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January 12, 2005

PA ELECTION: VICTORIOUS ABBAS MUST WALK A 'PRECARIOUS TIGHTROPE'

KEY FINDINGS

** President-elect Abbas' win opens an "unexpected window of opportunity" for peace.

** Israel "must adopt a flexible attitude" through "substantial and visible" gestures.

** Abbas should "act decisively" to "neutralize extremist groups."

** Rejectionists dub Abbas an Israeli-American "stooge" who won an illegitimate vote.

MAJOR THEMES

'A rare glimmer of hope'-- Global dailies described the "overwhelming victory" for the "moderate and pragmatic" Abbas as the start of an "era of hope" for peace. The "clear mandate" for Mahmoud Abbas reflected a "clear desire among the Palestinians for moderation," according to Thailand's independent Nation. The UAE's expatriate-oriented Gulf Today agreed that "there is a real chance to start a new chapter" after the vote, which "highlighted the political maturity" of Palestinians and "can serve as a model for the whole Arab world." Several papers warned that "skepticism is still appropriate"; Canada's conservative National Post judged the world media's "unbounded enthusiasm...a bit premature."

'The ball is now in Israel's court'-- Outlets urged Israel to make "bold concessions" after Abbas' success. Germany's left-of-center Berliner Zeitung said Israel "must be willing to make compromises" because now the question of peace "is in the hands of Sharon." The elite Jordan Times succinctly declared that "now it is Israel's turn to reciprocate." Muslim and leftist writers demanded the U.S. "expedite the peace process" and "drag Israel to the negotiating table" by means of "vigorous and sustained pressure" on Sharon. The West Bank's official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida called on the U.S. to "make Israel hew to the roadmap," joining other dailies that called on the U.S. to "force Israel to change its attitude."

Strong international support 'indispensable'-- Outlets agreed Abbas faces "a plethora of challenges." The "pragmatic realist" must "convince...radicals to stop their cowardly attacks" while avoiding a possible "internal backlash." The liberal Sydney Morning Herald noted the need to "reform the corrupt, ramshackle" PA. Others counseled that Abbas "clearly and urgently needs Israeli and international assistance." Israel's conservative Jerusalem Post warned that aid to the PA "must be tightly linked" to ending terror and democratic reforms, but India's pro-BJP Pioneer asserted Abbas "cannot be expected to curb Hamas overnight."

A 'totally engineered' election-- Hardline Muslim observers blasted the "Israeli-American determination to nullify Palestinian rights," adding that Abbas is obeying "foreign dictates at the expense of the freedom, dignity and independence" of Palestinians. Jordan's semi-official Al-Rai vituperated that "democracy must never be used as the starting point of national submission," joining editorialists who said the world supports Abbas because he will "comply with American and Israeli conditions." Syria's government-owned Al-Thawra agreed that an Abbas-controlled PA "would grant the occupation approval" and create an agreement "tailored to fit Israeli-American specifications."

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

EDITOR: Ben Goldberg

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 181 reports from 43 countries over 8 - 12 January 2005. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.

EUROPE

BRITAIN: "An Election That Offers A Rare Chance For Some Positive Thinking About The Middle East"

An editorial in the center-left Independent read (1/11): "This election has given the lie to the commonly-held prejudice that Arabs and democracy are somehow incompatible. Many observers remarked on the civic pride and sense of responsibility shown by those who voted: the same pride in participation, we would note, that was shown by black South Africans in the first post-apartheid vote, in Afghanistan earlier this year, and in Ukraine last month."

"Victorious Abbas Now Faces His Real Test"

The conservative Daily Telegraph warned (1/11): "The Palestinians are to be congratulated on holding as democratic an election as has been seen in the Arab world. It is now up to Mr. Abbas to use the legitimacy that this exercise has given him to implement his verbal rejection of the armed struggle. If he embarks on this dangerous task, it would be helpful if Israel, discreetly backed by Washington, were to offer carrots such as an easing of restrictions in the West Bank. However, as Mr. Sharon reminded the victor yesterday, the trigger for any concessions must be action against terrorism."

"Hopeful Palestine: But Real Hope Needs A Change In Israeli And U.S. Policy"

The independent Financial Times asserted (1/11): "To give the Israelis security and the Palestinians justice means a Palestinian state on nearly all the West Bank and Gaza with Arab east Jerusalem as its capital. The Sharon government believes the Gaza withdrawal will remove this prospect from the table. For Mr. Abbas's election to mean anything, the U.S. and its allies need to persuade Israel otherwise."

"Still A Long Way From Peace"

The conservative tabloid Daily Mail observed (1/11): "Mr. Abbas may have shrewdly positioned himself as an acceptable candidate to both his own electorate and the Israelis. But he is a long-time associate of Arafat--and in his youth he once wrote an academic study in Moscow questioning the numbers killed in the Holocaust.... Ultimately it is only the Americans who have the power to pressurise both sides to negotiate seriously. And unless they again become seriously involved as an honest broker, which at present seems unlikely there are few grounds for real optimism."

"President For Peace"

An editorial in the left-of-center Guardian read (1/10): "The world's expectations cannot be confined to Mr. Abbas.... If violence is to end, Israel will have to take confidence-building steps - removing the roadblocks that make daily life so miserable and humiliating, ending closures and freeing prisoners. The US, Britain and the EU should persuade Israel that such gestures are in its own best interests."

"Poll Of Hope: A Glimmer Of Hope Arises In The Middle East"

The conservative tabloid Sun stated (1/10): "As successor to the murderous and treacherous Yasser Arafat, [Abbas] offers the prospect of progress.... America and Israel believe they can do business with him. It will be far from easy. Abbas will have to calm the hotheads on his own side while facing massive distrust from Israelis."

"Early Dawn: The Palestinian Elections Offer A Glimmer Of Hope For Peace"

The conservative Times opined (1/10): "Israel can bolster [Abbas's] new authority with measures to improve conditions in the occupied territories.... But Mr. Sharon's response will be determined largely by Mr. Abbas's initial moves. He has signaled that he will keep Ahmad Qureia, the moderate Prime Minister, in office. Both sides know there is a long, long way to go. Yesterday's election was only a first step. But it was in the right direction."

FRANCE: "What Can We Fear, What Can We Expect?"

Alexandre Adler noted in right-of-center Le Figaro (1/12): "A single question comes to mind: Will he succeed? We would like to say he will, but many other players, including the 'bad guys,' will have a say: Hezbollah, Teheran and Hamas.... Still, the biggest stumbling block may be Israel and those who are asking for too much too soon from Abbas. Palestinian officials can give a lot on security issues, through a subtle blend of force and cunning. Much can be asked of them, but nothing publicly."

"The Frailty Of A Great Hope"

Bernard Guetta said on government-run France Inter radio (1/11): "It is not enough to acknowledge that hope for the settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has never been so great. One must also define under which conditions this measure of hope will become reality.... After the initial euphoria, the difficulties will begin to emerge.... Unless the world takes over the peace effort, this opportunity could become a missed opportunity. The U.S. and the EU must both act, but in what way? The urgency does not lie in trying to accelerate changes through an international conference; mentalities need time in order to adapt to changes. But meanwhile the U.S. and the EU must speak as one and reaffirm together during their February summit the objectives of the roadmap, including the creation of a Palestinian state and the recognition of Israel by the Arab world."

"Peace is Again Possible"

Pierre Rousselin held in right-of-center Le Figaro (1/10): "Now that Palestine has elected a President who is not Arafat, peace with Israel is once again possible. At this stage we are speaking of a fragile hope, but a hope nevertheless. It is founded on the fact that Israel and the U.S. are ready to deal with Abbas...whose task is immense: namely he must succeed where Arafat failed.... The election of Abbas will have been the easiest part.... Now that he has been elected, Abbas's fate is very much in the hands of Sharon: he can make his work easier, or on the contrary more difficult.... In the meantime, the U.S. and Europe must grasp this unprecedented opportunity. We must salute this show of Palestinian democracy and help the newly-elected president. As well as convince Sharon not to oppose him."

"Sharon's Attitude Will Be Decisive"

Thomas de Rochechouart asserted in right-of-center France Soir (1/10): "His lack of a rival has given Abbas a certain margin of maneuver to voice unpopular ideas such as ending the armed Intifada.... His success will depend on Israel's desire to collaborate with him.... Caught between Sharon and the armed rebellion, Abbas will be playing a difficult game. He will need to be convincing, or his position as a moderate will soon become impossible."

"A Unique Opportunity For The Peace Process"

Luc de Barochez wrote in right-of-center Le Figaro (1/10): "The Middle East has entered into an era of hope.... President Bush, who does not have to worry about re-election, has a free hand to get more involved in the Middle East.... French FM Barnier has indicated that 'the new relationship' between the Americans and the Europeans, as illustrated by Chirac's visit to Washington in the near future and Bush's visit to Brussels on February 22, could serve as a 'lever' to get the peace process back on track.... But the election of Abbas must not raise inconsiderate hopes: he is after all Arafat's heir and not very popular in the occupied territories.... If the Americans and the Europeans do not commit themselves further, the disappointment will be on par with the hopes born of the election."

"A Window"

Gerard Dupuy noted in left-of-center Liberation (1/10): "Western nations must hear the message sent by the Palestinians and accept their skepticism, expressed to them as well as to Mahmoud Abbas. He was elected without any real opposition, but with the firm demand that he get results. This means that if he is slow to achieve them, he will be held responsible.... The offer for a conference on the Middle East in London proves that Tony Blair is aware of the urgency of grasping the opportunity at hand, even if the conference is not the answer.... An unexpected window of opportunity has opened in the Middle Eastern impasse. The countdown is already on, before that window closes over the compromise which Abbas has linked to his election."

GERMANY: "Euros Must Change"

Right-of-center Frankfurter Neue Presse opined (1/12): "It is time for the Europeans to adjust the degree of their advice to the degree of their potency to assert their view [in the Middle East] without the Americans whom they despise so much. Currently their grandiose one-sidedness they have shown when looking at the Middle Eastern conflicts, the naivet and the lack of responsibility they have shown when chatting about the bloody conflicts is damaging, rather than helping, peace. For they allow Palestinian illusions, which the Palestinians are unable to meet with their own possibilities, to grow immensely and reach a degree where they are irreconcilable."

"Thorny Path To The Rose Garden"

Peter Mnch said in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (1/12): "Almost simultaneously with Mahmoud Abbas election, Israel got a functioning government. The Palestinian voters and the Israeli parliamentarians in the Knesset gave both leaders a clear mandate. They should find a way out of the senseless violence and find a path to a fair peace agreement. The first steps of both sides are encouraging.... Even President Bush presents himself as a nostalgic visionary and is dreaming in the White House of an appearance in the Rose Garden where Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton sealed peace agreements for the Middle East.... But [both Israelis and Palestinians] still have to walk on a thorny path before they can reach their goals. It will certainly not take long before the high-flying plans will get contact with a tough reality. There are enough enemies to peace on both sides, and a tangle of problems.is to be unraveled before. But the good news these days is that both sides have finally started doing so."

"Capable"

Right-of-center Ostthringer Zeitung of Gera advised (1/12): "We believe Abbas, unlike his predecessor Arafat, is capable of continuing his political path despite resistance. But this also includes partners, and in 1993, Israel's ex-premier Rabin represented such a partner. But in the meantime, the fronts have hardened. Israel's government and the international community must grant Abbas an enormous trust bonus to show his people and the Arab neighbors that this is the only possible path to peace. And this primarily includes the chance of an independent Palestinian state. Basically both sides got where they were in Oslo in 1993."

"A Chance For Abbas"

Wolfgang Guenter Lerch commented in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (1/11): "Given that former President Arafat always claimed that fair elections were not possible under the humiliating circumstances of the Israeli occupation, it was not natural that Palestinians cast their votes. But they have gone to the ballots, and the vote was free and fair.... Israel now wants Abbas to put a stop to terrorism, and suicide bombings in particular. But the newly elected president will only be successful in this difficult and dangerous battle with Hamas and Islamic Jihad if Israel contributes to the peace process.... Substantial and visible Israeli moves, which express the honest will to normalize relations and create enduring peace, would be helpful to accomplish this goal. The beginning should be a clear relaxation of the occupation status. In this respect, Sharon's withdrawal plan is a good prospect.... The removal from the Gaza Strip would be an important Israeli move that reaches out to Palestinians. It should be coordinated with the new Palestinian leadership under Abbas and turned into a continuing bilateral process. It is up to all sides involved to develop clever initiatives to revive and implement the existing plans.... Americans should pledge generous aid. Arafat, who they snubbed in his later days, is dead, and Israel owes Washington a debt of gratitude after the U.S. toppled Israel's arch enemy Saddam."

"Small Steps"

Jacques Schuster observed in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (1/11): "It is too early to hope for peace. In the past, only one person would have had the power to shatter Palestinian illusions, which is a condition for a peace agreement. This was Arafat--but he had no courage to do it. Peace with Israel means, above all, to renounce the Palestinian desire for a right to return and to find compromises in the question of the capital. Mahmoud Abbas has no power for such a policy, but this is not necessary now. After his victory, a policy of small steps can be started."

"A Window To Peace"

Business-oriented Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg editorialized (1/11): "PLO leader Abbas' victory slightly opened a door for creating peace in the Middle East, which is a long awaited dream. The next months will show whether Abbas and his Israeli counterpart Sharon will manage to push it wide open and walk through. Given the smooth election, it is difficult to image the time after Arafat's death when the danger of chaos and civil war was looming. The peaceful and democratic change of power is a great achievement of the Palestinian people. It can serve as a model for the whole Arab world.... The chances for a new peace process have never been better. Not just Palestinians have met international demands and held democratic elections, but also Israeli PM Sharon has taken the moderate Labor Party on board. And in Washington, President Bush is ready again to engage in the Middle East. Two months after Arafat's death, a new era can begin."

"Hope Is The Beginning"

Clemens Wergin wrote in centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (1/11): "The U.S. must take the peace process under its control. No president before has made so great a commitment like George W. Bush, who made the establishment of a Palestinian state the official U.S. policy. His administration must now deal actively to realize this vision. But this good will would be worthless if terror continues. Abbas has made clear that he does not seek an armed conflict with radical groups. He must now show that he can convince them with words. When Palestinians vote their parliament on July 17, it is a good opportunity for Hamas and Jihad to become political parties. In the past, they have always rejected to run in national elections. Abbas is powerful enough to force them to make their mind up between politics or underground resistance. The one thing that is clear is that there will be no Palestinian state if the terror goes on."

"The Duty Of The Enemy"

Tomas Avenarius noted in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (1/11): "The only thing that has changed in the Middle East conflict so far is the death of the old and unreliable Palestinian leader Arafat. His departure is a litmus test for Israelis and Americans, who blamed Arafat for the standstill of the negotiations and saw him as the personified problem for creating peace. They now have a moral obligation to his successor. The obligation is to put as much trust in the new president as possible. But despite his clear victory, Abbas is not a strong man. He has only gained power as an interim solution of the Fatah organization. Hamas and Jihad, the forerunners of a radical Islamic opposition, have no interest at all in his success, and the economic situation in the Palestinian territories is deteriorating day by day. Israelis continue to build the security wall across the West Bank, which is also a means to seize land.... The new Palestinian president Abbas has proved with the Oslo agreement that he is a politician one can talk to. Let's grasp this opportunity. Those who deny success to Abbas are paving the way for militant groups."

"Strike Carefully"

Silke Mertins said in business-oriented Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg (1/10): "In theory, many Palestinians still support the fight against Israel, but in reality, they want only one thing: better living standards. But Mahmoud Abbas can create them only with the support of a new peace process. Only a relaxation will result in greater freedom to move, in fewer checkpoints, in an unimpeded flow of goods and in more possibilities to work in Israel.... But Abbas will be able to implement the road map only if he gets control over the Islamists of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.... The roadmap obliges the Palestinian side to stop the violence of extremists. But even though part of the public is opposed to violence, it will not be easy to disarm activists.... That is why Abbas has to strike with kid gloves if he wants to avoid the anger of extremists being directed against him.... Therefore, the new government will first of all enter into talks with the militant forces to achieve a cease-fire. During these talks, it will be important that Israel holds back with military actions and makes concessions to Abbas.... If the talks on a cease-fire do not come to an end, Abbas will have to take drastic measures to assert his authority. By then, he must restructure his security forces and have them swear on the loyalty to the autonomous authority.... The perspective for peace for which many people now hope has many question marks. Abbas is faced with a delicate task. But the will and the experience are available. And thus far, the change of power after Arafat's death has been more orderly structured and peaceful than many predicted before."

"Mahmoud Abbas And Hopes"

Felix Zimmermann noted in left-of-center Berliner Zeitung (1/10): "Yesterday at the election, we heard so many Palestinians complaining about their situation. They want to be free, and want to move freely in their own country from Nablus to Ramallah, between Bethlehem and Jerusalem without facing any problems. They are pinning their hopes on Abu Mazen, and many believe him capable of talking with Israel and achieving progress. One heard this but remained skeptical, because the same people have raised demands that Israel will never accept: the right of the four million refugees to return, and the establishment of Eastern Jerusalem with the Temple Mount as capital. We wished that both sides would realize how traumatized they are. Those who have understood this, must show patience with the other side, should not demand too much from the other side and must be willing to make compromises."

"Hopes"

Gemma Przgen contended in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (1/10): "The high voter turnout showed the great need of the people to take part in democratic processes, but the real test will follow in July when there are parliamentary elections.... With Abu Mazen's elections, many Palestinians hope for an improvement of their difficult situation. But whether he will be able to achieve this, will depend not only on his capabilities but also on Israel's willingness to make concessions."

"Hope For Hercules To Come"

Tomas Avenarius filed for center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (1/10): "Great expectations always create problems for politicians. That is why a task is waiting for Palestinian leader Abbas, which he is likely not to fulfill. Arafat's successor is to create peace with Israel, he is to bring his people the long hoped for Palestinian state, get the militants under control, and stimulate the downtrodden economy.... But since Abbas is no Hercules, it would be better to subdue hopes right from the start.... That is why it is all the more important that Israel's Prime Minister Sharon plays the ball into Abbas's camp in such a way that he is able to catch it. The Israeli demand for an end to violence as a precondition for talks will not be enough. The occupation that has lasted for decades is the reason for the Palestinian violence. As long as this does not change, the militants will continue to place bombs and fire [at Israelis]. The international community, above all the U.S., must exert massive pressure on Israel. Otherwise, Mahmoud Abbas has failed as president, even before he has taken office."

"Harsh Words"

Center-right Neue Ruhr/Neue Rhein-Zeitung of Essen remarked (1/10): "The harsh words with which he only recently demanded Jerusalem to be Palestine's capital and with which he promised militant Palestinian fighter protection can now be stored in the poison cabinet of the election campaigner. Abbas was the favorite of the Americans, he is the man of a dialogue, and the Palestinians know that he can move something only in the immediate future. This speaks for the sense of reality of the people who, as was predicted often before, did not go down in chaos and anarchy following Arafat's death.... Abbas is faced with a tightrope act and his place in the history books is totally open. Hero of peace with Israel? Arafat's failed heir? It is solely up to him to determine his fate."

ITALY: "Sharon: 'I Shall Meet Abu Mazen'"

Ugo Tramballi concluded in leading, business-oriented Il Sole-24 Ore (1/12): "Yesterday, Ariel Sharon responded to Abu Mazen's extended hand from the day before, with a telephone call. He congratulated the newly elected president and promised to meet with him soon.... Israel is a complex nation.... There has always been a rift between Israel's political world and civil society. Even in the most difficult times, most of civil society has always favored a secure, honorable peace with the Palestinians, while political society has always opposed crucial compromises.... At this point, however, withdrawal from Gaza might also cause a rift within civil society. A new right is growing, like all movements which defend national totems, inspired by the United States: those neo-cons who, in the November elections, secured almost half of the Jewish vote...for the Republicans. Among President Bush's advisors, there are those who believe that Sharon has become too moderate and it is now time that the U.S. Administration say something positive about the settlements."

"Abu Mazen Extends His Hand To Israel"

Eric Salerno said in Rome-based centrist Il Messaggero (1/11): "Enthusiasm may obscure but cannot obliterate reality. Bush speaks of a new opportunity for peace and invites Abu Mazen to the White House.... Abu Mazen is a precarious leader. Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, after 38 years of Israeli occupation, do not love him.... Some consider him a puppet of Israel and Washington.... Israelis remain...cautious, and it would be hard to blame them, considering what has happened in the last few years.... Palestinians voted for a man who is opposed to violence. The ball is now in Sharon's court, who is also constrained by opposition from the right wing of his own party as well as extremists within the settler movement.... With a weak coalition, sustained thanks only to the leftist opposition and President Bush, [Sharon] is the only one with means to lead Israel towards peace by supporting Abu Mazen and what he represents."

"A Leader With A Kefiah On His Shoulders"

Fiamma Nirenstein remarked in centrist, influential La Stampa (1/11): "Arafat and his kefiah have always been a symbolic...battle flag.... Fatah followers now wear it without pretense around their necks.... Abu Mazen wears it this way. He maintains an image as a quiet technocrat, despite the fact he shared the [political] journey of Abu Amar [Arafat]. No one ever photographed him holding a weapon or in uniform, like Arafat. However, his intentions are currently an enigma, the revelation of which is causing the world to hold its breath.... Is he Arafat's equivalent or his opposite? His plan, including the return of refugees, the 1967 borders, Jerusalem as the capital, is identical to Arafat's plan. However, one has the impression that we are at a turning point.... Abu Mazen is strengthened by the fact that the world bet that he would be an improvement, provided he follows a moderate line. Ultimately, here is the crux of the problem: if the world doesn't help the Palestinians achieve their own State without, at the same time, forcing them to combat terrorism, Abu Mazen will be pushed towards the 'old kefiah' [Arafat's policy]. Israel would clearly concede a great deal only provided that bombs stop falling and buses exploding. Europe must respect Abu Mazen by asking, in exchange for considerable aid, that he be the moderate leader he might want to become."

"Hamas' Role Will Be The Decisive Test"

Franco Venturini wrote in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (1/10): "Pragmatic Abu Mazen's success revives hopes for a new, more constructive dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, after Arafat's death.... A real resumption of dialogue with Jerusalem is not possible unless Abu Mazen is able to unify Palestinian security forces under his command and stop the violence against Israel.... Ariel Sharon wants to know whether Israel's sworn enemy will accept being integrated in this political process, thus ending Palestinian violence.... Such arguments underline the importance of future decisions of the U.S.--the only global power able to exert influence on both Israelis and Palestinians.... The U.S. has a double opportunity: to keep mediating between Israelis and Palestinians and to prove that the gloomy Iraqi adventure could also produce a positive effect.... And, as always, if the U.S. moves forward, Europe will immediately follow, trying to put on the table its established relationship with the Palestinians."

"And Now The Word Goes To Bush And Sharon"

Sandro Viola opined in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (1/10): "The Palestinian elections occurred with sufficient regularity. Moderate Abu Mazen was elected by a large majority of voters, and immediately after the results...a sense of euphoria began to spread everywhere, in Israel, Washington and Europe.... We should, however, be cautious because it could have to do with...an easy, precarious optimism, as in 2003 when Abu Mazen and Ariel Sharon shook hands...in the presence of George W. Bush pledging to implement the so-called roadmap, the peace plan which fell apart after only a few months.... It is now fundamental to understand what Bush and Sharon intend to do to support, not only in words, this new Palestinian leadership.... If Americans and Europeans are able to maintain a common strategy regarding the conflict, then a real and lasting truce will be possible."

RUSSIA: "Looking At Palestine A Different Way"

Sergey Strokan asserted in business-oriented Kommersant (1/11): "Still swayed by the spirit of Arafat, the Palestinians nonetheless voted in a quite civilized manner, electing a new leader, and making the world gaze at them in wonder--it turns out they can do more than blasting Israeli buses. They can gather stones, as well as scattering them. Therein lies the importance of the Palestine elections. At long last, the international community, dead tired of trying to surmount the insurmountable, has a glimpse of hope.... The desire to see a democratic Palestinian state next to the Israeli one was as great as to make U.S. President George Bush, drawing on his Russian colleague Vladimir Putin's Ukrainian experience, congratulate Mahmoud Abbas on his victory even before the official results of the elections were announced. Curiously, George Bush, unlike his predecessor Bill Clinton, never showed much interest in the Middle East. It was Clinton, not Bush, who dreamed of his legacy as a Middle Eastern peacemaker. Vain dreams. It looks now that George Bush can win that recognition, getting it with fewer pains."

"Abbas' Words Contrast With His Image"

Kseniya Svetlova reported in reformist Gazeta (1/11): "To many Israelis hoping that the arrival of Abu Mazen would usher in a new era in Israeli-Palestinians relations, much of what he said during the election campaign, particularly his phrase about the 'Zionist enemy,' came as an unpleasant surprise. Those words contrasted sharply with the image of Abu Mazen the liberal in Israel and the West. Was it electoral rhetoric or the true face of the PLO leader? Most probably, the truth lies in between. Mahmoud Abbas, one of the architects of the Oslo peace accords, is certain that talks are the only way for the Palestinians to get real results, and he is planning to renew the negotiations with Israel soon. But that does not mean that Abu Mazen will give up the Palestinians' demands on the status of East Jerusalem, the dismantling of Israeli settlements, and the return of Palestinian refugees."

"Palestinians Elect A Moderate"

Boris Markov stated in youth-oriented Komsomol'skaya Pravda (1/11): "It is essential that we concentrate on staying among the main sponsors of the Middle East settlement process. There is a chance for that, as Moscow supported Abbas right after Arafat's death. The Russian Foreign Ministry has stated that the Palestinians chose a political settlement in their relations with Israel. But extremists in the Hamas leadership don't think so. If Abbas copes with the radicals, Russia will win. If not, Hamas will list Russia among the Americans' and Israelis' friends and open a new terrorist front against this country."

"It's Too Early To Tell"

Oleg Komotskiy wrote in reformist Novyye Izvestiya (1/11): "The Palestine vote outcome...is the first victory for the George Bush Administration in the new year. The United States got what it wanted. But will that change the situation in the Middle East very much? Willing as the new Palestinian leader is to stop violence, the chief issue, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, seems insoluble yet. The problem is not only the Palestinian radicals, but also the Israelis refusing to soften their stand. Under the circumstances, the policies pursued by the United States may contradict one another. On the one hand, a victory for Abbas is not quite what you would call a victory for the West. Obviously, the White House will have to put some pressure on Israel to make it agree to a dialogue with Abbas without preliminary conditions and stop the construction of settlements on Palestinian territory. On the other hand, new U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, known for her sympathy for Israel and tough stand on late Arafat's regime, will come into the picture as a new factor."

"Palestinians Hope For Objectivity"

Marianna Belen'kaya filed for reformist Izvestiya (1/11): "The international community's chief concern now is to get the peace process revived. The Palestinian leadership is ready to begin talks with the Israelis on the basis of the Road Map worked out by the 'quartet' of international mediators--the U.S., Russia, the EU and the UN. The Israelis, for their part, are expecting the new Palestinian leader to start fighting terror in earnest.... The Palestinians badly need international support now, particularly where it comes to bringing pressure to bear on Israel. They hope the mediators, including the United States, will be objective.... Time will show how things will go. It is not ruled out that, as the world is looking forward to peace, it will end up with a new spiral of confrontation, with each side insisting on its own solution to the problem."

AUSTRIA: "Hope Mixed With Reservation"

Stefan Galoppi commented in mass-circulation Kurier (1/11): "Abbas is an experienced man who does not wear a uniform and neither does he think along military lines. He has realized that violence will not build a Palestinian state and that his impoverished people are tired of warfare. His strong mandate should help him to keep the radicals in check, weed out cronyism, and resume the difficult dialogue with the Israelis. As an Oslo negotiator, the 69-year old Abbas knows their sensitive spots like no other. On the Israeli side, the constellation is also favorable: With Simon Perez, there is now a decided peace advocate in the cabinet. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon intends to create a new situation with the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip this year. The dominant superpower is headed by a man who, by forging a Middle East peace during his second term, could earn himself an honorable place in the history books, which is otherwise uncertain. What Israel should do now is build up Mahmud Abbas as an equal partner by granting him quick and noticeable success. Renewed violence that will certainly come, must not be allowed to serve as a pretext for denying negotiations. What must be done now is to show, very patiently, that optimism can be a political virtue--even against all negative experience."

"Four Reasons For Peace--And Why They Won't Work"

Foreign editor Christian Ultsch said in centrist Die Presse (1/11): "The moment for a new start is as favorable as never before. First of all, Abbas, in contrast to his predecessor Arafat, is a pragmatist for whom the Israelis harbor a certain esteem. Second, the Palestinians are tired of war and have therefore given their President a strong mandate to end the rebellion against Israel. Third, Israel's government, after the joining of the Labor Party, has a broad enough base to carry through peace negotiations. And fourth, President Bush, in view of the Iraq disaster, might welcome some news that ring favorably in the ears of Arabs, for example news of the founding of a Palestinian state. Thus, the basic conditions appear favorable. A closer look at the details, however, does not allow for too much optimism. Once before, during his brief term as Prime Minister, Abbas tried to cajole radical groups, like Hamaz and Islamic Jihad, into agreeing to an armistice. He failed then. Why this should be different now, is not quite clear.... Nobody should harbor the illusion that the new Palestinian President will show himself exceptionally soft in his negotiations with Israel. If Abbas were to give up crucial negotiating positions, such as the Palestinians' claim on East Jerusalem and a return of the refugees, he would be a dead man. 'Arafat in a suit,' the Israeli journalist Danny Rubinstein once called him. Well, questions of style are not to be discounted in politics. But it will take more than a change of dress to end the Middle East tragedy--perhaps also a new Israeli Prime Minister."

"The New Thing About Abbas"

Gudrun Harrer stated in independent Der Standard (1/11): "The trust of the voters is not so much in Mahmud Abbas as a person, than in the recommendation of Fatah. Now, Abbas must prove that he can deliver on the expectations placed in him and for this he needs Israel's help, since the chance for an improvement of living conditions for the Palestinians rests with Israel. Much will depend on whether Israel will give him that help, even if he should not immediately fulfill all of Israel's expectations.... With Egypt as a mediator, there will be talk about the joining of the militant Palestinian groups in a political process--the planned parliamentary elections in the summer--and an armistice. The chances are not bad that this will succeed for the time being. How long such an agreement will last is a different matter. Abbas' record would have to show not just improvements for the Palestinians, but substantial political progress in the relationship with Israel. However, this takes two. What is certain is that Abbas, with all his awareness that he has establish his own credentials in his dealings with Israel, will first of all try to do what he failed at as first Palestinian Prime Minister on account of Arafat: To instill something like a 'rule of law' and 'good governance' into the Palestinian political culture. This would take a radical reorganization of the security forces, their integration into the 'state'--and this even before such a state exists. This sequence of events--first of all the establishment of a Palestinian political culture and then negotiations with Israel--or even a coexistence of these two issues on an equal basis--is something that Yasser Arafat would never have accepted. That is the new thing about Abbas."

"A Tightrope Walk That Could Easily Be Abbas' Fall"

Senior editor Helmut L. Muller opined in independent Salzburger Nachrichten (1/11): "The confrontation with the radicals is turning into a race against time for Abbas. The more the Palestinians might feel that they have a better life in peaceful times, the more Abbas might succeed in marginalizing the militant forces. The clearer the Palestinians can see that Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip is the beginning of a two-state solution, the less the extremists would be an obstacle in Abbas' way. During this tightrope walk Abbas could easily fall. 'Symbolic' concessions on the part of the Israelis will not help him. Only a clear loosening of the occupying regime's restrictions can get him the necessary authority with his people. The international community, who is currently applauding the Palestinians' democratic maturity, has a duty here. In particular, passivity on the part of the U.S would be a big mistake. If President Bush were to remain on the sidelines as a verbose, but inactive observer, this game, too, will be lost."

"Out Of The Shadow"

Ernst Trost maintained in mass-circulation tabloid Neue Kronenzeitung (1/10): "It is said about Mahmud Abbas that he never wore a pistol and never fought in a battle. As a 13-year old he fled with his family from what is today Israel to Syria. After his studies in Damascus he played the part of clever, levelheaded man in the background. It is only now that the 69-year old ex-Prime Minister has emerged from Arafat's shadow as the favored candidate in the presidential elections on Sunday, presenting himself as Arafat's logical heir.... Never before did Abbas have such close contact with his people. And he seems to enjoy the crowds, the cheers and the closeness to the people that surround him wherever he goes. The Israelis, however, are hoping that he will remain the pragmatic realist he has been known to be until now. Abbas thinks little of pointless violence, condemns terror and would like to end the Intifada. At the same time, however, he continues to support the right of over three million refugees to return to their country. Winning the consent of Hamas and the other radicals for a peace solution is going to be a more difficult task for Abbas than a victory at the polls."

BELGIUM: "Mahmoud Abbas Has His Back To The Wall"

Baudouin Loos asserted in left-of-center Le Soir (1/11): "Serious things are only beginning for the new Palestinian President. Elected with over 62 percent of the votes, Mahmoud Abbas has gained the popular legitimacy that he was lacking. But he is now facing the huge task of responding to the aspirations of Palestinians who are worn out after four years of Intifada and of endless suffering. His first objective will undoubtedly be to tidy things up at home, i.e. within the Palestinian Authority, which is in very poor condition. Corruption and nepotism are blighting Palestinian society. Will Abbas dare to send a strong signal, firing a few Ministers known for being corrupt..? Mahmoud Abbas will obviously not be able to succeed in the huge task he is facing by himself. He clearly and urgently needs Israeli and international assistance. Europeans will probably respond positively. They have always lent financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority, to the great satisfaction of Israel, which did not have to worry about that aspect without being forced to end the occupation. As for the Americans, they have said that they were willing to help Abbas. The best favor they can do to the region would be to put all their weight--which everyone knows can be decisive--for both sides to resume negotiations. The latter's final objective should be the Palestinian territories' final status, in accordance with the wishes of George W. Bush himself who, in a June 2002 speech that is famous in this region, had called for the creation of a Palestinian State."

"Realist"

Mia Doornaert contended in independent Christian-Democrat De Standaard (1/11): "A new opportunity for peace seems to be emerging. The Palestinians have a democratically elected President who urges for peaceful negotiations. The Israeli Prime Minister has just presented a government of national unity, which is expected to support him against the radicals among his own rank-and-file. Sharon has already said that he is willing to meet with Abbas this week. However, dialogue merely for dialogue's sake will not suffice. Mahmoud Abbas is often viewed as a moderate leader, but 'realist' would be a better word. He was against the militarization of the second Intifada because he saw harmful consequences: internal insecurity, international isolation and tough Israeli reactions.... If the new dialogue does not yield the perspective of an agreement for a viable Palestinian state Abbas may rapidly be considered a puppet of Sharon and George W. Bush. For that reason the U.S. President must work much more intensively for an agreement--if he takes peace in the Middle East seriously. Confidence in bilateral negotiations only will not be enough because the problems are too complicated and emotional, and because there is too much resistance among the radical elements.... Now, the U.S. and the other major international players--including the EU--must show that they won't miss this new chance. In reality, there is also a majority of people among the Israelis and the Palestinians who prefer a divided territory and a so-called unjust peace over a holy war. That peace camp--which is much larger than the outside world often realizes--deserves all the possible support."

"Crossroads"

Erik Ziarczyk wrote in independent financial De Tijd (1/11): "Yesterday, the Israelis and Palestinians arrived at a crossroads. Both parties must make a major choice in the coming days and weeks: will they continue their bloody conflict or will they opt for a new dialogue?.... Abbas's victory is good news for the peace process in the Middle East. He is considered to be a moderate and pragmatic man. He is in a position to breathe new life into the peace talks with the Israelis. Whether he is successful or not will depend on Israel's attitude. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has already said that he willing to meet with the new Palestinian President. However, that does not mean that the Israelis, all of a sudden, will plunge into the peace process. They will stick to their original demand: the end of 'Palestinian terrorism.' Abbas is willing to tackle that problem, but he needs time. Hopefully, the Israelis will give him that time.... A major task lies ahead for the international community--and for the U.S. in particular. The last few years the Americans have ignored the Middle East peace process. That may change--given the first signals from Washington after the election of Abbas. Bush said that he is willing to invite Abbas to the White House and his administration is willing to put its shoulders under the peace talks again. The fact that the U.S. is willing to give Abbas room to put things in order is a (positive) thing. But, it won't yield anything as long as it does not force Israel to the negotiation table."

"The Moment Of Truth"

Foreign editor Gerald Papy wrote in independent La Libre Belgique (1/10): "Although these Palestinian Presidential elections were not 'historical' as some claimed they were since they were simply the repetition of the 1996 ballot, they once again highlighted the political maturity of Palestinian people and leaders, an almost unprecedented experience in the Arab Muslim world. The political transition that began with the death of Yasser Arafat was carried through with dignity and serenity. But this period of grace has come to an end. Palestinian people and leaders are now facing challenges. The size of these challenges can be assessed based on the initial reactions of Mahmoud Abbas' future main foreign interlocutors. Of the heads of Israeli and American diplomacies, it is Colin Powell who was the most optimistic on Sunday, saying that 'with goodwill and a good leadership at the helm of the Palestinian Authority, it is time to make the Road Map progress.' His Israeli counterpart, Sylvan Shalom, contented himself with repeating that Mahmoud Abbas 'must make the strategic decision to bring an end to terrorism and to incitements to hatred and violence.' As if this were something that could be decided. Of course, Mahmoud Abbas' credibility will be tested based on the decisions that he will be able to make to fight corruption and to 'demilitarize' the Intifada--as he had promised to do during his campaign. But since there is no infallible method that can be opposed to terrorism, the sincerity of the Americans and Israelis' commitment to resume a dialogue will also be tested based on the understanding that they will show for Mahmoud Abbas and for the challenges that he is facing. Because they will no longer be able to use the 'scarecrow Arafat' to shy away from their responsibilities."

"New Life"

Erik Ziarczyk observed in independent financial De Tijd (1/10): "The presidential elections in Palestine can breathe new life into the Middle East peace process. That is the general expectation. For quite some time both parties have talked about a new dialogue. However, the obstacles are still very much present and both the Palestinian and Israeli leaders are wrestling with domestic agendas.... There is no doubt that Israel will continue to stick to its old demands--such as the disarmament of radical groups. During his campaign, Abbas hinted that he was not prepared to carry out that disarmament with the use of violence. However, a hopeful element was that Hamas and the Islamic Jihad said yesterday that they are willing to work together with the new President. That opens the door to a unilateral truce in which Hamas and other radicals promise that they will stop the attacks.... The execution of the Gaza plan may last a large part of the year. Opposition in Israel is surging. That means that Sharon will have to devote much time and energy to save his plan and to consolidate his power.... There is no doubt that 2005 will be an important year for the Middle East peace process, but it is uncertain that much progress will be made in the coming months."

"Abbas Needs Courage Now"

Foreign editor Paul De Bruyn stated in conservative Christian-Democrat Gazet van Antwerpen (1/10): "It will not be easy for Mahmoud Abbas. Yet, a lot is expected from him. As a moderate person he enjoys more confidence among the Israelis and Americans than the other Palestinian leaders. (Israel and the U.S.) rely on him for making the Palestinians accept a new peace settlement. The future will tell whether they are wrong or not. During his campaign Abbas promised that he would follow Arafat's example. He wants to cherish the latter's heritage, but he is also willing to go farther. A positive element is that he openly opposed the continuation of violence. In his view, that turns against the Palestinians. His sneer last week at the 'Zionist enemy' made the alarm bell ring for a moment in Israel, but it was probably a strategy to defend himself against the hardliners' view that he does not dare to act. If that was not a strategy, but a serious threat, a new problem will surface soon. In that case, he won't be able to count on Sharon's understanding.... The Israelis expect the new Palestinian leader to do something that Arafat never could: carry out a promise. Arafat never wanted and dared to take a step that was irreversible. Abbas will have to do that. If not, the chance of a breakthrough will disappear--perhaps for good. That means that he will have to make difficult decisions. He also must prepare the Palestinians for full-fledged political and economic institutions. Hopefully, he will not stand alone if he has that courage. The Americans, the Europeans and, of course, the Israelis must be supportive. That can be the case during the March 1-2 Middle East conference in London. The region is facing decisive moments. In that context, Arafat's death makes new breakthroughs possible. It is now a binding task for all the parties not to waste that opportunity."

"Immense Task"

Foreign editor Frank Schloemer commented in independent De Morgen (1/10): "The new Palestinian leader's task is immense and his leeway is limited. He will be followed and judged by all the Palestinians, the Israelis and the international community. The radical movements are giving him some time, but it is virtually certain that they will enter into action again if no progress is visible.... A positive factor may be that the new Palestinian leadership is coming to power at the moment when even a hardliner like Sharon is willing to pay a price. He has angered a large part of his own population with his unilateral military withdrawal from the occupied Gaza Strip. Many Israelis take that ill and religious fanatics even call for mutiny or threaten with the irresponsible prospect of civil war. Yet, Sharon seems to be willing to go on with that evacuation plan--which may be a first step towards a wider settlement."

"There Is A Lot Of Work For Arafat's Successor"

Baudouin Loos said in left-of-center Le Soir (1/8): "The task that Mahmoud Abbas will be facing as of next week is incredibly difficult. After four years of armed Intifada, Palestine is in ruins. Chaos is what characterizes Palestinian security services. The rule of law has never existed in Palestine and the economy is dominated by corruption and unemployment. Mahmoud Abbas--if he is the one who succeeds Yasser Arafat--will probably act his own way, i.e. using consultation and persuasion. He will need a lot of the latter to convince radicals that despicable terrorist actions and armed struggle do not work."

DENMARK: "Historic Opportunity"

Center-right Berlingske Tidende opined (1/11): "The Palestinian elections have acted as a stopper for the extremist organizations. They had recommended that the elections should be boycotted, but the turn-out was fairly high.... The situation among the Palestinian leadership seems less complicated than it was (while Arafat lived) and this is crucial for the rest of the world, including Israel. Abbas must be given a chance now that the opportunity for peace appears to be there."

"America's Mission Israel"

Center-left Politiken editorialized (1/11): "America's task in the Middle East is to make the Israeli population realize that they have the first real chance in 55 years to realize peace in the region. This will demand that the Israelis will have to return the territories that they stole from the Palestinians after the Six Day War. This should be something that the Israelis can accept as long as it does not impact their security."

HUNGARY: "Negotiations, Gestures"

Endre Aczel stated in center-left Nepszabadsag (1/11): "In the eyes of the masses, his [Mahmud Abbas's] new position and the validity of the hopes tied to him could only be legitimized if it is proven that one can achieve more with negotiations than with weapons. If he is not given help from the Israelis in that, he is a failed man. For me, that is the point where the U.S., which because of Iraq avidly craves the sympathy of the Arab countries and communities, comes into the picture. It is an American foreign policy several times more active than before that needs to be pushing the Israeli government towards bargains that Abbas could, eventually, point to as trophies.... I do not see one-sidedness as a passable road. When Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister Shalom declares that Abbas must start fighting terrorism 'as of tomorrow,' he is creating an impression as if in this process only the new Palestinian President would have work to do, and Israel none. However, there is a causality between the 'restrictive' Israeli policy on the occupied territories and the armed resistance called "terrorism"; ergo, mutual gestures will not extinguish, but--as I believe--strengthen one another."

"Abbas Is No Arafat"

Csilla Medgyesi pointed out in liberal Magyar Hirlap (1/11): "At this point it is impossible to predict whether Abbas wants to and can convince them that they must make concessions, and if he succeeds whether the very short time [left] is enough for that.... In the spring, the Israelis will withdraw from the Gaza Strip, put an end to all the Jewish settlements there and hand over the territory to the Palestinian Authority. And that, in addition to the many problems, also offers a very good opportunity to Abbas: at last, he will not acquire sovereignty over isolated, non-viable enclaves but rather over an adjacent territory, a Palestinian 'embryonic state.' If he is able to use his legitimacy acquired in the election to establish control of the security forces and to keep in check the extremist organizations, he might be able to fill the power vacuum after the Israeli pullout. And if Gaza does not fall into a chaos, and the long-awaited reform of the Palestinian Authority starts, Abbas can prove to the whole world that the Palestinians are mature enough to manage an independent state."

"The Chance To Start Over"

Foreign Affairs Editor Ferenc Kepecs opined in left-of-center Nepszava (1/11): "Abbas cannot be satisfied with half-baked achievements. The observer of the events can only hope that once the peace process starts, its dynamics will also carry along those who had only supported it half-heartedly or not at all. Sharon does have the chance to follow in the footsteps of Rabin who (although he was a politician of the Labor Party) had earlier not been considered an angel of peace either. Such "transformations", of course, are also needed on the Palestinian side, although there they seem less likely. What Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the other radical organizations are interested in is not some sort of an agreement--no matter how favorable for the Palestinians--but rather the destruction of the other side, Israel. If these forces are pushed, at least a little, into the background now, then the world may hope."

"Hamstrung Comet"

Gyorgy Zsombor wrote in right-of-center Magyar Nemzet (1/10): "In Abbas, even Washington, which has been supporting the 'other side' from the beginning, sees the possible creator of peace, but the hawks on the other side of the Atlantic hardly understand what was at stake yesterday in the distant Middle East. 'Only stopping violence could bring stability for the Palestinian people,' the Westerners' wisdom says, although the recipe for the hoped-for peace is much more complicated than the gentlemen in the plush chairs envision."

IRELAND: "Palestinian Election"

The center-left Irish Times editorialized (1/11): "The result, following a stolid campaign, stands comparison with elections in many other states--which is remarkable considering that it was the first such exercise to have been held in the West Bank and Gaza. It signifies a widespread desire among Palestinians for political progress, in which Mr Abbas will depend crucially on reciprocal support from the new Israeli coalition government led by Mr Ariel Sharon and from President Bush's new administration in Washington. The coincidence of their coming to power creates a real opportunity for movement in this strategic and intransigent conflict--if the will is genuinely there. Mr Abbas stood on a platform supporting renewed talks with Israel and has described Mr Sharon as a potential negotiating partner. He has called on militant Palestinian groups to suspend their armed attacks on Israel while he explores the options for peaceful progress. Despite considerable disenchantment among younger Palestinians that he represents an older, exiled generation who have little contact with those born and reared in the territories occupied by Israel, they are willing to give him a real chance.... Firm international pressure will be required to turn this opportunity to advantage. On the face of it, President Bush is well-positioned and willing to lead it if he works closely with European leaders. Such progress will be necessary to bolster U.S. policy in Iraq. The big question is whether Mr Bush will be ready to put vigorous and sustained pressure on Mr Sharon in the pursuit of a settlement."

POLAND: "A Zionist Enemy"

Dawid Warszawski wrote in liberal Gazeta Wyborcza (1/12): "By calling Israel a 'Zionist enemy,' Abbas only said what the Palestinians think: he legitimized himself in their eyes.... Abbas will be a tough partner in the negotiations. But as he represents real people who want to live a human life, rather than dwelling upon the ideological vision of history as his predecessor did, he will be able to strike a compromise on their behalf and with their mandate.... After years of futile attempts to come to terms with Arafat, the Israelis and the Palestinians have a chance for a constructive dispute today."

"A Visionary Is Needed"

Jerzy Haszczynski asserted in centrist Rzeczpospolita (1/10): "A new chairman of the [Palestinian] Authority almost certainly--and soon--will become the first leader of an independent Palestinian state. Also, he will have the chance to go down in history as the one who led to the termination of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.... Hopes are great, the circumstances are favorable. A lot will depend, though, on whether the new leader of the Authority will be able to oppose the voices of the Palestinian street, make decisions that could bring his popularity down. In the end the Middle East conflict requires visionaries able to foresee many years ahead. This also requires a leader who does not think of how to make himself and his aides prosperous."

ROMANIA: "Weird Coincidence"

Tesu Solomonici commented in independent Ziua (1/11): "The Arab fundamentalists want the death of Abu Mazen, accusing him of treason, and the Jewish extremists want the death of Ariel Sharon, accusing him of treason also. 'The front of Palestinian refusal' and 'the front of Jewish refusal' shake hands, paradoxically, in the most loathsome alliance possible. The way history in Middle East is created is weird--on the day Abu Mazen has become president of the PA, Ariel Sharon has become the PM of a new government. The Presidency of Abu Mazen and the new Sharon government are both fragile. It would be sufficient for an extremist blockhead to provoke a terrorist attack in order to destroy hope. Only one Qassam missile provoking more victims in Shderot is needed for the Apocalypse to come."

SLOVENIA: "Without Promises Of Peace"

Barbara Surk maintained in left-of-center Delo (1/11): "It will be clear in the coming six months whether the armed uprising against Israel's occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and eastern Jerusalem will be replaced by negotiations and peace. This decision is in the hands of Sharon rather than Abbas. The perspective is bad. The Israeli Prime Minister is willing to accept Arafat's successor only [in the role of] a servant in America's war against terrorism, and not as a partner for peace. [In the war against terrorism] Israel and America are interested in disarming of Fatah...and neutralization of the Islamic opposition rather than in democratization of the Palestinian society. After the blessing of Israel's...coalition government and the election of a Palestinian president acceptable to America, prospects for peace process should not be excluded; however, promises of peace can be [excluded]. By withdrawing the Israeli military from Gaza, it will persuade the international community that the Middle Eastern conflict is resolved. By then, only the Palestinians will have known that the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem are also occupied territories."

SPAIN: "Abu Mazen's Triumph"

Left-of-center El Pais editorialized (1/11): "The freedom of a large part (of the Palestinian prisoners in Israel) could give Abu Mazen a base from which he could affirm that voting was worthwhile. The general climate is not very different; President Bush is willing to receive the elected (Palestinian) President in the White House and nothing better can suit (Abu Mazen). Not being Arafat can have benefits.... The same optimism is only needed in the Palestinian people. And there are good reasons for that optimism.... What Sharon...calls 'concessions' could be no more than simple realism. The promise, guaranteed by Washington, of a retreat from the territories, even from the East Jerusalem, could be the best way to know if the Palestinian movement wants the peace or not."

"Support For Abu Mazen"

Centrist La Vanguardia asserted (1/11): "If the difficult peace process between Israelis and Palestinians has proven anything...it is that agreement has powerful enemies, and on both sides.... A moderate leader like Abu Mazen...is going to be closely marked by the most radical forces. For this reason, he will need all the support of the international community and, especially, of the U.S., whose government has been practically disconnected from the peace process since 2001. The situation in Iraq is deteriorating more and more to the extent that the election of January 30 is in danger, so that a peace agreement between Palestinians and Israelis would obviously be excellent news."

"Hope Of Peace In Palestine"

Business-oriented Expansin contended (1/11): "One of the main issues Abu Mazen will have to do...will be to get again the support of the international community, above all of the U.S. This requirement, essential for putting on track the peace negotiations with Israel, seems to have started on the right foot after Bush expressed yesterday his will to collaborate with Mazen.... This is encouraging news, because since the time Bush was elected as president in 2001 he has refused to meet Arafat, and (Arafat) was completely ignored by Washington.... The current situation is unstable and uncertain, but both parties have the opportunity and the responsibility to walk towards an horizon of peace."

"Abu Mazen Must Now Make The Grade"

Independent El Mundo declared (1/11): "Abu Mazen is a man of peace, and in these moments the support that he is receiving from the moderate Arab countries, Israel, and the US is sincere, because no one believes that he will fall in the same dark hole...that turned Arafat into a moving figure, hateful for many and without political credibility. But his citizens are going to be Abu Mazen's most serious problem in the short term.... The radicalized Palestinian public opinion could demand a degree of fulfillment as unrealistic as Abu Mazen's own suggestions. And many observers think that what the US and Israel are waiting for is just the opposite: that Abu Mazen is the one that is going to make concessions, maybe without weighing in that the last years of popular desperation and Intifada have reduced so much of the leeway for any Palestinian leader. The incentive of peace and possible independence is strong, and if Abu Mazen makes the grade, it could be obtained. Yesterday, the fearsome Jihad revealed that it is studying an end in their attacks against Israel. It's a matter to follow very closely."

"A Vote Of Hope"

Centrist La Vanguardia declared (1/10): "Some issues depend on the will of the new (Palestinian) president, but his ability to act is directly related to the attitude of the Israeli government, starting with the blockade imposed in the occupied territories, which has hindered the vote, exasperates the Palestinian population, and destroys its battered economy.... The successor of Arafat is less charismatic but more flexible, but the Israeli government should be aware that Mahmud Abbas' electoral credit may run out if hopes are shattered.... The first objective of the new Palestinian president is 'to progress backwards', that is, go back to the situation of the summer of 2000...and guarantee a real ceasefire. Sharon, in fair correspondence, should accompany his promise to withdraw from Gaza with other gestures such as freedom of movement for the Palestinian population, or the release of part of its 8000 prisoners.... The opportunity opened to recover the 'Road Map'...will ultimately depend on Washington's attitude. President Bush, who encouraged boycotting Arafat and gave Sharon a blank check, has started to discretely bet on Abbas' reformist way, in line with the decided support [given to Abbas] by European diplomacy. But only direct pressure by Bush on the Israeli government can impose the path of moderation on both fronts."

"Palestine, Hour Zero"

Conservative ABC editorialized (1/10): "The victory of Mahmud Abbas...opens a scenario of hope and possibilities for a people who need peace and stability.... Fortunately, the degree of commitment from the international community, and especially the pressure exerted by the UN, the U.S., and Europe, has made itself felt this time and has been decisive. In fact, good will was paradigmatic and exemplary. The restraint imposed from the Palestinian moderate sectors and the responsibility shown by the Israeli government during the electoral process has made possible the victory of democracy in the ballot boxes. However, uncertainty is still there, flying over a very difficult scenario.... Israel does not have the excuse of Arafat anymore. Palestine has shown it is able to find people who are ready to negotiate. Now it is necessary for Israel's collective neurosis to disappear and the violent lack of organization of the Palestinians to become a progressive process of institutional and stability consolidation. It is still the hour of responsibility: difficult day by day."

SWEDEN: "The Election Of Abbas Might Be A Turning Point"

Conservative Stockholm-based Svenska Dagbladet opined (1/10): "What is important--and also something new--is the fact that there was a real alternative (for the Palestinians) and that the election, according to international observers, was carried out decently. Mahmoud Abbas is not a mother-in-law's dream politically. He is rather a PLO veteran who served in the shadow of Yassir Arafat. Yet his election will improve the chances for Israel to get secure borders, and for the Palestinians to have borders of their own. However, the path to peace will be lined with problems and Abbas must perform a high level balancing act.... It is typical that the terrorist organization Hamas boycotted the election, and equally typical that Abbas has not gotten tough with the perpetrators of violence. Instead he has praised and promised them protection.... The election of Abbas might be a turning point. The Palestine issue has been an excuse for authoritarian regimes in the Mideast to suppress their people. If all goes well, steps towards a Palestinian solution might create waves in a region where freedom is either limited or in jail."

"First Elections After Arafat"

Independent, liberal Stockholm-based Dagens Nyheter editorialized (1/9): "Now there is a window of opportunity (in the Mideast). They have existed before and the pessimist can easily point to all the plans that have failed.... But now there is, on both sides, weariness of conflict and the realization that violence is a cul-de-sac and that the way to normality goes through agreements.... But an American involvement will be necessary. The main responsibility certainly rests with the two parties but without intense international engagement, primarily by the U.S., every effort runs the risk of coming to nothing.... Stumbling-blocks are easy to find. But windows of opportunity are not common and the existing spirit of optimism gives hopes that steps towards normalization and true peace negotiations will be taken now when the Palestinians go to the polls."

TURKEY: "A New Beginning In The Middle East"

Sami Kohen maintained in mass-appeal Milliyet (1/11): "Palestine has entered into a new period following its extraordinarily democratic performance during the elections. Yet this new period comes with both opportunities and challenges. There are some urgent domestic issues for Abbas to deal with: reform of the state system, the unemployment problem, economic and social reforms, stability and security.... His performance on these domestic issues is directly related to international circumstances, particularly the Palestinians' relations with Israel. An agreement with Israel should be a priority for Abbas. There is hope on that score, since Abbas has already voiced his intention to engage in a dialogue with Israeli PM Sharon.... The Israeli cabinet has been altered to include Labor Party leader Shimon Peres, who has also stated his willingness to meet with Abbas. The U.S. and the EU are preparing to launch some initiatives as well. These are all good signs that provide hope for a new beginning in the Middle East."

"The Key To Peace Is In The Hands Of Sharon, Not Abbas"

Haluk Ulman wrote in economic-political Dunya (1/11): "The West, including the U.S., is very happy about the election results in Palestine. They believe that Abbas is a great chance for peace in the Middle East. Yet there is an oversight here. The biggest obstacle to a Palestinian-Israeli peace settlement was never Arafat, despite what is claimed by Sharon and the Bush administration. Contrary to common belief, when Clinton tried to broker a peace agreement in Camp David between Arafat and Barak in 2000, it was the Israeli PM, not Arafat, who blocked the deal. Barak refused to accept the transfer of East Jerusalem to the Palestinian State. This was the real reason for the failure at Camp David. At present, there is no reason to believe that Sharon will do anything different.... It is much too early to conclude that Abbas is going to establish peace with Israel, especially as long as Sharon remains in power."

"Abbas, Sharon And Bush"

Yasemin Congar wrote in mass-appeal Milliyet (1/10): "According to US diplomats, Washington wants to see a determination from Abbas regarding the fight against terrorism. One of the criteria on this issue will be whether there are any figures with terrorist links in the new Palestinian cabinet. If Abbas tries to limit the influence of Islamic Jihad and Hamas, the US will act accordingly. This would entail allowing the use of financial aid for Palestine which was earlier suspended. The US wants to make sure that this money will not fall into the hands of terrorists.... Washington has already been working on a series of gestures toward Palestine in the event that Abbas shows leadership in controlling the violence and terrorist groups. These concrete measures would include steps to revive the security cooperation between Israel and Palestine, and a new security concept for the West Bank and Gaza.... Another step would be to support the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, followed by a series of security and reconstruction efforts.... It is also possible that Abbas will soon receive an invitation to the White House."

MIDDLE EAST

ISRAEL: "Helping The Chick Grow Its Feathers"

Uzi Benziman observed in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (1/12): "Official Jerusalem understands that something happened this week: a new government arose in Ramallah and in Israel, and in another week a new administration will take office in Washington. And there's the rub. The powers that be in Israel are taking into account that the second Bush administration will not necessarily be identical with the first: neither in its approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, its composition, nor the balance of power inside it. A significant change is expected in Bush's attitude toward the Palestinians, as could already be seen in the president's warm congratulations to Abu Mazen and the invitation to the White House that Bush extended to the new Palestinian president. The U.S. administration will be the power supply that sends current to Jerusalem and Ramallah to divert the violent conflict to a track of political dialogue. He will demand that Abu Mazen make a major change in his government's capability for enforcing his will on the Palestinian street and foremost on the terror organization, and he will demand that Israel help Abu Mazen and thus fulfill its part in the actualization of the road map. As things appeared this week, Sharon and his new government intend to grab the opportunity offered with the election of Abu Mazen and not repeat the mistake of the previous government, which waited for Abu Mazen the chick to grow its feathers."

"Sharon And Abu Mazen: Together But Alone"

Nahum Barnea noted in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (1/11): "This could have been an era of positive change. A new president was elected to the PA who he has consistently spoken out against terrorism and violence. The majority that he received gives him prestige in the world and a mandate to make changes at home. He needs a strong, self-assured Israeli government that will help him establish himself. Sharon has the resoluteness, but he wants for votes. Abu Mazen has the votes, but many people doubt how resolute he is. The two of them are planning to make revolutionary changes in the Middle Eastern reality."

"A Victory For The Two-State Approach"

Danny Rubinstein stated in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (1/11): "Mahmoud Abbas's impressive victory in the PA presidential elections is to a large extent also a victory for the Fatah movement.... The Fatah movement has not only not disintegrated, but it appears to have pulled itself together and been strengthened.... This success for the movement is of enormous importance because it is the movement that led the Palestinian public and the PLO to recognize the state of Israel and stick to a 'two states for two peoples' strategy.... Abbas and Fatah's election victory can definitely be interpreted as a victory of the strategy of negotiations with Israel and establishing a state alongside it, and not instead of it. Even at the height of the suicide bombings, polls in the territories showed that the majority still believed that a two-state arrangement would be the best--and the elections this week confirm that remains the overwhelmingly prevailing view."

"The Second Palestinian Revolution"

Ron Pundak wrote in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (1/11): "Abu Mazen's election to the presidency of the PA, and his new status at the head of the PLO are placing the Palestinians and their leadership at a new crossroads. The easier direction would be the continuation of the violent Arafat-style revolution. The more difficult course leads to an Abu-Mazen-style civilian revolution. In actual fact, we are already in the twilight zone between the two, but an opportunity for significant change has now been created. In this context, Israel can be compared to traffic lights.... The course steered by Abu Mazen could lead to peace and security in this region, but it takes two to tango. In order for the Palestinians to show restraint and considerable tolerance required of them, Israel must help Abu Mazen create an increasing number of positive stimuli. Alongside a true dialogue, a release of prisoners, the lifting of roadblocks, and a general change of attitude will help Abu Mazen turn the [Palestinian] street from violence and incitement into conciliation and a diplomatic solution, fighting and the war into a dialogue and peace, the first revolution into the second one. Now more than ever, the key is in Israel's hands. If we so want, we'll make Palestinian change possible. If we don't, we'll perpetuate war and terror."

"Partner For The Pullout--And After"

Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz held (1/11): "The victory of Fatah's candidate, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), in the election for a new Palestinian Authority chairman is likely to be an important milestone in the efforts to obtain a halt to the violent conflict, and thereafter perhaps an agreement as well.... The new PA chairman was elected against the background of a new reality in the region and the world: four years of bloodshed, which resulted in many victims and heavy damage; an American government that is seeking a way out of the ongoing crisis in Iraq; and hints of a new direction in Syria. But more important than any of these is the change in Israel. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan, which has just received a boost in the form of a new government that includes Labor, is slated to dismantle all Israeli settlements and military installations in the Gaza Strip this year and transfer them to the Palestinians. This is a dramatic move that accords with the Palestinians' interests. Abu Mazen can integrate his plans for a cease-fire and the rehabilitation of the security services in Gaza with the PA's assumption of full responsibility for the Gaza Strip. Such integration will increase the odds of success for the disengagement, which is currently the most relevant diplomatic plan on the agenda of both parties to the conflict."

"The Voice Of The Majority"

Chief Economic Editor Sever Plotker wrote in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (1/11): "The masses that voted for Abu Mazen in the race for the president of the PA...also voted, given the circumstances, against the ideology that Arafat nurtured for years. Arafat rejected democratic elections, rejected the establishment of a Palestinian governmental authority that would disarm the terror organizations, rejected genuine dialogue with Israel and rejected the establishment of a Palestinian state inside borders based on a realistic compromise. All of Arafat's rejections became central components in the platform on which Abu Mazen ran and won. And who would have believed that Fatah, a secular Palestinian political movement, which was eulogized by so many experts as washed out and as having capitulated to the frothing wave of Islamic extremism, would suddenly awaken from its coma, organize and achieve such an impressive victory in the elections? But historical surprises abound not only in the Palestinian arena, but in our arena as well. Who would have believed that the overtly left wing party Yahad would raise its hand in the Knesset in favor of a government led by Ariel Sharon, so that Sharon--as the prime minister of a stable government--might implement his plan to remove all Jewish settlements from the Gaza Strip? Who would have believed that the silent civil majority that yearns for normalcy would at long last make its voice heard loudly in Israel and in the PA? This is a clear and practical voice that democratically defeats both Jewish messianism and Palestinian messianism. Those who did not believe, evidently, were people of little faith."

"Israel's Excuses Are Running Out"

Akiva Eldar opined in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (1/10): "If Abu Mazen succeeds where his predecessor Yasser Arafat failed and lowers the heat, Israel will have to divest itself of the respectable title 'the only democracy in the Middle East.' Then the occupation will be exposed in its full nakedness.... The control by Abu Mazen's government of the street in Gaza and a switch to nonviolent struggle against the occupation in the West Bank will leave Israel stripped of excuses to hold onto the Jewish settlements in the territories, never mind their expansion. The separation fence, another unilateral initiative on Israel's part--like the disengagement plan--could bring it even closer to the June 4, 1967 borders."

"On The Way To Change"

Ronni Shaked wrote in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (1/10): "It became apparent that when the Palestinians put the Kalashnikov aside, they are also capable of demonstrating different behavior. The problem is that many of them are not yet ready to hold negotiations that are not under the shadow of terror. What is more severe is that many terrorist groups, not only Hamas and Islamic Jihad, are unwilling to accept the authority of the leadership, even if it is the people's democratic choice. Therefore, it is doubtful whether the democratic display we witnessed on Sunday will continue. The Palestinians of Rafah, the Jenin refugee camp or Hebron have not yet internalized democratic values, as opposed to the yuppies of Ramallah and the intellectuals of Bir Zeit.... Nevertheless, Sunday's elections are definitely a step in the right direction.... As of today, Abu Mazen is no longer on the campaign trail, and cannot sell his people unsubstantiated slogans and declarations. Abu Mazen will have to form a strong new government, appoint an interior minister with powers and remove the Tunis people from his way, those who still hold Arafatist views. Abu Mazen says that he is aware of the problems and difficulties, and is ready for the challenges, but he hopes that Israel will not turn its back on him as it did when he served as prime minister. It takes two for this tango. In order to meet his goals, Abu Mazen needs time. The question is whether Israel will be willing to give him the necessary time to get organized and prove that he is indeed making efforts to bring about calm."

"Arab Countries Could Learn From Them"

Amit Cohen contended in popular, pluralist Maariv (1/10): "The Palestinian public, and likewise its candidates for president, demonstrated a genuine desire for change, a desire to turn over a new leaf, to remove the debris of the past. Even if the atmosphere at the elections was not inspired, there was a feeling that the democracy was genuine. In that sense the Palestinians are the first of the Arab nations to succeed in holding an organized and orderly election campaign. But in spite of the success of the election campaign, they have a long way to go before they can call themselves a democracy. In Israel the talk is mostly about reform of the Palestinian security agencies, but the Palestinian Authority is in dire need of a massive overhaul of all its institutions, including those not directly related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. So before the new 'Rais'--Abu Mazen--tries to improve his relations with Israel, he has to set his own house in order.... In spite of the difficulties that lie ahead, Israel ought to view these elections as a positive, encouraging step, not only because Abu Mazen, the preferred candidate of Washington and Jerusalem was elected, but also because the Palestinian people showed Sunday that it wants a democratic regime subject to public scrutiny and responsive to public opinion. Even though this process is not complete, everything should be done to help it on its way."

"A New Beginning"

Ofer Shelach held in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (1/10): "As of this morning Mahmoud Abbas is the president of Palestine. His subjects, most of whom face only poverty, occupation and corruption, may not have seen a great reason for celebration and did not go out, en masse, to the polling stations, but Abu Mazen is the democratically elected president who enjoys international legitimacy, and he will not be easily dismissed with the wave of an Israeli hand. As of this morning it will be more difficult for Abu Mazen and Israel to play the game of 'them first,' that they were so busy with these past few months. There will be no justification for either side continuing to duck its responsibilities, there will no longer be anyone else on whom to pin the blame for failure. As of this morning, the Palestinian gain is not necessarily our loss, and vice versa."

"How To Help Abbas"

The conservative, independent English-language Jerusalem Post editorialized (1/10): "Israel and the region, not to mention the Palestinians themselves, have a great interest in the success of their democracy.... Experience, however, indicates that it is not the margin of victory that will be determinative, but the expectations of the international community and its willingness to enforce them. Abbas, after all, has taken contradictory positions.... In this context, it would not be not be surprising if Abbas attempted to continue the path of his on-and-off mentor, Arafat, who would sometimes claim to be against violence, never lift a finger to stop it and always claim that he was too weak to take steps against terrorism without further Western support. Rare is the leader who will take painful steps when he can avoid them. The path of least resistance is to make a show of effort, claim weakness and sit back and wait for the flurry of calls to 'support Abu Mazen' to bear fruit. This time, if the international community really cares about ending terror and the success of the Palestinian democratic project, it must behave differently. Financial support for the new-old Palestinian leader must be tightly linked both to ending terrorism and violence and to democratic reforms. Our own government, it should go without saying, should not undermine such linkage. Though we can always hope it will be otherwise, it would hardly be a surprise if one of those opposing the tight linkage of aid to performance is our own incoming vice prime minister, Shimon Peres."

"Now The Gestures"

Nationalist, Orthodox Hatzofe editorialized (1/10): "The guileful Abu Mazen has already drawn up a list of demands from the Israeli government the goal of which, so he will say, is to help him gain control over the Palestinian street. All of his demands will receive the support of the Europeans, particularly Britain, and, as far as we know, Abu Mazen will find an attentive ear in the U.S. State Department and the White House. Abu Mazen comes across as a moderate and his statements against violent terrorism and the Intifada have served him well in the West. But his worldview is no different from Arafat's: namely, action should be taken to promote the destruction of the State of Israel. Abu Mazen wants to make as substantial territorial gains as possible by means of soft statements in support of dialogue and against violence, and when he obtains most of his demands with the help of the superpowers' pressure, he will turn to the use of weapons and warfare.... Abu Mazen is taking a new approach, and Israel now is going to pay a dear price for Abu Mazen's guile. Under the cover of the relative quiet and the smiles, a military power with unparalleled ability to jeopardize Israel will be built. One of the chief proponents of this approach is Egypt. The President of Egypt, who ignores the arms smuggling operations by the terror organizations from his country, considers Abu Mazen to be an ally with whom he can steal horses. Ariel Sharon, the strategist and military genius, has gone blind in many fields, and we can only hope that we do not discover the heavy price that we are going to have to pay too late."

"Palestinians To Elect Their 'Rais'"

Gregory Ger wrote in conservative Russian-language Vesty (1/9): "The Palestinians are electing a new 'Rais'.... Abu Mazen is most likely to be elected. However, according to his statements in the past several days, the situation in the region will not change essentially.... Abu Mazen is not planning to change his predecessor's human resources politics seriously. The discontinuation of the 'politics of terror' also raises serious doubts among the experts. Sources in the Prime Minister's Office assume that Sharon's meeting with Abu Mazen (should Abu Mazen be elected) would take place a couple of days after the elections.... First of all Prime Minister Sharon would demand that PA Chairman [act] to stop mortar and rocket fire [on Israeli towns]".

WEST BANK: "Israel Is Obliged To Do More Than Just Chant Peace Slogans"

Independent Al-Quds editorialized (1/12): "The vast majority of politicians, analysts and commentators in Israel agreed that Mahmud Abbas's victory with a high turnout means that the Palestinian people have chosen the path of peace and are willing to achieve it. They also agreed that the opportunity is now open for substantial progress towards achieving peace. Many have indicated that Israel must offer Abu Mazin a real chance and to show signs of good intentions that can allow him convince the Palestinian street about the feasibility of peace negotiations.... If Israel persists in repeating slogans and continuing its hostile policies, including looking for pretexts to flee from peace, that will merely encourage extremism, take us farther away from peace and plunge the region back into cycles of violence and bloodshed."

"The Third Current Is No Longer Silent"

Hani Masri commented in independent Al-Ayyam (1/12): "Perhaps the first surprise result of the elections is that those who opposed the elections failed to thwart this experiment.... Another fact, no less important, is that the third central current [force], which had been silent but then raised its voice...has become a national, democratic and secular current following a long period of quiet.... We will continue for days and maybe weeks to crunch numbers on the results. Each party will use its own favorite formula to reach satisfactory results. Nonetheless, facts on the ground will remain stronger than any artificial formula, for there's a clear mandate for Abu Mazin's agenda, one that is national and that all should embrace."

"Bush And Abu Mazen"

Hafiz Barghuthi wrote in official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (1/12): "We hear a new call by President Bush inviting President-elect Abu Mazin to visit Washington. We also hear about an Israeli willingness to meet with him, a scenario similar to when Abu Mazin was appointed prime minister.... Practically speaking, the ball is now in the American court. President Bush, if willing to achieve his famous vision, can make Israel hew to the Roadmap and not obstruct Abu Mazin's internal efforts. I believe that, just as he was previously able to convince Bush about the gravity of the separation wall and the prolongation of the Roadmap's phases, Abu Mazin is now capable of persuading Bush to cut short the time and to give up his vision of the establishment of a state in the year 2009, because that gives the enemies of peace extra time to harm peace efforts."

"The Ball Is Now In The Court Of Israel And The International Community"

Independent Al-Quds asserted (1/11): "[Arab and international reactions to Abbas's victory] alone are not enough to achieve tangible progress with respect to solving the Palestinian issue. What's needed is a translation of this international support to a serious work mechanism and rapid international action to stop the ongoing Israeli aggression against our people."

"Presidential Elections: 'Bitter Drops Don't Spoil The Honey Jar'"

Hani Masri commented in independent Al-Ayyam (1/11): "In one day, by undergoing this unique presidential elections experience under occupation, the Palestinian people wiped out the Israeli pretext that Sharon's government and the Bush administration have used to accuse the Palestinians of 'terrorism', 'barbarism' and unworthiness for taking part in the peace process.... Bitter drops [violations] accompanied the electoral campaign until Election Day itself. We hope they will not spoil the honey jar, and they won't. If not for them, the Palestinian presidential elections could have been a model not only for third world countries but also for many modern democratic countries, as a number of foreign observers stated."

"Outcome Of The Election: Victory Of The Palestinian Voter"

Rajab Abu Sariya opined in independent Al-Ayyam (1/11): "What happened even before the announcement of the election results represents a truly festive democratic event, in which the voter was the winner, and sends a clear Palestinian message to the entire world that [the Palestinian people] are worthy of freedom and independence.... It's important to view the presidential elections as an internal and political turning point.... In order to take things in the right direction, this situation must be built upon in a positive fashion and completed. The new president has a very difficult mission awaiting him, particularly the political confrontation with the Israeli side."

"Post-Elections Commitments"

Independent Al-Quds editorialized (1/10): "The international commitment that our people are awaiting following the elections lies in the necessity of the international community's fulfilling its responsibilities toward the Palestinian cause. As long as there is a legitimate elected Palestinian leadership that believes in peace and international legitimacy, enjoys public support and is capable of carrying out its duties, there is no justification for more delay. The international community must rapidly take serious action to end the occupation, implement the roadmap and establish the independent Palestinian state. Thus we say the Palestinian elections are not merely a test of the Palestinians and their leadership--a test our people passed successfully--but also a test of the international community and the Quartet...after Palestinians have reiterated their sincere desire to achieve peace. These elections are also a test of Israel's seriousness and willingness to achieve peace. We hope Israel will not reject once again the Palestinian hand reaching out for a just and comprehensive peace."

"The Palestinian Restores His Image"

Talal 'Ukal commented in independent Al-Ayyam (1/10): "Contestants and their supporters have shown a truly civilized image that eliminates the accusations and false impressions of the Palestinians as uncivilized, chaotic terrorists unfit for the democratic experience."

"Moral Of The Story Is Still To Come"

Ashraf Ajrami opined in independent Al-Ayyam (1/10): "There's no doubt that Israel was not hoping that the elections would go smoothly and would win the whole world's admiration and respect. It was only natural that recently it resorted to hostile measures affecting all Palestinian territories. It failed to meet the requirement of facilitating and guaranteeing a peaceful electoral process free of obstacles.... Actually Israel fears the collapse of the series of lies underlying its policy, which is also based on the allegation that there is no Palestinian partner capable of negotiations.... Following the elections, Israel will have to deal with a new reality. This doesn't necessarily mean a drastic change in Israeli policy, but will at minimum unmask Israel and perhaps lead to international pressure on it to modify its policies."

"A People's Well-Deserved Success"

Yahya Rabah opined in official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (1/10): "Today, as I was wandering around the city, I realized how much attention the Palestinians gave to the elections.... The other thing I've come across was that the 'taboo' of boycotting the elections...and the walls of negativity have collapsed. Everyone knows that the Palestinian elections have three wings: local, legislative and presidential. I could not find anyone who cares any longer about the differences between them and whether they all fall under the Oslo umbrella or not. They all fall under the umbrella of the living and renewed will of the Palestinian people."

SAUDI ARABIA: "The Partner Has Come...Where Is Sharon?"

Jeddah's conservative Al-Madina observed (1/12): "Sharon's government has no excuse now. This chance for peace should not be wasted. The Israeli bet that time is working for Israel is neither true nor accurate. Wasting additional chances for peace will only bring regional unrest, giving fundamentalists reasons to justify their violent actions."

"Translating U.S. Promises"

Jeddah's moderate Okaz held (1/12): "If peace does not materialize and a Palestinian state is not established, the U.S. will lose its credibility even among its strongest allies and friends. The U.S. must show us how it is going to play the peace card without falling for Israel's blackmailing policies."

"There Is No Courage In Israel's Perception"

Abha's moderate Al-Watan opined (1/12): "Courage in Israel's perception means getting rid of the Palestinian cause. Israelis are trying to put the ball in Abu Mazen's court. Palestinians have proven their good intentions. The ball is now in Israel's court. Everybody will witness how Israel wasted this chance for peace."

"What Is Demanded From Sharon!"

Dammam's moderate Al-Yaum stated (1/11): "Mamoud Abbas(Abu Mazen,)has been elected by the Palestinians as their new president. Neither the U.S. State Department nor Sharon should put obstacles in the path of the Palestinian Authority. Is Sharon going to stop his political games and give Abu Mazen a chance? What is demanded from Sharon now is to remove all obstacles out of Abu Mazen's way and give him a chance to achieve justice for the Palestinians."

"Return Of Hope"

Jeddah's conservative Al-Madina editorialized (1/11): "When two thirds of Palestinians said yes to Abu Mazen (Mahmmoud Abbas), they actually said yes to reform. They said yes to ceasing the militancy of Intifada, and yes to the Palestinians' right to have an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.... The help that President Bush promised the new chairman of the Palestinian Authority must not be limited to monetary aid. Palestinians are in dire need for the two hundred million dollars that President Bush promised them. But they also have a greater need for the U.S. to fulfill its promise and expedite the peace process. The U.S. must take positive steps toward putting the Road Map on the right track. The U.S. must help Abu Mazen in his mission and give peace efforts another chance."

"What The U.S. Should Do For The Palestinians?"

Makkah's conservative Al-Nadwa said (1/11): "The US needs to be reminded that after the complimentary phrases and congratulations, it still has promises to fulfill towards the Palestinians. In the past, the U.S. had frozen these promises since it maintained that the former chairman was not the right person. Now the wrong person is gone and the suitable one is in charge. The U.S. has accepted Abu Mazen, and it is time to deliver... In the current Palestinian reality, the U.S. must exert real pressure on Israel to make Abu Mazen's mission as smooth as possible."

"The Palestinians Have Fulfilled Their Promise.... When Will The World Fulfill Its Promise?"

Riyadh's moderate Al-Jazira stated (1/10): "The Palestinians have impressed everyone who witnessed their elections. Despite all the barriers and the pressure Israel tried to impose on them, they managed to perform their duty and elect a president in a very democratic way. Today, the Palestinians ask the world to fulfill its promise and provide them with the promised peace. They want their legitimate right to live in an independent state, with Jerusalem as its capital. Palestinians want to invite all their refugees from around the world to settle in their state. Palestinians are asking the world to urgently speed its promise."

"Abbas: Tough Job Ahead"

The pro-government English-language Arab News declared (1/10): "Any presidential election anywhere brings with it the hopes and aspirations of millions.... Yesterday's Palestinian election was no exception. If anything, the poll and its results are hugely significant...because of the uniquely bitter situation Palestinians in the occupied territories and the diaspora find themselves in.... The question really then is not whether Abbas will win, or even by how much, but what he will do once in office.... How he will be able to deal with groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad instead of crushing them as Israel demands, and yet at the same time talk peace with Tel Aviv, is a question full of interest and possibilities. Abbas has made it clear that his fundamental goal is the same as that of Arafat: An end to Israeli occupation and a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. On the campaign trail, however, Abbas has wavered on another sensitive item, repeatedly calling for the return of all refugees to their original homes within Israel. Previously though, he has admitted that the Palestinians should be willing to compromise on the issue of refugees, acknowledging that Israel would never accept the return of all Palestinians who were displaced.... In general, Abbas has said what Israel wants to hear.... What is for sure is that Abbas has a big job in front of him.... It should be remembered that the poll and the campaign leading to it went extremely smoothly. It was in keeping with the calm that prevailed in the wake of Arafat's death as predictions of civil strife and possible civil war never came close to reality.... It is ironic that Abbas, dwarfed as he is when compared to Arafat, might eventually deliver to the Palestinians what the legend himself never did."

IRAQ: "From Palestine To Iraq"

Ahmad al-Rub'i wrote in the Iraqi edition of London-based pan-Arab Asharq al-Awsat (1/11): "The Palestinian electoral experiment is an important lesson for the Iraqi people. The Palestinian election, which was held peacefully and democratically, represents a significant blow to Israel. Israel will now have to deal with an elected Palestinian leader in a democratic and civilized manner. In addition, the entire world, led by the U.S., will recognize the legitimate Palestinian leader. Palestinians have managed to weaken the Israeli occupation. The Iraqis must do the same thing. They have to hold a free and democratic election in order to establish an elected government.... The Palestinian election succeeded in front of the world and international supervisors. This election has proven that democracy can be established in the Arab world. Although there were disputes and disagreements among the Palestinian political groups, they all proved to be responsible and ensured a successful election. Those who opposed the Palestinian election did not threaten civilians on the street. Instead, they allowed the ballot boxes to determine the outcome of their disputes. Elections determine what the majority wants. The Palestinian election will have positive results for the Palestinian people and it will lead to negative consequences for Sharon's government. We hope that the Palestinian electoral process would be a useful lesson for the Iraqi people. Ballot boxes are the best alternative to guns, killing, and civil war."

JORDAN: "And There Has Become A Partner For Peace!!"

Center-left, influential Al-Dustour editorialized (1/11): "Finally, the Palestinians have a new president...and Israel no right to claim the presence of an 'obstacle' to resuming the political process, ending its occupation of the Palestinian territories, and establishing the Palestinian state.... The Palestinian people proved, through these elections, that they are capable of exercising democracy and express their will. They proved that they are people who can not only rule themselves and preserve their entity, but also overcome the biggest of crises and surpass the ordeal of losing their leader.... The only thing remaining now is to drag Israel to the negotiating table in order to start the countdown towards ridding the Palestinian brethren of one of the ugliest occupations in modern history."

"Fateh Or Palestine?"

Basem Sakijha asserted in center-left, influential Al-Dustour (1/11): "(Amidst all the celebrating) I thought that Mahmoud Abbas had defeated Ariel Sharon in the elections, or that the Likud party had lost to the Fateh Movement, or even that the Palestinian state was declared along with the initial results of the elections. The volume of Fateh's celebrations was larger than the event itself. Fateh men shooting their guns in the air was nothing more than childish.... The celebrators forgot all about Palestinian democracy and magnified out of proportion a frail victory for a single organization.... We had hoped that celebrations would take place all over Palestine because of the victory for Palestinian democracy, as had been the case when the late Yaser Arafat was elected president.... Moreover, we heard not a word about the refugees, as if they have become heavy luggage lost along the long way. We heard not a word of condemnation for the Israeli enemy, as we had during the election campaign. In all cases, we witnessed the establishment of a single party in the great tradition of the third world."

"Hope For New Beginnings"

The elite English-language Jordan Times declared (1/11): "The Fateh movement candidate, Mahmoud Abbas, won a decisive victory in his bid for the post of president of the Palestinian National Authority. Also impressive was the voters' eagerness to get to the polls despite the calls by Hamas and other radical Palestinian factions for a boycott.... With such a mandate, the newly elected Palestinian president can now move more assertively, if not aggressively, to put into effect his policies on both domestic and external affairs.... That the elections were conducted in relative calm...provides additional evidence that Abbas enjoys a clear mandate from his people.... Now it is Israel's turn to reciprocate the new message from the Palestinian people who have already conveyed their willingness to give peace and peaceful negotiations another chance. Israel must now show that it is also ready and able to move forward in that direction.... Fortunately, the formation of a new Israeli government in which the Labour Party, under former Prime Minister Shimon Peres--who had positive comments about the Abbas win and even phoned Abu Mazen to congratulate him--will take an important seat promises to usher in, from the Israeli side too, new hopes for peace in the Middle East."

"A Divider Between Two Stages"

Urayb Rintawi wrote in center-left, influential Al-Dustour (1/11): "Because the elections occurred in a climate of fair competition and transparency unprecedented in the Arab world, the pens of those harmed by the results of the these elections moved to question their legitimacy, emphasize their fabricated nature, and exaggerate the effect of the international support for Abu Mazen. Yet, the claims of these people are thwarted by the facts on the ground, which they choose to ignore by launching ready-made accusations. Instead of analyzing and discussing the significance of the prominent participation in the voting process and the meaning of the large percentage of votes that a man, known for his direct and clear stands, got in the elections, we see them talking about a terrible moment and a cosmic conspiracy, without which Abu Mazen would not have won. These people did not realize that the decision to boycott was not a popular decision. The Palestinian people are longing for freedom and democracy. These people did not realize that the Palestinian people have concerns and priorities, which may not necessarily be served by exaggerated slogans. These people did not realize that ballot boxes were the final arbitrator.... What was before the elections cannot be after the elections. The Palestinian people have cast their vote and they voted for Abu Mazen, the person, the movement, the program and the trend. No one, after January 9 has the right to veto.... It is time to speak the language of respect for the will and the choice of the people. Using the Palestinians of the Diaspora as an excuse to say that the elections reflected the will of just part of the Palestinians and not all of them lacks credibility, as though the Palestinians of the Diaspora are more influential and more popular than the Palestinians living in Palestine."

"Not An Authorization To Concede!"

Yaser Za'atreh contended in center-left, influential Al-Dustour (1/11): "What happened [Palestinian presidential elections] was a vote for the Fateh Movement in the absence of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and has absolutely nothing to do with Mahmoud Abbas or any other person running.... The game of forging the truth has started despite the fact that people know that victory was guaranteed for a man whom everyone on the Arab and international levels preferred. A large part of the Palestinian people could not reject him when the Authority's party had given him its legitimacy, when Hamas had been absent, and when they had heard the man talk about Palestinian principles and his readiness to hold a referendum on any final status solution of the Palestinian issue."

"The Palestinian Elections, Jerusalem And The Refugee Issue"

Lamis Andoni asserted in independent Al-Ghad (1/10): "The voting process [in the Palestinian presidential election] showed an Israeli-American determination to nullify Palestinian rights in Jerusalem and the right of return.... Yesterday was difficult for the Palestinians of the Diaspora who felt excluded from the Palestinian decision-making process and who see a possible loss of the right of return under the terms of Oslo, American-Israeli pressure and an Arab acquiescence of America's terms for peace. Some analysts and politicians suggested that refugees of the Diaspora be given the opportunity to participate in legislative and presidential elections in order to give them a role in the Palestinian decision-making process. I disagree with that for a number of reasons, particularly because the Oslo agreement gave the PA responsibility for all Palestinians, though not representation of them as America and Israeli acknowledge the representative authority of the PA only when it comes to ending the Intifada and making concessions. The most significant issue is that the participation of the Palestinians in the Diaspora in these conditional elections would have had serious repercussions later on when the time comes to negotiate final-status issues. That will be when America and Israel pressure the Authority to abandon the right of return. So, participation of the refugees in this election would, in effect, nullify their rights, because this participation would be understood as providing a mandate for the elected president to make decisions that could harm their fate."

"Legitimacy Is The Starting Point Of Freedom And Dignity!"

Tarek Masarweh contended in semi-official, influential Al-Rai (1/10): "The problem today is not the elections. The problem is the occupation, as much in Palestine as it is in Iraq. As for the search for legitimacy, the Israelis, the Americans or the British know that legitimacy in times of occupation is the legitimacy of resistance, and nothing else.... The stance of the Sunnis towards the American occupation is not much different from the roadmap's handling of the [Israeli] withdrawal. What Washington and Tel Aviv want is elections first, leading the way for the rise of a 'reasonable' government that would grant the occupation approval by portraying it as supporting liberation, independence and self-determination! America and Israel view legitimacy...as something that accepts foreign dictates at the expense of the freedom, dignity and independence of the homeland! Democracy must never be used as the starting point of national submission."

"The Problem Is In The Occupation Not In Democracy"

Center-left influential Al-Dustour noted (1/10): "The problem facing Palestinians is not lack of democracy but the Israeli occupation."

LEBANON: "The Palestinian Elections"

Aouni Al-Kaaki opined in pro-Syria Ash-Sharq (1/10): "The Palestinian Elections...reflect the future of the West Bank and Gaza because the results will determine the nature of Palestinian-Israeli relations.... Mahmoud Abbas, who apparently won, will be welcomed by the Israelis and Americans because his priority is to end the Intifada...and comply with American and Israeli conditions."

"Farewell Revolution, Welcome Democracy; An Israeli Gift For The American Occupation Of Iraq"

Talal Salman asserted in Arab nationalist As-Safir (1/10): "The Palestinian people did not need this presidential election to prove that they believe in democracy. The Palestinian people have been proving their belief in democracy for decades, through their suffering and struggle against the Israeli occupation.... The scene of the Palestinian Presidential elections was too good to be true.... The tanks of the occupation which destroyed houses and trees were not there, snipers who killed children and butterflies and books were not there.... There were seven exemplary candidates for the presidential elections...however, the result was known in advance...because otherwise democracy would have been in danger. In this case, democracy is an alternative for the Intifada and votes are an alternative for arms. Future negotiations between this weak Palestinian Authority...and the Israeli occupation is the only way towards a settlement that might be reached...perhaps next century.... The time for struggle has ended.... Labeling Israel as a Zionist Enemy has become a slip of the tongue.... The Presidential elections in Palestine proves that occupation of a country does not prohibit democracy."

"Palestinian Elections: A Very Vulnerable Great Opportunity"

The moderate English-language Daily Star editorialized (1/10): "Palestinian presidential elections...represent a significant potential turning point in the battered fortunes of the region. Equally, they could also represent the point at which hope for movement toward a final resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is shattered, again, for the foreseeable future. For positive progress on this long running and tragic drama, all parties involved need to do their part. On paper, a victory for Mahmoud Abbas will give Israel and the U.S. everything they have been asking for: a negotiating partner. Thus, the hour of truth has arrived--Israel and the U.S. must rise to the occasion and prove that Arafat was not, in fact, yesterday's excuse to stall peace negotiations for as long as possible.... If they conjure another fig leaf to ensure the peace process remains deadlocked--such as insisting that Abbas virtually ignite a Palestinian civil war by demanding he immediately suppress Hamas or end the Intifada--they should be held accountable by the global community."

QATAR: "A Positive Signal To Peace Talks Resumption"

The English-language semi-official Gulf Times maintained (1/10): "The first Palestinian presidential election in nine years...is expected to result in the victory of Mahmoud Abbas.... Opinion polls give Abbas between 52% to 62% of the vote, more than twice that is expected for his closest opponent, human rights activist Mustafa Barghouti.... Abbas has promised to revive peace talks with Israel after years of bloodshed. Abbas, the architect of the interim peace deals with Israel in the early 1990s, is the favourite of several foreign governments, including the U.S.... Observers were full of praise for the Palestinians for showing high standards of ethics and determination in the polls. Abbas observed that the elections have proved that the Palestinian people are moving towards democracy. Supporters of Hamas and Islamic Jihad remained stoically unimpressed, heeding a call from their leaders to boycott the elections. However, the two movements have vowed to co-operate with the winner of the elections despite slamming the vote for failing to include refugees abroad and Palestinians in Israeli jails. It is widely hoped that the smooth conduct of the elections could prove to be a positive signal to the resumption of the peace talks."

SYRIA: "The Obstacle Is Not On The Palestinian Side"

 

Ali Nasrallah wrote in government-owned Al-Thawra (1/11): "The Palestinian elections, regardless of their results, will not lead to a breakthrough in the peace process because it is Israel, not the Palestinians, which places obstacles in the way of peace. Israel does not want peace, a settlement or negotiations. Its only objective is to undermine the Palestinian resistance and swallow up more lands for settlements and their expansion. Israel is the occupying power that usurps the rights of the Palestinian people and practices daily aggression and terrorism against them. This is in addition to its evasion of the peace requirements and its continuing refusal to implement the relevant international resolutions. The Palestinians, on the other hand, are not demanding anything more than the implementation of the international resolutions on the right of return, Jerusalem, self-determination, and the establishment of an independent state. Thus, the obstacle has always been and will continue to be on the Israeli side. Palestinian elections will change nothing. As long as the United States continues its total support for Israel and its full adoption of Israel's political discourse, what was said about Arafat will be said about the new Palestinian president. What this new president is being asked to do would confront him with two options: either failing to win the confidence of the Palestinian public, or failing to win the label of partner in a peace that is being tailored to fit Israeli-American specifications."

UAE: "Relaunch Peace Process"

The expatriate-oriented English-language Gulf Today editorialized (1/11): "The landslide victory of Mahmoud Abbas in the Palestinian presidential election has thrown open challenges and opportunities to end almost half a century of strife. The Palestinians have an elected leader with a mandate to seek peace.... The peace process should now be relaunched.... Israel should also answer Palestinian doubts about the Gaza withdrawal plan. It should not be a smokescreen for Sharon to tighten the Israeli grip over the West Bank. Abbas should work in close concert with the Quartet and Arab countries on a revived peace bid. Now that the fighters have promised to hold the fire, there is no excuse left for Sharon to avoid talks. It is a test to prove his sincerity for peace.... There should be reciprocal move by Israel to Abbas' attempts to end the Intifada, which was provoked by Sharon's desecration of the holy sites in September 2000.... It is Israel's responsibility to call off raids and renew the peace process. Sharon's mentor, the US, should jettison its partisan peace-broker image and rein in the Israeli appetite for violence.... Today there is a real chance to start a new chapter in history. It should not be thwarted because of Israeli intransigence. Let us wish Abu Mazen all success."

"What Next After The Palestinian Presidential Election"

Sharjah-based pan-Arab Al-Khaleej held (1/10): "There is no doubt that the new Palestinian president will be in a difficult position in view of the pressure from America, Israel, Europe and Arabs. However, it's up to him to act on the basis that the Palestinian people elected him democratically and gave him the leadership mantle and it is them [Palestinians] who gave him the legitimacy and not any other party."

"Historic Opportunity"

The expatriate-oriented English-language Khaleej Times held (1/9): "Palestine goes to the polls today. Doubtless, this is a historic vote whose outcome is almost already known. Mahmoud Abbas, the self-effacing chairman of the PLO who took over from the charismatic Yasser Arafat, is expected to win hands down. But winning the poll is perhaps the easiest part.... Abbas will face the real and difficult task after the election. The expectations and hype generated over Abbas's election...make his job most difficult.... The Palestinian leader has to determine his future course of action, and that of his people, at the very outset.... Peaceful struggle and dialogue with Israel for an independent Palestine are the guiding principles of the new leadership.... Abbas has been talking of peaceful resistance for quite some time. He had opposed suicide attacks against Israel and armed struggle as early as 2000. But now that he is set to take over the Palestinian leadership, the call assumes greater significance. Abbas would face considerable difficulty in persuading organisations like Hamas...to give up armed struggle against Israel.... Abbas will require all the support from the US, EU and Israel.... The Jewish state must offer something in return more concrete than the regular rhetoric blaming Palestinians. Not only Israel will have to step up its pace of Gaza disengagement, it must pull out of the whole of West Bank sooner than later.... The Israelis...must demonstrate they are interested in finding a lasting solution to the conflict. The Palestinians, Israelis and US mustn't squander this historic opportunity for peace."

YEMEN: "Abu Mazen Didn't Say Anything Wrong"

The pro-government English-language Yemen Times noted (1/10): "If Abu Mazen was to be able to relate to his fellow Palestinian listeners during his campaign...the only common factor that will put him at par with his listeners is that they are all victims of the transgressions of a state founded on demagogic chauvinistic principles.... Let it be remembered also that to this very day the Zionist state is exerting all its energy towards eliminating any real hope of a Palestine state in one of the most brutal systematic ethnic cleansing campaigns of modern times.... Israel continuously calls the Palestinians and their leaders 'terrorists'...when the whole world recognizes that a cruel Israeli occupation is the root cause of Palestinian resistance.... Until the Israelis abandon their animosity towards the Palestinians and show that they are truly interested in a lasting peace, whether under Arafat or under Abu Mazen, then every Arab and Moslem at the grassroots level, and not just the Palestinians, will continue to view the Israelis as 'Zionist enemies,' simply because that is how their actions define them and their attitude translates them. After all, it is they who forcefully implanted themselves on land that is not theirs by any edict, Divine or human and it is they who continue to unleash their systematic aggression against a helpless defenseless people."

EAST ASIA

AUSTRALIA: "Day One, And Already The Pressure's On"

Tony Walker, International Editor, noted in the business-oriented Australian Financial Review (1/11): "The U.S. wasted little time in endorsing a new Palestinian President in a clear sign that Washington wants to foster at least the appearance of a fresh start in Middle East peacemaking. But Washington also put the Palestinians on notice that it expects a clampdown on militant activity against Israel as a prerequisite for US engagement in a revitalized peace process. This will be no easy task for newly elected President Mahmud Abbas, who faces a plethora of challenges in bringing multiple armed groups under control. Abbas, a colorless 69-year-old functionary, will need to demonstrate a fortitude in dealing with militants that has not been evident in his behavior before.... For the moment Washington appears willing to at least countenance a more active role in peacemaking, judging by statements from prominent administration figures, including Bush.... The new President may be basking in the day-after euphoria of his victory, but he won't have much time to savor the experience before the pressures from all sides come crowding in. The question is whether Abbas is made of the right stuff."

"Palestinians Give Peace A Chance"

An editorial in the liberal Sydney Morning Herald read (1/11): "It's not often that the Middle East gives the world something to cheer about. So let it be said: Sunday's landslide election of Mahmoud Abbas to succeed Yasser Arafat as Palestinian president was as good an outcome as anyone could reasonably have hoped for. It does not in itself bring peace closer but, taken in conjunction with the creation of a new governing coalition in Israel, it has the potential to radically change the dynamics, opening the way for what would certainly be difficult negotiations.... Abbas won't be a pushover for the Israelis if and when negotiations begin. Good. If he were, he would rapidly lose his hard-earned credibility with his own constituency. Israel's Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, who has his own problems with extremists at home, surely understands this. But what Israel, along with the US and other donor countries, are entitled to expect of the Palestinian leader is that he act decisively to reform the corrupt, ram

shackle Palestinian Authority administration that he has inherited, and to rationalize and impose control over its security forces.... The US is likely to offer more aid to the Palestinians while increasing pressure on the Israelis to curb settlement activity on the West Bank. Democracy sometimes pays dividends."

"Palestinian Poll Provides Hope For Peace"

The national conservative Australian opined (1/11): "The peaceful poll for a Palestinian president is a rare cause for optimism in the Middle East. The decisive victory of Mahmoud Abbas, with something like two-thirds of the vote, in an election that is generally considered to have been free and fair, means Israel now has the opportunity to negotiate with a Palestinian leader who must answer to his people instead of the warlords who provided the power for the ramshackle regime of Yasser Arafat, Mr Abbas's predecessor and one-time boss. But the fact both sides in the interminable conflict are now led by men whose mandates come from the people does not mean peace will quickly follow. Israel and the Palestinians may yet provide us with one of those very rare cases where states with elected leaders fight each other.... Abbas will need to convert his electoral win into power over the Palestinian militias, lest they decide he is too keen to deal with Israel and turn on him. Mr Abbas is brave to take on such an immensely tough job. We will quickly learn whether his ability is the equal of his courage."

"Palestinians Take A Hopeful Step"

The liberal Melbourne-based Age observed (1/11): "Hope is a much-diminished currency in the Middle East but it rallied when Palestinians elected Mahmoud Abbas as their President on Sunday. The success of this election in the face of many difficulties is a historic achievement. The daunting reality is that this was the easy part. A door to peace has been opened, but it has slammed shut before. While the door is open, Mr Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon have to walk through it together, then persuade their people to shed the distrust of generations and follow them.... Mr Sharon and Mr Abbas may start talks in a week or two. Regrettably, ingrained distrust and irreconcilable differences on 'final status' issues suggest that, left to themselves, they will be unable to clinch a necessarily pragmatic settlement. The international community will have to take a forceful hand, deploying carrot and stick, providing security guarantees and investing heavily to establish viable neighboring states. Sunday's election is only the first of many steps."

"Voting Alone Cannot Bring Peace To The Palestinians"

Amin Saikal observed in the liberal Sydney Morning Herald (1/10): "Yesterday's election of a Palestinian Authority president to replace Yasser Arafat opens an important opportunity for a negotiated settlement of the Palestinian problem. But this opportunity could easily be squandered if Israel continues to insist that it will resume negotiations only when the PA succeeds in stopping 'terrorism' against Israel, and if the international community fails to assist the Palestinians to rebuild their society.... If the Sharon and Bush administrations really want to bring peace and security to the Israelis and Palestinians, then the best course would be to take advantage of Abbas's election and negotiate to generate the conditions for a final settlement sooner rather than later. The resumption of negotiations must be accompanied by two other imperatives: massive international assistance to rebuild Palestine and appropriate world pressure on the Israeli right to forgo their dream of a 'greater Israel.' This would be a necessary precondition for delegitimizing the use of violence on both sides and enabling the Palestinians to divert from the culture of violent resistance to the culture of peace and democracy, and the Israelis from the culture of occupation and use of force to the culture of peaceful coexistence with their neighbors, most importantly the Palestinians. Otherwise, the prospects for peace could be as dim under Abbas as they were under Arafat."

CHINA: "Peace Glimmers In Mideast"

Wang Changyi commented in the official English-language China Daily (1/11): "Palestine has realized a smooth transfer of power in a short period and maintained a generally stable domestic situation.... With Abbas' victory and the formal creation of the new leadership, Palestine will enter a new development stage.... Abbas is well aware that he faces a major challenge: How to realize reconciliation among the various factions and national unity on the one hand, and carry out domestic reforms and re-open talks with Israel on the other.... First, he will try to construct a power center with the pragmatic faction of Fatah at its core.... Second, he will endeavor to rectify the domestic security situation.... Third, he will continue to pursue dialogue with various Palestinian organizations outside the country's territory and seek greater co-operation with them. He will also try to incorporate Hamas and radical Islamic Jihad.... Fourth, he is likely to press ahead with necessary political reforms.... Fifth, he will work to boost economic development and improve the living conditions of the Palestinian people.... There are no optimistic signs emerging that Palestine and Israel will achieve major breakthroughs in the issues-riddled peace talks, not to say the final settlement of their conflict. The two sides are widely divided on basic positions.... The U.S. partial support of Israel and unwillingness to exert strong pressure on its closest ally in the Middle East will create obstacles in the path of peace talks."

CHINA (HONG KONG AND MACAU SARS): "A Glimmer Of Hope The World Must Sustain"

The independent English-language South China Morning Post editorialized (1/12): "The outcome has been cautiously welcomed by the world. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is expected to meet Mr. Abbas soon. U.S. President George W. Bush has invited the new Palestinian leader to the White House. There is even a suggestion that U.S.-Israeli-Palestinian talks may be possible. This alone is a sign of progress. But it is only a start. Mr. Abbas must be given time to get the Palestinian house in order. He will also need help.... The longer-term problems standing in the way of a lasting solution are going to be even more difficult to overcome. Mr. Abbas is regarded as a moderate. But his core aims are no different to those of Arafat. He wants a Palestinian state which has East Jerusalem as its capital and involves Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank as well as Gaza. He also wants Palestinian refugees to be allowed to return to their former homes in Israel. These are conditions Israel is most unlikely to accept. Mr. Sharon is still battling opponents in his own party to secure support for a much more limited withdrawal--mainly from Gaza--this summer. There has to be room for compromises on both sides. The U.S. has a key role to play. A strong and lasting commitment to the peace process is required. This will involve the Bush administration using its influence to keep both sides to the terms of the internationally backed road map for peace which, it seems, might now be back on the agenda. The election of Mr. Abbas has provided a rare glimmer of hope. But the responsibility for making progress does not rest on his shoulders alone."

"Talks Should Be Resumed Quickly"

Mass-circulation Chinese-language Apple Daily News remarked (1/11): "According to the Palestinian Electoral Commission, Abbas, the long-term deputy of ex-Palestinian President Arafat, won the presidential election held Sunday. He got over 60% of the total vote, and 40% more votes than his competitor. Such a result shows that the majority of Palestinian people recognize Abbas and the moderate line he represents. We hope that the Israeli government and the U.S. government will respond positively to the election result and that the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks can be resumed. We hope that the Palestinian people can realize their long-term dream of establishing an independent state as soon as possible.... If Abbas cannot secure a diplomatic breakthrough quickly after his election and if Palestinian cannot see hope of peace talks or establishing an independent state, Abbas and his moderate line will lose public support immediately. Meanwhile, radical groups may seize the opportunity to unite disappointed Palestinian people together to launch more fierce attacks. Won't this be a bigger threat and harm to Israel? Won't this be a bigger threat to the peace and stability in the Middle East region? Won't this accelerate terrorist attacks?"

"Abbas Will Face Challenges"

Pro-PRC Chinese-language Macau Daily News remarked (1/9): "In comparison with Arafat, many Middle East experts think that Abbas will not make big changes to the line of struggle and protest. He will just make minor adjustments.... Earlier, Abbas adopted a tough attitude toward Israel and said publicly several times that he would establish a Palestinian state with eastern Jerusalem as the capital, and he called Israel 'the Zionist enemy.' Analysts believe that Abbas was simply campaigning for votes. It also demonstrates that his basic attitude can hardly see any big changes because Palestinian hardliners will not allow him to change. Facing the radical groups in Palestine, Abbas has to take some measures to appease them. In his campaign speech, Abbas said he would never use weapons against Palestinian militants. He would unite the nation through 'dialogue and consultations.' This is quite different from the request made by Israel urging him to get rid of terrorists. Apart from striving for the support of the international community and the recommencement of Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, the new Palestinian government still has many missions. Its chief mission is to convince Israel to withdraw its troops. The next mission is to enhance national unity and develop the economy. It must organize the election in mid 2005. All these are great tests for Abbas."

"Palestinian Election Offers Hope For A New Beginning"

The independent English-language South China Morning Post remarked (1/9): "Much is at stake when Palestinians vote for a new president today, even though the outcome is already known. Palestine Liberation Organization chairman Mahmoud Abbas will easily defeat the other contenders. That certainty does not mean that the path towards a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians will be any clearer; nor will it guarantee the new era the death in November of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, whom Mr. Abbas will replace, promised to usher in. Mr. Abbas, after all, is of the same generation and mindset as Arafat. Together, they founded the PLO's political wing, Fatah, the centerpiece of the push for a Palestinian state. Some Israelis consider him only slightly more tolerable a negotiator for peace than his iconic predecessor.... In itself, the election is a small, but essential, first step. With the will and co-operation of all sides, within and outside the Palestinian territories, the chance exists to end a stalemate and again move towards the possibility of peace, stability and opportunity for the Middle East."

JAPAN: "Support Needed For New President"

Liberal Asahi concluded (1/11): "In the first presidential election in nine years, Palestinians chose peace advocate Abbas.... While his victory may not automatically lead to peace, it presents a genuine opportunity to end violence in the region. The complete elimination of Palestinian-perpetrated terrorism will be difficult, but if Abbas can persuade Palestinian radicals to seek peace through negotiations, Israel will no longer have justification to crackdown on Palestinian hardliners. Israeli Prime Minister Sharon must adopt a flexible attitude to help Abbas sway radicals into supporting his new leadership. A softer approach by Jerusalem would also likely help international mediation by the U.S., UN and EU. Abbas must declare his intention to give up the armed struggle against Israel and to forge a national consensus on the creation of a Palestinian state through negotiations. The international community must support his efforts to urge radicals to take part in political process."

"Election Should Serve As Starting Point For Peace"

Conservative Sankei stated (1/11): "Despite the election of Abbas, known for his pro-dialogue stance, a number of obstacles still remain to peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians. As the results of local assembly elections in December demonstrated, Palestinian radicals such as Hamas still command strong public support. Israel also continues to insist that dismantling such 'terrorist organizations' is a prerequisite for resuming talks with the PA. Abbas will be tested immediately on this front. The international community must support his undertaking.... President Bush reportedly considers Middle East peace a top policy priority in his second term. Japan should also continue to provide support to the Palestinians through humanitarian and financial programs."

INDONESIA: "New Hope In Palestine"

Independent Suara Pembaruan commented (1/11): "The victory of Abu Mazen represented the victory of the struggle for non-violence action. Abu Mazen is known for his opposition to violence. It is for this reason that the world community supports and has hope for him. Through him, the peace negotiations that have stumbled over the past four years are expected to materialize. Moreover, Ariel Sharon has also obtained domestic support to realize the peace in Israel.... [However] without Israel's seriousness to keep its word, all decisions made would be useless. On the other hand, Mazen could as well lose his political power, at home and abroad, should the waves of attacks [against Israel] continue."

"Abbas, New Palestinian Leader"

Muslim-intellectual Republika commented (1/11): "Support from most of the Palestinian people for Abu Mazen represents support for his programs. If there were Palestinians who reject his leadership, they amount only to a small number. Moreover, such hard-line groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad have pledged their cooperation with Abbas. The major obstacle for Abbas is the stance toward Israel and its supporter, the U.S. Both did not 'recognize' Yasser Arafat's leadership...although he was directly and democratically elected by his people. What has happened to Arafat should not happen to Abbas. The international world should support him, especially in his fight for justice for his people to live safely and independently in their own land."

"Abbas, New Palestinian President"

Independent Jawa Pos of Surabaya held (1/11): "Because of his moderate stance, Abbas will not be able to fight for the interest of only one party, either his own people or Israel. Consequently, as president he will be hemmed in. If he is not smart enough to position himself between the two political interests, he will very likely reap criticisms, or even a coup d'tat threat from within or a death threat from Israel."

SINGAPORE: "Slim Chance--But Grab It"

The pro-government Straits Times opined (1/11): "It is ironic that about the only Arab country that actually elects its leader should be occupied Palestine. In Iraq, the U.S. is pressing for elections as a step towards a legitimate state, but it is not at all clear if the Iraqi elections, scheduled for the end of this month, will take place, or if they do, will occur peacefully. Occupied Palestine has had two fairly free elections within 10 years, and it is still waiting for its state. If democracy is a solution to what ails the Arab/Muslim world, as US President George W. Bush believes, democracy had better start producing results soon in Palestine. Mr. Mahmoud Abbas's convincing election on Sunday as the new Palestinian Authority President provides a window of opportunity for a comprehensive settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but it is a window that can close fast. Israeli PM Ariel Sharon should use his enlarged coalition to move forward boldly. Thus far, he has done little.... The US and Israel both say they want to work with the new Palestinian leadership, but they should beware pushing Mr. Abbas into a corner by insisting he produces results on the security front before negotiations can resume. No nationalist leader can endure if he is seen doing the bidding of an occupying power. Mr. Abbas failed once as prime minister precisely because he had nothing to show for his readiness to negotiate. Let him not fail again.... If peace is to have a chance, both sides must show good faith. They must both grasp this opportunity."

SOUTH KOREA: "Hoping That Abbas' Victory Will Lead To The End Of Violence"

Conservative Segye Ilbo stated (1/12): "With the overwhelming victory in the Palestinian Presidential Election of Fatah candidate Mahmoud Abbas, the international community's expectations for peace in the Middle East are running high.... However, there are still quite a few obstacles to overcome in order to settle peace in the Middle East. More than anything else, it is imperative to elicit cooperation from armed groups, such as Hamas and Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ), which not only refused to participate in the election, but have also waged violent struggles against Israel.... If Abbas fails to absorb these groups into established political circles and make them stop resorting to violence, the negotiations with Israel on the establishment of an independent Palestinian state would inevitably be thrown into doubt. Furthermore, it is also essential to put the economy for the general population back on track, as it is currently in tatters due to the long-standing, violent struggle with Israel. In order for Abbas to resolve all these problems, strong international assistance and support are indispensable, and, in particular, America's role is decisive. The world is now closely watching Abbas' future course of action."

"Pinning Hopes On Abbas"

Nationalist, left-leaning Hankyoreh Shinmun contended (1/11): "The overwhelming victory in the Palestinian presidential election of Mahmoud Abbas, known as a moderate pragmatist, is expected to open a new opportunity for the Middle East peace talks that have long been stalemated.... It would not be too much to say that the success of the peace talks depends on how Abbas handles the situation from now on. Most importantly, he should secure sound control over the security forces and armed groups so that the Palestinian Authority receives substantial support. Only then will he have the strength to negotiate peace with Israel. Also of importance is reforming the corruption-ridden Palestinian Authority so as to make it clean and efficient. It is also essential that he secure large-scale international assistance, so as to improve the economy for the general population, as it is currently in dire straits.... Israel, other Middle East countries, the U.S., and the EU all must give Abbas their active support and get the peace negotiations back on track. In particular, the U.S. and Israel should keep domestic hard-line voices in check and take a more balanced attitude. In this regard, incoming U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice should concentrate on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute with the belief that this will be the last chance [to resolve the issue]."

THAILAND: "The Silent Majority Speak In Palestine"

 

The lead editorial in the independent, English-language Nation read (1/12): "The turnout for the election was huge and Abbas' mandate overwhelming; he captured more than 60 per cent of the vote--three times more than his nearest rival. Yet perhaps surprisingly, the reaction to his victory was subdued, at least by Palestinian standards. Gone were the chants to destroy Israel and the talk of mass martyrdom. In their place, and reflected in the choice of Abbas itself, was a clear desire among the Palestinians for moderation. It is evident from the election that the silent majority of Palestinians yearn for normal lives in a state of their own. It is to these people that Abbas owes his mandate and not those who continue to hold on to the belief that the violence of the intifada will resolve the Middle East deadlock.... It is encouraging that Abbas' election victory is being greeted as the possible beginning of a new era in Palestinian-Israeli relations. But it is important to note that he will not be able to reinvigorate the moribund peace process by himself. Bush and Sharon will need to support him and be willing to make bold concessions on what for 37 years have been intractable issues."

VIETNAM: "The Selection With Many Challenges"

My Hanh wrote in Ministry of Defense-run Quan Doi Nhan Dan (1/9): "The U.S. has tried many ways to interfere in Palestine's political life, a direct example is the current presidential.... Some people are worried about the democratic aspects of the election. It is because although the election is seen as 'reflecting Palestinian people's will and aspiration,' it is still politically influenced by the U.S. and its ally, Israel. It is certain that the star in the Palestinian political arena must be one that is suitable to Washington and Tel Aviv's taste. Such a reality causes people to worry that after the election in the Palestinian political arena there will appear politicians controlled by the U.S. and Israel, making the peace process come to a dead end."

SOUTH ASIA

INDIA: "Hope With Abbas"

The pro-economic reform Economic Times declared (1/12): "The overwhelming support Mahmoud Abbas received in the elections for the new President of Palestine offers hope that peace would break out in the region and help put out many other fires across the world, including the ideology of Islamic jihad. The election has destroyed the myth that Yasser Arafat had so divided the Palestinian people that they could not unite behind any other leader. Even groups like the Hamas, which boycotted the presidential election, have indicated they will work with Abbas. And the peaceful conduct of the elections has lent strength to the view that Palestine is a nation waiting for its boundaries to be drawn.... Even as New Delhi has remained an old friend of the Palestinian people, it has developed much closer relations with Israel. As long as Israel and Palestine remain in the midst of a violent conflict, India runs the risk of losing the trust of both sides. But the emergence of a Palestinian nation state living at peace with Israel will suit New Delhi's picture of that part of the world perfectly.... In this fluid situation the support of the rest of the world, particularly the United States, will help. New Delhi too should keep an eye open for any opportunity to support the peace process, driven though it is primarily by the people of Palestine and Israel."

"A Decisive Mandate"

The centrist Hindu opined (1/12): "It was always on the cards that the Fatah candidate, Mahmoud Abbas, would be elected President of the PA.... While the verdict does not come as a surprise, the size of the turnout at the polling stations and Abbas's margin of victory have significant implications for the future of Palestinian politics.... There is no guarantee that Abbas will continue to retain the support he received at the polls. However, the new President will begin his term with the knowledge that his people have faith in his political approach. The militant groups are apparently adjusting to the reality since they have declared that they will soon hold discussions with the PA on their future course of action. While Abbas did sporadically resort to fiery rhetoric during the campaign, his overall message was constructive and forward-looking.... The most urgent task before Abbas is the revitalization of the administrative machinery of the PA, which came close to collapse under the pressure of Israel's state terrorism. However, there is only so much the PA can do to restore peace in the region. Now that the Palestinians have voted overwhelmingly in favor of a leader who seeks a peaceful settlement, Israel has no excuse for persisting with its brutally oppressive policies. For a start, it must lift the siege imposed on Palestinian towns and villages."

"A Faint Glimmer"

The pro-BJP right-of-center Pioneer held (1/12): "The landslide victory won by Mahmoud Abbas in the Palestinian presidential elections does seem to hold out a glimmer of hope, however faint. The very fact that he, an outspoken advocate of peace with Israel received 62.32 per cent of the votes polled, which puts him far ahead of his nearest rival, Mustafa Barghuti, who polled 19.8 per cent, indicates that the bulk of the Palestinians are tired of the continuing conflict with Israel and seek peace. The challenge before Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, is to translate that desire into reality.... Needless to say, he will have to overcome the most formidable challenges to achieve both peace and development.... Much would depend here on Israel which must recognize that Abbas cannot be expected to curb Hamas overnight, and that his ability to do so would ultimately depend on what he can show as the results of his peaceful approach. Meanwhile, Washington must also do its bit. President George Bush, who has hailed the election as a historic day for the Palestinian people, must now move to ensure that both Israel and Palestine begin a common journey along the roadmap to peace, in the forging of which his administration has played an important role."

"Palestinians Open A Chapter"

An editorial in the nationalist Hindustan Times read (1/11): "Mahmoud Abbas's win in the Palestinian presidential election brings hope to a region where violence has been the only constant factor for years. If the death of Yasser Arafat created uncertainties among Palestinians, the convincing victory margin of Abbas-or Abu Mazen...indicates the overwhelming support of the Palestinian people for his agenda of peace talks with Israel. And there is more than one reason why he may well succeed.... But Palestinians are generally weary of the unending bloodshed and the enervated economy that grinds them into poverty. So much so that it's unlikely that many of them will reject the idea of a just settlement with Israel as Abbas promises. Fortunately, he stands a good chance of making that happen. Battling al-Qaeeda and the Iraqi resistance has at least shown the U.S. the causal links between Islamic radicalism and the situation in Palestine. Abu Mazen has never supported militancy and the U.S. and Israel have no cause not to engage him seriously as a negotiator ... The Hamas may try to play the role of the spoiler. But the turnout and the size of Abbas's victory should be a warning that the Palestinians are not looking for radical solutions. This could help the new Palestinian president realize some of his tougher poll promises to his people, like ending the Israel occupation, dismantling of settlements and removing the wall Israel is building in the West Bank. That said, no Palestinian leadership not even an elected one, can afford to make concessions on existential issues like Jerusalem, borders and refugees. These are hurdles that blocked agreement for years. But Abbas can take a big firs step in removing them if he empowers those Palestinians who believe in coexistence with Israel, and proves that his government can end corruption, establish the rule of law and obtain freedom of movement for its citizens."

"First Success"

The centrist Kolkata-based Telegraph opined (1/11): "A comparatively peaceful election, conducted in the midst of uncertainty, violence and strife, is a rare achievement. For the Palestinians, it is a turning of sorts.... How far this turning shall take them would depend only partly on Mahmoud Abbas, the man they have elected to succeed Yasser Arafat. Abbas's credentials as a moderate and as a resilient believer in the possibility of a peaceful solution to the Palestine-Israel conflict make his leadership of the Palestinian Authority a desirable one for the West. Experienced in dialogue and negotiation and widely regarded as the architect of the Oslo peace process, he is a man whom even Ariel Sharon is willing to meet soon.... Ironically, the Hamas has...expressed its willingness to 'work with' Abbas. The potential fragility of Abbas's political balance is perhaps best exemplified in the fact that this same militant group had called for a boycott of the...elections.... A democratic election, carried out before the eyes of observers from other countries, does say something about the people's desires. It is good for Abbas that his victory is by such a huge margin...that alone would establish a popular mandate for peace. It would also help him rebuild the fragmenting Palestinian Authority on firmer lines. Without it, the essentials of governance and development would still elude the Palestinian people.... The huge absence of Arafat needs to be filled too. And Arafat was repeatedly on Abbas's lips during his campaign, his tensions with the dead leader now past history. But the Hamas's friendliness does not mean willingness to give up the 'choice of resistance.' Inevitably, Israel will insist on an end to violence from Palestinian militants before the next stage on the roadmap is reached. While stopping violence--from both sides--is a priority, the hard issues have ultimately to be confronted. It is neither the people alone, nor Abbas alone, who will decide the price that must be paid for peace."

"Agenda For Abbas"

The centrist Times of India stated (1/11): "Mahmoud Abbas will step into the shoes of the late Yasser Arafat as president of the Palestinian Authority.... Does Abbas hold out a greater chance of peace in Israel? George W Bush and the Israeli establishment seem to think so because of his moderate leanings--he has said that violence is not the road to peace. A key participant in the Oslo talks leading to the Washington peace accord of 1993, Abbas is believed to hold the view that Israel and Palestine should live in peaceful coexistence. His chief task lies in convincing the Palestinian polity of the need to recapture the Oslo spirit of a negotiated settlement, since washed away in rivers of hate and bloodshed.... It is hardly surprising that in such a poisoned environment, Abbas is seen by some as a stooge of the US. Meanwhile, Sharon and Bush have emerged stronger, their misplaced 'clash of civilization' thesis seemingly playing itself out on the ground.... So what can Abbas do? He would have to work on restoring the faith of his people in the Authority, eroded in Arafat's time. To ensure he is not perceived as a puppet, Abbas should engage the US and yet not seem too conciliatory. For instance, Sharon's offer of 'disengagement', or pull-out from Gaza, should not be taken too seriously, even as it has US blessings, because it is a distortion of the Washington accord. Under this disengagement, Israel will continue to control West Bank and East Jerusalem, while not having to make any concessions to the millions of Palestinian refugees displaced in the wars of 1948 and 1967. The elections hold out a lesson to Palestinian militants as well. In other trouble spots such as Kashmir, Sri Lanka and Northern Ireland, espousers of violence were finally isolated. It is to be hoped that the same will be true of Palestine."

PAKISTAN: "The Question Of Palestine's Future"

Populist Urdu-language Khabrain maintained (1/12): "The U.S. President and Israeli Prime Minister's reaction to Mr. Mehmud Abbas' election has been positive. However, this is not a guarantee that the Palestine-Israeli dispute would be resolved. The only way that can be guaranteed is if the U.S. and Israel change their stance, which does not seem likely."

"Peace Dream For Palestine"

Sensationalist Urdu-language Ummat contended (1/12): "An important side of Mehmood Abbas's victory is the fact that on the one hand Israel has welcomed his election while on the other hand militant organizations like Islamic Jihad and Hamas have assured him of their cooperation. Now heavy responsibility lay on the shoulders of Mehmood Abbas who has proved himself to be a non controversial Palestinian leader. He would have to counter the U.S. and Israeli pressure and simultaneously have to play his role for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and peace in the region."

"A Vote For Peace"

Karachi-based center-left independent national English-language Dawn opined (1/11): "The thumping victory for Mr. Mahmoud Abbas in Sunday's presidential election means that the Palestinians in occupied territories and East Jerusalem have voted for peace.... Mr. Abbas went to the press on Monday morning, urging Hamas and other militant organizations in the occupied territories to lay down arms and refrain from attacking Israeli targets. It is heartening to note that Hamas was quick to respond to this request, saying it would cooperate with the popularly elected leader. By voting for Mr. Abbas, the Palestinians have put the ball firmly in Israel's court. It is now the responsibility of the US to ensure that Israel does not drag its feet with regard to restarting the stalled peace process and that it begins a dialogue with the elected Palestinian leader. To begin with, Tel Aviv must be asked to withdraw its troops from Gaza and parts of the West Bank immediately."

"Palestinian Presidential Elections: Now U.S. Should Fulfill Its Responsibility"

Leading mass-circulation Urdu-language Jang noted (1/11): "Now that the Palestinians, through these elections, have proved their love for peace, moderation and democracy, it is all the more necessary that the issue of the protection of the constitutional and legal rights of the people of Kashmir be resolved. A long-lasting peace in Middle East be ensured with the fulfillment of the agreement of the establishment of the Palestinian state. The U.S. and its allies should force Israel to change its attitude because now the Palestinian people and leadership have played their positive and constructive role. Now the U.S. and the western world would have to fulfill their responsibilities."

"New President Of Palestinian State"

Second-largest Urdu-language Nawa-e-Waqt contended (1/11): "American authorities like Mahmud Abbas's moderation. It is hoped that Israeli leadership too would be at ease while holding talks with him; it can be hoped that the Palestinian issue would be resolved some way or the other, which, of course, cannot be in keeping with the aspirations of the Palestinian people. Perhaps the election would lead to Israel restoring those of its withdrawn steps that it had taken in the past for the establishment of the Palestinian State. It may also lead to Israeli authorities willingness to implement the roadmap for the establishment of Palestinian state.... It is generally believed that current atrocities committed against Palestinians would decrease considerably. But Mahmud Abbas is also dubbed as a U.S. stooge.... Now we have to see as to what extent Mahmud Abbas succeeds in ending the Israeli atrocities on the Palestinian people and make Israel ensure establishment of a free and independent Palestinian state."

"Success Of Mehmood Abbas In Palestinian Presidential Elections"

Karachi-based, pro-Taliban/Jihad Urdu-language Islam thundered (1/11): "Although Mehmood Abbas has been elected as the President, it is still doubtful if he is the real representative of Palestinians since the various popular resistance movements did not take part in these elections and a large number of Palestinians were not allowed to vote. These elections were totally engineered and the former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, who was present there as an observer, has admitted that the elections were not conducted in a free and fair manner. Therefore, it is futile to expect the resolution of the Palestine issue with the election of Mehmood Abbas as President."

"The Mission Ahead"

The center-right national English-language Nation maintained (1/11): "Abbas has a number of advantages as he takes over as President of the Palestinian Authority. He already enjoys the PLO's support as its new head. The electoral victory indicates he has a larger support base than any other leader. While he has promised to keep Hamas and Islamic Jihad on board when he holds peace talks, they too seem ready to give him a free hand for a while. After taking over, he has to fulfill the expectations of the voters. The Palestinians expect him to be a champion of their rights and reform the Palestinian Authority to make it more responsive and efficient. The outside players are also giving out positive signals.... Yet the difficulties he faces are formidable. The principal roadblock is the aggressive and expansionist Israeli mindset. Despite the mainstream Palestinian leadership's recognizing the state of Israel, once an anathema, Israel is unwilling to end its illegal settlements on the West Bank. While agreeing to the formation of the Palestinian state, Israel stubbornly opposes East Jerusalem being its capital. Further it is not agreeable to the return of Palestinians forcibly expelled from their homeland. The blind support extended by Washington to the Zionist state has added to the latter's intransigence. The election of Mr. Abbas can open a new vista for peace in the Middle East provided the guarantors of the road map can persuade the Bush administration to act even-handedly. If it doesn't, there will be no peace in the region."

"Election Of Mr. Arafat's Successor"

Lahore-based independent Urdu-language Din noted (1/11): "There was little doubt that Mr. Mehmoud Abbas would be elected as Mr. Yasser Arafat's successor. His election, after Mr. Arafat's death, as PLO Chairman was proof of the fact that he had the support of Al Fatah, which has mainstream status in Palestinian groups. He has earned this support in spite of the fact that he is a moderate and pragmatic leader, which shows that the number of Palestinians who believe that matters with Israel cannot be resolved through terror is increasing visibly.... It seems that Israel, as well as the U.S. and Britain hope that now that Mr. Mehmoud Abbas has been elected, he would reign in Palestinian militants and stop them from carrying out attacks on Israeli citizens. While attaching such hopes they forget that this is a two-way road.... All knows Mr. Abbas' views: he favors the establishment of a Palestinian state through dialogue, but the condition is that there must be a conducive climate for that. If President Bush earnestly wants peace, he must bring about a reasonable change in U.S policy towards Israel and stop supporting it unconditionally."

"What Next On The Peace Process?"

Karachi-based center-left independent national English-language Dawn observed (1/9): "Will this obfuscation and dilly-dallying continue? The outcome of today's election will be a challenge both for the winner and for the U.S. For the victor--most probably Mr. Mahmoud Abbas--the challenge will be to show the negotiating skill and courage that were Arafat's forte. He must walk through the minefield of America-Israel diplomacy while keeping one and only one goal spot lit in view - ending the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank and creating an independent and sovereign Palestinian state with Al Quds as its capital."

IRAN: "Two Elections Confronting Two Situations"

Arabic-language government-run Al-Vefagh declared (1/10): "Despite the obstacles erected by the Zionist entity, the Palestinian people yesterday held a successful election. Thus those who had the desire to cast their votes did so with total freedom."

AFRICA

SOUTH AFRICA: "A Chance For Peace"

The liberal Star commented (1/12): "The landslide victory of...Abbas...was a good result for the resumption of the long stalled Middle East peace process.... Abbas will have to walk a precarious tightrope between the demands for peace talks and the concerns of some Palestinians that he might sell them out.... The Israeli government...has demanded that Abbas rein in the terrorists as a condition for resuming talks.... Abbas is physically incapable of ending all terror, and politically, if he tries too hard to do so, he might provoke an internal backlash. And Sharon will have to make some concessions too.... Both men will have to tread very carefully, each dealing with his own extremists while helping the other to deal with his. It is called building the centre. It was the way it was done here and it is the way it will have to be done there."

"The Abbas Era"

Balanced Business Day noted (1/12): "The danger is that the opportunity can easily be squandered should Abbas and...Sharon both believe they have taken the extremists along with them into the process. Pandering to extremist demands could be the death knell for peace.... When and if Abbas cracks down on the extremists, Israel will have to come to the party and show that there are clear rewards for such action. Such rewards cannot be anything but a withdrawal from Israeli-occupied land and efforts to make Israel's stringent security measures less of a burden on the daily lives of Palestinians.... It would be foolhardy to expect an outbreak of peace in the next six months. It will take years for trust to be built after decades of hostility. The process is sure to have many ups and downs, and the international community--and critically the US--will have an important peacemaking role to play. That will require a big commitment from...President...Bush's administration.... If this window of opportunity is squandered, the chances are that the conflict will further deteriorate into a permanent state of war."

"Mohamed Abbas"

Centrist, Afrikaans-language Die Burger stated (1/11): "The election of Abbas...as new president of the Palestinian authority is a milestone for democracy in Palestine crippled by Arafat's dictatorial style.... Abbas' task is not as simple as going to sit at the negotiating table to work out a solution. He will have to look over his shoulder the whole time for [dissenting] factions in his own camp such as Hamas.... Among all these obstacles the peace loving world hopes that the appearance of Abbas on the scene will give the necessary support for a settlement and a sovereign Palestine."

TANZANIA: "Time Has Come For Peace To Prevail In The Mideast"

Kiswahili-language independent, moderate tabloid Mtanzania held (1/11): "The people of Palestine now have a new leader, after electing Mahmoud Abbas to become their President. His decisive victory is an indicator of the faith Palestinians have in his leadership qualities, after the death of their leader of many years, Yasser Arafat. There is hope that at last a leader has been found who will make it possible for peace to come to the Middle East; to bring understanding between Palestine and Israel. We are aware that Israel and its great friend America had rejected peace talks with Arafat, accusing him of promoting what they called Palestinian 'terrorism' against Israel.... Now comes Abbas. The two countries are optimistic that his policies will contribute to bringing peace between Israel and Palestine. The new Palestinian leader has a huge task before him. We call it a huge task because Israel and America expect that he will not be a 'hindrance' like Arafat was. On the other hand, Palestinians expect that he will not betray them by 'embracing' Americans and Israelis. Palestinians expect that he will not throw away all that Arafat stood for in protecting the interests and rights of the Palestinian people, regardless of the threats he faced. Balancing the two expectations will be the biggest challenge facing the new Palestinian leader. At the same time, Israel and America should not expect that they will have a smooth ride and be able to do whatever they want. This is demonstrated by the various statements Abbas issued when he was acting president, before last week's elections. Let Abbas' election be the catalyst for bringing peace between Israelis and Palestinians, for the benefit of both sides."

WESTERN HEMISPHERE

CANADA: "Abbas's First Steps"

The conservative National Post opined (1/12): "Promising though Mahmoud Abbas's election may be, the Western media's unbounded enthusiasm for the new Palestinian leader is still a bit premature.... [I]t is too early to judge whether Mr. Abbas is genuinely committed to peace, or just talking a good game for the West's benefit. Clearly, it would be foolish to expect an overnight transformation in Israeli/Palestinian relations: Not even the most skillful of negotiators could achieve as much. But that should not preclude Mr. Abbas from taking immediate, tangible steps in the right direction. And the best way to start would be by focusing on improving his own people's lot--likely a prerequisite to the sort of climate needed for a more co-operative approach toward the Israelis. For all that Yasser Arafat purported to represent Palestinians' interests, his corrupt regime's neglect and mismanagement of infrastructure and social programs were shameful. Mr. Abbas's performance, at least in its early stages, should therefore be judged largely by the leader's willingness and ability to kickstart meaningful infrastructure projects in Gaza; to depoliticize the Palestinian education system; to allow greater freedom of expression (including a free media) and to undertake the various other reforms needed to improve Palestinians' quality of life.... The rest of the world--and, we suspect, the Israeli government--will understand if Mr. Abbas proceeds slowly, so long as he takes the right path. After years of violence, the Middle East is less in need of another peace broker than of a Palestinian leader who treats his own people with humanity and respect."

"The Hardest Is Yet To Come"

Jean-Marc Salvet commented in centrist French-language Le Soleil (1/11): "Each time new hopes surfaced in [the Israel-Palestinian conflict] they ended up being cruelly dashed. Thus it is with enthusiasm, but also a good dose of lucidity, that we should greet the election of Mahmud Abbas.... If they were sincere, all the governments who have, since Sunday, hailed Mahmud Abbas' victory must now help him achieve the most difficult aspect: his date with history.... No peace agreement will ever completely satisfy either side. Any accord negotiated between Israelis and Palestinians will necessarily involve the end of certain dreams.... The sovereignty of Jerusalem will have to be shared, Palestinians will have to give up the 'right to return' to Israel of 3.8 million refugees, and the majority of colonies in the West Bank will have to be evacuated, not just those in Gaza. The future borders of the two countries could be drawn today, almost to the house. But nothing is harder than ending a conflict that has fed rivers of hate, of blood, of tears. The support of the international community is indispensable.... The first reactions to the election of Yasser Arafat's successor are encouraging.... For now, Mahmud Abbas...most of all has to convince Hamas and Jihad radicals to stop their cowardly attacks on Israel. At the same time, Israel will have to relax its hold on Palestinian territories, where life has become hell and despair is total. Mahmud Abbas and the Sharon-Peres government must quickly prove that they are able to open the dialogue. They have a few months to move ahead, but not much more. After that, the 'window of opportunity' will close. It will shatter to a million pieces. Once again."

"Many Challenges Await Abbas"

The conservative Montreal-based Gazette editorialized (1/11): "The success of the election, an event remarkable for its rarity in the Arab world, demonstrates that when people are given the choice, they will welcome genuine democracy. The size of Abbas' victory and the strength of the turnout give him a mandate to begin dialogue again with Israel over how to achieve a peaceful coexistence. He will, however, be hamstrung in those efforts by the fact that the Palestinian statelet he now leads is not a government like most others--it does not have a monopoly, or even a near-monopoly, on the use of force. Militias and terror groups based in the West Bank and Gaza have been ready to kill Israelis, and willing to kill Palestinians, in pursuit not of peace with Israel but of peace with no Israel.... Abbas will have to work out a modus vivendi with the terror groups. While it seems unlikely that he will co-operate with them as Yasser Arafat did, it is by no means clear that he will work steadily and purposefully to de-legitimize them. Even if that is his goal, he can hardly make it clear, after all.... However supportive the international community promises to be, Abbas...faces daunting challenges. A new generation of Fatah supporters developed their political sense and aims while Abbas was in exile in Tunis. They might not be patient with him. By early August--when Fatah is to hold its sixth congress along with internal elections--Abbas needs to be able to produce some tangible results to show he is an able leader.... Nothing is ever easy in the Mideast. But Arafat was clearly an obstacle to peace; Abbas might prove, we are entitled to hope, to be the opposite."

"Abbas' Obstacle"

Serge Truffaut asserted in liberal French-language Le Devoir (1/11): "Abbas has shown that he is more likely to favor dialogue, negotiation, rather than the continuation of a militarized intifada. His obstacle? Hamas.... The high voter turnout is, in many ways, a slap in the face of Hamas and the Palestinian Jihad, who had pressured Palestinians to boycott the election.... In the short term, we can expect the new leader of the Palestinian regime will demilitarize the intifada. With the death of Yasser Arafat.... Abbas is able to begin negotiations, or at least to announce his desire to negotiate, with [Palestinian] radicals without having to ask a third party to arbitrate. Clearly, he is freer to act now than he has ever been. It remains, however, that he is confronted by an adversary so entrenched in its position as to give no credit to this election. No sooner had the polling stations closed that Hamas had expressed a refusal, a threat and a demand.... Knowing that of all the groups, Hamas is the most popular with Palestinians, we can expect the honeymoon to be short-lived. In fact, Abbas' leeway is going to depend quite a lot on Americans and Israelis. Here and there it is said that the Bush administration is divided. The White House wants [Abbas] to begin demilitarization before helping him in any way. The Department of State, on the other hand, is pushing for an immediate support so that Abbas' actions have the impact they deserve.... On the Israeli side, it is harder to read the political mood simply because the Knesset has just given a vote of confidence to the new government put in place by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. That being said, it is noteworthy that the second in command at the Cabinet, Labor leader Shimon Peres, decided that, Mahmud Abbas being a moderate, he had to be given a chance. Lets hope he is heard."

"Glimmer Of Hope For Mideast Peace"

The liberal Toronto Star opined (1/11): "Palestinians didn't just choose a president on Sunday to succeed the late Yasser Arafat. By turning out in force to give Mahmoud Abbas a convincing victory they voted to revive the corrupt and inept PA, to wind down a ruinous four-year uprising, to embrace a balanced Mideast peace and to repudiate terror.... U.S. President George Bush is uniquely well placed to nudge this healthy process forward. He is right to invite Abbas to the White House, after freezing out Arafat. By shoring up Abbas' credibility, Bush will signal that Palestinians can gain more through dialogue than through violence. But Bush must also remind Israelis that the road to peace involves giving up not only Gaza, but most of the occupied areas. Sharon shows no sign of accepting this. His aides have described the Gaza pullout as a bid to 'prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state' by closing off the peace process. Bush should invite Sharon to repudiate forcefully that view. Without strong, sustained support from the White House, Abbas cannot hope to face down Hamas and Hezbollah. Both groups sought in vain to disrupt the election and discredit his plea for a ceasefire. Absent pressure from the White House, Sharon has no incentive to compromise. What next? The Mideast Road Map of 2003 should guide the way.... Implementing Phase I would brighten prospects for peace. That phase requires the Palestinians to hold free elections, to end incitement and violence, to discipline the chaotic security services, to arrest those planning violence and to confiscate weapons. In turn, the Israelis must improve Palestinian life by withdrawing troops from areas reoccupied since 2000, by lifting curfews and easing the movement of people and goods, by dismantling scores of unlawful settler outposts, and by freezing all settlement activity. That makes sense.... Buoyant as the Mideast mood is currently, Bush need only look back over his first term to see how quickly hope can turn to despair. Thousands have died needlessly on his watch, many in terror bombings. At the same time, thousands more settlers are now defying the road map. Grim as these facts on the ground are, Bush can turn things around if he chooses to become engaged. Moderates on both sides will cheer him on."

"The West Is Wishing For A Moderate"

Lorne Gunter observed in the conservative National Post (1/11): "Why are we residents of Western democracies always such optimists about the prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace?.... On the surface, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Liberation Organization leader who handily won Sunday's elections to succeed Arafat as PA president, would seem to offer a new hope for peace. But Mr. Abbas has never quite been the moderate the Western media have made him out to be.... The benign conjecture is that he is the reverse of Arafat--disingenuous to his own people, but the genuine article when addressing Westerners and Israelis. Maybe. It seems more likely he is a blander, less forceful leader than Arafat, whose heart is in the right place--true peace--but who hasn't the strength of character to fight off the many vicious, militant Arab and Palestinian forces aligned against him. In a fit of self-preservation, he has permitted himself to be co-opted by hardliners. I hope I'm wrong. I hope the West's optimism is not misplaced this time. Without Arafat's bloody past, Mr. Abbas has far less baggage. Let's hope his recent disturbing statements were nothing more than election demagoguery."

"Don't Overestimate Abbas's Prospects"

The leading centrist Globe and Mail editorialized (1/11): "Western leaders could barely contain their delight when Palestinians elected the moderate, pragmatic Mahmoud Abbas as their new president on Sunday. After decades of dealing with the erratic, Delphic, uncompromising and--in his last years--confused Yasser Arafat, the outside world finally has a Palestinian leader it can do business with. U.S. President George W. Bush even gave Mr. Abbas that ultimate seal of approval, an invitation to the White House. But is Mr. Abbas really the man who can make peace with Israel after all these years? Despite all the hosannas over his election, it is best to be skeptical about that.... But even with his fresh mandate, Mr. Abbas is in a weak position. The size of his win owes more to the organizational strength of Fatah, the biggest mainstream Palestinian faction, than to his own personal popularity. Mr. Abbas is respected but hardly loved by his people, who doubt he has the toughness to win justice from the Israelis. They voted for him as much to show their national solidarity in the wake of Mr. Arafat's death as to approve a moderate course. Standing in the way of moderation is the militant organization Hamas, just one of the groups that prefer violence to negotiation with Israel. Standing in the way of administrative reform are the many vested interests of the Palestinian establishment, which profited from the corrupt rule of Mr. Arafat and will oppose change.... Considering all these hurdles, it would be foolish to rest too much hope on Mr. Abbas's shoulders. Western governments are right to welcome him and right to offer the Palestinians broad rewards for electing a relatively sane leader, but should leaven their support with realism. Israel, for its part, should not have unrealistic expectations of how much he can do to dismantle terrorist networks. It is a tough line--supporting the new man, without investing everything in him--but it is the only sensible one to walk."

"The First Step Toward Democracy For Palestinians"

David Warren maintained in the conservative Ottawa Citizen (1/8): "Algeria was the first Arab country to hold a general election in which it was possible for the government to fall. 'Palestine'...will be the second.... The whole notion of democracy is founded in separation of church and state. It is not merely secular by disposition, it is the heart and definition of secular life.... Which is why democracy has presented peculiar problems to faithful Muslims, whether Arab or not, for whom this separation may well appear contrary to the divine order.... There is no way to define what is a Palestinian, and what is not, in Islamic terms. The nation itself is an artifact of geography and European imperial history.... Palestine also benefits, paradoxically, from having been locked in its deadly embrace with Israel.... For all they might hate Israelis individually, or as a race, there remains a profound envy for what the Israelis have accomplished. And democracy is universally assumed to be at the root of that accomplishment.... Mahmoud Abbas, the predictable winner of the election, has posed throughout the campaign as a true successor of Arafat. He has made alarming statements to the effect that the PA, under his leadership, do everything in its power to protect armed gangs from Israel, instead of itself bringing them to heel. He says he will never surrender the Palestinian 'right of return' to ancestral homes within what is now Israel--a concession Israelis can never grant without committing national suicide. But again, a wall is a wall. The Palestinian election is a first step toward creating a flexible, non-violent order that can confront realities, and find ways to cope."

"A Palestinian Leader Can't Be Moderate"

George Jonas opined in the conservative National Post (1/10): 'If it had been a thriller, it might have been called 'The Abbas Disappointment.' During the days leading up to the Palestinian election--which Mahmoud Abbas won yesterday with a comfortable margin--the question of what happened to the moderate leader became a recurring theme. Why was the politician everyone expected to put the peace process back on track parading on the shoulders of gunmen? For what reason was he calling terrorists 'heroes,' and describing Israel as 'the Zionist enemy?'.... Abbas couldn't help becoming the reincarnation of Mr. Arafat, whether or not it was what he wanted. This isn't to suggest that he would have preferred another role for himself, only that his preference didn't matter.... When Mr. Arafat died, the EU's Javier Solana declared that 'the best tribute to his memory' would be the speedy establishment of 'a peaceful and viable' Palestinian state. In truth, unless established on the ruins of Israel, such a state would be a mockery to Mr. Arafat's memory. He once remarked that he wanted Palestine, not 'bits of Palestine.' A few months before Mr. Arafat died, former U.S. president Bill Clinton was still urging Israel to negotiate with him.... Clinton and like-minded people couldn't grasp that Israel has been negotiating with Hamas all along, because on the question of the Jewish state the entire Middle East has been Hamas, Hamas in different guises, ever since the 1948 War of Independence.... The sole exception was Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, and he was murdered.... Abbas will be Hamas, too, whether he likes it or not."

ARGENTINA: "A Light Of Hope"

Claudio Uriarte stated in left-of-center Pagina 12 (1/11): "Regardless of how imperfect last Sunday's Palestinian presidential elections might have been, they were the first free and democratic elections in the Arab world, although they had a peculiar feature--they were held in a place that is neither a country nor a State. At the same time, these elections have been an overwhelming defeat for fundamentalist terrorism.... These elections left some lessons and several urgent tasks. One lesson is that the widely spread view that the only choice to Arafat's leadership was terrorism proved to be false--Palestinians voted in favor of a moderate leader, denying also the superstition that democracy and the Islam are incompatible. Another lesson is that the war could have worn out the Palestinians' spirit in spite of the resentment and hatred raised by Israeli retaliation.... However, all these encouraging signs should not downplay the importance of the huge challenges to be met by Mahmoud Abbas, of which the greatest one will be to dismantle a structure based on war and turn it into something more similar to state institutions. Israel will have to support this process, and even (President) George W. Bush himself explicitly admitted it yesterday when he said that the Jerusalem issue 'can and should play an important role in the development of a Palestinian State.' The worst ghosts may have been momentarily exorcized but the harshest challenges and most painful concessions--of which the return of refugees is not a minor issue for the Palestinians--are still ahead for the two sides."

"The New Leader's Challenges"

Paula Lugones asserted in leading Clarin (1/10): "Now that the argument mostly used by Israel and the U.S. during recent years to freeze the peace process has been destroyed, and it will not be Yasser Arafat the one...who will lead the Palestinian people through negotiations, excuses are over, if those were the excuses. Now comes the stage of moderate leader Mahmoud Abbas, who is against armed fight. Abbas has the huge support of Palestinians...and he also enjoys the sympathy of Israel and the US. On the foreign front, his challenge will be to reach peace with the least possible concessions from his people. On the domestic front, the panorama is not easy either--he will have to neutralize extremist groups, renew the leadership and put a brake on corruption in the Fattah's rows."

"A Window Of Opportunities Was Opened"

Agustin Romero remarked in business-financial, center-right InfoBae (1/10): "Palestinians have another historic opportunity to take an important step toward peace with Israel. After several decades of not being able to democratically elect its leaders, the Palestinian people chose moderate Mahmoud Abbas.... Through this election, the Palestinian people not only have sent a clear message to Israel but also to the world public opinion about what sort of leader they want as the interlocutor to fulfill the dream of creating their own State. In fact, the international community...did not want to continue supporting the 'old' leadership. Israel trusts that the Palestinian people want peace. As a consequence, the following question resounds: Will Palestinian 'democracy' be able to defeat or neutralize Palestinian terrorists? Since yesterday, a window of opportunities was opened so that both peoples will reach their top aspiration: peace."

"It Is A Crucial Test For The U.S."

Jorge Rosales wrote in daily-of-record La Nacion (1/8): "For the U.S., tomorrow's Palestinian presidential elections will be a crucial test for the future of the Middle East peace process and a seed to boost democracy.... With the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who was considered the main obstacle to peace by the U.S., the Bush administration committed its support for the election process and bet on Mahmoud Abbas' candidacy. Abbas is seen by the US as a moderate leader willing to advance without any pause on peace negotiations.... But the last days of Abbas' election campaign raised concern in the Bush administration over his rhetoric and what is the future Palestinian leader's real face is.... Anyway, the Bush administration is betting on Abbas' triumph...with its eyes placed on resuming the road toward peace in the Middle East based on the Road Map, the proposal agreed upon by the US, the EU, Russia and the UN."

"Palestinian Elections Will Open new chapter"

Marcelo Cantelmi stated in leading Clarin (1/8): "Tomorrow's Palestine elections will provide a president, not a leader. Abu Mazen...will surely win with a 60-percent lead.... His lack of leadership will mark an unpredictable administration.... As soon as he is elected, he will have to start paying the price to his people with his eyes placed on Israel in order to demonstrate that he is not a weak leader. Among those imminent negotiations will be the reopening of peace talks with Ariel Sharon, who will impose him the harshest conditions and the need for putting a brake on the fundamentalist action of Hamas and Jihad.... The other big issue is what the new president will be able to obtain in his negotiations with Israel, under the protection of the U.S.... Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip is a triumph for the Palestinians but it has its dark side.... Despite the narrow margin of maneuvering of the brand-new Palestinian government, there is one reason for optimism.... The U.S., 'bogged down' in Iraq, needs to 'extinguish the fire' in the Middle East, the main source of anti-US Arab wrath. Perhaps, this element will move pieces toward a different fate from the one we all know."

BRAZIL: "Mandate For Peace"

Liberal Folha de S. Paulo remarked (1/12): "Mahmoud Abbas' victory was convincing. With more than 60 percent of the votes, he obtained a clear mandate to try to end violence and resume peace negotiations with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.... Abbas' main challenge is to control the radical groups.... If he succeeds in doing so, he will be able to obtain from Israel the suspension of incursions through the occupied territories and the release of 11,000 Palestinian prisoners.... The risks of ruining the small advances made so far are great and all around. The radical groups do not want a strong PNA, but they do not want its failure either. Among the Israelis, political problems to remove settlers from the Gaza colonies tend to worsen. Although Abbas' election and the parallel reformulation of the Israeli government have given peace a breath of new life, all skepticism is still appropriate when the matter is the Middle East."

"Vote For Peace"

The lead editorial in center-right O Estado de S. Paulo read (1/11): "The Palestinians' obstinacy is one side of the coin. The other side is the corrupt and authoritarian system left by Arafat, which is based on patronage, on abuse, and on multiple security forces, each one responding to a different faction or boss. Overcoming such a scenario of backwardness has become a mammoth challenge since 2002, when Israel systematically destroyed not only the material bases of the Palestinian Authority administration, but also the very structure of Palestinian society. But the Palestinians have done their part. From now on neither Jerusalem nor Washington can invoke the pretext that 'Israel lacks a partner for peace'.... Now it is up to President George W. Bush to obtain from Ariel Sharon the true 'painful concessions' that the Israeli prime minister spoke about when he announced the unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza strip and the removal of 5,000 Jewish settlers. Bush said that Mahmoud Abbas' election was a 'historical day.' It was indeed. The president now gives to Israel the role of partner of peace, which can only result from a sovereign and feasible Palestine, along with a Jewish state that is safe and accepted by its neighbors."

"Hope"

Right-of-center O Globo declared (1/11): "Mahmoud Abbas was chosen to fill the shoes of Yasser Arafat.... (He) has the advantage of not being tied to any ostensive or secret pledges and alliances that limited Arafat's actions.... The systematic ill will on the part of the USA and Israel against Arafat over the last two years, to whom President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon attributed all responsibility for paralyzing the peace process and for the explosion of violence in that region, no longer makes any sense. The moderate Abbas...is the interlocutor for whom the Americans and the Israelis called.... The newly elected President (Abbas) confirmed his priorities.... Nothing he said was novel; let's hope that the novelty lies in his strategy to obtain his objectives. The victory of Abbas coincides with the inauguration of a new Cabinet in Israel, which includes (members of the Labor Party) of Shimon Peres. It is one more sign that the Israelis and Palestinians seem to be entering a constructive and hopeful phase."

"A Transition To Peace"

Center-left Jornal do Brasil commented (1/10): "The virtual election of Mahmoud Abbas as the new president of the Palestinian Authority stimulates the hope that, if the polls confirm sufficient legitimacy, the leader of Fatah--Yasser Arafat's political group--might be able to lead the transition to a restoration of peace in such an agitated region. Moderate Palestinians are doubtful, for example, about the ability to politically, economically, socially and militarily reorder the PA. It is still early to say if the political repositioning of the Palestinian and Israeli leadership will bring peace closer. But the direction of Abbas can signify a first and relevant step towards a less bloody future."

"Major Challenges For The New Palestinian Leader"

Business-oriented Valor Economico editorialized (1/10): "To be elected president of the PNA was one of the smoothest tasks fate offered to Mahmoud Abbas. Now, he will have to face enormous challenges.... Arafat's legacy is both a burden and a trump card. And, on the other side of the shameful wall with which the Israeli government tries to isolate itself from its enemies, Ariel Sharon is facing equally poignant contradictions. Both are surrounded by domestic adversaries--although Sharon enjoys the U.S.'s unconditional support. Abbas will have to overcome the negative effects of an intifada that produced more victims than practical results.... He will also have to rebuild the PA, the prestige of which eroded with Arafat's authoritarian methods.... Pessimists have always proven right about peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. There are strong reasons for pessimism, including Bush's unilateralist policy, which included in his anti-terrorism fight the movements supporting Palestinian independence. As a result, and in addition to the blind support to Israel's tough positions, he aborted a peaceful solution to the conflict--the only real way to begin to stop the terrorist escalation that crosses the Middle East's borders."

"Palestinian Vote"

Liberal Folha de S. Paulo declared (1/9): "Different from what usually happens in the Arab world, the Palestinian election is not a farce. The ballots are not marked, there will be international observers and no one is expected to be elected with 99 percent of the vote, as is common in the region. Despite democratic dispute, it is already known that moderate candidate Mahmoud Abbas will win.... His difficulty will not be winning the election, but doing so with the support of a strong majority of voters so as to emerge a leader capable of carrying out peace negotiations.... He knows that his window of opportunity is limited.. Complete skepticism is not too much. No one has ever lost money betting against peace in the Middle East.... Peace negotiations are not based on the concept of justice, but on how much the stronger side is willing to yield. And in this case there is no doubt that the Israeli side is the strongest."

MEXICO: "Palestine: Democracy After All"

Left-of-center La Jornada declared (1/10): "With most of its people unemployed and poor, most infrastructure destroyed by the Tel Aviv war machine, with thousands imprisoned in Israeli jails and millions dispersed in exile, and adding insult to injury, dealing with a corrupt and inefficient bureaucracy, the Palestinians, despite the adversities, gave the world an example of civic pride and democratic willpower. Once again, yesterday's elections in Gaza, Cisjordania, and West Jerusalem--where the occupiers kept the majority from casting votes--demonstrated that the conflict in the Middle East is not between Palestinians and Israelis, but between those who favor war and those want to build peace and co-existence.... After Arafat's death, and given the democratic maturity of Palestinian society, those who hold the power in Tel Aviv--such as the Likud 'hawks' or Laborists or fundamentalists of Greater Israel or any combination of those tendencies--lack any moral argument to claim to the world that the occupation, the ethnic cleaning or the military barbarism perpetrated daily in Gaza, Cisjordania, and West Jerusalem are anti-terrorist measures."

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