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Foreign Media Reaction

July 19, 2005

MIDDLE EAST:  'DANGEROUS AND DESTRUCTIVE' CLASHES AMONG PALESTINIANS

KEY FINDINGS

**  The "escalating conflict" between PA forces and extremists is "madness," say Arab papers.

**  Hardline Arab outlets allege Israel seeks to "ignite internal Palestinian conflict."

**  Secretary Rice's visit "may be too late" to "prevent a fatal failure" of the peace process.

**  The entire region is a "step away from the abyss" of a third Intifada or even open war.

MAJOR THEMES

'Self-destruction of the Palestinian cause'--  Muslim observers condemned the "regrettable" violence in Gaza, because the "last thing the Palestinians need is internal strife."  Saudi Arabia's moderate Okaz said the "alarming" situation is having a "disastrous impact"; Qatar's semi-independent Al-Raya judged Israel the "sole beneficiary."  Most dailies urged the extremists to "yield to the PA and accept its legitimacy"; the UAE's expatriate-oriented Gulf News said Hamas and Islamic Jihad are "absolutely wrong."  Calling PA President Abbas a "political cadaver," non-Arab outlets said the violence made his "serious" weakness clear; Prague's business-oriented Hospodarske noviny concluded Abbas "has not tamed" extremists.

'No room for peace' in Israeli thinking--  Arab outlets accused Israel of trying to "ignite internal Palestinian conflict."  The government-owned Syria Times contended Israel seeks to "sow the seeds of dissent and disunity" among Palestinians, while Saudi Arabia's moderate Al-Jazira argued PM Sharon "wants to see Palestinians slaughtering each other."  Other critics alleged Israel will "lull the West" with its Gaza pullout while pursuing "plans for annexation" in the West Bank.  Spain's left-of-center El Pais asserted Israel will only become "better entrenched in the West Bank" after leaving Gaza.  The West Bank's independent Al-Quds meanwhile slammed Israel's renewed "assassination policy" as a "step backward."

'Nothing is expected' from Rice's trip--  Papers praised Rice's decision to make an "unexpected and immediate" trip to the region; Germany's left-of-center Berliner Zeitung stated only the U.S. "can still put a stop" to renewed fighting.  That said, observers found it "doubtful" that Rice can launch a "positive, new phase" of the roadmap.  Israel's mass-circulation Yediot Aharonot said the "principal motivating element" for the trip was that the U.S. cannot risk a new crisis above and beyond its "resounding failure to stabilize Iraq."  Syria's government-owned Al-Thawra declared the U.S. cannot play a "fair and effective role" in any peace process.

A 'dramatic threat to invade'--  Writers opposed any "major ground offensive" by Israel into Gaza, adding it would mean an "open and endless war" against Palestinians.  Turkey's nationalist Ortadogu said such an attack would lead to a "new era of bloodshed."  Euro and Israeli papers gave primacy to Israel's Gaza pullout as a "significant step forward" that settlers must not "sabotage."  However, they noted the withdrawal is making Israel "more divided than ever"; Austria's tabloid Neue Kronenzeitung said the country is "bordering on civil war."  Israeli papers saw "abysses of alienation" between the settlers and the government, causing what left-leaning Ha'aretz called the country's "tragic enfeeblement."

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 56 reports from 18 countries over 16 - 19 July, 2005.  Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.

EUROPE

FRANCE:  "Gaza: An International Issue"

Pierre Rousselin wrote in right-of-center Le Figaro (7/19):  “Never, in the last five years, have Israelis and Palestinians been so close to a significant step forward. In order to prevent a new disappointment, American and European diplomacy needs to help Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas establish a minimum of coordination. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is expected in Jerusalem in the coming days, has taken full measure of the stakes and understands that the world cannot stand by and watch a battle rage in Gaza when the consequence would be the failure of the first Israeli withdrawal from a conquered territory since 1967.”

"High Stakes"

Antoine de Gaudemar commented in left-of-center Liberation (7/19):  “It is too early to tell what the outcome of the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza will be, but one thing is certain--it will take place. For Ariel Sharon there is no turning back, he has mired himself up to his chin in a sequence of events that he put in motion....  This is not the first time that a hard-liner has turned into a pragmatist....  But the future of the Palestinian west bank remains uncertain and the withdrawal from Gaza may lull the West temporarily but Israeli ultra-conservatives fear, above all else, that a successful withdrawal from Gaza will be a sort of Pandora’s box that will open the way to other withdrawals.”

"Sharon’s Blackmail"

Pierre Laurent observed in communist l’Humanite (7/19):  “Afghanistan, Iraq and now Gaza....  One by one, since September 2001, the regions meant to symbolize the success of the American anti-terrorist crusade are lapsing into chaos....  Sharon’s reasons for withdrawing from Gaza are not to give a new impetus to the peace process...by pushing forward with the withdrawal Sharon considers that he has made a gesture towards the international community in exchange for which he will have his hands free to proceed with his plans for annexation. The image of colonists demonstrating is exactly the image that Sharon wants the world to see in order to understand the sacrifice of the Israeli government....  Once again...the responsibility of the signatories of the roadmap is at stake. The international community must come together to prompt the U.S., Europe and the UN leaders to prevent a new clash...and renew talks concerning the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state.”

GERMANY:  "Protests And Missiles"

Wolfgang Günter Lerch asserted in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (7/19):  "What will be the state of the Middle East when Secretary of State Rice visits the region this weekend?  The recent spate of attacks is about to escalate.  It is a threefold problem:  Jewish settlers confront Sharon's government, radical Palestinians oppose Prime Minister Abbas, and the Israelis and the Palestinians are fighting each other.  Israel has made clear that it is ready to retaliate after the recent missile attacks on Jewish settlements.  It appears to be irrelevant whether Islamic Jihad or the more powerful Hamas launch the attacks.  At the moment, it looks like the Islamists as well as the settlers want to sabotage the withdrawal--but for different reasons."

"Violence Of Recent Days"

Thorsten Schmitz commented in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (7/18):  "After the recent terror attacks, it is only a question of time until Israel will launch a counteroffensive in the Gaza Strip.  The Israeli government has always stressed that the pullout from the settlements in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank must not be implemented under fire.  With a military mission, Israel would try to rescue the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and to teach the terror groups a lesson.  However, Israel's strategy has always been a failure.  Israel's liquidations and missile attacks cannot intimidate terror groups.  On the contrary, they see their course confirmed by the Israeli operations.  The PA and not Israel must liberate the Palestinians from the embracement of the terror groups, who cleverly distribute social goods among the Palestinians.  However, Palestinian President Abbas is not ready to do this....  Given the violence of the recent days it is doubtful whether U.S. Secretary of State Rice will be able to prevent a fatal failure of the truce and the beginning of a third intifada."

"On The Verge Of A New Tragedy"

Frank Herold observed in left-of-center Berliner Zeitung (7/18):  "Pessimists predicting that the withdrawal would lead to bloody violence and chaos appear to be right.  The extremists among the Palestinians have broken the truce and restarted attacks on Israel.  The shortcomings of the withdrawal plan now become obvious.  It is about to fail because the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships were unable to come together and to organize the pullout together.  Sharon now replies to the new escalation with the worst of all answers.  He has given the Israeli army the permission to respond to the violence with more violence.  Washington apparently believes this is unacceptable and sends Secretary of State Rice to the Middle East.  The U.S. is the only force that can still put a stop to the new tragedy.  Once more, the argument is money because Israel hopes for billions of financial assistance.  It should only be paid if Sharon retreats the army and seeks a political solution."   

ITALY:  "Settlers And Extremists March--The Battle for Gaza Begins"

Ugo Tramballi contended in leading business-oriented Il Sole-24 Ore (7/19):  “A crucial battle is under way between the supporters of the Land of Israel and supporters of the State of Israel.  The former care about the settlements, expansionism, the land, no matter how it is governed: the latter, the majority of the country, wants a democratic country.  For the former Israel is a gift of God and therefore a divine right; for the others the [important thing] is the collective and civil construction painfully created by women and men....  What is striking...is the number of young people....  They were raised and educated in the biblical dream of a Great Israel, spurred by three generations to settle the land of others, by the same politicians who are now telling them to ‘withdraw.’  Within the next month we will know how much it will cost Israel to put the genie back in the lamp.” 

"Sharon Threatens A Military Attack"

Rome-based center-left Il Messaggero maintained (7/18):  “Why are Israelis and Palestinians, following six months of relative calm, once again a step away from an abyss and who would benefit from it?....  Sharon promises an all out attack, but he has postponed the offensive...against Hamas militants who have been targeting settlements in Gaza and other Israeli towns....  The Premier does not want an armed conflict. It is already hard enough for him to deal with the settlers and their supporters....  Hamas would not benefit from the all-out attack promised by Sharon....  An Egyptian delegation arrived yesterday to lend a strong hand to the supporters of those seeking calm....  Condoleezza Rice is rushing over as well. Bush needs the Israeli withdrawal like bread. He supports Sharon’s plan because he considers it...the beginning of a positive, new phase and he hopes to use it to distract attention from the tragic Iraqi situation, and the deteriorating one in Afghanistan.”

RUSSIA:  "Abbas Loses Support"

Zakhar Gelman filed for official government-run Rossiyskaya Gazeta (7/19):  “Mahmoud Abbas stated, ‘We intend to put a halt to homemade rocket launches at all costs.  But I can’t say how long this will take.’  You can’t call it a serious statement.  Abbas will never reach agreement with the armed-to-the-teeth bandits who deliberately kindle conflict in order to seize power within the PA.  The only solution to the problem lies in disarming the intractable militants.  So far, Abbas hasn’t had the heart to do so.   This is why the PA President, a peacemaker, is beginning to lose the support of the world public.”

AUSTRIA:  "Domestic Fronts"

Ernst Trost said in mass-circulation tabloid Neue Kronenzeitung (7/19):  "Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, formerly the hero of the settler's movement and its most active supporter, is now reviled by his former supporters as a traitor and enemy of Israel. On the other hand, those who were formerly his sharpest critics, from the political middle to the far left, are now rallying behind him. Israel is more divided than ever, and many fear a situation bordering on civil war. The first suicide attack since the armistice with the Palestinians, almost daily missile attacks, tough Israeli counter attacks and the resumption of so-called targeted killings threaten détente between Israel and the Palestinians. Like Sharon, Palestinian President Abbas is grappling with a domestic front, which radically rejects his policy. However, the Israelis charge him with having made no headway with his reforms. The old power clans of the Arafat era are obstinately defending their positions and the Islamic Hamas movement is getting increasingly stronger. The Holy Land is facing a hot summer that is anything but peaceful."

"No Chance For Abbas"

Foreign affairs editor Gudrun Harrer judged in independent Der Standard (7/19):  "The current Palestinian escalation against Israel, which prompted a dramatic threat to invade from Sharon, has nothing to do with the 'fight against the occupation' but reflects Abbas' escalating conflict with Hamas that has already caused casualties. Just when Abbas entered the Gaza Strip, the Kassam rockets began to fly in Israel's direction. On Friday, the Palestinian police were confronted with hundreds of angry civilians. The confrontation between Hamas and Palestinan authorities has been steadily increasing since the parliamentary elections were postponed. This postponement--even if nobody admits it--is the result of Hamas' success in the regional elections. That would have been too much for Abbas:  A Hamas that brags about having driven the Israelis from the Gaza Strip and at the same time is legitimized by elections. Even so, Abbas' task has not become easier:  On the one hand he has to prove wrong those that never believed that he would ever be able to deal with the radicals and on the other hand, he has to make sure he is not perceived as the man who pushes the Israelis' interests and risks a civil war by doing so. The only thing that could--perhaps--help him is a real prospect for a political process after Gaza. However, that prospect is slender indeed."

BELGIUM:  "Test Of Leadership"

Chief editor Peter Vandermeersch noted in Christian-Democrat De Standaard (7/19):  "The recent events are a test for the leadership of the two key role players.  Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas must see to it that the Israeli targets are no longer fired upon and that there are no new attacks.  It is becoming increasingly difficult for him and his Palestinian Authority to control the radical elements in Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and other brigades--which try to expel Israel from Gaza and achieve a symbolic victory.  On his side, Sharon wants to avoid at any price that the withdrawal gives the impression that he is giving in to terror.  He does not want that and it would give wings to the religious extremists and their more moderate followers.  If Abbas does not succeed there will be a military invasion in the Gaza strip.  If Sharon does not succeed the religious right wing will strengthen its grip on Israel.  The extremists on both sides want the same: a war between Jews and Muslims.  Even if the evacuation is a success Gaza’s political and military future will remain very uncertain--though is will be a very prudent start.  Mahmoud Abbas is not the ideal strong Palestinian leader who can restore order at home and bridle the Jihad bombers.  Ariel Sharon is certainly not a peace dove who is willing to give the Palestinians’ interests a place in his vision on the future.  However, we will have to survive with Abbas and Sharon.  If they are defeated by the extremists in their own camps peace with be farther away than ever before.  That is why the evacuation of Gaza in the coming weeks will be a very important test.  The next logical step is the evacuation of the West Bank.”

CZECH REPUBLIC:  "Last Days Of Hope"

Adam Cerny noted in business-oriented Hospodarske noviny (7/18):  "The several-months’ long hope for peace in the Middle East has come to an end....  It is evident that Mahmoud Abbas has not tamed the Islamist radicals; and the free hand given to the Israeli military to retaliate is a reason to doubt the chances for any level-headed settlement.  This is something the region has ample experience with, although it must be admitted that Israel has opted recently for political negotiations.  This time however, it is the Palestinian political ambitions that are behind the attacks.  Radicals from Hamas with their offensive want to create the impression that their attacks will lead to the resettlement of Israelis from the Gaza strip and such a perception will come in handy in the next parliamentary elections.  Even Washington knows that peace in Iraq is directly linked to peace in Israel and Palestine.  That is why Condoleeza Rice is hurrying over.  She may be too late."  

SPAIN:  "The Three Wars Of Sharon And Abbas"

Hermann Tersch stated in left-of-center El País (7/19):  "The next few weeks will be a big test for Abbas as well as Sharon. The difference is that a defeated Abbas would leave the situation as it is, which is to say very badly.  But a rout of Sharon would plunge Israel into a crisis that only those who dream of the disappearance of this small state would want.  They should keep in mind that there are both ferocious colonists and those who are always willing to condemn Israel when it is being defended from the internal and external enemy."

"Palestinian Complaint"

Left-of-center El País argued (7/18):  "The renewed violence in Gaza and the West Bank began with liquidating the fragile and uncertain truce declared in February by Israel and the PA and less tacitly accepted by Hamas.  The situation is so serious that the US Secretary of State announced an unexpected and immediate visit to the region....  President Abbas moves in a minefield. On the one side, Sharon's government and the PA have not come to an agreement on the retreat in Gaza next month....  On the other side, Hamas, and much less the Jihad (although this only accounts for hundreds of armed men), do not want to give guarantees on what might occur in the retreat that Sharon calls 'The Unhitching' , because he intends to separate from overpopulated Gaza to be better entrenched in the West Bank.  Hamas negotiates its integration in some agency of the PA, and does not desire to hinder the Gaza Strip, but in the vicious circle of action and reaction wants to have a margin of maneuver that does not seem soft in the eyes of their own people.  Condoleezza Rice will require restraint from both parts so that the Gaza Strip withdrawal can be produced and hope keep alive." 

"Decisive Hours"

Centrist La Vanguardia declared (7/16):  "The Israeli Prime Minister must execute the retreat of his army from the Gaza, at the same time he should continue before it provokes the Hamas and Islamic Jihad....  In these difficult and decisive hours any excuse can serve to draw the land the fragile process of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

"Peace On A High Wire"

Conservative ABC noted (7/16):  "The peace process in the Middle East is on a high wire, suffocated due to the spiral of violence, and has to be put in motion again as if it were a hurricane that has destroyed all of the delicate balance of the last few months....  It is necessary that those who aspire to peace comply with their responsibilities. The Palestinian leader Mahamoud Abbas should achieve with all possible force that their (Palestinian) security services are held to action and that those that commit terrorist acts against Israel are held to justice. The Jewish government has to limit their indiscriminate military actions, because these moments are not useful and encourage the extremists.  Israel has to maintain their goal of retreating in Gaza as a fundamental element of the peace process, but it should remain clear that it is seen as only a step and not as the end of all actions that will create a Palestinian state."

TURKEY:  "Attention In Palestine And Israel"

Kenan Akin wrote in nationalist Ortadogu (7/19):  “Israel’s expected operation in Palestine has a grave potential to again put the Middle East region in flames.  International efforts should focus on controlling Hamas, but should also aim to prevent an Israeli attack in Palestine which could turn into a massacre.  Sadly enough, there seems to be no sign of an effort in this direction on the part of the international community, including the United Nations.  The Middle East cannot bear further massacres in the midst of the ongoing bloodshed in Iraq.  The Arab world and Turkey should do their best to express concern over the planned attack by Israel.  But past events proven that Israel has never paid attention to international concerns, and does not heed international pressure.  It looks like the Middle East is on the verge of a new era of bloodshed.”

MIDDLE EAST

ISRAEL:  "Get Down From The Rooftops"

Yoel Marcus held in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (7/19):  "At this stage of the game, both parties must subdue the extremist and rejectionist forces in their camps.  But there is no symmetry between the home conflicts of the two peoples.  In this country, most people support the pullout, and in a solid democracy like Israel, the will of the majority counts, no matter how much the extremists demonstrate and threaten civil war.  The army will carry out its mission even if the craziest of the crazies try to drag the country into a bloody standoff....  The difference between the Palestinians and us is that every time their organizations get into an argument, they shoot at the Jews....  The actions of the Palestinians, with their bombings and their mortar shells, only strengthen the fanatics in Israel.  Sharon's standing in his party could suffer, leading to his ouster and the onset of Intifada III.  Is that what the Palestinians want?  How many more times do these poor people intend to screw themselves?"

"Burst Of Energy"

Ben Caspit maintained in popular, pluralist Maariv (7/19):  "On Monday evening there were four, perhaps five kilometers that separated Ariel Sharon, ensconced in the Sycamore Farm, from his thousands of denouncers, who gathered in [the town of] Netivot....  In reality, these adversaries are separated by millions of light years, oceans of bad blood, abysses of alienation and vast differences in worldview.  The loyalists of the land versus the head of state.  The Land of Israel versus the State of Israel.  Sovereignty versus messianism.  Knesset and cabinet resolutions versus Torah and rabbinical commandments.  Israel has lived under the shadow of this problematic equation since its inception.  Now it is coming to the fore....  [The demonstrators'] energy has now been gathered, the passion, the fire in the eyes, from all corners of the country and assembled in the Negev, at the gates of Gush Katif, praying for Sharon's failure, wishing for his end....  It will take a great deal of responsibility, lots of experience and no small measure of wisdom to prevent the clash that is expected over the coming days from being one that will expose us all to harsh sights."

"Toward The Edge Of The Abyss"

Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (7/19):  "The call by two former chief rabbis, Mordechai Eliyahu and Avraham Shapira, for soldiers to refuse obeying the military order to prevent pullout opponents from entering the Gaza Strip is not a halakhic [rabbinical] ruling.  It is a blatant act of incitement and political sedition that is prompting many soldiers to violate the state's laws....  The Chief Rabbinate was established as an arm of the state.  It was defined as an entity that is supposed to function subject to the democratic structure adopted by the country, to represent and serve all of Israel's Jewish citizens.  Within this framework, the rabbis were supposed to tone down the inherent conflict between religion and state and, in contrast, to express a consistent desire for the synthesis between statehood and tradition....  They [and other influential rabbis] are to blame for the even more tragic enfeeblement of the foundations on which the national home stands."

"Anti-Democratic, Not Smart"

Ofer Shelach opined in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (7/19):  "A relatively small number of demonstrators required a concerted effort of hundreds of IDF, police and Border Police forces two days ago to stop their advance toward the fence separating Israel from the Gaza Strip....  Even the language that the settler leaders use is repulsive.  Those who are shocked when they are linked to those who have chosen unlawful means, are quick to say, on the other hand, 'stopping the protest will lead to violence'....  And even so, the police decision to stop the organized bussing of right wing demonstrators at their points of departure was an undemocratic act and a bad public mistake....  The pictures of detained buses only sharpened the message of the protestors."

"No Unilateral Withdrawal"

Chief economic editor Sever Plotker opined in mass-circulation pluralist Yediot Aharonot (7/18):  "Apparently, there is no such thing as unilateral withdrawal: just as Israel did not succeed in imposing the occupation on the Palestinians, it will also not succeed in imposing the end of occupation on them under conditions that are convenient for it and for it alone.  For if the withdrawal from Gaza is being served to the Palestinians on a 'unilateral' platter and stands to be carried out under any conditions, then what card can Abu Mazen's administration use to subdue Hamas?  And what incentive does Hamas have to yield, even temporarily?  When two nations are in a state of open bloody conflict, one side cannot extricate itself from the conflict unilaterally.  The concept of unilateral action, which has recently seeped into the road map, in which each side will make its moves separately without taking into account what the other side is doing--Israel will withdraw from the territories, and the Palestinians will eradicate terrorism--will not stand up to the test of Middle East reality.  We must return to the formula of negotiations with the Palestinians that Binyamin Netanyahu proposed in the past when serving as Israel's prime minister: 'If they give, they will receive; if they don't give, they won't receive.'  This formula is all the more valid today: after all, Netanyahu only gave an outspoken verbal phrasing of the principle of 'land for peace,' which has been a guiding principle of Israeli policy since 1967."

"A Campaign Against The State"

Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (7/18):  "The Yesha Council of Settlements in the West Bank and Gaza is supposed to launch its march on Gush Katif today--a march that is meant to thwart the decision to disengage from the Gaza Strip that was made by the state's authorized institutions....  According to Yesha Council members, the march is not supposed to involve clashes with soldiers and policemen or violence of any sort.  But this is a hollow and, in fact, deceptive promise.  The Yesha leaders know very well, from their experience with similar demonstrations, that violence is implicit in their plans....  The Yesha Council is not waging a campaign for Gush Katif, but a campaign against the State of Israel....  The danger to the state reflected in the march on Gush Katif is no smaller, and in practice is even greater, than the danger posed by other demonstrations that the security forces have been forced to handle."

"The Writing Was On The Wall"

Nationalist, Orthodox Hatzofe opined (7/18):  "Even if the IDF takes steps against the terrorist organizations in a land operation, this action will be very limited.  Anyway, the terrorists are already expecting it, and its effect will be marginal, since the U.S. Secretary of State is coming to the region and Sharon will be required to make a gesture in her honor, and to pull out the IDF forces."

"A Heavy Shadow"

Ben Caspit wrote in popular, pluralist Maariv (7/17):  "A heavy shadow hovers over the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.  It is the shadow of the withdrawal from Lebanon, which the IDF left overnight a little over five years ago....  Just like we entered Lebanon to seek revenge for the spectacles of the Yom Kippur War, so we will leave Gaza to fix the impression left by Lebanon....  [But] the way things look now, the chances of the disengagement process from Gaza going quietly and in coordination with the Palestinians are slim....  Everything will be ready for an immediate, forceful incursion that could result in the occupation of parts of Gaza for the duration of the disengagement process.  As noted, the Lebanese model will not recur."

"Threatening And Calming"

Shimon Shiffer wrote in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (7/17):  "The Israelis aren't impressed any more with Abu Mazen's cries of woe and his claims of weakness....  In talks that were held by Shaul Mofaz and aides to Prime Minister Sharon with Condoleezza Rice and her close aides, the Israelis demanded that intense pressure be applied on Abu Mazen, whose refusal to clash forcibly with Islamic Jihad and Hamas could severely impede the evacuation of the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria [i.e. the northernmost part of the West Bank].  Without doubt, Rice's decision to come urgently to the region...stems from the sense of urgency the Israelis and the Secretary of State's man in the field, General Ward, managed to impress upon Ms. Rice.  The Americans are invested in Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan, and this bears upon the Bush administration's prestige.  The fear of a foiled evacuation of the settlers from Gaza and northern Samaria joining the Americans' resounding failure to stabilize Iraq is the principal motivating element behind Rice's lightning-quick visit to the region."

"Fire Before The Evacuation"

Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (7/17):  "The calm period in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, since the end of the Yasser Arafat era and the beginning of Mahmoud Abbas' regime, may soon be over....  Busy with the complex problem of evacuating thousands of citizens and blocking tens of thousands of evacuation opponents, Israel hoped that pressure from the U.S., Egypt, and others would curb the Palestinian urge to exploit the evacuation to attack Israeli citizens and soldiers....  The Israeli support for restraint was replaced by a recommendation for immediate action, in view of the rigid evacuation deadline....  The Palestinians are insisting on proving to Israel that Hamas and Islamic Jihad not only drove it out of Gaza with fire, but will continue to fire at the Negev and coastal plain from the liberated territory and send suicide bombers into Israel.  This could weaken the support for the evacuation before it begins, or as it progresses.  Abbas failed in his efforts to persuade the Hamas and Jihad leaders to preserve the cease-fire....  The sudden escalation is bringing U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice flying to Jerusalem and Ramallah, for the second time in a month.  It is not clear what more Rice can say to Abbas, to clarify to him how serious his weakness is.  If he doesn't come to his senses within days, he will be risking not only his rule but the precedent-setting evacuation of the Gaza Strip settlements."

"Dahlan's Deadly Claims"

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post held (7/17):  "The fact that the rocket attack on Netiv Ha'asara last week came a short time after PA Minister Muhammad Dahlan took Israeli disengagement coordinators by surprise when he seemingly casually raised demands for that village's land cannot be written off as a mere unfortunate coincidence....  Though Dahlan later declared that the PA isn't filing claims for lands within Israel proper, he and fellow PA higher-ups may simply disagree on the definition of what constitutes 'Israel proper'....  Though government spokesmen branded this a non-starter, the very possibility that the strip north of the Erez Crossing could now conceivably become disputed is potentially explosive....  Whatever the rationale for putting new territorial grievances on the agenda, it would do well if our government didn't sweep these under the rug, politically embarrassing as additional pretexts for Palestinian belligerence may be at this specific turbulent juncture.  Letting even artificially concocted complaints take hold and fester can only make matters worse.  Even a hint of a new casus belli must be faced head on now.  Israel must explain its case articulately and unhesitatingly both at home and abroad, before a new issue is conjured and gets out of hand."

WEST BANK:  "Gaza, About To Be Invaded"

Rajab Abu Sariya insisted in independent Al-Ayyam (7/19):  “It’s hard to ignore that while Israel is getting ready for withdrawal from Gaza and the West Bank, it’s becoming worried that it might not achieve the desired political results it sought by proposing and then implementing this plan....  It seems the most convenient tactic to Sharon’s government now, is to implement the plan in one quick bloody night, before the extremist right-wing becomes able to prevent that and in a typical manner that weakens the ability of the Palestinian side to continue exerting pressure to end the occupation of the West Bank.  This typical manner was used by Sharon and Mofaz in their ongoing provocation against the Palestinian side during the lull; Israel has assassinated more than 50 Palestinians, arrested around 1500 [Palestinians], and as it prefers to withdraw from Gaza after invading it....  Sharon’s government is waiting for whoever helps it implement the disengagement plan to be consistent with its own objectives, especially that the plan has gradually become a withdrawal step that has to be coordinated.”

"Favor Calm"

Youssef al-Qazaz argued in official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (7/18):  "Those who are breaching the Cairo agreement want to drag the occupation into a military intervention against the Palestinians by using rockets that cannot liberate even a single inch of our homeland. Our people hope Hamas will be convinced there is a national majority in favor of calm and an Israeli pullout from any Palestinian land."

"No Solution To The Crisis At The Expense Of Law And Legitimacy"

Talal 'Ukal commented in independent Al-Ayyam (7/18):  “Israel is threatening to invade the Gaza Strip or wide parts of it claiming that it won’t allow the continuation of rocket attacks.  By doing that, it [Israel] wants to please the settlers and to leave no space for any Palestinian to say or feel that the Israeli withdrawal was an achievement Palestinians had to pay for with their blood.  While Israel thinks about the day that follows the withdrawal without an answer to what the next step is going to be once the unilateral disengagement implementation takes place, it wishes to generate a Palestinian situation where Palestinians are held responsible before the whole world for closing all windows to a political solution that meets with what the U.S, the Quartet and the international community are calling for; i.e, the Roadmap. Israel has never been interested in calm, it has always considered [this calm] an internal Palestinian affair, and based on that, continued its aggression to provoke Palestinian reactions such as the Netanya bombing and missile attacks in order to cancel any sign of calm.”

"Back To Targeted Assassinations"

Independent Al-Quds editorialized (7/18):  “This ugly kind of punishment [Israeli assassinations] was criticized harshly by the international community who asked Israel to stop using it....  The entire world sighed when the Israeli government announced that it would stop using it.  Its military helicopters stopped launching fatal and destructive missiles during the past five months even though its soldiers did not stop targeting activists using gunfire.  Going back to the use of the assassination policy, however, is a step backward in the peace process, and the concerned international powers must intervene and exert pressure on the [Israeli] government to put an end to it.”

EGYPT:  "Unfortunate Clashes"

Leading pro-government Al-Ahram declared (7/16):  "The unfortunate clashes between PA forces and Hamas's Al-Qassam Brigade only serve the interests of Israel and may give Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon an excuse to delay the withdrawal from Gaza scheduled for next month."

"Fight Against Sharon"

Pro-government small-circulation Al-Gomhouriya said (7/16):  "All the Palestinians--the PA and the other factions--must make it impossible for Sharon to achieve his aims, which is what fighting among themselves could do."

SAUDI ARABIA:  "A Table For All Parties"

Abha's moderate Al-Watan editorialized (7/19):  "Israel, supported by the U.S., wanted to stop the Intifada....  Israel besieged the elected president and isolated him....  Abu Mazen was accepted by Israel and the U.S. because of his refusal to militarize the Intifidah. Hamas and Jihad thought that the withdrawal was because of their operations....  Israel wanted to disarm these groups before withdrawal....  Though Abu Mazen demands to stop rocket attacks were reasonable, they may lead to a civil war....  Palestinians should consider local, regional, and international conditions.  The negotiation table is big enough for everybody."  

"Israel And Its Withdrawal From Gaza"

Abha’s moderate Al-Watan editorialized (7/18):  "The Israeli officials have repeatedly refused to involve the PA in any arrangements with respect to withdrawal from Gaza. Furthermore, they refused to link withdrawal to the roadmap plan, which the Quartet endorsed as a basis for a settlement to the Arab-Israeli struggle.  Although the Israeli plan for withdrawal from Gaza has provided some benefits to the Palestinians, it has no relation to the overall peace process in the region."

"Israeli Tricks"

Riyadh’s moderate Al-Jazira stated (7/18):  "Palestinians were fighting each other while Israel carried out selective strikes and prepared for an extensive attack on Gaza. After the Palestinians suffered great losses, they realized the danger of the Israeli tricks....  Israel intended to drag the resistance into launching rockets in order to escalate the disputes between the PA and the militants....  The PA should end the Israeli futility....  Great Palestinian effort is lost while Israel is watching....  Consolidation and unity can achieve better results for the Palestinians."

"The Historical Responsibilities Of The Factions"

Jeddah's moderate Okaz asserted (7/18):  "The increase in militant activity either between the Palestinian factions and the PA, or between the factions and Israel has a disastrous impact on the Palestinians. Abu Mazen had to strongly urge Hamas to stop attacks on Israel, who does not want peace and security, but to find an excuse to delay the withdrawal. Factions and dissidents are only serving Israel; the Palestinian people will pay a very high price if all this does not stop."

"So That We Do Not See The Worst"

Jeddah's conservative Al-Madina warned (7/18):  "Even if the motives of the factions were noble, and even if the Palestinian people have the right to defend themselves against the occupier, it is also right for the national authority to be respected and its rules and regulations to be observed by all Palestinians. Innocent people and children are the victims of fighting. It is time to solve this internal conflict. Everybody should be under one national government."

"The Decision The Nation Is Waiting For?"

Jeddah's moderate Okaz speculated (7/17):  "The conflict between the PA and the militants is an internal problem. It is worrisome to the whole nation. This situation is dangerous and destructive for the Palestinians. It could drag the country into a civil war, benefiting only Israel. A resolution is needed to solve the conflict between the factions and the authority elected by the people. We hope for progress before we lose all of Palestine and offer it as a gift to Israel."

"The Unity Of The Palestinian Row"

Jeddah's conservative Al-Madina contended (7/17):  "After accusing the PA of the Natanya attack, Israel launched missile and air strikes at the Gaza Strip....  Israel used the Natanya attack as an excuse. It is trying to drag the Palestinians into an escalation of violence in order to make political gains before withdrawing from Gaza Strip. There is no solution to the current situation other than the Palestinian unity."

"Inter-Palestinian Conflicts"

Riyadh's moderate Al-Jazira stated (7/16):  "Israel is not worth all these sacrifices....  Israel wants  to see the Palestinians slaughtering each other while it manipulates their rights and takes more lands....  The Palestinians should not fight each other as their disputes serve only Israel....  The Palestinians realize they must focus on their unity and power....  Palestinian groups not involved in Gaza battles should help to stop these fires, otherwise, the fires will burn everyone....  The PA should be respected. The conflict should be managed according to mechanisms that prevent such confrontation."

"Limited Options"

Dammam’s moderate Al-Yaum argued (7/16):  "Abu-Mazen has limited options to continue the peace process.  The most important thing is that he must develop a clear strategy after the withdrawal of the Israeli troops from Gaza to prevent security disturbance by armed Palestinian factions, which are beginning to show ambitions to fill the political and security gap... the Palestinian factions must show a high degree of discipline and not to try to drag the Palestinian Authority into clashes....  On the other hand, the PA must undertake its responsibilities and the Palestinian people must support its decisions."

JORDAN:  "A House United, Not Divided"

The elite English-language Jordan Times editorialized (7/17):  "The increasing tension between the PA and the various Palestinian factions...has reached new ominous proportions....  This alarming deterioration in the relations between the PA and hard-line Palestinian groups over the preservation of the painstakingly brokered ceasefire with Israel has become increasingly unavoidable. It is not only the status of the ceasefire regime with Israel that is at stake but also other major policy decisions....  Many radical Palestinian factions act as if they are the true representatives of the Palestinian people and contend that they have veto power over any major political decisions....  These groups also have their own political agendas that they are trying to force on the PA. As long as this situation continues in the Palestinian territories it is inevitable that a clash will occur....  Israel is not helping matters by continuing its policy of target killings of members of these factions. Against this backdrop, whenever the PA attempts to foil any missile attack on Israeli targets, it becomes a suspect of siding with the 'enemy'....  Palestinian factions cannot continue to operate and deploy their forces in defiance of the established political order. A government within a government is a prescription for a clash of words that often leads to a clash of forces....  These groups must therefore yield to the PA and accept its legitimacy....  There is no way that the Palestinians can bargain with Israel in a fruitful manner as long as they continue to have a divided house. The PA is right when it takes measures to foil any attempt by the various Palestinian factions to take the law into their own hands. This chaos must end before the damage to the Palestinian cause becomes irreversible."

"Mediation"

Center-left influential Al-Dustour maintained (7/16):  "Palestinian blood must not be shed. The PA and Hamas must create an environment conducive to mediation. This is necessary if the biggest danger--that of a bloody confrontation between them--is to be averted."

QATAR:  "Palestinian Clashes Are Acts Of Madness"

The semi-official English-language Gulf Times asserted (7/16):  "Nothing is more shocking for Palestinians than to see their own people turn their guns on each other. Israeli attacks...are accepted as a fact of life but internal fighting is not.  It is true that there have been times when Palestinians have fought each other in the past....  Despite that, it is still madness for the PA to fight with Hamas or Islamic Jihad at a time when the Israelis are targeting Palestinians from all parties. On Wednesday morning, Israel responded to a suicide bombing by killing two PA policemen as well as members of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aqsa Brigades.  Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is in a difficult position as he is under intense pressure to crack down on militants and risks seeing his whole political strategy crumble....  He appears to have decided that the PA must assert its authority at all costs but the price is very high.  Internal clashes are particularly regrettable at a time when Israel is about to leave Gaza and the Palestinian side has many practical issues to address. Among the unresolved issues...are security in the post-occupation era, funding of the clean-up that will be necessary after Israel finishes demolishing the settlements, maintaining and improving employment levels, and making Gaza’s economy more self-sufficient.  There is growing concern that the Israelis are trying to ignite internal Palestinian conflict by pulling out of the strip without allowing the simplest arrangements for managing the transfer of physical assets and political authority to the Palestinian leadership. Instead, they are leaving a vacuum....  Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aqsa Brigades all want to claim the credit for liberating Gaza and there is little doubt that they also want to wield the political authority of the victor.  That is a challenge Abbas cannot allow to pass....  We must hope that the militants quickly recognise the president’s authority and avoid any further unnecessary loss of Palestinian lives."

"Danger To Unity"

Semi-independent Al-Raya held (7/16):  "The red line of Palestinian blood....  The unfortunate tensions that flared up among the Palestinians are a big danger to their unity. They stepped over the line with the armed confrontation between Palestinian Authority forces and Hamas....  Israel is the sole beneficiary of the clashes in Gaza between Palestinian Authority forces and Hamas."

SYRIA:  "Orders For Killing"

Izz-al-Din al-Darwish concluded in government-owned Tishreen (7/19):  "Israeli Prime Minister Sharon gave his orders to his army to kill Palestinians and commit war crimes in Gaza and the West Bank without restrictions....  The Israeli onslaught against Palestinians is likely to escalate despite the plan to withdraw from Gaza....  All indications are that Sharon talks much about the withdrawal from Gaza in order to facilitate the implementation of his expansionist settlement plans....  The U.S...is not willing to play its role to implement the UN resolutions and bring about a just and comprehensive peace in the region. Palestinians must maintain their national unity as Sharon declares an open and endless war against them."

"Palestinian Unity Needed"

The lead editorial in the government-owned, English-language Syria Times read (7/19):  "The Israelis have always used all available means including military attacks, aggression, incursion, occupation, state terror, assassinations, expulsions, political and economic blockades and wars of extermination to bring the Palestinian people to their knees. They have also used all forms of intimidation and blackmail alongside perpetrating genocides and pogroms, but all their attempts have been in vain. Furthermore, these practices have complicated matters for the Zionist strategists and policy-makers and got them involved in a deep dilemma regarding their long-term strategy and plans on establishing a state from the Nile to the Euphrates.  The main factor that has played a major role in repelling the Israeli strategic policies and practices has been Palestinian national unity....  Vicious Israeli strategies...aim at liquidating the Palestinian people, morally and materially....  Israeli governments have been determined to sow the seeds of dissent and disunity among the Palestinian groups. They have exerted all efforts to bring about an inter-Palestinian conflict which leads to the complete destruction of the Palestinian cause. But, the flexibility, national motives and high morale of the different Palestinian groups have defeated the Israeli attempts and foiled all hostile conspiracies....  The Israeli government led by assassin Ariel Sharon is hell bent on planning another extermination against patriotic Palestinian forces....  Palestinian people and groups believed and still believe in national unity as the strongest weapon to resist Israeli aggression....  As the Israelis double their efforts to achieve their vicious goals, they aim aim to push the Palestinian groups to one side, and the PA to the other, into an inter-Palestinian conflict from which only Israel will stand to benefit.  So, the Palestinian people have no other choice but to unite and stand as one man."

"Israeli Blood-Baths Do Not Make Peace"

Muhammad Ali Buza said in government-owned Al-Thawra (7/18):  "Israel's reoccupation of Tulkarm in the West Bank, closure of the Palestinian territories, military campaigns against resistance leaders, hysterical arrests, and intensification of the settlement activities constitute a declaration of war on the Palestinian people....  The Israeli measures brought the situation back to point zero and torpedoed the calm and all the agreements and understandings, which, anyway, were not respected by Israel or the American sponsor....  Israel's involvement in atrocities, crimes, and organized slaughter proves once again that it is impossible to achieve peace because there is no room for peace in the Israeli leaders' thinking and ideology. The recent developments also showed the futility of wagers on the U.S. as an acceptable mediator in the political process or a player of a fair and effective role. The world community must rush to contain the volatile situation and to force Israel to stop the massacre and comply with the UN resolutions."

"Rice's Visit"

Maha Sultan concluded in government-owned Tishreen (7/18):  "Secretary Rice will visit the region probably because the US Administration senses a serious threat to Israel's plan to withdraw from Gaza....  Rice will continue to focus on the Gaza withdrawal plan and will probably repeat threats to the Palestinians and the neighbors while deliberately ignoring the Israeli violations of the ceasefire....  So nothing is expected from Rice's visit."

UAE:  "Do Not Play Into The Enemy’s Hands"

The English-language expatriate-oriented Gulf News declared (7/18):  "Armed attacks on Israeli colonies will not help further the cause of Palestinians.  Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has the right to get upset. He is also right when he says that the government will not allow armed movements to attack the Israeli colonies.  The decision to resort to armed actions against the occupation should only be taken by the elected Palestinian National Authority (PNA).  The unjustified launching of home-made rockets against the colonies obviously plays into the hands of the extremist government of Ariel Sharon and the colonists who are trying to stop the scheduled withdrawal from Gaza.  President Abbas deserves all the support in his efforts to stop "anyone from gambling with the national cause".  The bottom line is there is only one authority; the one led by Abbas. It is either that or chaos. Hamas and Islamic Jihad are absolutely wrong if they think they can get into a struggle against the PNA and win.  Everybody will lose. At the same time, the PNA just cannot afford to sit and watch as the two movements jeopardise the Palestinian dream of independence.  As Israel moves to close on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and continues its brutal raids, the last thing the Palestinians need is internal strife."

"Perilous Peace"

The English-language expatriate-oriented Khaleej Times opined (7/18):  "The swift developments of the past couple of days go to demonstrate the fragile nature of the Middle East peace process. The six month-long truce between the Palestinians and Israelis has been shattered by the Israeli air strikes on Gaza and West Bank that killed six Palestinians on Friday.  The Israeli attacks continued on Saturday and Sunday eliminating a Hamas commander in Gaza. The Israelis have turned the heat on Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas urging him to rein in militants even as they warn of a major ground offensive in Gaza.  This escalation in Palestinian-Israeli conflict, coming as it does days ahead of the Gaza withdrawal, not only threatens the so-called disengagement plan but it could also jeopardise the whole peace process. This newspaper has repeatedly argued that the Palestinians mustn’t provide Israel and Sharon with an excuse to postpone the Gaza withdrawal.  The Israelis wouldn’t easily give up Gaza and will use every possible excuse to hold on to the Palestinian land.  And this is what appears to be happening now. On the pretext of a suicide attack, Israel is now looking to unleash a massive campaign against the Palestinians. Such a move will undoubtedly invite retaliatory attacks by Palestinian armed groups and the Palestinians and Israelis will end up where they had started. And who cares if the roadmap is torn to pieces in the process. Can the Palestinians and Israelis prove the naysayers wrong by rescuing peace?

"Do Not Stay Quiet"

Pan-Arab Sharjah-based Al-Khaleej advised (7/16):  "We must not remain silent over what is happening in the occupied Palestinian territories between the Palestinian Authority and some factions, as it represents the self-destruction of the Palestinian cause."

WESTERN HEMISPHERE

BRAZIL:  "Abbas’ Dilemma"

An editorial in liberal Folha de S. Paulo read (7/19):  "It is possible that the cooperation between the PA and Hamas has reached its maximum....  Abbas faces the dilemma [Yasser] Arafat faced.  If he fights the terrorists head on, like Israel wants, he may lose popular support. On the other hand, if he gives in, he will not get any more concessions. He is at risk of, like his predecessor, turning into a political cadaver.”

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