accused Mr. Netanyahu of demonstrating "blind ambition," adding that the resolution places Mr. Sharon "in the position of trying to govern Israel in a time of crisis while being denounced on a crucial issue by his own party." The Globe goes on:

VOICE: The fact that [Likud] Central Committee members who voted for the resolution were elected when [Mr.] Netanyahu was prime minister does not alter the predicament facing [Prime Minister] Sharon and those of his cabinet ministers who are [also] from Likud. If [Mr.] Sharon goes along with U-S peacemaking efforts, which are all premised on the common objective of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, then he and his fellow Likud ministers will be forced to choose between the government and their party - - between [Mr.] Sharon and [Mr.] Netanyahu . The resolution . was Bibi's [Netanyahu] way of announcing that he is the next prime minister waiting in the wings.

TEXT: Comments of The Boston Globe. Meanwhile, in Texas, The Houston Chronicle says the vote is ". less a setback for Palestinians than a blow against Israeli security and U-S diplomacy." saying:

VOICE: The vote cost Israel a measure of international sympathy it had gained for suffering a wave of suicide bombings. It detracted from Israeli political and national unity and threw a monkey wrench [Editors: U-S slang for "badly disrupting something"] into the workings of U-S/Israeli relations.

Few people outside the Likud party believe Israel can prosper while continuing its occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. . The Likud party's rejection of long-standing, bipartisan U-S foreign policy practically dares [President] Bush, who must balance the desire for Jewish votes against the need for Arab cooperation in the war on terror, to apply serious financial or political pressure on Israel. . There are times when election-year posturing for votes should give way to far-sighted, responsible leadership and diplomacy. . this [is] one of those times.

TEXT: Excerpts from an editorial in The Houston Chronicle. In the Pacific Northwest, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer calls the intra-party dispute "ill-considered," and suggests the party did not advance its cause with the move.

VOICE: Israel's Likud Party risks being marginalized, and rightly so, after voting Sunday never to allow a Palestinian state. . a Palestinian state is inevitable . if Israel means to live in peace. There is always the option of escalating, endless warfare, which seems to be what Likud is courting. Likud has positioned itself with those who are part of the problem rather than part of the solution. It has complicated the already complex business of moving all the affected parties to make the political sacrifices and to take the political risks necessary to bring about peace.

. Likud's ill-advised vote also comes at an ill-advised time: Arab nations, notably Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Syria, met over the weekend [May 11- 12] and reaffirmed their commitment to a peace initiative expected to result in a Palestinian state, as called for in the Oslo peace accords.

TEXT: The views of Seattle's Post-Intelligencer. On the other side of the country, The New York Post calls the vote " largely irrelevant," continuing:

VOICE: That is because Prime Minister . Sharon insists that, notwithstanding the ballot, "I will continue to lead Israel according to the considerations that have always guided me." And public opinion polls show that the vast majority of Israelis - - 68 percent . back the prime minister's performance. Yes, what happened . constitutes a political embarrassment - - one engineered by former Prime Minister . Netanyahau, who hopes to replace Sharon. . That elements of his own party are willing to embarrass him at this critical point speaks to their short-sightedness. The strength of Ariel Sharon is that he has always refused to be intimidated by outside political pressure.

TEXT: Lastly, these remarks by The Washington Times:

VOICE: . the media . tends to overlook the much more important problems of today - - continuing Palestinian terrorism that would make any such state a serious threat to Israel. If anything, the Likud vote does show that Prime Minister . Sharon, who is constantly caricatured in the press as an "enemy of peace," has actually become Israel's foremost defender of what is left of the peace process begun under Yitzhak Rabin.

TEXT: On that note, we conclude this editorial sampling from the American press on the Likud Party's vote rejecting the concept of a sovereign Palestine.


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