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Foreign Media Reaction

March 1, 2005

MIDDLE EAST: TEL AVIV BOMBING, PA CABINET CRISIS POSE 'GREAT CHALLENGES'

KEY FINDINGS

** Euro, Israeli dailies demand PA President Abbas "confront the fundamentalists."

** Hardline Arab papers say the Tel Aviv bombing represents a "net gain for Israel."

** Moderate writers urge both sides to "press on with their peace efforts" despite the tragedy.

** Optimists contend the PA's new cabinet will offer a "more honest and dynamic leadership."

MAJOR THEMES

Abbas must 'respond decisively'-- Papers called on Abbas to "take off his kid gloves" and "vigorously fight" militants. Austria's independent Der Standard blasted him for seeking to prevent attacks "through cajoling alone" or the "usual political horse-trading." Israeli writers demanded Abbas "be held accountable" if he does not launch a "more energetic war on terror." Left-leaning Ha'aretz warned that the "condemnations uttered by Abbas are not enough." Pluralist Yediot Aharonot noted that the attack is a "challenge voiced by the suicide bomber and his dispatchers" to Abbas himself, and concluded that "not only Israelis are being targeted, but the PA leadership as well."

'Justification' for 'expansionist objectives'--Arab outlets opined that Israel has "an interest in magnifying" the bombing to achieve "political and propaganda" gains. Jordan's independent Al-Arab Al-Yawm said the biggest beneficiary "is the extremist right-wing Israeli party, if not the Israeli authority itself" because they now have "cover to run away" from their pledges.Palestinian writers judged Israel's occupation was "to blame for everything."Other observers urged Israel not to "wreck the painstakingly choreographed peace process" by resorting to "disproportionate force." Saudi Arabia's conservative Al-Madina added that Israel "must be more understanding" of the PA's "bold and sincere efforts."

Blast 'aimed to derail the fragile peace momentum'--Prioritizing the peace process, Euro and Asian analysts stressed that violence should not be "allowed to derail...modest efforts towards peace." The conservative Australian hoped that "peace and reconciliation can inch forward even while fanatics continue to terrorize populations."Arab moderates agreed both sides must "press on with their peace efforts" and declared that the attack "does not serve...Palestinian interests in general."A Jordanian commentator decried the "harm and destruction inflicted upon the Palestinian people and their national cause" by the bombing.

A democratic 'intifada' against 'corrupt and incompetent...Arafat loyalists'-- Before the bombing, observers had hailed the PA Council's repeated rejection of the proposed PA cabinet's "old faces." The Council "deserves kudos" for its "bold stance" in demanding "younger and cleaner individuals" who "stood out for reform and against corruption." Germany's right-of-center Die Welt noted that Palestinians are "getting rid of Arafat's relics" by engaging in a "cleanout of political old-timers." The new "technocrat" cabinet is a "source of pride before the Arab world as a manifestation of...bold democracy," added the West Bank's independent Al-Ayyam.

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 interprites foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis was based on 53 reports from 16 countries over 23 February - 1 March 2005. Editorial excerpts are listed in the most recent date.

EUROPE

GERMANY: "Difficult For Abbas"

Wolfgang Guenter Lerch commented in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (2/28): "Palestinian President Abbas and Prime Minster Sharon raised hopes when they recently agreed in Sharm el-Sheikh to give peace a chance, but a suicide attack in Tel Aviv could be the beginning of the end of this process.It now is in Abbas' hands.He must show that he is willing and capable of destroying Islamic Jihad's terrorist structure.Since Sharm el-Sheikh, Israel said that a single terror attack could not thwart rapprochement as long as Abbas visibly tries to contain terrorism. How long can this last, given the power balance? The new president in Ramallah will certainly attempt with the help of his security forces to advance on this front, but the terrorists are embedded in milieus that cannot be destroyed by administrative measures alone....Abbas position is difficult also because some neighboring countries, which represent the past, support the militant groups in occupied and autonomous territories. Neither Israel nor Abbas can change that, but the international community could be able to do this with a comprehensive, enduring and fair Middle East policy."

"No Truce"

Right-of-center Saarbruecker Zeitung editorialized (2/28): "No truce can stop terrorists. Peace negotiations are as encouraging as terror attacks are discouraging. Events in Northern Ireland, Israel and Palestine have become so predictable, but it is wrong to believe that peace can only be created after terrorism ended. Peace must be created despite of the terror, because the militant groups will reach their goal if the negotiating partners put a stop to the peace process after every attack."

"Terrorists Don't Want Peace"

Thorsten Schmitz filed in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (2/28): "The suicide attack did not come as a surprise. Palestinian terrorists have always tried to torpedo any rapprochement between Israel and the PA.The killings of four Israelis unmasked Islamic Jihad's agreement on the truce as lip service.Such declarations by terrorists signify nothing; especially those from Islamic Jihad, which wants to destroy Israel according to its statute. It is an illusion that one could make peace with terrorists in the Middle East and establish two states. There is only one state in the world of Islamic Jihad: a state without Jews....Abbas must now overcome his fear of a civil war, take off his kid gloves, and dissolve and disarm terror groups.As long as Abbas believes he could disarm Hamas and Islamic Jihad through integrating them into the political system and allowing them to participate in the July elections, terror will not end but be institutionalized."

"Lethal Provocation"

Susanne Knaul opined in leftist die tageszeitung of Berlin (2/28): "No one could have expected the conflict in the Middle East to be resolved without any further killings. However, this weekend's attack is surprising, because all recent signals from Ramallah indicated that there could be a diplomatic solution. This act of violence and those that will probably follow pose the risk of returning to the era of Arafat. That is exactly what those responsible for the attack aim at. The only reasonable strategy would be an unusual reaction; if every terror attack were a catalyst of parallel political moves on both sides, terrorist would soon stop their attacks. The Israeli government must therefore reach out to the Palestinian leadership with all possible means without putting their citizens at risk, and Abbas must simultaneously and vigorously fight opponents in his own camp."

"Reformable"

Wolfgang Guenter Lerch commented in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (2/25): "The formation of the government was not easy, but Abbas has forged a cabinet that raises more hopes for the peace process. Experts in particular and only a few ideologists will serve under Prime Minister Qureia. That is what Palestinians now need.... The PA must be completely rebuilt and reformed in order to set off on the road to peace.A cabinet composed of experts is the best option to achieve this goal.... Stone on stone is laid in Palestine at the moment, but it is barely more than a beginning."

"Palestinians"

Dietrich Alexander opined in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (2/25): "Palestinians deserve high respects for this democratic masterpiece.The parliament urged the prime minister to reach unpleasant decisions. Seventeen out of 24 cabinet members are new, do not belong to Arafat's circle of favorites and are experts without great political experience.The new government bears the marks of President Abbas, Qureia's stern rival. The policy of small moves is increasingly effective....That the former Palestinian security head, Mohammed Dahlan, as well as General Yousef were appointed as new ministers strengthens Abbas in domestic affairs. They have the guts to implement Abbas' reform of security forces.Dahlan, the strong man in the Gaza strip, also has good relations to the U.S., and Israelis respect him.His best political reference is that he was one of the few who dared fall out with Arafat. In short, Palestinians are putting an end to antique practices and are getting rid of Arafat's relics."

"Farewell To Arafat's Gang"

Clemens Wergin noted in centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (2/25): "One of the most important democratic principles is change. No one believed that Palestinians would embark on it so quickly after the first free presidential elections in January. That comes as a surprise. Just three months after Arafat's death, Arafat's era is finally coming to an end with Qureia's new cabinet. This began with a palace revolution launched by young parliamentarians from the Fatah movement.They prevented that the new cabinet includes too many old faces.... Security, fighting against corruption and boosting the conditions of Palestinians are the great challenges the government must tackle in the coming months.Although it is not a perfect cabinet, it is a good beginning."

"Abbas Must Clean Up"

Tomas Avenarius commented in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (2/23): "A huge quarrel broke out between Palestinian President Abbas and his head of government, Qureia.... That Abbas apparently prevailed is welcome news. His name epitomizes hope for peace and reforms in Palestinian territories.If Abbas and his Fatah organization came off worst, it would have cast doubt on the new president's course--and the fragile peace process, because Abbas' opponent, Qureia, is a man of the old Arafat regime. Qureia and other companions of the departed president would like to continue their policy and secure their access to sinecures. The latter is an important reason why the relations between the president and the prime minister recently cooled down. The question is how Abbas can finally get rid of Qureia? Abbas' job would be much easier without Qureia."

ITALY: "Massacre, Israel Accuse Syria"

Leading business-oriented Il Sole-24 Ore stated (2/27): "Friday's attack could force the Palestinian leadership to confront the fundamentalists. Until two days ago, Abu Mazen was excluding forceful action, and opting instead for the path of negotiation. Now he will not be able to avoid adopting a hard line. The pressure on the PNA is increasing in view of the London Conference in March. Meanwhile, the massacre in front of the disco represents the first serious obstacle to the Sharm-el-Sheik accords. Following a sixteen-day ceasefire, the Israeli Premier Sharon must decide how to fight terrorism without smothering hopes for the resumption of the peace process."

AUSTRIA: "Abbas' Proof Is Missing"

Ben Segenreich held in independent Der Standard (2/28): "People are longing to be allowed to be optimistic. All the more depressing is the thought that the times of the death cult might be back. But something was different after the attack on a nightclub in Tel Aviv as compared to the hundreds of previous attacks. Formerly, the different Palestinian terror groups had squabbled over the 'honor' of having exploded yet another bus or pizzeria; sometimes Hamas, Islamic Jihad or Martyr Brigades operated in cooperation and, in a brotherly spirit, shared their 'success' in joint acknowledgements. It is therefore a truly remarkable signal of a new era that, this time, nobody claims responsibility.... There is definitely a mood change in the Palestinian population and a new attitude on the part of its leaders. What has not changed, however, is the number of arms in unauthorized hands and the mass of explosive material in the bomb workshops. It is unlikely that Abbas, true to his declared tactics, will be able to prevent the next attack through cajoling alone--at any rate, proof that he can is still missing."

SPAIN: "Peace In Danger"

Conservative ABC asserted (2/27):"The Palestinian decision to immediately condemn the attempt and to open an official investigation charged with determining who was involved appears to be a good beginning. This opens a way...which, impelled by President Abbas, marks a difference from previous stages because it involves Palestinian institutions in the fight against terrorism.... This fact, added to the U.S. impulse to end this 50 year old war and the will of moderate Israeli sectors to not to give in to breaking-off temptations, allow us to not give up as lost the opportunity opened one month ago in Sharm el Sheij."

MIDDLE EAST

ISRAEL: "Checks For Changes"

Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz contended (2/28):"British Prime Minister Tony Blair will open an international conference in London tomorrow whose goal is to help the Palestinians help themselves.... Abbas is coming to London to sign receipts for the generous financial aid that he will be offered: hundreds of millions of dollars.... Above all, this is a deal of checks in exchange for changes.The government headed by Abbas is being asked to undertake far-reaching changes as a condition for receiving the world's support. The most important change is supposed to be a more energetic war on terror. [Secretary] Rice, in a forceful statement published after this weekend's bombing in Tel Aviv, stressed that the condemnations uttered by Abbas are not enough: the U.S. expects him to act.... In London, Abbas can be expected to bask in the praise of those who are eager to help him overcome the obstacles on the way to consolidating his rule--but only on condition that he exploit this opportunity for genuine progress toward peace with Israel. Only if he is wise enough to do so, by foiling future terror attacks, will the process that he and Sharon are now conducting under an international umbrella have any chance of success."

"Those Who Are Responsible Even Before Syria"

Nationalist, Orthodox Hatzofe noted (2/28):"Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon too, are pointing an accusing finger at Syria, which they blame for Tel Aviv's suicide bombing. Syria indeed hosts the worst Palestinian organizations, but, even before Syria, Abu Mazen should be held accountable. For the time being, Abu Mazen is acting according to the method of this predecessor, the rogue Yasser Arafat--the name of the wicked shall rot!He arrests two people, allegedly sends two investigators to find those responsible for the bombing, but doesn't start any serious work against the terrorists.... Abu Mazen is asking himself, and justly so: if Israel is about to abandon the Gaza Strip, why are street battles with terror organizations needed there?.... The moment Hizbullah carries out several attacks--God forbid--the other groups will follow suit.Meanwhile it's relatively calm, as the purpose is to gain [the release of] some more prisoners as part of Israel's gestures."

"Bleeding For Abu Mazen"

Amir Rappaport noted in popular, pluralist Maariv (2/27): "Abu Mazen is counting on Israel'willingness to absorb a terror attack. As of Saturday, he was right. The terror attack did not even bring about the cancellation of today's meeting between Shimon Peres and Mohammed Dahlan. Just as in the days of 'We will continue with the peace process as though there were no terrorism.' But will Israel restrain itself after the next terror attack as well?As unpleasant as this is to say, it looks like this depends on the number of casualties. The only encouraging sign over the weekend is that Abu Mazen is really and truly angry. He is not Arafat, and his condemnations are not mere lip service. But now he must also take action. We have had enough of talk, and it is not certain that Israel will be able to continue to bleed for Abu Mazen's sake in the future as well."

"No Return To Terror"

Chief Economic Editor Sever Plotker wrote in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (2/27): "The terror attack on Friday night bore clear signs of belonging to a new era in the terrorist war. Its targets have shifted: not only Israelis are being targeted, but the PA leadership as well.... Condemnations [by Abbas and the PA leadership], with all due respect to the important role they play in promoting the reconciliation process between the two nations, are not enough.... The challenge voiced by the suicide bomber and his dispatchers to Abu Mazen obliges the latter and his government to respond decisively. Without such a response...the situation in the territories is liable to deteriorate into an Iraq-like situation, into daily terror attacks that are aimed equally against the foreign occupier and the elected local government. Abu Mazen, therefore, must defeat the first budding of this new Intifada at its inception. He cannot afford to play patriotic games, and no one needs them....It is against [the winds of freedom], as it is against Israel and the PA, that the 'evil trio' is pitted: the extremists and zealots in Syria, Iran and Hizbullah. They are united in their hatred of Israel, hatred of America and hatred of democracy. They are frightened, and rightly so.... From Israel's perspective, there will be no return to an Intifada of terrorism.Israel will not hesitate to use military force and to take out one-by-one all the people heading the terrorism against it, even if they are based in Syria, Lebanon and Iran.Their days are already numbered."

"Actions, Not Words"

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (2/27): "Spare us the condemnations, at least that. For the PA to condemn what it has not lifted a finger to prevent is almost a waste of breath.... More will die so long as PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas continues to avoid the actions he must take.Enumerating those actions has also begun to feel like a waste of breath: collecting weapons, arresting terrorists, and ending incitement. Abbas is acting as if he has a polite disagreement with the terrorists, one that can be resolved by the usual political horse-trading.Indeed, there is little evidence that Abbas and the terrorists have more than tactical differences.The simplest measure of this is the matter of incitement.... So long as the PA continues to pump Palestinian minds full of promises of 'return' to Israel itself, the unavoidable conclusion is that the only difference between Abbas and the terrorists is tactical: one is willing to use diplomacy for a while, the other unwilling to use it at all. The only way out of this is for the international community, including Israel, to condition its support on the PA upholding its most basic commitments."

WEST BANK: "The Tel Aviv Bombing Revisits The Role Of The PA Under Occupation"

Hani Masri wrote in independent Al-Ayyam (3/1): "How can the PA bear responsibility for actions taking place in areas under total Israeli control? How will the PA appear if it carries out campaigns against members of organizations in areas controlled by the Israeli occupation? This will make the PA appear to be a collaborator or an Israeli agent, which harms its legitimacy and opens doors for an internal Palestinian conflict....This situation necessitates that the PA not act defensively, as if being accused, or try to appear up to a task it can't deliver on. The Israeli forces must first withdraw; then the PA can take charge. The worst we can face is the PA taking security action under the Israeli occupation. We must not fall into this trap no matter how much pressure is being exerted on us."

"Using The 'Orphan Operation' As A Pretext, Israel Throws the Ball Into The Palestinian Court"

Talal 'Ukal observed in independent Al-Ayyam (2/28):"The operation [Tel Aviv bombing] was a net gain for Israel. It offered [Israel] the cover it needed and was waiting for to justify dodging the obligations it had accepted.... The Palestinian side, nonetheless, must be aware of the way Israel thinks.It is important to continue with the commitment to maintain calm and not to surrender to the Israeli demands.... Whoever rejects the bombing must not believe Israel's justifications and must remind Israel and the world of all the premeditated violations Israel is committing.Our language must not be defensive or based on a feeling of weakness. Perhaps we should have told the entire world about what Israel is doing before the bombing actually took place. We must learn our lesson."

"The Consequences Of The Tel Aviv Bombing"

Samih Shubayb wrote in independent Al-Ayyam (2/28):"It's fair to say that this operation...does not serve the Islamic Jihad in particular, nor Palestinian interests in general. It may the door again for Israeli political assassinations against Islamic Jihad figures.This would bring back the cycle of violence and counter-violence and would thwart plans for calm....The nature of this operation and its modus operandi indicate beyond a doubt that some political body stands behind it, meaning that...we must expect that it will be repeated. As an authority and a community, we have to figure how to confront what will come next. Will Palestinian security measures be enough to stop what might take place?Will the Israeli government accept the Palestinian measures? Will a sincere regional effort be able to stop the current and coming deterioration?"

"The Tel Aviv Bombing: Attempts To Mix The Cards"

Ashraf Ajrami opined in independent Al-Ayyam (2/28):"Whereas this operation [bombing] reveals how fragile the internal Palestinian situation and Palestinian-Israeli relations are, it must not provide Israel with any cover to run away from commitments of this new stage. Israel's blaming the PA for its failure to stop the bombing is irrational....There's no doubt that the PA bears responsibility for the overall Palestinian situation; Israel, however, is more to blame, for it is [Israel] who can either help the PA carry out its duties or serves as its main obstacle. [Israel] specifically must change the current bad conditions at all levels."

"Exaggeration"

Hafiz Barghuthi commented in official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (2/28): "There's an Israeli interest in magnifying the Tel Aviv bombing in order to attain political and propaganda results and to exert pressure on the Palestinian leadership as a means to keep [the PA] internally busy and exempt the occupation of any obligations.Up to now no Palestinian official has made any statement declaring that Israel has not been committed to calm, and no one noticed that the news about the bombing was published in the local press next to reports on an Israeli plan to build another 7,000 settlement units in the West Bank.... The occupation, not the PA, is the one to blame for everything, as it's the one who controls security on the ground. In Gaza, the PA has succeeded in imposing calm whether through dialogue or by means of redeployment of forces. How can it do the same in the occupied West Bank?"

"Outside The Palestinian Sphere"

Adli Sadiq maintained in official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (2/27): "Before the Islamic Jihad declared its responsibility for the operation, we sent some words defending Hizballah and the three official parties involved with it.We called on the Palestinians to refrain from following Israeli complaints and focusing on the fact that Palestinian society is riddled with wounds, that the occupation has struck every Palestinian home with tragedy, that the racist wall still stands, that guns are still aimed at us, and that the occupation army is deployed all along the road between the village of the young man who carried out the operation and Tel Aviv.We said that what Israeli security forces could not achieve when they are free, the Palestinian security forces cannot achieve when their hands are tied. But we retracted these words because it is clear that these parties, whose situation we appreciate, did not appreciate our situation.The Jihad's declaration of its responsibility for the operation was made under foreign pressure so as not to embarrass those exerting the pressure. It is thus possible to ask Hizballah not to meddle in our arena as long as it does not allow the Palestinians to fire rockets from the central region--from Al-Nabatiyah for example--and not even to fire rockets from the Shab'a front.... We do not want to use the same words Hizballah used on the eve of the pullout from the south when it said to the Palestinians, 'Do not meddle with Lebanon's destiny' and its request was implemented to the letter before everyone's eyes."

"A New Government For A Critical Phase"

Independent Al-Quds held (2/25):"The new and young generations have the right to bear the national responsibility and occupy senior positions that must not be a monopoly of only one group.... This in itself is an achievement of the formation of the new cabinet....Citizens will judge this government, during the relatively short remaining period before the upcoming legislative elections in July, by its performance and effectiveness in dealing with the critical issues the Palestinian people are facing."

"The Technocrat Government: A Balancing Point Between Opponents"

Rajab Abu Sariya opined in independent Al-Ayyam (2/25): "Perhaps the most important thing [about the new cabinet] is that the 'technocrat' government will restore the role of the legislative authority; its national duty to hold the government accountable for its performance that must be controlled by its work plan...and must serve as a positive political tradition that the next cabinet, which most likely will be formed on a political basis, cannot overlook."

"Tragedy Of Ministerial Formation:Why And Where To?"

Talal 'Ukal observed in independent Al-Ayyam (2/24):"The last 10 days have clearly showed the nature of the crisis facing the Palestinian political system....What is happening behind the scenes of the Fatah movement and all that is happening inside the Palestinian Legislative Council present a form of melodrama that can be a source of pride before the Arab world as a manifestation of [Palestinian] bold democracy and courageous freedom of expression. Nevertheless, what has happened can also be a reason for concern over the future Palestinian [political] options. It can also have a direct affect on the effectiveness and credibility of the Palestinian political system, especially in view of the critical regional, international and internal pressures."

"It Is Just A Name For An Escalating Crisis"

Yahya Rabah contended in official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (2/24): "In his effort to form his cabinet, Ahmad Quraya' was forced to withdraw his nominated cabinet in the face of the Palestinian Legislative Council's 'intifada.'In my view, the crisis is real and deep.It is more like an iceberg hiding a major problem in the political system, which many are trying to preserve as is and prevent any change from taking place."

"The London Conference, Bright Presence And Pale Absence"

Hasan Al-Batal noted in independent Al-Ayyam (2/24):"The international conference in London on Palestine is absolutely important. It is more important than the American-Palestinian summit in Washington on the Palestinian state.... President Abbas's warm welcome of the American President's remarks on the Palestinian state in Brussels indicate a decrease in the gap between the Palestinian and American visions of the Palestinian state and the Palestinian-Israeli peace issues.... The U.S. presidential statement in Brussels, including the firm demand favoring the establishment of a contiguous Palestinian state, is considered the strongest [ever] in language and tone, going beyond the usual [American] rhetoric asking Israel to freeze its settlement activity."

"Freedom And Democracy Need Geography Too"

Mohammed Yaghi asserted in independent Al-Ayyam (2/24): "We must acknowledge the positive side of U.S. policy. We would not be witnessing the beginning of the movement of change in...Arab regimes without the American 'political attack.' The Lebanese opposition force would have been wiped out had it not been for the presence of international protection. Likewise, the opposition leaders in most Arab countries would have been jailed or, at least, prevented from holding demonstrations or appearing on television. Also, the elections in Iraq would have never taken place without the overthrow of its regime....However, despite all this, the U.S. has not been successful in winning the public support that it has sought in the Arab world. Similarly, it has failed to change its traditional image, not only as a backer of the [Israeli] occupation, but also as a protector of the Arab regimes.... In order for the U.S. policy to succeed in changing the Middle East in the direction it wants, namely toward freedom and democracy, the U.S. has to combine its efforts in winning hearts and minds with...a clear and active policy toward forcing an Israeli withdrawal from all the Arab land occupied since 1967."

SAUDI ARABIA: "Vague Objective"

Jeddah's conservative Al-Madina editorialized (3/1):"The timing of the suicide mission in Tel Aviv, which coincided with the London Conference on Palestinian issues, led to increased US and Israeli pressure on Syria, and accusations of the latter of being somehow involved in the planning for that attack.This escalation in the level of tension serves neither the interests of Palestinians, nor the Arabs.It actually makes us think again if the Palestinian factions think that they were living in another world, where Palestinians and Israelis constitute the whole population."

"Murder Of Civilians In Tel Aviv"

Dammam's moderate Al-Yaum editorialized (2/27):"The Tel Aviv suicide bombing attack violates President Abu-Mazen's agreements with the Palestinian armed resistance. It is a very dangerous development that endangers any ray of hope for peace.In addition, it shows that there are several parties whose hidden purpose is to destroy any national Palestinian unity....Certainly, those who committed this foolish suicide bombing attack want to see the region inflamed.Moreover, they are agents of evil powers and have no sense of moral or national responsibility.Their aim is to provide Sharon with necessary excuses to resume his policies of assassinations, economic blockade and arrests."

"Mass Punishment And The Peace Standoff"

Jeddah's conservative Al-Madina said (2/27):"The aggressive language in Israeli statements after the attack in Tel Aviv, and the mass punishment policy after every attack targeting Israeli civilians, does not serve the peace initiatives.... Peace initiatives are at a standoff. Israel is well aware of the fact that Abu Mazen cannot stop these aggressions for good.There will always be attacks here and there. Israel is required to be more understanding to the Palestinian efforts to prevent similar future attacks."

"Ceasefire Is A Responsibility"

Riyadh's moderate Al-Jazirah declared (2/27):"Jihad, the Shohada Al-Aqsa, and Hamas denied their responsibility for the recent bombing in Tel Aviv.This means there is a hidden hand behind the event that is trying to destabilize the ceasefire and peace process. This hand must be revealed.... That the Israeli insistence and other parties are accusing the Palestinian factions of the bomb demonstrates the reality about Israeli intentions....Palestinians, as leaders as well as a nation, are committed to requirements of the peace process and the ceasefire. Israeli provocations inflame the desire for revenge. Israel must realize that its aggressions lead to tension and provokes the Palestinians."

"Sharon Reneged Previous Pacts"

Makkah's conservative Al-Nadwa editorialized (2/28): "Israel's threat to resume military operations, and Sharon's announcement that no progress has been achieved in the peace process, are dangerous violations and a dumb move by Sharon, which could undermine any success that has been achieved thus far on the road to peace. Although the US and the EU have discouraged Israel from using the suicide mission in Tel Aviv as a reason to cease current peace initiatives, the matter requires real pressure on Sharon to prevent further deterioration in the chances for peace in the region."

"The Aftermath Of The Suicide Mission In Tel Aviv"

Jeddah's moderate Okaz stated (2/28):"Sharon's rush to issue condemnations indicting specific groups and countries as being responsible for the suicide mission in Tel Aviv indicates that he had a preset agenda to use this occurrence as the justification for his expansionist objectives in Palestine and the entire region. Sharon wants to use this incident as the starting point to launch a mobilization of international forces in the region."

"Agents Or Collaborators"

Jeddah's moderate Okaz argued (2/27):"Regardless of what has been said regarding the suicide attack in Tel Aviv the final result remains the same. These attacks are killing any chance for peace between Israelis and Palestinians....Everyone must reject this irresponsible act, and all the interested parties must reconfirm their intentions to achieve peace. Those who executed this attack are either Israeli agents, or at least beneficiaries from the negative outcome of the attack."

"Double First"

The English-language pro-government Arab News stated (2/25): "After a week of hard political wrangling and disputes, a Palestinian Cabinet has been approved by Parliament. It is a double first, not just for Palestinians, but for much of the Arab world as well. Never before has a Palestinian leader been forced to backtrack on his initial decision and take account of the demands of elected representatives. For the first time too, a Palestinian administration has been selected on the basis of skill rather than personal loyalty....The Palestinians wanted...a government that would deliver not only peace but also be committed to reform and deal with pressing economic and social issues. They wanted a break with the tired faces of the past. Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei has taken the all-important first step along this path. The overwhelming bulk of the new ministers are professionals.... Political common sense rather than entrenched views won the day. The new government is the result of compromise.... Qorei has brought in Nasser Yousef as interior minister and Mohammed Dahlan as civil affairs minister. Their inclusion underlines the scale of the break with the Arafat era.... Both men stood out for reform and against corruption...both were critics of Arafat....They are seen as no-nonsense tough operators and their presence will give confidence to the Americans and the Israelis.In a world where image is a major weapon in the war to win over international public opinion, the Palestinians have achieved a significant advance. No longer can the Israelis claim they are the only functioning democracy in the region."

JORDAN: "The Tel Aviv Operation: A Madman Threw A Stone!"

Sultan Hattab wrote in semi-official, influential Al-Rai (2/28): "The saying 'a mad man threw a stone in the well and a hundred sane men would not take it out' really does apply to the Tel Aviv operation that was perpetrated by a suspicious hand.I say suspicious, because the volume of harm and destruction inflicted upon the Palestinian people and their national cause was huge by all measures. This operation came as an attempt to destroy all the large-scale and sincere efforts exerted by the Palestinian leadership under Mahmoud Abbas; efforts focused on reproducing a pragmatic Palestinian stand that handles events related to the Palestinian cause responsibly and maturely. This operation reveals the corrupted state of the Palestinian struggle and the amount of disorganization and weakness that have come to dominate Palestinian military and organizational work, where irresponsible individuals take action in retaliation to events that they (as individuals) are interested in....The Tel Aviv operation, given its timing amidst a truce and Palestinian progress towards the achievement of Palestinian demands and rights, shows that those who carried it out are simply targeting the interests of the Palestinian people. This operation and its perpetrators are against the Palestinian higher national interests and must be exposed as such and held accountable."

"The Scent Of Conspiracy This Time"

Jamil Nimri noted in independent, mass-appeal Al-Arab Al-Yawm (2/28): "True, the conspiracy theory is very common among the Arabs, but this time the matter is very confusing.The [recent Tel Aviv suicide] operation is completely untimely, except from the viewpoint of sabotaging the success achieve by the [Palestinian] Authority and all the factions.Hamas, Jihad and Al-Aqsa Brigades were party to the truce, which was achieved through political conviction.They have no reason whatsoever to undertake the operation.... The party with the most interest to be served is the extremist right-wing Israeli party, if not the Israeli authority itself, since the settlers want to stop the withdrawal at any cost, as do parties that walked out of the coalition in protest against the withdrawal.... The success of Abbas and the [Palestinian] factions in endorsing and abiding by the truce has embarrassed Israel and protected the unity of the Palestinian internal arena. The continuation of the truce will enable the issue of the criminal separation wall that was built under the pretext of putting a stop to the operation to come forward, but now we see Israel saying that it cannot be reassured about the discontinuation of these operations despite the truce. It is not the conspiracy theory, but the reality of the situation that shows which party was in most need of this suspicious operation."

"The Malicious Use Of The Tel-Aviv Operation"

Rakan Majali concluded in center-left, influential Al-Dustour (2/28): "We do not understand the suspicions that were launched and the PA's jumping on the bandwagon of the media campaign that is designed to brainwash the Palestinian and Arab people and to convince them that the young man who blew himself up in the heart of Tel Aviv had betrayed the Palestinian cause and dealt a blow to the process of liberation. The most serious thing about what has been happening over the past few days is not the call to bury the Intifada or to disarm the opposition, but to turn martyrdom into a heinous crime.... What seems to be required these days is that the Tel Aviv incident be used to hold its perpetrator responsible for the loss of the illusionary chance to settle the Palestinian cause!"

"Not One Bit"

The elite English-language Jordan Times observed (2/27): "The suicide attack in a Tel Aviv night-club took not only the lives of four people and injured more than 50 on Friday, it threatened to cut the fine thread that is holding Israel and the Palestinian National Authority together as they attempt to stick to a ceasefire and resume peace talks. The suicide bombing is an act of sabotage that aimed to derail the fragile peace momentum created in the wake of the election of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the formation of a reformist Palestinian Cabinet.As unfortunate and condemnable as this attack is, the Israelis and Palestinians must press on with their peace efforts.They should consider that the lone bomber does not appear to be affiliated to any organised Palestinian faction. Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades disavowed any connection with the attack. This shows that the principal Palestinian groups are still committed to the preservation of the ceasefire brokered between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the recent Sharm El Sheikh summit under the aegis of His Majesty King Abdullah and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.The Palestinian leadership immediately and strongly denounced the attack and promised to investigate the case and punish all those involved in the perpetration of the attack. There can be no doubt, therefore, that both the PNA and the various Palestinian factions are sincere in their condemnation of the attack. It is certainly no secret that instituting confidence-building measures goes a long way towards helping maintain a ceasefire. The PNA, struggling to set itself on a reform path, has the added onus of trying to keep a frustrated population from resorting to militant means. It does not help, therefore, for Israel to okay the construction of 6,000 new houses in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and to plan to grant retrospective authorisation to 120 settler outposts in the Palestinian territory which were slated for removal by the Quartet-sponsored roadmap peace plan. It does not help one bit."

"Time For Reform In Palestine Has Arrived"

Daoud Kuttab noted in the elite English-language Jordan Times (2/25): "Two opinion trends formed concerning the first government's attempt to gain the confidence of the representatives of the Palestinian people after the death of Yasser Arafat and Abbas' election. One felt that since the present legislative council is way overdue for elections and an election date for the PLC was set for July, the government should be simply transitional....Another, more powerful, idea was that the new government must reflect the changes in the Palestinian public, which were reflected in Abbas' election.... Much of the opposition was an indirect attack against the person designated for the position of prime minister. The failure, over the past two years, to enact any serious reform was laid at Qureia's feet.... The PLC members...and the Fateh members feeling free of Arafat's power began a revolt.... The next step will most certainly be reopening the corruption files. This will certainly prove unpleasant for Qureia, but the PLC is confident that he will not be able to refuse their request now that they have succeeded in sending a strong and clear message. The time for reform in Palestine has arrived."

"All For The Best"

The elite English-language Jordan Times declared (2/24): "If nothing else, the crisis over the proposed Cabinet of Palestinian prime minister-designate Ahmed Qureia in parliament is a healthy indication of the progress that the Palestinians are making on the democratic front. It used to be an established Palestinian practice to endorse ministers proposed by the top leadership with no questions asked. All this has changed in the wake of the Jan. 9 presidential elections and the emergence of a new era following the death of Yasser Arafat. Having tasted democracy when they elected Mahmoud Abbas...the Palestinian people and their representatives in the Palestinian National Assembly are exercising their democratic right and demanding to be heard in the process of forming a new Cabinet. Above all, lawmakers are insisting on genuine reforms and new faces to implement these reforms. As long as members of the old guard continue to dominate the political scene in the Palestinian territories, the people have concluded, there can be no real progress and no effective reforms. After two rounds of parliamentary debates, Qurei has now bowed to the growing pressure and promised to revamp his proposed Cabinet. He also pledged that the reshuffle of the proposed Cabinet will not be a simple cosmetic change but a real overhaul of the composition of his new list of ministers. It is fortunate that much of the pressure applied on Qurei came from the dominant Fateh movement that is the backbone of the Palestinian political structure. It was also good that the outcry against Qurei's choice of team prompted many of the younger generation of the pro-reform Fateh legislature to call for designating another Palestinian statesman to form the new government. There is definitely a new wind blowing in Palestinian politics and, hopefully, this momentum will not dissipate but instead gain strength in the days ahead."

QATAR: "One Bomb Should Not Wreck Hopes Of Peace"

The semi-official English-language Gulf Times editorialized (2/27): "Palestinian and Israeli officials who concluded a ceasefire three weeks ago in Sharm el-Sheikh have accused the Lebanese Hezbollah of trying to encourage attacks against Israel. The accusation came after the suicide bombing of a Tel Aviv nightclub.... Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack, vowing to bring to justice those behind it and alleging there was a 'third party' trying to sabotage peace efforts.All the Palestinian factions, including Islamic Jihad and Al Aqsa Brigades have distanced themselves from the Tel Aviv attack.... Both sides are working together to try to protect the truce. Despite angry remarks, the Israelis refrained from using military force.... An attack on civilians now, just ahead of the London conference on helping the Palestinians...would be viewed very negatively by the international community.The bombing is a test for the Israelis, who must overcome their propensity to resort to disproportionate force at the slightest provocation. If they do react as they have before, it will show that they are willing to allow a tiny handful of militants to exercise a veto over the moves towards peace.... Since the Sharm El Sheikh summit there have been several incidents of Palestinians being shot dead by Israelis but these have not been used by the Palestinian side as pretexts for rejecting the peace overtures. Both sides should accept that each has dangerous militants among its population....The actions of a fanatic, operating independently of any greater authority, cannot justify attacks against civilians. One notable aspect of the latest suicide attack is that the announcement of the bombing in the fighter's own village failed to lead to significant celebrations. That is a sign that the Palestinians are hoping for change."

"There Is No Crisis, It's Democracy At Work"

The semi-official English-language Gulf Times declared (2/24): "The political developments in the PA over the formation of a new Cabinet should not be regarded as a 'crisis', instead it should be viewed as a natural sign of democracy at work. The disagreement between the majority in the Palestinian parliament and Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei reflects the desire of the Palestinian people to be led by people who are not tainted by any hint of corruption under the former administration....The problem with Qurei's initial list was that it included far too many people from the Palestinian old guard and not enough new blood or people with the technical qualifications to lead. Clearly, the legislature is of the view that the time has come to start passing the baton to a new generation of leaders.... The new Palestine needs to be a meritocracy, led by the best and most able citizens, rather than being headed by a popular figure who is able to appoint old friends to almost all key posts, as happened in Arafat's day.... There is a feeling in the Palestinian territories that the time has come for a major shake-up in the line-up at the top. What is happening should not be seen as a power struggle between rival factions, it is actually a sign of the strength of the democratic spirit among the Palestinians, who want clean, dynamic leadership with a major role being played by the rising generation. That is a very healthy development."

UAE: "Peace Must Prevail"

The expatriate-oriented English-language Khaleej Times declared (2/28): "After a long spell of peace between the Palestinians and Israelis, and what looked like a real breakthrough...we appear to be heading backwards, yet again. The Friday night attack in Tel Aviv threatens to wreck the painstakingly choreographed peace process.... This is strikingly different in its timing and circumstances.... All Palestinian groups have committed themselves to the ceasefire....This is why both the Israelis and Palestinians are suspecting the involvement of a 'third party' in the attack. Israel has even threatened to strike at Syria blaming it for the attack.... Regardless of the fact as to who is responsible for the strike, it is certain that damage has already been done. Predictably, Sharon has turned on Abbas threatening to freeze the ongoing peace process....The peace process must not be held hostage to stray incidents like the Tel Aviv attack. The Israelis can't ignore the bold and sincere efforts being made by the Palestinian leadership for peace. In fact, Abbas has managed what once was considered well nigh impossible: he's persuaded Palestinian resistance groups to agree to peace with the Jewish state.... Abbas must be given enough time and space to hold on to peace.... Both Palestinians and Israelis must exercise restraint and do everything possible to ensure the peace process remains on track.Peace mustn't be held hostage to circumstances."

"Ring Out The Old"

The expatriate-oriented English-language Khaleej Times declared (2/24): "Palestinian lawmakers deserve kudos for their bold stance on their new cabinet. The lawmakers have threatened to vote Prime Minister Ahmed Quorie out if he does not scrap the new cabinet. The members of Palestinian parliament refused to okay the line-up the PM presented on Monday demanding younger and cleaner individuals in place of the old guard of the Fatah....The old faces in the cabinet are seen as corrupt and incompetent.... The pressure from the lawmakers has forced PM Quorie to drop most of the old faces from the cabinet--many of them Arafat loyalists. The revamped cabinet, which will be put to vote today, is expected to include at least 10 new faces including Abbas loyalists Nasser Yousef and Mohammed Dahlan. It is good to see the Palestinians are prepared to take courageous and necessary steps in accordance with the changing times. Ground realities of the 21st century demand a different and fresh approach....A majority of old players...lack the necessary courage and vision to deal with the new challenges and problems confronting the Palestinians. Their approach and policy towards Israel, for instance, is different from the one being advocated by President Mahmoud Abbas. In addition to living under occupation, the Palestinians have had to suffer a great deal thanks to the ineptitude and corruption of their own leaders. A more responsive, more honest and dynamic leadership is what the Palestinians are looking for. Despite the daily odds they face, the Palestinians remain the most educated and enterprising in the Arab world."

EAST ASIA

AUSTRALIA: "Keeping The Middle East Peace"

An editorial in the liberal Sydney Morning Herald read (3/1): "It has been only a matter of weeks since Israeli and Palestinian leaders declared a 'cessation of hostilities.' There was little expectation then that the informal ceasefire would prove anything other than fragile. The suicide bomb which tore through a Tel Aviv nightclub last Friday tragically drove home this point. But the civil handshake between the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, and the newly elected Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, at their February meeting in Egypt was a breakthrough....There is some initial cause for optimism. While Mr Sharon declared the peace process frozen and threatened a return to military action, he did not order military reprisals....With Britain pushing hard for a settlement, and Washington's influence again being felt, there is some real diplomatic momentum beyond the conflict zone. The distance between a tenuous lull in hostilities and the creation of a viable Palestinian state alongside a safe and

secure Israel is vast and treacherous. But it cannot even begin to be crossed if violence is allowed to derail last month's modest efforts towards peace."

"A Bomb Explodes, A Peace Push Survives"

The national conservative Australian opined (2/28): "The ties holding the Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire together may be gossamer thin, but last week's suicide bombing in Tel Aviv...has not succeeded in blowing them to pieces.... That Friday's attack was the first suicide bombing since Mr Arafat's demise, while of no consolation to the victims, is itself an indication of progress. Recent events in Iraq demonstrate that peace and reconciliation can inch forward even while fanatics continue to terrorize populations."

CHINA (MACAU SAR):"A Good Opportunity For Israel And Palestine To Conciliate"

Pro-PRC Chinese-language Macau Daily News remarked (2/25): "There are many reasons for Israel to make concessions. First, in the recent bloody clashes, Israel not only suffered from heavy casualties, but its economy also suffered.... Second, after Abbas was elected the leader of Palestine, he adjusted the policy towards Israel. Also he actively lobbied different factions in Palestine and tried to secure support from radical groups including Hamas for his peace line. Third, the U.S. put pressure on Israel. Since President Bush started his second term, he hoped to restart the peace process of Israel and Palestine. And he hoped that the 'democratic reform' in Palestine would become a 'model' for the U.S. to promote its plan in the Middle East....Fourth, Sharon's unilateral actions ran into snags internally and externally. He also hoped to use the releasing of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the ceasefire from the Palestinian military groups....The recent concessions made by both Israel and Palestine has largely soothed the tense atmosphere.Nevertheless, the road to reconciliation is still bumpy and beset with difficulties."

MALAYSIA: "Attack Tests Israeli-Palestinian Cease-fire"

Xiong Shu Li concluded in Petaling Jaya-based leading government-influenced Chinese-language Sin Chew Daily (2/28): "Whether Palestine and Israel can see the bigger picture, handle things calmly and properly handle this crisis has a bearing on whether the peace process will continue, or turn back to the old bloody route. This incident [referring to the bombing of a night club in Tel Aviv on 25 February] has also tested the sincerity of Palestine and Israel to pursue peace. If the hard-won peace dies in light of this, it will be a heavy setback and blow for people who long for this bitter land of the Middle East to stop bleeding."

THAILAND: "Abbas Makes His Own Luck"

The lead editorial in the moderately-conservative, English-language Bangkok Post read (2/27):"Much has been made of the auspicious timing of events pushing the latest thaw in Israeli-Palestinian relations, which may have a genuine hope blossoming into a true peace.First and foremost was the death of Yasser Arafat, who both Israel and the United States deemed to be impossible to work with.... The other favorable circumstance is that the Bush administration seems to actually be ready to commit to being a fair broker in the peace process....But the early influence of Mr. Abbas on the fledgling political process which might lead to peace cannot be underestimated either. Abbas has been described as uncharismatic, but he has nonetheless shown that he is an adroit politician and a very able leader. He has managed several quite significant feats in his short time as figurehead of the Palestinian government.... Abbas will need all his skill, and likely at least a few more auspicious events, if there is to be a true peace in the Middle East. In order to keep the militant wolves at bay, he will have to win more concessions from Israel, and rather quickly. Winning the peace will also take the sustained efforts of the international community, especially the US."

NEW ZEALAND: "Old Hopes Arise Again"

The center-left Southland Times opined (2/24):"Nowhere else on earth has peace proven more of a mirage than this disputed land.... Yet hope, if not quite optimism, once again arises from the dust.The latest initiatives do smack of something more than tedious charade. Israel's pullout from Gaza and parts of the West Bank is due to start on July 20.... Undeniably, both sides still have their extremists, but the yearning for peace among the majority, in spite of all the bitterness of the past, is lately more palpable....Israel holds about 8000 Palestinians hostages but this week's gesture of releasing 500, with a further 400 due in coming weeks, is widely interpreted as Israel giving Mr Abbas just that much more authority to show his own people that they stand to gain from the latest initiatives and to shore up the fragile de facto truce....Meanwhile, Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia has, albeit with his arm looking twisted, signaled a cleanout of political old-timers in his Cabinet, who have been seen not only by the Israelis as Arafat cronies, and not conspicuously capable ones at that....The peace process is far from just a two-nation exercise. The willingness of many other nations, from Israel's chief sponsor the U.S., to Britain and the rest of the powerful G8 group and a raft of Arab states, to collectively contribute financial and technical help towards institution-building, economic reform and good governance in the area is a powerful incentive.... Should it continue, the nascent peace will scarcely mark the end of struggle....But the most maddening, faltering and compromised peace is surely preferable to continuing to wage this stagnant war."

SOUTH ASIA

PAKISTAN: "Suicide Attack On Israeli Night Club"

Karachi-based, pro-Taliban/Jihad Urdu-language Islam thundered (2/28): "This attack seems to be a reaction to the recent Israeli attack on a refugee camps in Rafah. As far as the ceasefire and agreement between PLO chief Mehmood Abbas and Israeli premier Arial Sharon is concerned, the majority of Palestinians and militant organizations have already rejected it. Israel in fact wants to sabotage the 50-year long struggle of Palestinians through this type of agreements. Despite the ceasefire the killing of Palestinians is going on unabated; therefore, in reaction, Israel would also have to face some repercussions."

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