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August 24, 2004
ISRAELI SETTLEMENTS: 'FLAGRANT DISREGARD' OF THE ROADMAP

August 24, 2004

ISRAELI SETTLEMENTS: 'FLAGRANT DISREGARD' OF THE ROADMAP

KEY FINDINGS

** Sharon's plans for further settlement expansion leaves the peace process in "shambles."

** Israeli media predict that "construction in the major settlement blocs will continue."

** Election concerns in the U.S. provide "cover" for Israel to "do its mischief."

MAJOR THEMES

'Ceding the moral high ground'-- Global dailies condemned PM Ariel Sharon's "maneuver" to expand Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Canada's leading Globe and Mail assailed the "clear violation" of roadmap commitments; other dailies termed the expansion "evidence" of Sharon's quest for a "cold peace," not a negotiated settlement, with Palestinians, who currently have "no real negotiating power." Many outlets saw an "implied bargain" in which the settlement expansion will be "traded off" in exchange for a "Gaza withdrawal." An Austrian commentator agreed that the "core of Sharon's plan" is to "maintain possession of a considerable part of the occupied West Bank." Attacking Sharon personally, liberal papers warned that he "cannot be taken at his word." Israel's Ha'aretz criticized Sharon's "pathetic and shameful" leadership and derided his deceptive "excuses and prevarications"; Qatar's semi-independent al-Raya thundered that "there is no longer anyone who believes" Sharon.

'Enforcing peace'-- Israeli outlets split along ideological lines regarding both Sharon and the future of the settlements. Leftist writers expressed concern that if Israel does not disengage from Gaza as Sharon has promised, it will confirm the belief among Arabs that "it was all an Israeli plot to deepen the occupation." Other critics on the left treated the delays in evacuating settlers as the "continuing surrender of Israeli governments to domineering settlers." Pro-settler papers, meanwhile, blasted Sharon for accepting "considerable constraints regarding the development" of settlements and for his "unconditional surrender to the racist American dictate" of withdrawal from Gaza. The conservative Jerusalem Post insisted that the settlement blocs "take up less than a tenth of the West Bank and do not block the creation of a Palestinian state" and underscored Palestinian "rejectionism, despotism and aggression."

Bush gave Sharon a 'green light'-- Stressing the Bush administration's desire to do "whatever is necessary to guarantee votes" of Jews, Muslim writers blamed "submission to the Zionist lobby" for the U.S.' "continued support of the Sharon regime." Lebanon's moderate Daily Star warned that the expanded settlements are a "recipe for anarchy, lawlessness and immorality," while Algeria's influential El Watan added that the U.S.' "total contempt" for Arabs will "fuel Islamic terrorism." Saudi Arabia's conservative Al-Madina held that the decision "contradicted all previous commitments" made by the U.S. to control "Israeli expansion." Palestinian observers predicted that the U.S. will "totally lose credibility" with this clear "death sentence against the roadmap"; independent Al-Quds told Washington that "occupied Palestinian land is not your property to be disposed of in secret with Israel."

Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, rmrmail@state.gov

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 49 reports from 16 countries over July 27 - August 24, 2004. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.

EDITORS: Saxon Housman and Ben Goldberg

EUROPE

BRITAIN: "Israel-Palestine: Diplomacy Must Engage"

The left-of-center Guardian judged (8/20): "In the shambles of what remains of the peace process, Mr. Sharon's Gaza proposal has been reluctantly accepted by the UN secretary general and other international players as better than nothing, though it is a unilateral step which--if carried through--would risk leaving the larger problem of the West Bank permanently unresolved. This week the other side of Mr. Sharon's implied bargain was spelled out, when plans were announced to accelerate the expansion of settlements in the West Bank by building an extra 1000 houses for settlers.... Washington's initial low-key response...bears out claims by sources close to Mr. Sharon of a secret understanding with the Bush administration that its protests will only be muted and pro forma.... The Israel-Palestine situation grows ever worse while attention has been fatally diverted by the war in Iraq and the subsequent occupation. There is no magic answer, of course, but international diplomacy must re-engage and...continue to press for a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine based on the internationally accepted pre-1967 borders."

"Unsettling Development"

The conservative Times opined (8/18): "Ariel Sharon's decision to issue tenders for 1,000 new homes in Jewish settlements on the West Bank is a gamble as fraught with risk as many of the daring military maneuvers that brought him such success as a battlefield general.... Mr. Sharon has probably gauged overseas reaction correctly. As long as violence continues in Gaza, turmoil undermines the credibility of the Palestinian Authority, and Yasir Arafat continues to block negotiations with Israel on security, there is little reason for Israel to feel under pressure to negotiate, as Mr. Sharon made clear with his misinterpreted Gaza proposal. Washington politics are particularly complicated in an election year, and Israel's prime minister no doubt senses that he can act with the cover of a presidential election. His domestic calculations seem less assured. He has, so far, fended off accusations of political corruption, and he has also outmaneuvered would-be rivals within Likud. But Gaza gives his enemies a chance for revenge. Israelis on the Left are reluctant to shore up Mr. Sharon's power; those on the Right can count on a noisy campaign by settlers to embarrass a man who has so long championed their cause. Mr. Sharon has tried to defuse opposition by stalling the details of the pull-out. Now he hopes the settlements can be traded off for a Gaza withdrawal. The problem is that by staking a claim to more territory, Mr. Sharon is ceding the moral high ground."

GERMANY: "Facts Made Of Concrete"

Thorsten Schmitz noted in Munich's center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung (8/10): "According to Israeli media, Premier Sharon has issued a preliminary construction stop for two settlements and ordered a review of whether the construction takes plan according to the law. At issue is whether additional territory on the West Bank is used or whether the apartments can be included in the existing settlements. It is only a pro forma gesture to calm things down. But there is a wide gap between the statements of the Israeli government on (extending) settlements on the West Bank and the facts on the ground. In the affected areas, every one can see that the settlements are extended and that new access roads are being built. And Ariel Sharon can refer to George W. Bush who assured him in April that Israel can stay in parts of the West Bank. This contradicts Palestinian demands for a state territory that is linked up - and is evidence of Sharon's striving for cold peace with his neighbors."

"Arafat's Dream Has Not Come True"

Susanne Knaul noted in leftist die tageszeitung of Berlin (8/5): "Looking at the peace process, Palestinian President Arafat said three years after the negotiations in Camp David that he would agree on Clinton's plan today. At that time, the former Nobel Peace Prize winner was sitting behind the gates of his seat in Ramallah, which he does not leave because he his worried that he could not return. But where could he go anyway? Arafat maneuvered himself onto political sidelines. If there will ever be a peace treaty between Israel and Palestinians, it won't carry Arafat's signature."

AUSTRIA: "Sharon Wants A Victor's Peace"

Peter Huemer contended in mass-circulation provincial Kleine Zeitung (8/24): "The withdrawal from the Gaza Strip would be the precondition for the core of Sharon's plan: for Israel to maintain possession of a considerable part of the conquered West Bank and leave the rest to the Palestinians.... The chances that Sharon's plan will succeed are not bad because a majority of Israelis are in favor of it, because the Americans will be in favor of it, and because Sharon the warrior fulfills all preconditions for leading Israel towards a victor's peace. And the Palestinians? Their leadership structures have been completely destroyed by the Israeli army acting on Sharon's orders. In addition, and this is the decisive factor, through corruption, the ineptitude of their leaders, internal power struggles, and murderous criminal actions against Israelis, they have weakened themselves to such an extent that, at least for the time being, they have no say over their own destiny."

"Sharon, The Master Builder"

Markus Bernath opined in liberal Der Standard (8/18): "Sharon would like to be remembered in history as the head of the government in Israel who solved the Palestinian problem by enforcing peace, and who cemented Israel's claim on land and the strategic security to protect it in the West Bank. Withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, consolidation of the settlement blocks in the West Bank and the erection of the great barrier are the three pillars of his peace policy. The progress he has so far made can be measured by the fact that the Prime Minister has now only two groups with whom to negotiate his withdrawal and building concept: the critics in his own Likud party and the American government. The Palestinians were actually eliminated as negotiation partners by President Bush himself. During Sharon's visit to Washington in April, Bush, as the first American head of state to do this, dismissed the theoretical right of the Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland while at the same time supporting Sharon's acquisition of some settlements in the West Jordan in the framework of a final agreement. Since then, the Palestinians have had no real negotiating power that they could have used in their dealings with the Middle East negotiator USA."

IRELAND: "Sharon The Survivor"

Center-left daily The Irish Times editorialized (8/19): "It is said of the Israeli prime minister, Mr. Ariel Sharon, that his bulldozer image leaves little room to appreciate his cunning and guile as a political in-fighter. These skills have been fully in evidence over the last month in his pursuit of a coalition agreement with the Labor party.... Mr. Sharon is adept at jousting with these critics in such a way as to boost his popularity with the Israeli public, irrespective of whether he wins or loses particular party tussles.... The announcement on the day before the meeting that tenders for 1,000 new homes in West Bank settlements are to be issued was widely seen as a cynical ploy. It could be dropped after criticism by members of the international Quartet trying to revise the peace process. Mr. Sharon knows most Israeli voters support the Gaza withdrawal, want to see religious parties out of the coalition and would accept a Likud-Labor coalition more capable of delivering a two-state settlement with the Palestinians. But he would have to sacrifice some of his objectives to reach a deal with Labor.... If it can be agreed, a coalition dominated by Likud and Labor would be better placed to renew negotiations with the Palestinians, so long as the Gaza withdrawal was harnessed to the Quartet's road map towards peace.... Mr. Sharon's long-term strategy has been to weaken the Palestinian leadership and the resistance to Israeli occupation by brutal force, political guile and faits accomplis. It would be foolish not to take account of his parallel capacity to survive within the cauldron of Israeli politics despite disaffection in his party."

NORWAY: "Help To Get Out Of Gaza"

John Hultgren commented in newspaper-of-record Aftenposten (8/23): "The plan to build 1000 new residences in the existing settlement in the West Bank could not be further removed from the roadmap to peace.... By silently supporting an extension of the settlement in the West Bank, which the International community considers illegal, Bush wishes to demonstrate the political warmth that Israel can expect from Washington should they carry out the Gaza-plan.... Even though it is difficult to predict what the result will be of the two insurrections, against the Gaza plan and in favor of reforms, they create hope of a change in the political stagnation that has colored the situation for many years. The remaining question then is what direction such change would take."

SPAIN: "Time For Important Decisions In Israel"

Conservative ABC declared (8/20): "This is one of the few times in which Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon seems to be the determined promoter...of a chapter in the 'Road Map'.... Although it is an Israel's unilateral decision, even the most reluctant have ended up recognizing that, if the promise is kept, it is better than nothing.... The problem would be if Sharon wanted to use the decision of keeping the withdrawal plans from the Gaza strip in exchange for continuing to build the wall in the West Bank as currently designed. The Israeli PM should understand that the international community will not accept that the price for the withdrawal of the tenant farmers from Gaza be the obligingness of the appropriation of the Palestinian territories that remain inside the abusive design of the defensive wall. If one wants to see the bottle half full, one may feel at least the illusion that this move might contribute to break in some way the vicious circle of violence-suppression-terrorism-reprisal-violence.... But, on the other hand, it does not seem odd to the domestic Israeli politics the fact that the shadow of elections is on the horizon...and, if the Labor Party doesn't help Sharon, the Parliament might be dissolved even earlier."

MIDDLE EAST

ISRAEL: "Rethinking Settlements"

Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (8/24): "For years any expansion of Israeli communities, known as settlements, in Judea and Samaria, known as the West Bank, was met by knee-jerk American opposition. Now it seems the automaticity of this policy is being reconsidered. It's about time.... The whole obsession with settlements is a holdover from a pre-9/11 era. Since then, American thinking has rightly been turned upside down.... Once upon a time, settlements were seen as the way to block a Palestinian state. But now that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has displayed such incredible determination to dismantle just such settlements, it makes all the more sense for the U.S. to stop playing into the perennial Palestinian attempt to change the subject from its own rejectionism, despotism, and aggression. We welcome the signs that the U.S. may put away its settlement microscope, and support the growth of the settlement blocs, which take up less than a tenth of the West Bank and do not block the creation of a Palestinian state. Far from harming the 'peace process,' this overdue shift would help compel the Palestinians to make one possible."

"Apartheid Against Settlers"

Dan Margalit stated in popular, pluralist Maariv (8/24): "The news that 115 foreign ministers [of non-aligned nations] recommended that their governments forbid settlers entry into their sovereign territory was received in Israel with unforgivable indifference.... It is easy to imagine what lies ahead...perhaps some countries will make do with obliging people who live in the territories to sew a yellow star on their clothes.... It is a terrifying prospect.... Even in its current stage, as a recommendation only, this is a statement that cannot be tolerated because it is a seminal moment in the process of delegitimizing [Israel] that is underway in Europe and in Asia, which is aimed against the very existence of Israel. Ultimately, this process will not stop at the Green Line. It is testimony to a general hostility towards the state of the Jews, which feeds on undeniably anti-Semitic roots.... [Nevertheless], it was because of the settlers' expansionist urges that the government of Israel was cast as deceitful and mendacious and untrue to its word, when it broke its commitment to the U.S. to stop expanding settlements and to remove the illegal settlement outposts.... They share some of the responsibility for the practical deterioration of the situation of all Jews in Israel in the international arena. That is very heavy responsibility, but it should not spur Jews in veteran Israel to reconcile themselves with an apartheid policy.... If there is a country that refuses to allow a settler in its midst, it is not worthy of receiving me as a visitor."

"Only The Building Goes On And On"

Aluf Benn opined in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (8/22): "Saturday's New York Times said the U.S.agrees to building in some of the settlements, supporting Sharon's position. Perhaps the report, which surprised Israeli officials, was 'ordered' by Sharon's aides, to show the administration's support for him after the defeat in the Likud. The newspaper is no less reliable than an official statement and spares the administration the need to explain to its Arab and European friends. The U.S. has attempted to restrict the settlements since Sharon's election.... The White House demanded, and received, in exchange for Bush's April letter to Sharon a commitment for a joint demarcation of the existing building line in each settlement. The understanding has no definition of 'existing building line' and, in addition, Israel promised to limit the building, but received no restriction on planning and taking over lands. Thus it can prepare 'strengthening' its hold in the settlement blocs. The political vacuum, due to the U.S. elections, gives Sharon relative freedom of movement in the settlements. The main concern of defense sources is that the disengagement will not take place, supporting the claim of the Palestinians and of Arab states that it was all an Israeli plot to deepen the occupation."

"Cooperation"

Ultra-Orthodox Yated Ne'eman declared (8/23): "The close relations between Prime Minister Sharon and U.S. President Bush are being expressed as both leaders are in the middle of a tough struggle of survival.... Reports that the U.S. Administration wouldn't object to continued construction in settlement blocs to fulfill needs of 'natural growth' have not been exposed by chance. Someone in the Administration is interested in the reports reaching the [American] Jewish public--in these very days.... There can be no doubt that the reports about the 'permit' being granted to [Sharon] by the Administration to build in settlement blocs strengthens his position, also among the most right-wing Likud members. The story...is therefore useful to both sides--the U.S. administration and Sharon."

"Another Maneuver By Sharon"

Nationalist Orthodox Hatzofe editorialized (8/18): "The submission of the construction plans for the settlements in Judea and Samaria [i.e. the West Bank] is yet another maneuver by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.... Mr. prime minister, there is no one left who believes you. The effort that the prime minister has been making with regard to assembling the Likud Convention also includes issuing threats that if he does not get what he wants, he will resign. We heard the very same threats, word for word, only a short time ago, on the eve of Sharon's defeat in the referendum on disengagement. Then too we were intimidated with completely identical words. A day after the referendum everything was forgotten. It is possible that the prime minister is depending on the fact that our memory is short. There may be something in this--otherwise, Sharon would not have been elected. However, we are still not that senile."

"Marzel's Men To Settlers: Fight 'Insane Sharon'"

Efrat Weiss held in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (8/17): "The party led by right-wing activist Barukh Marzel has sent a letter to the settlers, calling upon then in radical terms to escalate the struggle against the disengagement plan, 'to stop the old man Sharon's madness and rout the forces of destruction and ruin.... Behold, the disengagement plan of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has befallen us--a plan for unconditional surrender to the racist American dictate and to the murderous Arab enemy, a plan for desertion in the midst of battle, for your eviction from your homes and for razing your settlements to the ground. It is the first stage on the way to the liquidation of the entire settlement enterprise in Judaea and Samaria, according to the Palestinians' phased plan, which the old man Sharon has adopted after losing his way in the darkness of his dotage.... The time has come to launch a fearsome and uncompromising struggle over the Bloc, over the Strip, over northern Samaria, and thereby over the entire Land of Israel. This action must be forceful, almost on the brink of aggressiveness.... Mass demonstrations must lay siege to this malevolent cabinet during its meetings, and bottle up the ministers for many hours and days, until they are fed up with their posts and beg to be let out of the building; and non-violent civil disobedience must be prepared for--and started really soon'.... The old man Sharon has become a withered member, drooping and flaccid, bereft of any judgment. The collapse of his bodily systems threatens the entire state with a similar collapse. This is the way of all flesh: while slowly staggering to his own finish, the old man Sharon, who has lost his mind, is seeking to bring down all of Israel and take it with him."

"Enough Of The Winking"

Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (8/17): "There is something both pathetic and shameful as far as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's leadership is concerned, regarding the regular reminders that the U.S. administration keeps sending his way about keeping his promise on the evacuation of outposts.... Ever since Sharon's commitment last June that 'the rule of law and order reigns in Israel, and we are immediately beginning the evacuation of the unauthorized outposts,' an enormous fabric of excuses and evasions has emerged to avoid implementing that decision: ...[the ultimate one being] the open admission by nearly all of Sharon's associates that it is pointless to evacuate the outposts when a much more important matter, the disengagement and evacuation of settlers, is on the agenda. Of all the excuses and prevarications, that last is the most pathetic and deceptive of them all, perhaps revealing the true intention when it comes to execution of the disengagement. Government decisions should be fulfilled as stated, and as soon as possible. Without an immediate and determined evacuation of the outposts, not only won't there be a buildup of energies and emotional forces before the disengagement takes place, but the contrary: it will serve as a precedent and an example of the continuing surrender of Israeli governments to the domineering settlers."

"Loose Lips"

Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (8/15): "Sharon's anger will not be enough. Both senior officials should know better than making statements that are above their station and that can potentially undermine Israel's position in future negotiations.... In a country continually faced with urgent crises, it is sometimes hard to deal with the merely important ones. But the crisis of Israeli governance may not be able to wait much longer. A prime minister who must routinely contend with insubordinate cabinet members and generals cannot be expected to govern effectively. As they used to say, 'Loose lips sink ships.'"

"He's No De Gaulle"

Liberal columnist Gideon Samet commented in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (8/13): "With Sharon anything is possible. It's quite possible--nobody really knows--that this was his aim in the first place: to make noises in favor of disengagement and the evacuation of settlements, to humiliate his main election rivals, and then to go to the next U.S. president, as well as to the Israeli majority that supports his plan, and to tell them that he tried, by everything sacred to him he tried--but didn't succeed. If that's what happens, all the Sharon critics will pick up their heads that were lowered for the sake of his experiment, and will see Sharon right in the place where he was, with a justice that he himself brought about. He's no de Gaulle, he's no Menachem Begin: he is a man, as David Ben-Gurion warned long ago, who cannot be taken at his word."

"The Hidden Side Of Disengagement"

Aluf Ben concluded in independent left-leaning Ha'aretz (8/11): "Sharon made it clear that withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria is just one side of a triangle whose other sides are completing the separation fence in the West Bank and 'strengthening control' over the settlement blocs.... Through its numerous incarnations, his plan for widening Israel's narrow hips and holding on to 'the security zones' in the West Bank continues to guide him to this day. The list of projects planned for the settlements, which is now under review, follows along the same line. Sharon and Mofaz have been downplaying their roles in bolstering settlements, despite the fact that their signatures are required for every move there. They prefer to be seen as the statesmen of disengagement, and to hide behind former housing minister Effi Eitam. Complaints by the Yesha Council of Jewish settlements about freezing and drying only help to sustain that image. And when their cover is blown in the media, and the American administration grumbles, the transparent excuses are whipped out. 'That's an old plan,' 'Rabin approved it,' etc. So what? Rabin also talked to Arafat and considered withdrawing from the Golan Heights. But that's enough for the American administration, preoccupied by a difficult election campaign, to look in other directions. Therefore, even if the fence route moves close to the Green Line, and even if the outposts are vacated, construction in the major settlements will continue. The defense minister already said on some occasion that Ma'ale Adumim is a city in Israel, not some little settlement or isolated outpost."

"Painful Thorn"

Aluf Benn judged in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (8/8): "In any case the disengagement will occur, if at all, beyond the present horizon of Bush's administration, which may not be in office next year. As far as the present White House staff is concerned, the outposts are the most painful thorn in relations with Israel. Again and again Sharon promised to evacuate them, and always the promise turned to excuses and evasions.... Sharon knows the outposts' affair is a test of his credibility in the U.S. and that if elected John Kerry will also not leave him alone on this matter. Still, it is difficult to see how his men can unravel all at once a 37-year old legal tangle, move the defense establishment, which is not thrilled at handling the outposts, and remove them from the hills by November. This is especially so since at the same time they have to bring Labor into the cabinet, overcome the rebellion in the Likud, pass the budget, and approve legislation to compensate the evacuated settlers of Gaza and the northern West Bank."

"Make Up Your Minds Already"

Yoel Marcus, in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz, commented (8/6): "The bottom of a barrel symbolizes something that has an end. Ergo, eliminating terror by force is possible.... As long as life sucks and their national aspirations are not achieved, terror will increase.... Looking at all this confusion, with Sharon busy assembling a broad coalition in favor of leaving the Gaza Strip, and Israel entering an era of political maneuvering and pressure, the time has come to say: 'Hey guys, make up your minds already! Quit arguing over whether or not a barrel has a bottom and start looking for one that contains prospects for a diplomatic agreement. Without that, we'll never see the end of terror.'"

"A Freeze In The West Bank"

Nationalist, orthodox Hatzofe editorialized (8/6): "The U.S. wants to apply 'freezing pictures' around the Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria [i.e. the West Bank]. Not only does it oppose expansion of construction outside the settlements' borders as shown in aerial photographs, but it also rejects further construction inside those settlements. It claims that an agreement on the matter was reached during Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's latest meeting with President George Bush in the White House.... Little by little, Sharon's 'achievements' during his visit to the U.S. capital are being exposed. Not only did the prime minister not obtain an unequivocal promise from the U.S. that it support the annexation of significant parts of Judea and Samaria to Israel, but also Sharon actually accepted considerable constraints regarding the development of the Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria, including the Etzion Bloc settlements adjoining the old, pre-Six Day War border.... We must free ourselves as soon as possible from the 'freezing point' and allow Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria, and the Gaza Strip, to develop without restraint."

WEST BANK: "Palestinian Land Isn't America's To Dispose Of"

Independent Al-Quds editorialized (8/23): "News about an American-Israeli agreement according to which the U.S. approves settlement expansion in the Occupied Territories, using new expressions like 'vertical expansion' in some settlements, reflects a serious development in the American administration's stand on the Palestinian cause and international legitimacy.... This American position means ignoring all previously signed agreements, including Oslo, which the U.S. signed and considered the foundation of the peace process.... Certainly, this American position places more obstacles before peace efforts, including the road map about whose implementation the U.S. claims to be concerned. What should be said to Washington here is that occupied Palestinian land is not your property to be disposed of in secret with Israel. If you are concerned about achieving peace, you had better have respect for international legitimacy, principles of justice, freedom and signed agreements, and stand with the international community in denouncing Israeli aggression and settlements, in order to end the occupation and allow the Palestinian people to enjoy their legitimate rights. Although the credibility of American policy collapsed a long time ago, this new stance proves that there are those in Washington who are intent on gaining still more hostility and hatred for an American policy that favors the Israeli occupation and aggression."

"Settlement States"

Yusuf Qazzaz observed in official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (8/23): "Any American flexibility toward settlement on Palestinian land is a death sentence against the roadmap. If the information released by the NY Times regarding Washington's approval of vertical expansion of some settlements is correct, the U.S. will totally lose its credibility with regard to the peace process. The current American administration apparently does not realize that any Israeli settlement is basically [both] the physical expansion of Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and the breakup of the country in which the Palestinian people are to establish their own sovereign state with Jerusalem as its capital.... Thus, any American support to any form of settlements bids peace farewell and generates wars in the form of Intifadas [uprisings] and other forms of resistance."

"We Can Make Israel An International Rogue State"

Talal 'Ukal observed in independent Al-Ayyam (8/19): "Press statements talk about the Americans being annoyed at Israeli challenges, whether in terms of dismantling what have been called unauthorized settlement outposts or of building new housing units. Nevertheless, Sharon does not care and faces such statements with more obstinacy. Sharon is apparently taking advantage of the American administration's preoccupation with elections while he continues previous Israeli governments' habit of blackmailing those running for the White House. It would have been only normal for the American administration, as a means of maintaining its dignity, to take a clear stance to halt Sharon's, which is a real violation of American policy. However, this is not the case. The American administration seems to support this policy and, on the pretext that it's busy with elections, runs from taking different positions and throws dust in the Arabs' eyes."

"Settlement Expansion With Washington's Knowledge"

Independent Al-Quds noted (8/18): "Yesterday, the Israeli Government issued tenders for the construction of 1,000 new housing units in West Bank settlements.... Political analysts and observes stress that it 'conflicts with the road map,' because this initiative calls for freezing any construction in all settlements, whether settlement outposts or big settlements.... Settlement activity and construction inside settlements have not stopped, but rather have escalated and intensified. Moreover, settlement outposts have not been removed. To the contrary, it seems that their numbers have mushroomed, and that they receive [government] appropriations as well as financial and logistic aid; therefore they have been expanding each year. The strange thing is that the Israeli sources do not care about international reactions in general, and about what is being issued or not issued by the United States in terms of feeble statements that do not rise up to the level of condemnation of these settlement activities.... Palestinians do not believe the U.S.'s stance has ever been strong enough toward settlements.... Perhaps the fact that U.S. President Bush recognizes the majority of Jewish settlements in the West Bank as a fait accompli is an indicator of the blatant U.S. connivance over the flagrant violations of the peace process and of Israel's and Washington's commitments toward peace initiatives and the road map."

"Nothing But Lies"

Independent Al-Quds noted (8/18): "The obstinate stand taken by Sharon concerning the construction of hundreds of new houses for Jewish settlers only means one thing, that whatever claims made [by Sharon] over withdrawal from Palestinian territories or acceptance of the resolutions from the Quartet are nothing but lies."

"Israeli Policy: Spinning Inside The Empty Circle Of Occupation"

Rajab Abu Sariya commented in independent Al-Ayyam (8/13): "One of the direct objectives of the Sharon's disengagement plan is confronting the political pressures that regional and international parties have exerted on Israel.... The mere declaration of this plan has, to a large extent, achieved this Israeli goal, foiling those regional and international political arguments. But even more, it has attenuated the international community's abiding interest in the whole issue of trying to find political solutions.... If not for the Egyptian efforts, which have emerged as a result of the Quartet's failure to fulfill its commitments toward its own road map and the Middle East conflict, there wouldn't have been any mention of Sharon's plan."

"Fighting The Wrong Battle"

An editorial in the independent pro-PA English-language Jerusalem Times read (8/13): "The trouble with the Palestinian cabinet and decision makers is that while they fight over posts in a country that does not yet exist, the Israeli occupation authorities are proceeding with plans to eat up the land and kick out its Palestinian population. The internal power struggle has diverted attention away from the battle over the separation wall and the rapid construction of settlements in the West Bank. Even President Arafat has mentioned this when he came out with Qurei to announce that they have resolved their differences over the post of prime minister. Arafat looked at the large number of press present outside his office and scolded them for wasting their time over internal political disputes while neglecting what the Israeli occupation was doing on the ground. But the question remains, who is truly responsible for this diversion?"

"It is High Time To Act In A Responsible Way"

Talal Awkal asserted in independent Al-Ayyam (8/12): "We are not facing the question: do you, or do you not, agree on Sharon's plan? Sharon is not waiting for, and does not even want, an answer. The Palestinians, according to Sharon, have to deal with the consequences of the plan, whether they like it or not. It is perhaps clear now that Sharon does not mind, and in fact would like, the PA to carry out its role in the Gaza Strip.... The Palestinians are forced to deal with the consequences of Sharon's plan.... The issue is not only dealing with a new reality that aims at destroying the Palestinian hopes and expectations, as well as all the possibilities of the peace process.... If it is necessary to take the initiative for rearranging the Palestinian state of affairs in a way that responds to the challenges of Sharon's plan, which constitutes a challenge for the Palestinian national enterprise and the unified Palestinian representation, then everyone should shoulder the historic responsibility. We may not be generous with others and stingy with ourselves. Likewise, we may not take the most important steps as a result of pressure and foreign demands at a time when these steps are originally, though with different content, Palestinian necessities first, second, and third. "

SAUDI ARABIA: "American Prejudice"

Jeddah's conservative Al-Madina contended (8/23): "It goes without saying that Prime Minister Sharon would not have announced his settlement expansion project without a green light from Washington. Back in May 2004 President Bush gave Prime Minister Sharon a green light to occupy whatever he [Sharon] wanted in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and add it to Israel's declared land. This guarantee has contradicted all previous commitments of past U.S. administrations to keep Israeli expansion under control. It also goes without saying that President Bush would not have given Sharon these guarantees if the election were not around the corner."

"U.S. Support Of Israeli Settlement Policy"

Makkah's conservative Al-Nadwa held (8/23): "Lately there have been many changes in U.S. policies towards the Palestinian issue. These changes have become worrisome to the Palestinians, especially when the U.S. is still the alleged sponsor of the peace process. The most dangerous change in U.S. policy has been the U.S. support of the Israeli settlements.... This must be a direct result of the election fever that has hit the U.S. Both parties in the U.S. are doing whatever is necessary to guarantee votes of Jewish lobbies in their election campaigns. However, in these cases U.S. politicians must differentiate between short-term gains and long-term gains. A stance regarding Israel's expansion of settlements should not be a part of the deal, no matter who gets the presidential chair."

"Sharon's Settlements"

Jeddah's conservative Al-Madina editorialized (8/18): "We are not surprised that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced his approval for bids to build 1,000 new homes in the Jewish settlements on the West Bank. He is the legal father of the settlement expansion program in Israel. But the surprising thing is the U.S. support for this issue. Washington has always pressed Israel to dismantle the expanding settlements in order to revive the road map and the peace process. It seems that President Bush does not want to incur the anger of Jewish groups prior to the U.S. presidential election.... Now we want to see a clear and strong Arab position.

"When Sharon's Aggression Ends"

Jeddah's moderate Okaz stated (8/18): "The Israelis under the leadership of Sharon do not want a rebirth of Palestine or the peace process.... Will the world believe their lies or have faith in Sharon's claims?"

"Stopping Sharon"

Abha's moderate Al-Watan commented (8/18): "While the world and the Arabs are busy with Darfur and the Iraq crisis, and the U.S. is occupied with the presidential election and Iraq, Israel is aiming at carrying out its expansion project. The Arabs must immediately reject the Israeli project. Sharon intends to bring in more Jewish people to force Palestinians to accept any peace plane.... The announced American position is not really serious. Washington simply expressed its disappointment of the expansion because it contradicts the road map. The American administration understands the Israeli position because it feels that 'Sharon needs' such a step to secure the support of his allies regarding the withdrawal from Gaza."

"No Hope For Revival"

Jeddah's moderate Okaz opined (8/18): "The Sharon government's policies will finally lead to the burial of the road map. With the continuing construction of the separation barrier, expansion of the West Bank settlements and the continuing military operations in the Palestinian territories, there is no hope for a revival of the peace process."

ALGERIA: "Criminal Alignment: U.S. Support Of Israeli Policy"

Influential French-language El Watan declared (8/23): "Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Prime Minister, has decided to enlarge the West Bank settlements. Instead of condemning this nth violation of international law, the U.S. has suggested that the Israelis develop their settlements in a 'vertical' way! Being a signatory to the Israeli-Palestinian roadmap with the EU, the UN, and Russia, the U.S. should have at least warned its more than spoiled ally.... This position proves that the U.S. puts Israeli interests, as unfair as they are, above peace and that it is ready to sacrifice its own interests for Tel Aviv's expansionism. This attitude also confirms the U.S.' total contempt for the Palestinian people in particular and the Arab people in general. The U.S. still has not drawn the conclusion that its behavior towards the Palestinian tragedy fuels Islamic terrorism. This scourge of the age will persist if the U.S. does not adopt a balanced position in the Near East and continues to illegally occupy Iraq. Americans are thus giving strong argument to the Islamists to attack them."

LEBANON: "Washington's Recipe For Lawlessness"

An editorial in the moderate English-language Daily Star read (8/24): "The Palestinians have taken a double hit this week with the news that Washington has quietly softened its opposition to growth in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Israeli's announcement of plans to build 530 new settler homes in the West Bank. The Palestinians are the first and major victim of this double aggression. But the ultimate damage will be felt in the form of damage to the century-old global effort to build a credible edifice of relations among nations governed by law.... Washington makes it known...that it could accept building within existing construction lines of settlements that have spread on territory Israel captured in 1967. It had previously insisted on a construction freeze under the roadmap.... If Washington feels that its change in position on settlement expansion is important now because it helps Sharon deflect internal far-right opposition, it should stop being so short-sighted and consider the longer-term damage that comes from its decision. When the world's largest power and erstwhile guardian and promoter of democracy and the rule of law blatantly ignores the overwhelming global consensus on the illegality of Israel's colonial adventure in the West Bank and Gaza, it sends dangerous signals: that the law does not matter, that a global consensus is meaningless, that the powerful can do as they please.... Washington cannot long expect to have either friends or admirers if it insists on unilaterally defining global norms, waging wars for 'regime change,' reordering entire regions, transforming a legitimate anti-terror campaign into a messy adventure in Iraq and everywhere demanding that its officials and soldiers remain exempt of any accountability to international law. This is not a recipe for peace...it is a recipe for anarchy, lawlessness, and immorality."

"What Peace Bush Is Talking About?"

Aouni Al-Kaa'ki thundered in pro-Syria Ash-Sharq (8/23): "Perhaps the important question an Arab should pose today is the following: Is the U.S. really interested in achieving peace in the region?.... The answer is obvious.... There is no doubt that the war against Iraq...is to help Israel to continue its domination over Arabs.... The latest decision that was taken by this current anti-Arab U.S. Administration is giving the green light for Israel to build settlements in the West Bank.... This is...Bush's promise to Sharon.... Of course Sharon and Bush want to stop any possibility of reaching Palestinian statehood."

"The American Israeli Settlements Dance Cannot Continue"

An unsigned editorial in the moderate English-language The Daily Star noted (8/18): "Palestinians and Arabs have lost all hope in the road map concept, and in the underlying idea that the United States can be a credible diplomatic interlocutor.... The continued American-Israeli dance over Israel's settlements and continued colonization of the occupied Palestinian territories is a central reason why tens of millions of people in the Middle East so vigorously reject any dealings with Israel and angrily oppose American Mideast policies. The U.S. administration is preoccupied with Iraq and the American presidential election, making it easier for Israel to do its mischief. But this is not a new phenomenon. Israel and the U.S. have been acting like this for decades. It is impossibly unrealistic for Washington to expect to engage Arab governments and people on issues like reform, weapons proliferation and anti-terror policies while it plays deception games with the world when it comes to Israel's settlements and colonies."

QATAR: "Brink Of Explosion"

Business-oriented Dubai-based Al-Bayan thundered (8/19): "Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon's decision to build 1,000 new houses in the West Bank...is pushing the region to the brink of an explosion and killing any hope for Arab-Israeli peace.... The terrorist Sharon leads...an effective trend by the Zionists to destroy more Palestinian lands, to abort any international move to end the conflict and to sabotage any effort for a political plan, especially the 'road map' that was supported by all the world powers.... Sharon is trying to benefit from the current international atmosphere and the deteriorating Arab conditions.... It is not in the Zionist entity's long-term interests, especially given that the owners of the land (Palestinians) will never agree to giving up an inch of the land."

"No Hope For Peace"

Pro-government Al-Raya noted (8/18): "The policies taken by Sharon's government will finally lead to the burial of the road map. With the continuing construction of the separation barrier, expansion of the West Bank settlements and the continuing military operations in the Palestinian territories, there is no hope for the peace process to be revived."

"Deteriorating Situation"

Pro-government Al-Raya commented (8/18): "There is a serious effort by the Zionist regime to acquire more Palestinian land and sabotage any international efforts to end the conflict. We know that Sharon wants to take advantage of the current international environment and the deteriorating Arab situation. In the long run, however, this will not be in the interest of the Zionist regime, since no landowners will ever give up an inch of their territory."

"Futile Maneuvers"

Arabic-language semi-independent Al-Watan opined (8/18): "The presentation of plans for construction in Judea and Samaria [West Bank] constitute another maneuver by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. What a strange coincidence, exactly on the eve of the Likud conference, that the prime minister suddenly emerges as 'the biggest builder of Judea and Samaria'. Time after time the prime minister initiates futile maneuvers and he thinks that there are still those who believe him. Mr. Prime Minister, there is no longer anyone who believes you."

SYRIA: "A Call To Re-Read The Struggle In The Region"

Ali Nasrallah noted in government-owned Al-Thawra (8/23): "The Bush Administration has turned its back to the peace process. It created the Roadmap, then it revoked its modest vision on this plan.... The Israeli government intention to expand Israeli settlements poses new obstacles to peace. The U.S. administration's endorsement of the Israeli plan and its recognition of Israel's need is an obviously dangerous collaboration that aggravates tension in the region and supports Israel's endeavor to impose a status quo which is rejected on the international level. Some people might justify the U.S. position by the approaching U.S. elections. The U.S. administration's submission to the Zionist lobby is sufficient reason for the world community and people in the region to withdraw their trust from Washington and to disqualify it from its role as a sponsor of the peace process."

ASIA-PACIFIC

MALAYSIA: "Tough Steps By NAM To Punish Israel"

The government-influenced New Straits Times opined (8/24): "After failing to get Israel to abide UN resolutions, especially over withdrawal of military occupation from Palestinian lands, the Non-Aligned Movement member countries have all agreed on a boycott of Israeli products. Together with punishing and protesting against Israel, NAM has voiced its disappointment with the U.S. for failing to use its influence on the Jewish regime to abide by the UN resolutions and the decision by the International Court of Justice regarding the Palestinian issue. The firm stand by NAM is a sign that developing and third world countries are tired of Israel's arrogance, and of the U.S.' continued support of the Ariel Sharon regime. The financial and moral help from the U.S. has made Sharon bolder in his disregard of the international outcry over injustices in Palestine. The boycott by NAM really does not make a difference to Malaysia, as this country already has no trade with Israel."

THAILAND: "Mideast Fanatics Must Be Reined In"

An editorial in moderately conservative, English-language Bangkok Post noted (7/27): "In the three tumultuous years since he came to power in Israel, Ariel Sharon has all but torn up the 'road map' to peace and tossed it away.... Of course, Sharon alone cannot be blamed for the grim outlook for peace. Arafat has proven himself to be little more than a corrupt, self-serving fraud, with few genuine leadership skills other than to play rival factions off against each other. The lack of progress in political reform in Palestine also lends credence to Israel's assertion that it has no credible partner in the peace process. Washington...is content to buy Sharon's line that the Palestinian conflict is somehow an extension of George Bush's war on terror. This...will only ensure the prolongation of conflict and continued Arab hatred of Israel and the western world. Perhaps the best Israelis and Palestinians can hope for is to allow nature to take its course and free them of aging obstinate leaders like Sharon and Arafat. Let's hope the next generation of leaders on both sides will have learned to work together to end this senseless blood feud that has dragged on for far too long."

WESTERN HEMISPHERE

CANADA: "A Regrettable Silence"

The leading Globe and Mail declared (8/24): "In diplomacy, silence can speak as loudly as the noisiest protest. When Israel announced plans to build 1,001 new homes in the West Bank, the silence from Washington echoed around the Middle East like a rifle shot. For the past three years, the U.S. government has condemned settlement expansions as a violation of its Middle East policy.... But when the Israeli government issued tenders for the state-subsidized apartments in four major settlements last week, Washington said it was withholding judgment. In the real world, that appeared to mean: Go right ahead and build--an unfortunate message from a country that hopes to serve as a mediator between Israelis and Palestinians. The reasons for the American silence were obvious enough. This is an election year in the U.S., and President George W. Bush wants to appeal to conservative and Jewish voters by doing a favour for Israel. This is also a time of political tension in Israel itself. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is facing a revolt from hard-line members of his Likud party who oppose his plans to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and uproot Jewish settlements there. The settlement announcement was timed to help defuse that revolt, and Washington's restrained reaction was part of the same game. The Bush administration rightly wants the Gaza pullout to go ahead, and it is doing everything it can to help Mr. Sharon win his internal battle.... But, in this case, Washington's realism goes too far. It is only a year or so since the U.S. launched what was supposed to be a major new Middle East peace initiative: the 'road map.' It called for a freeze on all Israeli settlement activity. Where is that map now? Lost in the glove compartment? While it is true that the Palestinian side has failed to hold up its side of the bargain--internal reform and a crackdown on terrorism--that does not release Israel from its obligations. Nor does it mean that Washington can ignore the peace plan it championed and helped design. Israel, of course, refuses to concede it is violating the road map.... Similarly, Washington's acquiescence will be seen as more proof of its refusal to criticize or rein in its Israeli partner. Those perceptions matter. The U.S. will have to be part of any future peace deal. To be an honest broker, it must show it is willing to speak up when its ally strays, as Israel clearly did last week."

"Ariel Sharon's Error"

The leading Globe and Mail opined (8/19): "There are several ways in which one could attempt to justify Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's approval of plans to build 1,001 new homes in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. None withstands close scrutiny. The building plan is a clear violation of Israel's commitments under last year's road-map agreement. It is difficult to see how this serves the cause of Middle East peace.... But here's the rub. The principles outlined in the road map--a viable Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, next to a secure Israel--are still the only known way to peace in the Middle East. Whatever Mr. Sharon's true intentions may be, whatever venality and incompetence Mr. Arafat has shown, the fact is that Israel, as a democracy, must be held to a higher standard. Mr. Sharon has promised in writing to freeze settlement growth. If Israel is to retain any credibility in whatever negotiations lie ahead, he should do so."

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