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Foreign Media Reaction

August 16, 2005

MIDDLE EAST:  'GOOD-BYE TO GAZA'

KEY FINDINGS

**  Some media hail Sharon's "courage" while others deride his "cheap" gesture.

**  "A great deal" will "now depend" on political, social, and economic improvements in Gaza.

**  Israeli papers debate settler opposition and "the real contents" of Zionism.

**  Arab media:  a "great victory" or an Israeli plan to "overcome" Palestinian endeavors?

MAJOR THEMES

Sharon's 'convictions'--  Italy's leading Corriere della Sera called Ariel Sharon a "man from the right who does things from the left."  Another Euro writer concurred, claiming he "risked a lot," to implement convictions "shared by the majority" of Israelis.  Other papers disagreed, terming the withdrawal a "cheap but spectacular gesture" and a "selfish one-sided proposal."  Detractors claimed it gives Sharon the "bargaining power he needs" by "misleading" international opinion so that he may continue building the West Bank barrier.  This is not a "cunning plan," countered Britain's conservative Times, but a "genuine concession." 

'Challenges lie ahead'-- Many global outlets focused on the future, suggesting "a major injection of international aid," and "real efforts" to return to the road map.  Denmark's center-left Politiken stated that "economic improvements are the key" to change in Gaza.  More important, held another writer, the Palestinians need to see a future state on the "political horizon."  One Arab editorialist demanded the Peace Quartet intervene now to "persuade" Israel to leave "the rest of Palestinian territory."  Several outlets argued that Israelis and Palestinians must confront "new responsibilities"; Palestinians must not "squander control," and Israelis must "show forbearance."  The center-left Irish Times added that "a great deal" will depend on whether the withdrawal "goes peacefully" or is proclaimed as a "victory for militant Palestinian movements."  

'Boundaries of protest'--  Israeli writers reflected the "crack" between moderates and hard-liners seen by some as "dividing Israeli society."  Nationalist Hatzofe faulted Sharon for ignoring settlers’ voices of protest, and for using the army to "impose his view" instead.  Left-leaning Ha'aretz declared the settlers "have already exhausted their right to protest."  Pluralist Yediot Aharonot agreed, denouncing those who ask soldiers to disobey eviction orders, because "Zionist doctrine utterly rejects disobedience" to the state.  Yet popular Maariv asserted that "gloomy prophecies" of "violent disintegration" have "proven false."

An 'extraordinary day'--  Arab media reaction was mixed, though most praised "effective strikes" from Palestinian "resistance" for the "liberation" of Gaza.  However, one writer advised fighters not to "draw Israeli fire" over a "civilian population" just to "make a political point."  Moderate papers welcomed the "window of opportunity" if not the "door"; concerned that Israel is "strengthening" its hold in the West Bank, most agreed that withdrawal "remains incomplete."  Saudi writers judged that Palestinians must pass the "Gaza test" to "prove their credibility" and establish a "viable state."  The West Bank's independent Al-Ayyam disagreed, arguing that the withdrawal is a "purely Israeli enterprise" that will lead to a "dirtier" and "more aggressive" war.   

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

EDITOR:  Erin Carroll

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 104 reports from 34 countries over 28 July - 16 August, 2005.  Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.

EUROPE

BRITAIN:  "Keeping An Eye On The Opportunity Of Gaza"

An editorial in the independent Financial Times read (8/15):  "The challenge for the international community, and principally for the US, is to convert this step forward in decolonization into a process pointing towards peace.  There are precious few signs that is happening or likely to happen....  The U.S. and its European allies must therefore insist to Israel that its security requires a Palestinian state encompassing the West Bank and east Jerusalem.  Any attempt to squeeze the Palestinians into Gaza and disconnected cantons is a recipe for another generation of bitter struggle and regional destabilization the world cannot afford."

"Israel's Gaza Withdrawal Must Be Only A First Step"

The center-left Independent opined (8/15):  "But even the best of outcomes, a peaceful transition, can be only a beginning.  From now on, the two leaders who have shepherded this withdrawal face new responsibilities....  The Palestinians must show that they will not squander control of the territory they have rightfully regained....  The Israelis, for their part, must show forbearance.  While entitled to defend their country's security, they should not leap to intervene at the first hint of unrest in Gaza."

"Gaza Gambit"

The conservative Times maintained (8/15):  "The beneficiaries of Mr. Sharon's efforts will be ordinary Palestinians....  They should witness a major injection of international aid.  And a precedent will have been established of Israel voluntarily leaving territory that it has held since the 1967 war and which many Israelis regard as part of a Greater Israel promised to them since biblical times.  This is not a 'cunning plan' but a genuine concession on a considerable scale....  If it fails, it will not be the Prime Minister who is to blame."

"Good-bye To Gaza"

An editorial in the independent weekly Economist read (8/13):  "Beyond economics, the Palestinians need a 'political horizon'--a believable promise that George Bush's oft-enunciated 'vision' of a viable Palestinian state in the West Bank as well as Gaza is achievable without recourse to the gun.  That state cannot come instantly:  the two sides are farther apart today than they were when Bill Clinton's peacemaking efforts collapsed in 2000, and trust each other less.  But with America pushing, it should at least be possible to start a process, building first on self-government for Gaza and, in the West Bank, a settlement freeze followed by further withdrawals."

FRANCE:  "Courage"

Francois Ernenwein contended in Catholic La Croix (8/12):  "The pullout from Gaza collides with the mythical tale of Greater Israel.  For some settlers, Sharon's pragmatic choice is also a tragic loss....  We must not turn our backs on their feelings of sadness....  Sharon's courage lies in the risk he has taken for a chance to a compromise.  It is now the Palestinians’ turn to show courage.  For them, Gaza looks very much like a poisoned gift.  The Israeli pullout implies assuming certain responsibilities for the PA.  Tension between pragmatism and fundamentalism is not a monopoly of Israel.  It is also at the heart of the Palestinian problem, which has been weakening Abbas’s authority.  And this is where Sharon has been at his craftiest:  the courage he has imposed on himself is the same courage he is now demanding from the settlers but will also demand tomorrow from his Palestinian counterpart."

"U.S.- Israel:  A Very Special Relationship"

Andre Kaspi noted in right-of-center Le Figaro (8/12):  "President Bush has since the start of his second term taken on more responsibility in the Middle East conflict....  The coming days will be decisive for the Middle East and will reinforce even more the U.S. role in that region.  The U.S. will help the Palestinians build a democratic state but will ask more of them....  The U.S. will have its say on the security fence and on the status of Jerusalem....  In short, it will not be Israel that will dictate its vision of peace to the U.S. Israel is a faithful ally of the U.S., not always amenable, not always docile, but it is not a vassal.  It prefers to handle its own security.  But it cannot survive without America's material, political and ideological aid.  The U.S. for its part wants to safeguard its friendships and interests in the Arab-Muslim world.  Hence the very special relationship between the U.S. and Israel, which does not preclude divergences and temporary tension.  The relationship is and will remain asymmetrical.  It possesses nevertheless an undeniable priceless quality:  it is long-lasting."

GERMANY:  "The Withdrawal"

Wolfgang Günter Lerch argued in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (8/13):  "The withdrawal can be interpreted not only as an important step on the path to a possible settlement of the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis, but it will also raise new questions.  Will the Palestinians succeed in appropriately administering the area that is bursting with social problems and will they be able to avoid conflicts between the radical Islamic Hamas and the autonomous agency?  As much as the Americans and the international community will exert pressure to take advantage of the favorable situation, i.e. the withdrawal from Gaza, as much will the opponents of a peace settlement reject further concessions.  But both sides approved the road map, whose goal is the creation of a Palestinian state."

"A Historic Day"

Center-right General-Anzeiger of Bonn judged (8/15):  "As of today, the River Jordan will not flow backward, but August 15, 2005 must be considered a historic day.  It is still too early to predict that Ariel Sharon will enter the history books as the man who was able to create peace.  But we can already see now that Sharon turned out to be a great strategist who is even able to maneuver out of the most difficult problems and even achieve results.  The premier accepted enormous political and personal risks by doing something his predecessors were afraid of doing: to evacuate settlements without having gotten something in return from the Palestinians.  Whatever we may think of the old warhorse Sharon, the results have confirmed his strategy."

"Ariel Sharon"

Center-right Westfälischer Anzeiger of Hamm (8/13) opined:  "Ariel Sharon did something that is not characteristic of politicians:  In order to achieve something he considered right, he is now risking the support of his party, the existence of his government, even his job.  Nevertheless, Sharon did not turn to an angel of peace overnight.  He knows that the world is now watching the Gaza withdrawal.  He is taking advantage of this favorable situation to continue to build the border fence between Israeli and Palestinian territory.  In the shadow of the events in Gaza, the wall around the Arab part of Jerusalem will soon be closed."

"Identity"

Wolfgang Günter Lerch argued in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (8/12):  "All indications are that a certain degree of stagnation will prevail in the 'peace process' once Israel has completely withdrawn from Gaza.  Sharon said the large settling blocks on the West Bank would be maintained.  This is not new.  The former 'right-winger' of Israel's policy has turned into an object of hatred for the majority of settlers and radical settlers wish his death in public prayers.  This resembles the preachers of hatred on the Muslim side.  For the first time in many years, the withdrawal from Gaza touches the question of Israel's identity and the real contents of Zionism.  Its founders were secularly-oriented Jews.  But since its founding, Israel has become even 'more Jewish,' even though the religious orthodox are still a minority.  The settlers' movement considers Zionism a messianic-religious utopia of promise...while founder Herzl wanted a state in which Jews could live without discrimination and persecution.  The conflict is deeply rooted and has not been resolved."

"Sharon's Courage"

Inge Günther said in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (8/12):  "Compliments to Ariel Sharon.  He pushed through his withdrawal plan without any ifs ands, or buts....  He risked a lot to implement his convictions, which are still shared by the majority of Israelis:  his previously undisputed power position and, as a consequence, the possible loss of his job.  If there are new elections, Likud will hardly crown him as a front-runner.  In this respect, we take our hats off....  We must also praise Palestinian President Abbas, who has done his share to make possible a smooth withdrawal without any large-scale disruptive maneuvers of militant Palestinians.  Even though he is politically weak, Abbas knows what is important: to prove to the world from Gaza City that the Palestinians are able to govern themselves.  So there is a chance that the upcoming dramatic days in August will take a peaceful course.  But whether the Gaza withdrawal will also mean a turn to the better, depends on what will happen next.  Unfortunately, the forecast is less positive.  With a look at his arch-rival Benjamin Netanyahu, Sharon is likely to regain a right-wing profile to take the wind out of the sails of the camp of nationalists....  But real détente will be created only if peace talks begin soon.  But they are not (yet) in sight."

"Bet On The Failure"

Business-oriented Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg judged (8/8):  "With his dramatically orchestrated resignation, Benjamin Netanyahu may cause a minor jolt at Tel Aviv's stick exchange but he will certainly not prevent the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, since a majority of Israelis is in favor of the pullout because it offers for the first time in years a chance for peace with the Palestinians.  Ex-general Sharon does not leave a doubt that he will embark on this path and use all means possible against any resistance.  But Netanyahu is only superficially interested in the withdrawal.  He knows that he is unable to prevent it.  But he speculates that he can inherit Sharon if Sharon is unable to create peace with the removal of the settlements.  But because there are other, even more radical, forces in Likud that are about to take over the party leadership, Netanyahu stepped down as minister to get a majority in the party and to take over the leadership some day in the future.  In the majority of democracies, such domestic maneuvering are entertaining acts, in this case, however, the issue is peace in the Middle East.  That is why we can only hope that Netanyahu's calculations never come true."

"Ready For An Election Campaign"

Clemens Wergin stated in centrist der tagesspiegel (8/8):  "On the day when the Israeli cabinet decided to remove the first settlements in Gaza, Benjamin Netanyahu handed in his resignation.  This did not come as a surprise, since he has been an opponent to the withdrawal right from the onset....  With his move he is now positioning himself as a coming man of the Likud Party's right-wing.  If, after the withdrawal, new elections could take place in Israel, he could run against Sharon and would be backed by a clearly structured faction of settlers....  Netanyahu will remain an important opponent to Sharon, but he will be unable to jeopardize the withdrawal from Gaza....  It is now up to the Palestinian leadership to refute Netanyahu's arguments against the withdrawal and to pacify the Gaza Strip.  If it fails to do so, the peace process will hardly make progress, irrespective of whether Israel's next premier is called Sharon, Netanyahu or has a different name."

ITALY:  "The Courage Of Sharon"

Piero Ostellino argued in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (8/10):  “The great intuition and courage of Ariel Sharon are being nearly broken, in theory and in practice, a taboo for his fellow citizens: the untouchable nature of the Jewish settlers in the so-called occupied territory after the 1967 war.  The intuition resides knowing that no Israeli political leader would ever untangle the contentious Israeli-Palestine knot, counting solely on settlers’ consensus and the unanimity of the Israeli population....  The courage is consistent, having launched the process of their withdrawal...with an almost personal, voluntary decision....  Also, there is a third element that, to intuition and courage, adds a note of political morality: the unilateral character of decision....  Sharon’s unilateral decision opens a process of strategic, political, and even moral revision between Arafat’s successors and, more in general, to the inside of the entire working class, which without it, there is no future for the Palestine State....  Ariel Sharon is a man from the right that does things from the left.  Maybe this is the reason the West does not give him the political appreciation that he merits.  But he has also earned the respect and admiration of adversaries in his homeland.  The hope is that, with him, also for us, a more clear and correct judgment will be attained, with intellectual honesty, finally.” 

"Netanyahu Inflames Gaza"

Umberto De Giovannangeli noted in pro-democratic Left Party (DS) daily L’Unità (8/8):  “The 'political bomb’ explodes at the opening of the government meeting.  Benjamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu, who is Ariel Sharon’s most powerful and determined rival...set if off by resigning as finance minister.  The moment chosen for the clamorous gesture of breakage, the reasons offered, the reactions which were triggered:  everything in the former premier's gesture was measured to cause an earthquake in the Israeli political picture and to launch a challenge against the power of the old Arik....  The division in the Likud has begun, the day of reckoning for the Israeli right is suffering a brusque acceleration, the prospect of early elections is becoming more tangible....  A few hours after the split, Netanyahu appeared before the journalists.  Grim faced, ‘Bibi’ spoke about the reason for his gesture.  More than as a former minister, he seemed to speak as prime minister in pectore.  He didn't defend himself--he attacked.  He didn't justify himself--he accused.  And he put Ariel Sharon on the bench of the accused.  The earthquake has begun.”

RUSSIA:  "Netanyahu Resigns"

Business-oriented Kommersant contended (8/9): “Commentators describe the resignation of Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Ariel Sharon’s chief rival, last Sunday as a ‘political earthquake.’  Now that he has left the government, Mr. Netanyahu must feel free to lead opposition to Mr. Sharon and start fighting openly for the post of Prime Minister.  The Finance Minister's resignation will hardly have any bearing on the evacuation of settlements from Gaza, while starting a countdown on early elections in Israel.  The vote is a matter of time, taking place either at the beginning of next year or at its end.”

AUSTRIA:  "Another Chance For 'Bibi'"

ORF Middle East correspondent Ben Segenreich commented in independent Der Standard (8/9):  "It is not so much the fact of Benjamin Netanyahu's resignation that is sensational, but its timing.  Again and again, he had tried to slow down the Gaza withdrawal--especially through his demand for a popular vote on the issue--and his resignation as Minister of Finance has been imminent for months.  That Netanyahu waited so long to leave the government ranks is an indication that he did not really want to stop the Gaza withdrawal but is preparing his comeback as head of government....  With his spectacular resignation, Netanyahu can distinguish himself as leader of the powerful right wing of the Likud Party which regards Sharon as 'traitor.'  If the withdrawal proceeds in an orderly fashion, and everything remains quiet afterwards, Sharon will be able to ward off his younger rival once again.  New terror waves, however, would prove 'Bibi' right and gain him, after his humiliating defeat in 1999, a second chance as Likud boss."

BELGIUM:  "Not Enough"

Mia Doornaert commented in independent Christian-Democrat De Standaard (8/16):  "The evacuation of Gaza is not a key element because it is not part of a broad peace agreement with the Palestinians that can lead to a solution with two states.  The Palestinians fear that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is trying to gain time because everyone is concentrating on the evacuation of the settlements in Gaza while faits accomplis are created on the West Bank.  That fear is understandable.  People who visit the West Bank can see that the settlements are expanding, that more roads are constructed between those settlements and that the Palestinians have no access.  It is hard to believe that those settlements are built with the intention to evacuate them in the near future....  The evacuation of Gaza is an important step because, for the first time, the Israeli colonization process is reversed.  However, much more needs to be done to make it the first step towards stable peace in the Middle East."

CZECH REPUBLIC:  "Hamas Must End With Its Double-Faced Policy"

Michal Mocek comments in the leading, centrist daily MF Dnes (8/15):  "Today, they are giving out telephone numbers [of their charity organizations as well as their leaders], and tomorrow they can be preparing another suicide attack.  The Palestinian organization Hamas is not very fastidious in pushing through its ideas.  This double-faced policy has been accompanying the organization throughout its sixteen years of existence....  It would be good if only one side of Hamas prevailed in the end.  If possible, the better one.  Palestinians need and will need someone who can provide social services which in the hands of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) is often a hotbed of corruption.  Legal [and desired] opposition to the PLO could be set up....  However a change of Hamas, if it ever materializes, will be far from easy.  Both Israel, and the West, should nevertheless think how to make Hamas transform itself....  If the fate of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who live on the 67 square kilometers does not improve soon, they will turn to Hamas, however bloody the organization's face will be.  Therefore it is so important to strive for the transformation  of Hamas."

"Israeli Countdown"

Adam Cerny observed in business-oriented Hospodarske noviny (8/9): " By his decision to leave the Israeli cabinet Benjamin Netanyahu started a battle over the control of the ruling Likud Party.  His argument that the withdrawal of Israeli settlements from the Gaza Strip threatens Israeli security…resonates throughout the country....  The successful finance minister did not however assault only Prime Minister Sharon.  Their duel over the leadership of the right-wing Likud prior to the elections next year might even grow into a reshaping of the Israeli political scene.  If Netanyahu doesn't succeed...he could try to get together a more nationalistic and religious party which would attract the majority of opponents of the accepted 'peace road map'....  Expectations of the elections, while not preventing the planned evacuations this month, will raise a question mark over the next phases of the peace negotiations.  At the same time, according to the domino principle questions will grow about the entire further development of Israeli-Palestinian relations."

DENMARK:  "U.S. Is The Only Country That Can Help Lift Gaza Out Of Depression"

Center-left Politiken stated (8/15):  "Economic improvements are the key if any changes are to occur in Gaza.  This will demand the support of the U.S.  The U.S. is the only country in the world that can lift this burden.  President Bush simply must get involved if he means what he says about peace and stability."

"Gaza Withdrawal Is A Huge Challenge For Israel"

Center-right Berlingske Tidende's senior foreign correspondent, Ole Damkjær, judged (8/15):  "Israel's various governments are used to adversity and the Israeli army is used to difficult operations.  But the withdrawal from Gaza, which has been occupied since 1967 is serious challenge even if the withdrawal takes place without the loss of life."

"Gaza Withdrawal Will Shape Future Israeli Domestic Policies"

Micheal Ehreneich observed in centrist Kristeligt-Dagblad (8/12):  "In the coming weekend, Israel will do the only thing that is right by moving out of Gaza.  It is unlikely that this will happen peacefully.  The aftermath of the action is likely to shape Israeli domestic politics in the years ahead." 

HUNGARY:  "Exodus From Gaza"

Gergely Bartfai said in liberal-leaning Magyar Hirlap (8/15):  “Gaza is really untenable from an Israeli point of view.  Ariel Sharon recognized this.  He is acting with the same courage as Prime Minister as he did when he was Commander in Chief.  His strategic goal remains the same:  to guarantee the security of Israel....  It would be overly optimistic to suppose that the Palestinian State will soon become a prospering democracy.  On the eve of the exodus, it is obvious that the Israeli disengagement (withdrawal) from Gaza is not a cure for all the problems of the Middle East.  For those Israelis or Arabs who rule out in advance bargaining with the enemy, the Israel withdrawal is a pain in the neck but at the same time it presents a vague chance to renew negotiations and ultimately make compromises that will be difficult for both sides.  Of course after five (fifty) years of bloodshed, something is better than nothing.”

"The Stake Of The Sabotage"

Endre Aczel stated in center-left Nepszabadsag (8/10):  “In the right-wing of Israel, Sharon felt it best that if he wants, and has to, make a cheap but spectacular gesture for the benefit of the Palestinians (and Bush) then he can give up Gaza--an area twenty times smaller than the West Bank and which has thirty times less Jewish settlers than the West Bank--without any violation of Israeli interests....  Actually the best illustration of Sharon’s political braveness is that he went into a conflict with his 'own' and that he did this...with rigidity, to be more precise....  Namely, the belief that the Jews have the right to settle on any Palestinian land has caused in the meantime the death of hundred of thousands if not millions....  From this point of view, an [Israeli] publicist, who thinks that those who hope to sabotage the withdrawal from Gaza actually attack Israel, is right.”

IRELAND:  "Withdrawal From Gaza"

The center-left Irish Times editorialized (8/9):  “Some 8,000 Israeli settlers are set to begin withdrawing from the Gaza Strip next Monday....  Sharon persevered with his plan in the teeth of opposition from within his Likud party--evidenced most recently by the resignation on Sunday of finance minister Benjamin Netanyahu--and from extreme settler groups.  It is difficult to fathom his motivations; they seem to have been rooted in a realistic assessment of the unsustainability of holding on to Gaza, the need to show Washington he was capable of taking potentially constructive initiatives, and a shrewd political reading of Israeli public opinion, which still favors reaching a two-state settlement with the Palestinians.  The Bush administration supported his rejection of talks with Yasser Arafat and gave him undertakings about West Bank settlements even as it held out the prospect of reviving peace talks.  Mr. Sharon strengthened his political position by agreeing a coalition with the Israeli Labor Party and had to firm up his commitment to settlement talks as a result.  All of this raises expectations that the Gaza withdrawal can be the prelude to real efforts to get the road map schedule back on track. Involving the U.S., the EU, the UN, and Russia, it lays down phases, timelines, benchmarks and target dates for progress in political, institutional, security, economic and humanitarian fields.  Even though circumstances have changed over the last two years, it should be possible to revive this process.  Certainly the international will to do so remains in place.  A great deal will now depend on whether the withdrawal goes peacefully or is claimed as a victory for militant Palestinian movements.  The Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas can demonstrate good will by exerting his influence against such extremism.  But he badly needs evidence of an Israeli willingness to deal constructively in return if he is to assert his authority.  Such a potentially constructive dynamic is welcome indeed after such a long impasse.”

NORWAY:  “The War For Gaza”

Independent newspaper VG (8/16) commented:  "Initially, the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza strip may develop into a confrontation between extreme nationalists, among them Israeli settlers, and Israeli soldiers and police.  But the result is a given:  Israeli authorities have mobilized more than 50,000 soldiers and police and are prepared to use force to remove all of the close to 9,000 settlers in 21 settlements.  There is a great deal more uncertainty surrounding the task awaiting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his self-governing administration.…  If the President is unable to create reasonably safe and stable conditions, he and his coworkers are facing an uncertain future.  The same can safely be said about the whole peace process in the Middle East.…  As Israel now leaves the Gaza strip, it is in accordance with the so-called Roadmap for Peace, which the quartet--the U.S., Russia, the EU and the UN--are behind.  If it ends up going the way many fear--that the Gaza strip will be taken over by extremist, hostile elements--this may very well be the last Israeli withdrawal from occupied Palestinian territory in a very long time.  It will force a peaceful solution and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state even further off into an insecure future.”

POLAND:  "Ariel Sharon’s Plan Is Launching"

Piotr Zychowicz wrote in centrist Rzeczpospolita (8/12):  “The Israeli security forces will most likely deal with ease with passive resistance [from Israeli settlers.] They demonstrated their capacities when stifling protests that have persisted in the Gaza Strip for months.  The situation will become much more complicated if, as the worst-case scenario has it, some settlers decide to stand up in defense of their homes.  Many of them have not surrendered their weapons yet.  They can also expect to get external support....  Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip will be its first territorial concession in the history of conflict with the Palestinians. The Israelis seized this territory from Egypt in the 1967 war....  The person responsible for the occupation of this land was General Ariel Sharon.  As a housing minister, in the early 1990’s he carried out the biggest ever operation of development of Jewish settlements.  He was deemed a patron of the settlers.  Today...they feel strongly disappointed.”

"Withdrawal To Normalcy"

Dawid Warszawski wrote in liberal Gazeta Wyborcza (8/10):  “After almost ninety years, the Jewish state finally begins to shape its borders not because they were bestowed by a decree from God or the League of Nations, but to reflect the demographic and political status quo. Despite those protesting the withdrawal, it means victory--not defeat--for Zionism.  Israel came into existence not by a decision of the League or the UN, but because the Jewish nation--as any other nation--wished to have its own normal state. This ‘normalcy’ has been unattainable as long as Israel's neighbors opposed its existence....  Terror is a problem for both sides [Israelis and Palestinians].  It can be stopped only if this conflict is resolved.  Therefore, [Israel's] withdrawal from Gaza is a withdrawal to normalcy.”

ROMANIA:  "Withdrawal From Gaza"

Magdalena Boiangiu opined in intellectual weekly Dilema Veche (8/12):  “For both parties involved in the alleged peace process, the legitimacy of authority is questioned.  The Hamas organization, considered a terrorist organization, contests the ability of the PA, the elected legitimate organ, to carry out the political leadership and to regulate the economy....  In Israel, there's a powerful center (made up of both left and right-wingers) that refuses to be hostage to extremists, realizing that, by the extension of the occupation regime, the country loses its demographic majority and its democratic character.  And we have to acknowledge the fact that, even though military pamphlets and revolutionary leaders believe that the muses of the political center are indecision and cowardice, there are situations when, in order to adhere to centrist ideals, one needs heroism.”

SPAIN:  "Evacuation In Gaza"

Business-oriented Gaceta de los Negocios concluded (8/12):  "To a certain extent the State of Israel lives as a hostage to its radicals, especially the colonists....  The gravity of the crisis is because many assume that all concessions are possible, and thus any frustration of expectations will reopen conflict....  For his oldest sectors of support, Sharon is a traitor.  His actions, in this matter, have required great personal valor while not ignoring the risks that he is running."

SWEDEN:  "The Road From Gaza Into The Future"

Independent Stockholm-based Dagens Nyheter editorialized (8/16):  "Gaza might be an embryo of a Palestinian state side-by-side with Israel.  However, there is a risk that it instead becomes a violent and shielded-off enclave....  Sharon’s aim probably is not peace based on mutual respect but rather separation, which facilitates military control.  On the Palestinian side there is a weak President--Mahmoud Abbas--and solid support for militant fundamentalists.  Everyone can see what is missing:  pragmatism, empathy, and an American engagement....  To automatically demand a total Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, in accordance with UN resolutions of the 1960s, is unrealistic after all that has happened.  Now the small-step policy is applicable....  Like Europe did after the World Wars, the Mideast must reach the point where it lays the past to rest and begins looking to the future...but first people must stop shooting at each other.”

TURKEY:  "First Gaza, And Then?"

Sami Kohen observed in mass-appeal Milliyet (8/16):  “The Israeli withdrawal plan from Gaza is being implemented by PM Sharon in a surprisingly timely fashion.  The impact of Israeli public opinion is undeniable on the implementation of this decision. It is equally true that the armed struggle in Gaza led by Hamas was a significant factor.  Other international factors, particularly the U.S. effort, should also be mentioned.  Given the current situation, further steps in the Israeli-Palestinian dialogue and a reexamination of the Middle East road map can only take place through the push of internal and external dynamics.  Vision and courage are needed on both sides to make that happen.  Sharon must not block progress toward a Palestinian state, and Palestinians must follow through on expectations that they will stop the violence and seek a consensus.  Gaza has brought a chance for peace.  Let us hope that further steps will follow.”

MIDDLE EAST

ISRAEL:  "We Deserve Better"

Ofer Shelach stated in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (8/16):  "The speech the Prime Minister made last night made one thing abundantly clear:  just how crazy was the settlement enterprise, which Sharon himself headed for two decades, how delusionary and how dangerous.  The few and unconvincing explanations that Sharon gave for his ostensible turnabout--from the man who called for 'settling every hilltop' and who thought up the most far-reaching settlement schemes--to the man who ordered uprooting thousands of Jews from their home without an agreement--only made it clear how little thought was behind the entire business in the first place....  You cannot help but sense that Sharon interprets the word 'leadership' according to the single criterion of 'I want, therefore I do.'  He has no sense of how to truly lead such a controversial move, and how to minimize (since canceling is impossible) the difficult implications for the day after....  It looked as if the speech...was made mainly because Sharon was told that he had to make it.  Like the entire move that Sharon led up until disengagement, which was mainly an impressive political step in its own right and very little of it was actually preparing people mentally, it was much more of a statement of imperiousness than an act of persuasion....  All the citizens of Israel, supporters and opponents, deserved better."

"Sharon Speaks"

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post maintained (8/16):  "The echoes...of Ehud Barak's logic behind the unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon were unmistakable [in Sharon's speech to the nation on Monday].  Sharon was saying that Israel had gone as far as it could militarily under the existing rules of the game, so the only way Israel could advance further was to change those rules....  Though called unilateral, disengagement is thus really an unwritten, unsigned agreement with the international community.  The agreement says:  if we hand over territory fully to a Palestinian government, you will hold that government diplomatically and economically responsible, and we will hold it militarily responsible, if it refuses to eliminate terrorism from its realm....  When Sharon said that responses to further attacks would be 'more severe than ever,' he was signaling that he intends to begin acting according to the new rules.  The international community's job will be to do its best to ensure he does not have to, by imposing new levels of diplomatic and economic pressure on the Palestinians that, together with Israeli deterrence, force dramatic changes in their behavior.  It will take the concerted effort of Israel and the international community, then, to ensure that the Israeli pain and sacrifice we are seeing today are not for naught and that Palestinian celebrations are not harbingers of a new round of belligerency."

"Inform Rice"

Nationalist, Orthodox Hatzofe held (8/16):  "U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, according to reports, is expected to arrive in the region to offer her support and to encourage Prime Minister Ariel Sharon while he executes the decree of expulsion.  It is very important to offer Ms. Rice a modest gift, a file with all the English-language newspaper clippings about Israel's situation on the eve of the Six-Day-War.  Ms. Rice was a little girl back then and she, like the younger generation in Israel, is completely unaware of the atmosphere of terror that reigned in those weeks, when all the Arab countries joined forces to annihilate the state of Israel....  We did not initiate that war.  It was forced on Israel, and to evacuate Gaza now is to reward the aggressor.  The withdrawal is also a public admission of surrender to terrorism....  Sharon is a transient phenomenon, just like Bush and Ms. Rice, but we will remain here with the awful precedent set by the Sharon government....  Sharon is teaching the world that Jews can be exiled and beaten, and this will manifest itself in the activity of all those anti-Semitic organizations across the globe.  Sharon took a step that no one pressured him to take.  The road map was the plan, but he chose to embellish it and to precede it with the expulsion of the Jews from Gush Katif.  There can be no doubt:  this warrior hero has erased his past with a single stroke and will be recorded in all his notoriety in the history of the Jewish people."

"Gaza First"

Nahum Barnea wrote in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (8/15):  "It is going to be hot, humid and sticky this morning at the entrance to Kissufim road, and closed. The barrier has been shut on 38 years of occupation in the Gaza Strip and on 29 years of settlement....  The occupation of Gaza brought very little pleasure to either the occupiers or the occupied.  When Yitzhak Rabin said he'd prefer to see Gaza drown in the sea, he was expressing, crudely, what many Israelis felt.  Gaza was, as one person once wrote, Israel's armpit:  poor, densely populated, fanatical, violent and polluted, the pool from which Israel drew a generation of menial laborers....  With the disengagement plan Sharon is trying, in his own way, to live out Rabin's fantasy: if we can't drown Gaza in the sea, at least we can turn our backs on it.  To feel as if we are free of it....  After the settlers' tears have dried, after the media dust has settled, what will be left imprinted on everyone's mind will be that for the first time settlements were removed from what is considered to be the Land of Israel.  This step is tremendously significant, both socially and politically.  The settlers have lost the veto power they once possessed over the evacuation of settlements.  Rabin, Peres and Barak, three prime ministers who wanted to evacuate settlements, were daunted by the immense power the settlers wield.  Sharon was braver than they: he dared to put that legend to the test, and he did so unilaterally....  It is no wonder that the religious settlers are fighting disengagement with all their might: they are fighting for their status, their existence, their faith.  They won't be able to raise the barrier that was lowered last night at Kissufim roadblock; they have their eye on the roadblocks yet to come.  In their view, the battle is over the Land of Israel.  In the view of the commanders of the police and soldiers who will face them, it is a battle over the authority of the state."

"The Dream Is Over"

Yoel Marcus contended in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (8/15):  "The goal [of disengagement] was to relocate communities that we wouldn't keep anyway in any final settlement....  In his detailed narrative, [Sharon] correctly predicted that the implementation would be complicated--both in a political and operational sense--and that a year and a half to two years would be needed to complete it.  He foresaw the political difficulties he would encounter with the Likud institutions.  But what my ear discerned more than anything was the statement: 'Don't see this evacuation as the end of the process.'  In other words, he had reached a decision, by himself, about dividing the land.  This was Sharon's divorce from the settlers and his farewell to the idea of Greater Israel.  As he said: 'We had a dream, but it cannot be implemented'....  This morning 1,200 officers will give the settlers their evacuation orders, with orders that they must leave their homes within 48 hours.  Starting Wednesday, every Israeli, whether settler or infiltrator, will be forcibly evacuated from the Gaza Strip. The decision to evacuate passed in the cabinet, the Knesset and the High Court of Justice.  But the Yesha Council settlers, the extremists, the hilltop youth, the Kahanists and some of the rabbis have declared a revolt against the authority of the state.  From rally to rally, from provocation to provocation, from threat to threat, they determined to forcibly thwart the evacuation by infiltrating in their thousands into Gaza, with the IDF as the enemy....  In Sharon's speech to the nation this evening, he won't apologize to the settlers.  They have already exhausted their right to protest, and now they are damaging the authority of the state, its strength and its democratic regime.  They dare not lift a finger against the army or the police, lest they transform the continued existence of the state into a dream."

"On The Eve Of The Gate's Closing"

Nationalist, Orthodox Hatzofe observed (8/15):  "Sharon can't respond to Qassam rocket fire emanating from behind those settlements he wishes to evacuate.  The Western and Arab world won't allow him a proper response that wouldn't take the civilian Palestinian population into consideration.  We have already hear the voice of [Attorney General] Meni Mazuz, who said that uncontrolled artillery fire wouldn't be allowed and that it would be viewed as a war crime.  In conjunction with the United Torah Judaism Knesset members, Likud ministers and Knesset members can still bring down the immoral foundation of Sharon's leadership and government....  This would save Israel from a harsh catastrophe--Heaven forbid--should the deportation decree indeed be implemented."

"Something To Mourn"

Prominent liberal author David Grossman wrote in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (8/15):  "We should all take a deep breath right now and remind ourselves that, in the final analysis, the days to come are days of mourning for all Israelis.  Mourning for the personal and ideological pain of the settlers whose dreams have been shattered; mourning for the fact that Israel was drawn into such a dangerous and unrealistic adventure like the creation of Gush Katif; mourning for the fact that the state brought itself to the place where it was forced to do such a violent, warlike and brutal thing to thousands of its citizens; mourning for the abyss that is being created inside our home, and for the disaster that could befall us very soon; and mourning for the situation in which we are trapped, Jew against Jew with a foreign, naked hostility that stands in complete, existential contradiction to our own interests....   At the end of the day, the uprooting of the settlements and the people is an act in which all Israeli citizens have a role and responsibility, whatever their beliefs."

"A Disaster Foretold"

Conservative columnist Nadav Haetzni wrote in popular, pluralist  Maariv (8/15):  "Whatever happens, there will be no disengagement.  The implementation of Sharon's plan will booby-trap Israel:  the more power is left in its hands--at border crossings, in the security 'envelope'--we'll be perceived as responsible for everything in the Gaza Strip.  The more power we relinquish, the more dangerous the freedom of action granted to the terror state that will arise.  This, 'disengagement'--the false concept born of a prime ministerial spin--will assume its correct meaning.  Real disengagement from the Palestinians won't take place, but emergent disengagement among the various components of Israeli society will definitely be achieved."

"Country In Turmoil"

Editor-in-Chief Amnon Dankner noted in popular, pluralist Maariv (8/14):  "This week will spin Israeli society and many of its components into public and private conflicts between emotion and thought, between various perceptions of democracy, between conflicting understandings of the boundaries of protest and opposition, between despair and hope, the latter against the background of the consoling words of praise of the President of the U.S. and on the other hand the Palestinian celebrations full of haughtiness.  Until now it has succeeded in not falling apart in the force of the emotions that contradict the bonds that keep it whole.  The gloomy prophecies that prevailed regarding such a violent disintegration have been proven false, and now it remains to see whether there will be enough insight to restrain the wild elements at the fringes of the camp, to overcome the tearing pain, to continue to show responsibility and to emerge whole from this shake-up that in the past tore and ripped apart societies and countries that appeared to be strong and united."

"Hopefully, Only The First Step"

Editor-in-Chief Bassam Jaber commented in left-leaning, Arabic-language weekly Panorama (8/12):  "I'm writing this article while only few hours separate us from the withdrawal plan, which the Prime Minister Sharon described as the most complicated and difficult step facing Israel....  We believe that the extreme right's opposition reflects the fear of the settlers and their supporters about the next steps....  We are among those who believe that the withdrawal plan is one step on the way to a complete withdrawal from the Palestinian territories....  We believe that the withdrawal from Gaza is for the benefit of both Israelis and Palestinians, since no one really knows what would have happened if no separation was made between the two nations....  Our belief is that this withdrawal is an initial step that will be followed by many others, despite Sharon's statements that reflect the opposite, which we believe are only his way to reduce pressure on him from fanatic Rabbis who want to keep Israel amidst ongoing clashes with the Palestinians and the neighboring Arab countries."

The Sebastia Syndrome"

Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (8/12):  "Most of the soldiers who will have to evacuate settlers from their houses next week do not remember Sebastia, but the evacuating forces' conduct toward both the evacuees and those who have infiltrated into Gush Katif is beginning to recall those dark days, the first days of the emotional manipulation of the government and the IDF by members of Gush Emunim.  The illegal settlement in Sebastia was evacuated six times, amid fierce clashes with the IDF, until in winter 1975, when the compromising, hypocrisy and understanding began, and continued until the state and the law were completely defeated by the campaign of thousands who came from all over the country to prevent the evacuation....  [Now], the army is not preparing for war against the settlers, but the settlers are preparing and how....  This frighteningly empathetic approach has led to repeated failures against the settlers throughout the decades since Sebastia, and it is liable to do so this time as well."

"False Predictions"

Dan Margalit wrote in popular, pluralist Maariv (8/12):  "On Thursday, Yediot Aharonot published a [public opinion] forecast according to which a joint list with Ariel Sharon, Shimon Peres and [Shinui party head] Yosef (Tommy) Lapid would be the big winner [in new elections], with 38 Knesset members....  But a fallacious forecast--as far as timing is concerned--is a common diversion in politics....  Sharon won't join Peres and Lapid, because, during the election campaign, he'll stick to threatening, refusenik phraseology.  No more conceding of land. Perhaps even some military aggressiveness.  Anyway, his nationalistic credibility is in doubt--certainly were Peres and Lapid to adorn his list.  Why is that forecast as weak as all the other ones?  Because of Qassam and mortar shell statistics.  Sharon and Netanyahu still have something in common.  They both are hostages of Hamas."

"The Comeback Kid Skips Town"

Yoel Marcus asserted in left-leaning independent Ha'aretz (8/12):  "After his dramatic resignation, with all the interviews and headlines he grabbed, Netanyahu has now decided it's time to fly to the U.S.  That way he won't be caught leading the mass rally of Israelis in Orange and their rabbis at Rabin Square.  A typical Bibiyahu maneuver: skipping town....  In running away, the Comeback Kid is showing cowardice.  His actions are founded on the expectation, or maybe the macabre hope, that the disengagement will work out badly and develop into a bloody war between the settlers and those who are sent in to evacuate them....  But sources in the defense establishment are saying that the disengagement will be carried out quickly and sans insurmountable problems.  When the withdrawal is complete, Israel will be the darling of the world....  This is the week to strengthen the hand of Sharon, the man with the vision and the courage to extricate us from Gaza and free us from the curse it has brought upon us."

"Hundreds Of Thousands Are Calling:  Stop The Deportation"

Nationalist, Orthodox Hatzofe stated (8/12):  "During the past two days, hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated next to the Western Wall and at Tel Aviv's Kings of Israel [Rabin] Square.  They expressed their protest against the deportation of the Jewish settlers from Gush Katif....  In every democratic country, the opinion of hundreds of thousands of demonstrators would have been taken into account.  Only a leader like Ariel Sharon can ignore the voices emanating from the nation, and instead enlist the army to impose his view on it....  The struggle is still ahead of us.  It isn't easy.  It isn't simple to confront tens of thousands of soldiers drafted by Ariel Sharon, but we're right."

"Bibi's Friends"

Ben Caspit wrote in popular, pluralist Maariv (8/10):  "Israel's disengagement from the Gaza Strip will begin next week.  Ariel Sharon's disengagement from the Likud began this week.  The two polls published on Tuesday...are no less than a political earthquake.  In both of them, Binyamin Netanyahu crushes Sharon among Likud registered voters with a lead of over 14 percent.  His resignation from the cabinet on Monday suddenly looks like a calculated, winning move.  Up until yesterday morning, Sharon's people were still trying to sell the thesis that Netanyahu, as usual, 'had shot himself in the foot'....  And yet, one must not forget: everything depends on disengagement....  A sweeping victory could renew [Sharon's] chances somehow.  Netanyahu still could, as usual, make some unexpected mistake.  A relative success, or a reasonable one, will also be to Sharon's advantage.  A resounding failure, obviously, will put an end to his career....  He does not have to go for the biggest party in order to form the next government.  It is enough for it to be in the center, exactly in the center, for him to have an advantage over his adversaries.  And Bibi, what about him?  Netanyahu again faces a well-known situation:  his political career depends on Hamas.  Just like the Hamas terror attacks in February 1996 sent him to the Prime Minister's Office, more Hamas rampaging could send him back there, in 2006, ten years later, to the same place.  The next disengagement will already be his."

"Stop False Messianism"

Moshe Kaveh asserted in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (8/10):  "As the date of disengagement approaches, leading rabbis in the religious Zionist movement increasingly  'promise' the settlers in Gaza and northern Samaria...that 'disengagement will not take place.'  I respect and acknowledge the qualities...of some of these leading rabbis, but I cannot break free of the worrying feeling that in these statements, the rabbis have crossed a red line, and are thereby endangering democracy and the rule of law in the State of Israel, as well as the status of religious Zionism, to which I belong....  By statements that delude their followers, these rabbis risk soon being declared false prophets.  Jewish history teaches us about the places and the fateful outcomes into which false messiahs and false prophets have led us.  No less worrying are the repeated instructions to the uniformed troops to disobey orders.  Such calls place the religious Jews in the army in an impossible situation--a traumatic bind of dual loyalty....  The religious Zionist doctrine utterly rejects disobedience towards the state institutions, the army and the other elements of Israeli sovereignty.... So far, the demonstrations against disengagement have been dignified, but when it comes to implementing the decisions of the sovereign state, obedience is necessary."

"Not Only Ideology"

Ben Caspit contended in popular, pluralist Maariv (8/8):  "At Thursday's [anti-disengagement] demonstration in [Tel Aviv's] Rabin Square, Netanyahu will undoubtedly deliver a speech and everybody will shout very loud to [Likud ministers] Danny Naveh, Limor Livnat and Yisrael Katz to follow Bibi's example.  The flagging hopes of the demonstrators have been revived. Sharon will endeavor this morning to nip them in the bud while they are still in manageable proportions.  His spokespeople will tell every available forum that the disengagement plan will be executed on the appointed date....  He has grown wings by virtue of this resignation....  The diplomatic developments, the supply of ammunition to the Palestinians, the decision to permit construction of the seaport in Gaza, and the withdrawal from Philadelphi Road, influenced Netanyahu's decision to resign.  But it was not only due to ideology.  There were also political considerations.  Netanyahu is constantly commissioning, reading and analyzing polls.  He is closely watching the growing popularity of [chief Likud 'rebel'] Uzi Landau."

"Leader Of The Extreme Right"

Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (8/8): "Binyamin Netanyahu's resignation from the government right before the disengagement places him, finally, in the spot that suits him--as the leader of the extreme right in Israel.... In resigning, Netanyahu contributed support and momentum to the camp of the lawbreakers, which is threatening to thwart the implementation of the Knesset decision on the evacuation of the settlements in Gaza and the northern West Bank that passed by a wide majority.  Netanyahu decided to resign now to garner momentary credit, precisely when the country desperately needs responsible leadership....  If the evacuation of Gaza takes place on time and is completed as planned, Netanyahu's resignation, which now looks dramatic, will be recorded as ephemeral. Perhaps it will also signal the beginning of a reform of the political system and the reorganization of political parties, based on their genuine, updated platforms.  On one side will be the camp of the supporters of Greater Israel and the occupation, and on the other side will be the parties that support democracy in an Israel with redrawn borders."

"Exit Netanyahu"

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post opined (8/8): "If a situation in which disengagement opponents had no significant political representation was an unhealthy anomaly, then Netanyahu's resignation has restored a degree of coherence to the system as a whole....  Netanyahu has begun a battle for the heart of the Likud.  Just as Netanyahu did not reverse, and in fact reluctantly advanced, the Oslo agreement that he opposed and inherited, it is hard to imagine him reversing disengagement; indeed, he made clear again on Sunday that he did not believe it could now be reversed.  At the same time, the paths forward that Netanyahu and Sharon represent seem, at this moment, to be irreconcilable.... With the race that is emerging between them, the voter will be given a choice between something akin to the old Likud and the new path Sharon represents.  In the meantime, we hope and expect that Netanyahu will use his new position at the head of the anti-disengagement camp to set bright red lines against attempting to thwart disengagement by refusal and by force, even in a supposedly non-violent manner.  In this crucial role at this critical moment, ironically, Netanyahu could have much greater influence than he had in his cabinet post."

WEST BANK:  "Peace Realities That Israel Must Declare"

Independent Al-Quds editorialized (8/16):  "If the disengagement plan is completed in peace, as hoped by the Palestinians and the international community, the Israeli government will find itself, willingly or unwillingly, facing the challenge of implementing the Roadmap.  This means that it will have to face the fact of withdrawing from the West Bank, including Arab Jerusalem, and dismantling the Jewish settlements throughout the West Bank....  Both Sharon and Mofaz spoke about strengthening the settlement blocs in the West Bank.  In addition to their remarks being baseless and in violation of international legitimacy and all the previous peace agreements, the most dangerous part of these remarks is the fact that both Sharon and Mofaz are misleading their people by hiding important facts about peace, which cannot be avoided in the future.”

"The Expected Joy And The Difference Between The Withdrawal And Ending Occupation"

Hani Masri commented in independent Al-Ayyam (8/16):  "The Palestinians are joyful today because it is the first time that Israel actually evacuates settlements built on occupied Palestinian land.  Palestinians are happy because the mass departure of settlers carries a strong historic connotation, namely the failure of the 'Greater Israel' plan....  The most important and positive difference, however, between the disengagement plan and the Oslo accords is that the unilateral pullout from Gaza was not the result of the Palestinians having to pay a substantial price for it.  They did not have to sign agreements giving up any of their rights, land or cause....  But in spite of the fact that there is no signed agreement between both sides, the pullout gives some sort of legitimacy to Israel's unilateral disengagement plan, rendering it the only game in town.”

"Everything Can Change With Power"

Yahya Rabah argued in official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (8/16):  “The withdrawal has started.  It really has started....  But can you imagine that Sharon, the hero of settlements and the one best known for inciting settlers and radicals to carry out their aggression, is the same person who is ordering this withdrawal and evacuation?....  Today, it is important for us to see this change and to realize that standards can be undone.  We should trust in ourselves, in our struggle, patience and ability to survive.  We should understand that today's rejections by Sharon are not everlasting.  His current rejections (concerning the issue of Jerusalem, refugees and West Bank settlements) will have the same fate as those concerning the settlements in the Gaza Strip.”

"War Of Nerves"

Independent Al-Quds editorialized (8/15):  “The Israelis, both the government and settlers, are dealing with the disengagement plan in such a way that can be described as war of nerves and flagrant extortion....  Also, the Israeli position concerning the pullout aims at misleading international public opinion to pretend that the disengagement from Gaza is a painful act that Israel is carrying out for the sake of peace.  The truth of the matter is that while all this is going on, Israel is strengthening its occupation and settlement activities in the West Bank, including Arab Jerusalem and its surroundings....  It is clear that this Israeli show and nerve-wracking game, as well as other pressure tactics, are no longer effective.  The Israeli disengagement is a unilateral action, and it is an admittance of the astounding failure of occupation as well as the failure of the settlements scheme.”

"End Of The Occupation And Compensating The Occupied"

Samih Shubayb contended in independent Al-Ayyam (8/15):  “Regardless of the different pullout scenarios...the Israeli government will try to sell it, both regionally and internationally, as a way out of its obligations toward Gaza, which started back in June, 1967.  By doing that, Israel is attempting to dodge its financial, security, political and moral responsibilities toward what has happened and will happen in the future.”

"August 15:  Death Of Myths And Rise Of Truths"

Yahya Rabah opined in official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (8/15):  “Despite all the worries and warnings and in spite of all the confusion in the Palestinian areas...the 15th day of August is undoubtedly an extraordinary day and a turning point.  The Israeli disengagement from Gaza is much more than a retreating tank or a relocation of a canon to a position behind a fence or a redeployment of well-armed soldiers from one post to another....  The event is much, much bigger than all this.  It indicates that the idea of [occupation] can no longer be sustained, and that the myth of [settlements] has lost its power to convince and appeal....  The important thing here is that they withdrew after long decades; they thought they would never leave this land; they have read their holy books based on the idea that they will never leave....  But on this day, August 15, they are leaving.”

"Israel Is An Occupying Power In 'Liberated' Gaza"

Jawad Bashiti commented in independent Al-Ayyam (8/12):  "I think that expelling settlers and Israeli soldiers from the Gaza Strip in accordance with the Sharon plan is a very good indication of the qualitative difference between the Israeli and Palestinian perspectives on the pullout.  According to the Sharon government, the pullout is to be considered the end of the Israeli occupation.  However, as far as the Palestinians are concerned, ending occupation means a total military withdrawal from all of Palestinian land, which is clearly not the case with the disengagement plan....  The Palestinian side must continue to draw attention to that fact that Israel will remain an occupying power in the Gaza Strip even after its unilateral pullout.  There is a great difference between the Israeli withdrawal and ending the Israeli occupation.  And such a difference will become more evident when Sharon gets his way to implement his plan of strengthening and legalizing Israel's occupation of the West Bank.  Of course, thanks go to President Bush's letter of assurances to Sharon, in which Israel was given the right to interpret it as it wishes.”

"Netanyahu's Resignation And The Future Of The Gaza Strip"

Rajab Abu Sariya commented in independent Al-Ayyam (8/9): "Netanyahu’s resignation seems like an attempt to generate serious political opposition in order to prevent Sharon’s government from going beyond the line of security redeployment and to halt any potential political deployment of the disengagement plan....  Netanyahu, by this, is betting that the political snowball resulting from the disengagement implementation will vanish along with the coalition government....  Israel, who attained the American assurances, prefers to negotiate the Palestinians’ destiny with its western allies instead of negotiating this bilaterally with the Palestinians themselves....  It does this with the Quartet because an agreement with the latter would spare the Israelis the pending Roadmap obligations and might open the door to a unilateral political solution.”

"Sharon And The Timing For The Return To The Syrian Track"

Dr. Riyad al-Malki commented in Ramallah's independent Al-Ayyam (8/7):  "Sharon's recent visit to Paris was but an important station in those secret political moves that are organized and developed by French diplomacy in favor of activating the Israeli-Syrian negotiation track.  A reader who does not read much about politics might ask how Sharon could think of moving at the levels of activating the Syrian track while he is embarking on a difficult test related to implementing his plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip....  Sharon believes that the sacrifices that he was ready to undertake should be reciprocated with an international understanding that prevents imposing new pressures on him during the period that follows withdrawal.  This would free him of any international obligations toward the Palestinians and would thus reshuffle the cards in a skillful way to gain new international support on the basis of his intention of going back to the Syrian track at the expense of the Palestinian track, which would enter into a deep slumber....  His gains from freezing the Palestinian track and activating the Syrian track are numerous, as opposed to his obvious loss if he continues on the Palestinian track and moves to pay the price of withdrawing from the West Bank, implementing the road map, and then entering into the final status negotiations, including Jerusalem....   This treaty would provide the opportunity to end the state of war between the two countries, pave the way for opening Israeli embassies, and end the world pressure that is directed by the United States toward Damascus by closing the issue of terror.  The peace treaty with Israel will deal with this issue in a final way.  This means that Syria will buy the continuation of its regime, as the Libyan regime did a short period ago, but by paying a more difficult price."

"Losing Jerusalem"

Jerusalem Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (Independent Palestinian institution operated by Hanan Ashrawi) (8/4) editorialized:  "According to Israel's leading Jerusalem specialist, all the measures undertaken, as well as the occupation of the entire West Bank, serve Israel's demographic and geographic ambitions,....  Adding insult to injury, with complete arrogance and disregard to human life and dignity, Israel is continuing the construction of its Annexation and Segregation Wall, which will ultimately leave Palestinians with 12 % of historic Palestine....  These frightening facts and figures presented by the ICG report concerning the endangered status of Jerusalem and the Peace Process are being over shadowed by what Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hailed as a 'historic step forward,' when she referred to the Unilateral Disengagement Plan from Gaza.  Finally, the world at large must not stand idle in front of this blatant and + land grab that Israel is perusing, which risks ending any form of a just and comprehensive peace solution that would benefit the world at large.  It must be made clear that Prime Minister Sharon's plans concerning the peace process are a selfish one-sided proposal that has no bearing in a reality that purports to embrace peace and demands an equal and just appraisal of the needs of all the people that live on the land that was once Palestine and is now broken into two new entities of Israel and Palestine.  One held by a people that have certainly suffered but now cause suffering to a people that never historically had done them any harm.  This surely is something the world should protest vehemently and exert every effort to counter." 

"What After The 'Pullout' From Gaza!"

Abdallah Awwad in Ramallah's independent Al-Ayyam (7/28) editorialized:  "The Palestinian role in the 'disengagement' plan--or 'withdrawal,' which is the desirable term--does not exceed 'receiving' only....  Other than this, there is no place 'for the Palestinians' in the wagon of removing the settlements and the departure of the occupation forces....  This was after the Palestinians had discovered that all that the Jewish state had was an enterprise for solving the 'demographic' problem between the sea and the river and that there was no opportunity for dialogue, negotiations, agreements, and, automatically, for a political settlement....  The enterprise of 'leaving the Gaza Strip' is a pure Israeli enterprise, but Israel was able to market it as a political enterprise that the United States and many other countries in the region and the world adopted....  On the day after the exit of the last settler and soldier from the Gaza Strip, the Palestinians will discover several fields and political facts....  Politically, the situation is not much different, with the exception of presenting this 'withdrawal' on the part of the Jewish state as a political settlement to the Palestinian problem in an attempt to exclude the West Bank, which the Jewish state will focus on targeting in terms of confiscation, settlement activity, oppression, arrest, and killing....   The Israeli game is clear....   At the present time, damn 'the resistance,' since it is witnessing the occupation forces leaving the Gaza Strip....  But when the joy of 'withdrawal' and shooting into the air with joy is over, when the Palestinian government holds its first session on the day after withdrawal, and when the Palestinians have nothing to do, they will only find themselves again face to face with a war that will be dirtier and more aggressive against the Palestinian land in the West Bank and against the Palestinians.  Then how will they fill this vacuum?!....   What comes after the evacuation of the Gaza Strip is a new war in the West Bank.  Then, the leaders of theorization against resistance will find that resistance is the only 'alternative' to which there is no alternative other than suicide."

EGYPT:  "Gaza Withdrawal"

Cairo Arab Republic of Egypt government Radio General Service in Arabic (8/7) commented:  "The Egyptian security delegation is continuing its meetings with Palestinians in Gaza in order to coordinate concerning the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.  This withdrawal, as important as it is, means that both sides must adhere to whatever agreements are signed concerning the final resolution to the lingering issues between them.  One also cannot ignore the ramifications of the killing of four Palestinians by a Jewish extremist, ramifications which all sides are trying to contain.  This shows that Israel itself must eradicate the culture of violence within it which has resulted in countless acts of violence against the Palestinian people.  The time has come for Israeli leaders, media and thinkers must build up a culture of mutual respect and recognition, a culture that will allow both peoples to live in peace."

SAUDI ARABIA:  "Gaza Withdrawal"

Dammam’s moderate Al-Yaum editorialized (8/16):  "The Jewish pullout from the Gaza strip presents a historical opportunity for the Palestinian Authority to prove itself on the ground and establish a viable state.  The Israeli withdrawal from Gaza also shows the collapse of the Zionist dream of a greater Israel.  The idea of a state that extends geographically from the Nile to the Euphrates has practically collapsed forever.  No settler thought that someday he will abandon his settlement after thirty-eight years of occupation.  Especially from the mother of all settlements, the Gush-Qatif settlement, whose evacuation alone represents a moral victory against the concept of a greater Israel."

"Gaza Withdrawal And Unity Of Resistance"

Abha’s moderate Al-Watan editorialized (8/16):  "Israeli leaders are aware that the Palestinian Intifadah achieved a victory....  The Palestinians should realize that they have achieved the first victory.  They should be ready for future battles and put their disputes aside....  Israel sought to overturn the truth and tried to show the withdrawal as a favor....  Sharon played on Palestinians’ contradictions and tried to create suspicion....  The Palestinians were aware of the Israeli plans....  Palestinian unity can create new pages in Palestinian history. 

"Incomplete Withdrawal"

Jeddah's moderate Okaz editorialized (08/16):  "The Gaza strip withdrawal remains incomplete if it is not followed by more disengagement from the occupied lands.  The Palestinians should have normal life and sovereignty.  Sharon declared that Gaza is the first and the last.  It is a message to calm the right wing extremists who are calling the withdrawal to be a betrayal.  Israel should be urged to implement what is left of the Road Map."

"Facts That Should Not Be Ignored"

Jeddah's conservative A-Madina editorialized (8/16):  "The Palestinian resistance and Intifadah are the main reasons behind Sharon's decision to withdraw.  Sharon wanted to improve Israel's image in the world after the construction of the separation wall and to get more political, financial and security support from the U.S.  One should not ignore the role played by Riyadh in using the bilateral Saudi-American relationships to press the U.S. for more support for the Palestinians.

"Gaza Is the Beginning"

Abha’s moderate Al-Watan editorialized (8/15):  "The Israeli withdrawal from Gaza is the first fruit of the Palestinians’ sacrifices.  At the same time, it presents proof that the bloodshed of innocents by Sharon, and before him by Barak, Netanyahu, Perez and Rabin, was not fruitless.  Gaza will not be the windup since arms and people protect right and justice."

"Joyful Gaza"

Riyadh's moderate Al-Jazira editorialized (8/15):  "Joy covers Gaza.  Each Palestinian should celebrate this great victory....  Today the dream of Zionists to establish a state from the Nile to the Euphrates has collapsed...  Part of the Palestinian dream has become true even if Gaza represents a small part of Palestine....  Celebration should go together with strong intent to liberate the rest of land....  The Palestinians should show a strong determination to enhance their unity against Israeli attempts to weaken them.  This victory should be directed towards more achievements.  The Palestinians should prove that they are competent to have their own state....  The Palestinians should emphasize the positives that can be repeated if everyone is committed to achieving the objectives." 

"The Israeli Pullout From Gaza"

Jeddah's Conservative Al-Nadwah editorialized (8/15):  "Although Israel has planned the disengagement, it was the armed Intifadah against the occupation that resulted in the immediate implementation of the plan.  Sharon, by this unilateral action breaking away from the Roadmap, wanted to create a conflict between the Palestinian Authority and the factions.  Hamas and Fata announced their cooperation to supervise the pullout in a step that guarantees no armed struggle will take place. "

"The Pullout And The Foggy Vision"

Jeddah's conservative Al-Bilad editorialized (8/14):  "Israel will withdraw after many years of occupation.  The Palestinians have made all kinds of efforts to achieve withdrawal.  The economic, political, and military issues in Gaza that have not yet been resolved, especially in view of the power vacuum that will be created after the withdrawal, makes this matter unclear."

"Gaza Should Not Be The Last"

Jeddah's conservative Al-Madinah asserted (8/14):  "It is the Gaza test that the Palestinians and the PA must pass to prove their credibility.  Palestinians are asked to implement all resolutions and initiatives starting with the initiative of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques at the Beirut Summit and the resolution of the International Court of Justice about the partition wall and the Arabic Islamic identity of Jerusalem."

"Insane Israeli Soldiers"

Riyadh’s moderate Al-Jazira editorialized (8/11):  "The extremist Israeli soldiers must understand that withdrawal from Gaza was not a favor by Israel but was result of long, bitter years of struggle by the Palestinian people to the point that Israel understood that withdrawal from Gaza was far better than keeping it.  Otherwise Israel will pay a very high price in order to keep it.  The Sharon's government must control its soldiers."

"So It Would Not Serve As Testimony In Their Favor"

Yusuf Makki wrote in Abha's moderate Al-Watan (internet version) (8/10):  "The U.S. Administration's demands are not limited to wanting the Arab leaders to adopt a positive position in support of the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, which the Zionist entity is forced to implement in light of the strong and effective strikes by the Palestinian resistance.  In fact, the U.S. Administration wants the Arab Leaders to play an effective security role in reining in the Palestinian people by dispatching Arab forces to Gaza to serve as a buffer zone between the Palestinians and the Zionists, and to play the role of police in preventing the Palestinians from pressing ahead with their resistance against the occupation to regain the rest of their land.  This is carried out under pretexts that seem to be honorable; namely, maintaining security and assisting the Palestinian Authority [PA].  These are flimsy pretexts that will find no Arab or Palestinian ears that are willing to listen....  The U.S. Administration is diligently working to turn the Arab summit from being a mere spectator to becoming deeply involved in implementing its plans.  Relinquishing the right to return will be followed by the plan to settle the Palestinians in the Arab countries.  Settling the Palestinians requires financing, which will exhaust some reserves of the Arab treasury to achieve plans that are primarily against Arab aspirations and rights.  What the United States wants is to shed Arab blood in Palestine, not in confrontations against the Zionists of course, but rather to prevent Palestinian strugglers from liberating their land."

JORDAN:  “Ending The Settlements Is the End Of The Legend Of Greater Israel”

Daily columnist Tarek Masarweh writes on the back-page of semi-official, influential Arabic daily Al-Rai (8/16):  The [Israeli] military withdrawal in itself means nothing, because an occupying army can always return after having withdrawn.  The important thing is the dismantling of the settlements and moving the settlers to outside of the green line, because this event has to do with putting an end to the aspirations of ‘the land of Israel’ and ‘Greater Israel from Egypt to the Euphrates’.  The occupation authority must admit that the military withdrawal and the retreat of settlements marks the end of the story of ‘the homeland without borders’ and the lie of ‘a people without a land for a land without a people’....  We must follow the withdrawal from Gaza and the north of the West Bank with all the courage and determination we can muster, because we are establishing the state of Palestine.  Celebrations and shows of force over our people are good for no one.  What the world wants us to do now is to build the airport, the port, factories, to establish universities and new cities on the location of the settlements, not the chaos that would only magnify the ugly image that hostile forces portrayed as ‘terrorism’.”

“August 15:  A Day With Events Before It And After It”

Daily columnist Urayb Rintawi writes in the op-ed page of center-left, influential Arabic daily Al-Dustour (8/16):  “It is another day for the Palestinian people, a day that is preceded by rounds of struggle and fighting and that will be followed by chapters of resistance and steadfastness leading to the liberation of the lands and the establishment of the independent state with Jerusalem as the capital.  It is a day that will go down in the Palestinian history as being a crossroads.  On one hand, Gaza could be the gate to liberation and independence.  On the other, Gaza could be the graveyard for the Palestinian dream.  The keys to one or the other lie in the hands of the Palestinians themselves.  It is up to them to make the experience of the liberation of Gaza an attractive model for the upcoming state of Palestine....  Israel after Gaza will not be the same.  Israel is going to become fiercer in its attempts to hold to as much of the West Bank as possible....  The battle in the post-Gaza withdrawal period is going to move to the West Bank.”

“The Withdrawal And Its Repercussions”

Columnist Hussein Rawashdeh writes in the op-ed page of center-left, influential Arabic daily Al-Dustour (8/16):  “All Palestinians have the right to be joyful at the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, but the people of the resistance also have the right to express this joy in their way.  The Israeli withdrawal, after all, must be understood within its real context and must be presented to the world as being the result of resistance and steadfastness, and as being a mere step, nothing more and nothing less.  As such, the Palestinians do not have to give thanks to Sharon, be it by putting an end to the resistance or by throwing down their weapons.  The path to liberation is still a long way away.”

"The Strategic Dimensions Of The Gaza Withdrawal”

Lamis Andoni concluded in independent Al-Ghad (8/15):  “As Israel begins 'withdrawing' from Gaza, analyses about the importance of this historic moment vary: is a victory for the Palestinian resistance or is a unilateral Israeli decision designed to overcome the Palestinian people’s accomplishments?  Ariel Sharon, the father of settlers, would not have undertaken such a dramatic step as that of evacuating the settlements unless he had to.  Despite criticisms against the Palestinian Intifada, the Israeli decision was the result of all forms of Palestinian resistance, the peaceful ones and violent ones.  This is because, at no time in the history of mankind has a direct occupation ever retreated unless under duress from political, material and human losses....  Yet, the Israeli decision is also an attempt to abort the accomplishments of the resistance....  From this viewpoint, the unilateral disengagement from Gaza marks the most significant political and media blow in favor of Sharon, in the sense that this step will come a long way in covering up the crime of occupation, of annexing lands, of keeping settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem, and of belittling the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people....  Here lies the importance of unilateral disengagement plan: on one hand, this plan prevents the Palestinian party from legitimizing a very serious step that leads to withdrawal from Gaza while Israel continue to close its grip on the West Bank and Jerusalem and to keep Gaza under the mercy of the political, military and economic control; on the other hand, Sharon’s refusal to hold negotiations about the disengagement with the PA exposes the racist colonialist core of a policy that does not recognize the presence of a people on the land of Palestine.  The decision...remains within the realms of exercising and entrenching Israel's power....  In view of the above, any internal Palestinian argument...is doomed to enter a destructive cycle of political debate between the PA and Hamas about the control over Gaza, and this would not serve the concept of the Palestinian national liberation.”

"Weapons To Fight The Occupation Only"

Rakan Majali observed in center-left, influential Al-Dustour (8/15):  “On one hand, the PA is entitled to insist on maintaining security in Gaza and to manage its affairs after the Israeli withdrawal without competition from any other force.  On the other, Hamas and other factions are entitled to hold on to their weapons and their capabilities as resistance movements against the occupation so long as the occupation continues to exist in the territories of the West Bank....  It is no secret that the resistance is in the best interest of the PA that is going to find itself in any future negotiations completely helpless and devoid of any bargaining chips and will then have to succumb to Israel because Israel does not give concessions just for the sake of the PA." 

"Serious Differences"

The elite English-language Jordan Times held (8/12):  "As the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza draws near, serious pending differences remain between Israel and the PA on who will effectively control the borders of the liberated Palestinian territory....  The two sides don't see eye-to-eye...on the terms of a complete and comprehensive Israeli withdrawal.  Olmert also stated that Israel would withdraw from the so-called Saladin passage...but again he remained vague and noncommittal on the other border crossings!  The issue of control of the other border crossings into and out of Gaza, including the territorial waters of the Strip, therefore, remains unsolved.  Without the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip gaining effective control over their borders, there is growing fear that the area will be rendered a vast prison for its inhabitants.  The most sensitive aspect of this broad border issue is the linkage of the West Bank with the Gaza Strip.  There were various scenarios floating for linking the two Palestinian territories, including the construction of a rapid rail service.  But without an eventual Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank as well, the free movement of Palestinians from and into the Gaza Strip, especially with regard to the West Bank, will remain a fraud for all intents and purposes.  This reality reinforces the need to push ahead with an Israeli withdrawal from the rest of the Palestinian areas so that the Palestinians can indeed succeed in establishing a homeland that is connected and contiguous in every conceivable way.  The same goes for the airspace above the Gaza Strip. It appears that Israel intends to permanently control the skies of the Palestinian territory. With agreement for the establishment of a seaport for Gaza also in a state of limbo, the Gazans may effectively remain suffocated and cut off from the world, especially neighbouring Arab countries.  The Gaza pullout is only a step, and Israel must realise that the piecemeal approach to peace will not work."  

"An Extremist And Spiteful Racist" 

Jamil Nimri remarked in independent Al-Ghad (8/10):  “Here we have a terrorist crime that reflects insane racist and religious hatred, which allows us to talk about the culture and environment that nurtures hatred and that produce such people....  It is also an occasion to reflect on our situation: how can we explain a similar act by one of us against Jews?  How can we differentiate between these actions that are perpetrated by crazy racist maniacs and the killing of any number of Jewish civilians in a bus or restaurant, operations claimed officially and with pride by Palestinian factions?  The situation is different: they are occupiers and we are under occupation!  Is that sufficient to justify the similarity of the methods used?  Israel, since its creation, has been responsible for the killing, destruction, and expulsion of the Palestinian people.  But Israelis calculate their positions well, and every illegal act is subject to legal questioning, actual or cosmetic.  Public standards of legality and legitimacy are ever-present in their calculus, in assessing every act and deciding whether to adopt it, evade it, or even condemn it.  We, by contrast, only orate to ourselves.  Moreover, leaving Israel aside, what about bombings of civilian crowds in other parts of the world?  How can their perpetrators be culturally and morally different from that spiteful racist Zionist?  Perhaps one of the greatest tragedies of a cause that is most just, is that resistance is marred by a type of operations that is identical to the wave of terror that the world has lived for some time now."

"Real Steps Towards Withdrawal"

Center-left, influential Al-Dustour editorialized (8/9):  “Those who are preparing to undertake protests and rejections with regard to the [Israeli] withdrawal [from Gaza] are truly the enemies of freedom....  Whether Netanyahu resigns from the Sharon government or thousands of Israeli protesters gather or hundreds of settlers refuse to the leave the Palestinian lands, what is happening now constitutes real steps towards withdrawal, however the Israelis think about it.  All we hope is that the Palestinians realize the value of this withdrawal and that they do not imitate the Israelis in their miscalculation of the meaning and importance of this gradual withdrawal from the land.”

LEBANON:  "Syrian Move Toward Iran Between Damascus' 'Fear' and Tehran's 'Calculations'"

Nasir al-As'ad commented in Beirut's pro-late Hariri Al-Mustaqbal (8/8):  "This coincides with a U.S. plan to sponsor a specific development at the Palestinian-Israeli level represented in Israel's plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip.  This is something that is supposed to 'paralyze' Syria's ability to be obstructionist not just through what Washington accuses of its hosting of what America calls 'radical' organizations, but through its relationship with the Palestinian camps in Lebanon.  It is not a coincidence here that the increasing number of Palestinian delegations going to Lebanon is a translation of the Palestinian leadership's concern, topped by that of President Mahmud Abbas, who visited Lebanon a short time ago, about the situation in the camps.  This coincides with two main things:  the first is the existence of a new Lebanese authority with whom the Palestinian leadership has to deal and the second is the development in Gaza.  So the necessity for the Lebanese and Palestinian sides to reorganize Palestinian-Lebanese relations appears to be urgent.  It makes it necessary for the Palestinians to straighten things out in the camps and not leave them to an undeclared Syrian-Lebanese tug-of-war....  So the informed diplomatic sources say that Syria is 'right' to sense danger more than at any time in the past based on the above considerations.  Thus, the Syrian move toward Tehran reflects this sense of danger."

“The Gaza Withdrawal Is Right Because It Conforms To International Law”

The English language Daily Star (8/15) commented:  “It is a shame that no Israeli government official has summoned the courage and honesty to say that Israel should withdraw from Gaza because compliance with international law is the route to peace with the Palestinians.  This is why we are impressed by the sensible attitude of the American Task Force for Palestine (ATFP), whose president this week issued a statement urging all parties to take the necessary measures to ensure a coordinated and effective Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip and parts of the northern West Bank, so that the process of peace-making can proceed quickly....  This the right thing to do because it conforms with the rule of law, ensures all concerned their national rights, and helps promote peace, security and development for all the region.”

“Is The Withdrawal From Gaza A Strategic Bomb?”

Awni Kaaki editorialized in pro-Hariri Ash-Sharq (8/16):  “The option of resistance and of the Intifada has succeeded.  That is the meaning of the withdrawal from Gaza strip.  It proves that the Palestinians have scored their first victory for the Palestinians and for the Arab nation.  It has been proved that only the option of resistance can liberate the land....  Palestinians have realized and understood the option of national and Islamic resistance in Lebanon and have adopted that course, leading the occupation to leave from the Gaza Strip, beaten by the strikes of the resistance.  Still there is concern that Israel might have left Gaza to stay in the West Bank.  The withdrawal from Gaza would then turn into a strategic bomb that should be watched for.  The Palestinians should hold on tighter and tighter to the option of resistance and beware of what Israel might do under the slogan of ‘Gaza First and Last’.”

“The Last Stop”

Sateh Noureddine in Arab Nationalist As-Safir (8/15) commented:  “The Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza strip will not merely represent a modification to the territories where the occupation is deployed...it will also represent a crucial turning point in Egypt’s and Jordan's relation with the Palestinian issue and its effect on Lebanon and Syria....  The withdrawal from Gaza strip is not a step towards building an independent state but a step in the other direction.  The four surrounding countries (Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria) will find themselves subject to questions and pressures and even Palestinian operations.  Cairo, Amman, Damascus and Beirut should reconsider the theory that the Palestinian issue has returned...to be an internal Palestinian issue and is restricted to its tight political frame.”

“The Redeployment In Gaza: Warm Emotions And A Cold Mind”

Joseph Samaha wrote in Arab Nationalist As-Safir (8/16):  “It is difficult not to share in the Palestinians' joy, especially the Palestinians in Gaza.  The settlers are now beginning to leave in what initially initial seems to be a redeployment that will internally liberate the Strip from the exhausting presence of the settlements and the forces that protect them.  The Gaza people have suffered enough and have the right to dance on the streets....  The difference is obvious in the emotional way the Palestinians' expressions, and the cold considerations of Ariel Sharon.  Sharon is captaining the ship of Israel.  He considers that the ship cannot carry the load of its land interests in the West Bank and settling the fate of Jerusalem and that of (Palestinian) refugees unless it is relieved of the load of Gaza...Sharon’s ship would sail faster...if he threw Gaza off board.”

MOROCCO:  "Bantustans"

Abdelmounaim Dilami, Editor in Chief, stated in independent French-language L’Economiste (8/16):  "Israel has set in motion its withdrawal from Gaza.  It’s being presented as 'a big concession to the Palestinians.'  In reality, it’s not that at all.  We are far from the Oslo peace accords.  Little by little, thanks to savage upheavals imposed on the region, the Sharon government, with the unconditional support of the U.S., has succeeded in completely warping the peace agreement.  What is happening is the creation of 'Bantustans,' which are economically non-viable, but guarantee better security for Israel.  Paradoxically, the role of the PA will rapidly decline...in the area of maintaining security for Israel!....  There can only be one outcome:  the different Palestinian movements will be led to tear each other apart, to kill each other.  That’s where (we see that) this plan is diabolical....  The Israeli plan has become the Americans’ strategic plan for the Middle East, for it appears to be the best insurance for controlling the region’s oil.  The Middle East, which has hardly been peaceful, is entering into a tempestuous cycle that will last for a very long time.”

QATAR:  "Gaza Withdrawal A Test For Palestinians"

The semi-official English-language Gulf Times declared (8/10):  "The next few weeks will be a tough test for the Palestinian people, who need to demonstrate their unity, resolve and political maturity as the Israelis pull their settlers out of Gaza, creating a power vacuum....  Israeli premier Ariel Sharon has embarked on his plan for a unilateral withdrawal with one eye on the practical problems that the occupation in Gaza has caused the Israelis and the other on the difficulties he can create for the PA.  It is not just that the PA and militant factions Hamas and Islamic Jihad could fall into a power struggle for the control of Gaza, there will also be arguments about the ownership of land....  Meanwhile, militant groups may well be tempted to launch rocket attacks against the retreating Israelis, in order to drive home the message that Sharon’s pullback is a Palestinian victory....  Of course, the militants are right. If there had been no resistance there would have been no withdrawal, though Sharon’s decision is a consequence of many years during which Gaza has put a strain on Israel, it is not the result of a spectacular achievement by any particular Palestinian group.  Sharon, however, will not tolerate the loss of face that he would suffer if he was seen to be withdrawing under fire, so any attacks against Israelis will provoke a ferocious Israeli response.  It would be irresponsible of the Resistance to draw Israeli fire on the civilian population just to try to make a political point....  Subsequently, all the Palestinian groups will need to work together to ensure there is no repetition of the unfortunate fighting that recently took place between the security forces and Hamas men....  As Hamas’s popularity has been rising...it is becoming a real threat to Fatah’s political supremacy.  Sharon would like to see those tensions turn into a civil war and will hope that the Gaza withdrawal will be the trigger for it.  The Palestinians must show...that all attempts to divide them and set them against each other are doomed to fail."

UAE:  "Leaving Gaza"

The English-language expatriate-oriented Khaleej Times declared (8/15):  "Israel is at last leaving Gaza....  From changing demographic equations of the Palestinians and Israelis threatening the future of the Jewish state to the Palestinian suicide strikes to the U.S.-sponsored road map, several factors are believed to have been at work in motivating Ariel Sharon to press ahead with the disengagement.  Whatever the Israeli leadership’s compulsions and motives, there is no doubt that this is a major turning point in the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the Middle East.  Thankfully, both the Israelis and Palestinians appear to be conscious of the fact that at stake is not only their future but also peace and stability in the whole of Middle East.  There is determination and resolve on both sides to see the pullout goes ahead smoothly....  Gaza is only a small part of the Occupied Territories.  Nonetheless it is critically important for the Palestinians.  In addition to its symbolic and historical significance, the scenic Gaza is strategically vital for the future state of Palestine.  This despite the fact that Israel will continue to have control over Gaza’s borders, coastline and airspace after the exit.  The Gaza withdrawal--limited as it is--could and should open the window of opportunity, if not the door, for the Palestinians and Israelis to move towards the final resolution of the conflict and the two-state solution....  The vision of independent Palestine still remains a chimera.  But if the Israeli-Palestinian issue has to be resolved and lasting peace has to return to the volatile Middle East, the international community must take steps to persuade Israel to leave the rest of Palestinian territory.  The U.S., the superpower and major player in the Middle East, and other members of the peace quartet--UN, EU, and Russia--have to intervene now--before yet another unilateral plan is imposed on the Palestinians....  The Palestinians, Israelis and the world community must make use of this rare opportunity for peace."

EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC

AUSTRALIA:  "Leaving Gaza"

An editorial in the national conservative Australian read (8/16):  "If ever there was an example of a piece of public policy where the costs exceeded the benefits, setting up permanent occupation of the unpleasant Palestinian refugee camp that was Gaza, following the Six Day War of 1967, is it....  With Israel’s Arab minority growing much faster than its Jewish majority, disengagement from Gaza was driven less by an Oslo-style exchange of land for peace than by the more basic imperative of preserving a Jewish-majority state....  If the Gaza withdrawal works, and the material conditions of the Palestinians improve...then we may even see a return to the ‘road-map to peace.'”

CHINA:  "Israel Starts Unilateral Action"

Wu Wenbin commented in official People’s Daily (Renmin Ribao) (8/16):  “On August 15, Israel began to withdraw from Gaza.  Israel will finish the 38-year occupation of the Gaza strip and return the land to the Palestinians.  The Palestinian-Israeli peace process has made important progress.  Analysts think Israel’s withdrawal is the result of the U.S. pressure on Israel aimed at saving its reputation.  Palestinians stressed this is the result of their persevering fighting.  It is hoped that the action could become the first step in the construction of a Palestinian state as envisioned in the Road Map.”

CHINA (HONG KONG SAR):  "Israel's Pullout Welcome, But Just A Small, First Step"

The independent English-language South China Morning Post said (8/16):  "Much is being made by Israel of its withdrawal from Gaza, a decision Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says is proof of his country's commitment to peace with Palestinians.  But while the handing back of land seized during the Six-Day war 38 years ago indicates a new Israeli resolve, it must be remembered that this is just the first step of many that has to be made before the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be resolved.  While the dismantling of 21 Jewish settlements and four small enclaves in the West Bank over the next month heightens hopes for a Palestinian nation, the move in itself is mostly symbolic.  It will not release Palestinians from poverty, nor will it provide employment or infrastructure....  Closing settlements is a first step, but ensuring promises are kept, helping to rebuild infrastructure and creating an economic environment for Palestinians to prosper would be sound subsequent moves."

JAPAN:  "Middle East Peace Hangs On Gaza Pullout"

Conservative Sankei observed (8/16):  "Israeli settlers began withdrawing from settlements in the Gaza strip.  With fierce resistance from Jewish settlers and religious conservatives, it is hard to predict whether the withdrawal will proceed according to plan. However, if the withdrawal succeeds, it will serve as an important step toward resuming Middle East peace talks, regardless of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's intentions. The future of Middle East peace hangs on this withdrawal. Israel and the Palestinians should exercise self-control based on a historical and international perspective. Meanwhile, relief from the international community, including Japan, will be indispensable in bringing about economic reconstruction and an improvement of living standards for the Palestinians....  International assistance in the creation of jobs and improvement of Palestinian living standards will be critical for preventing terrorism."

INDONESIA:  "Palestinians’ Frustration"

Leading independent Kompas stated (8/15):  "The delight over Israeli withdrawal from Gaza does not seem to ease the frustration of Palestinians who face difficulties in finding jobs....  Economic problems and unemployment are serious challenges for the PA.  As long as it is unable to improve social and economic life, internal conflict will persist....  Attacks on the PA's offices certainly taught a valuable lesson to Abbas and other Palestinian officials....  Without the intention to defend or justify the attacks, criticisms were launched against President Abbas’ responsibilities. State officials’ discourses and rhetoric that are left unrealized will become counterproductive and turn into a boomerang.  Abbas is now in the spotlight because he is regarded as a leader incapable of realizing promises for employment.”

"Israeli Withdrawal Plan Torpedoed"

Leading independent Kompas held (8/9):  “Netanyahu’s resignation not only torpedoed the plan for Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, but also hit and humiliated Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s government....  It is feared that Netanyahu’s resignation will stimulate acts of rejection toward the plan for Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in mid August....  Without doubt, anger and disappointment among Palestinians will increase if the withdrawal fails to be carried out....  As long as there is no guarantee over Palestinians’ rights to establish an independent country in their own land, turbulence will never end.”

AFRICA

SOUTH AFRICA:  "Gaza Pullout Raises Caution And Optimism"

The liberal Sunday Independent commented (8/14):  "No one yet knows whether Israel’s disengagement from Gaza...can be achieved without serious violence.  But if there is doubt about the days and weeks ahead, there is as much about the political meaning of Israel’s unilateral withdrawal....  The nightmare haunting moderate Palestinians in Gaza is that Hamas will strengthen its popularity by claiming it drove Israel out, while Abbas will have nothing to show for what Israel continues to insist is a unilateral step.  Some European diplomats have begun canvassing the possibility of a fresh UNSC resolution after disengagement, backed by the U.S. and doing what Washington has so far failed to do, by making clear the minimum requirements of both sides in any final-status settlement.  Of course, if UN resolutions could solve this conflict, they would have done so generations ago.  But a new one might provide some form of political horizon, however misty.  If such a resolution were also underpinned by a clear recommendation to both parties to put such a peace plan to referendum of both Israelis and Palestinians, there is every chance that it would secure a majority among both peoples.  We wait to see if Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza just may be at last, a glimmer of hope for a negotiated settlement.”

WESTERN HEMISPHERE

CANADA:  "Netanyahu's Jump"

The leading Globe and Mail opined (8/9): "If the late Yasser Arafat was the leader who never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity, Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu is the politician who never passes up an opportunity--no matter how cynical or self-interested he must be to take it. His resignation Sunday as Israel's finance minister, 10 days before that country begins to pull out from the Gaza Strip it has occupied since 1967, was breathtaking in its cheap opportunism....  It...did not seem to bother Netanyahu that his resignation came far too late to stop the pullout.  He might have tried months ago.  Now he wishes to present himself as the true adherent to Likud party values and thrust Prime Minister Ariel Sharon aside. His political calculations do not seem to add up.  Sharon, canny and bold, is in step with the Israeli consensus.  His is a voice of hope. Mr. Netanyahu's is one of doom, waiting to say, 'I told you so.'  It's hard to imagine an electorate choosing doom over hope. The country's unilateral Gaza withdrawal is a small, hopeful step.  Many challenges lie ahead that dwarf this one, if a lasting peace is to be found.  Mr. Sharon may wish to use this withdrawal to solidify his country's hold on its far more strategic and populous West Bank settlements--an obstacle to longer-term peace prospects.  But he is at least making progress, by taking a badly needed step back.  Mr. Netanyahu, on the other hand, has reminded the country of why he is not the leader of the future."

"It's Always About Bibi"

The conservative National Post maintained (8/9):  "On the surface, the decision by Israeli Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to step down to protest the uprooting of Jewish settlements in Gaza might seem principled.  But the cynicism motivating the former prime minister's action is betrayed by its timing.  Mr. Netanyahu's gesture could have made a difference had he registered his opposition to Ariel Sharon's pullout plan last fall, when it came to a vote in Israel's parliament.  Instead, he opted to wait until the eve of the withdrawal--too late to effect a real change--before declaring the PM's plan untenable and walking away from the government.  This is a naked political calculation that may or may not advance his political ambitions....  The man nicknamed Bibi resigned while the government was in the middle of working out its 2006 budget, and while Israeli troops are in the middle of a complicated and dangerous evacuation operation in Gaza.  Tensions are running high:  Last week, a Jewish extremist killed four Arab Israelis on a bus, an act of terrorism that underscored the fragility of the situation.  It is a disgrace that Mr. Netanyahu should give legitimacy to pullout opponents at this crucial juncture.  The whole episode shows what many have always suspected about the man:  While he may have plenty of concern and regard for the people of Israel, in the end, it's all about Bibi."

ARGENTINA:  "Cabinet Crisis For Sharon Due To Imminent Pullout From Gaza"

Daily-of-record La Nacion commented (8/8): "Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's influential minister of Finance and key rival of Prime Minister Sharon within his own party, sparked a surprise cabinet crisis with his resignation yesterday in protest against Israel's imminent pullout from Gaza....  Netanyahu's surprise resignation showed not only the deep division there is within the cabinet over the withdrawal from Gaza--resisted by important sectors of the right-wing Likud, including the settlers and extremist Jewish sectors--moreover, the decision was also interpreted as the first step in Netanyahu's election campaign, which might be copied by other government ministers.  In fact, and according to Israeli analysts, the resignation of the former minister of Finance when the cabinet was giving a green light to the first phase of Israel's pullout places the issue of security in the heart of the political debate and might lead to new elections before November 2006, the initially scheduled date."

BRAZIL:  "Israel Withdrawal From Gaza Is Vital For Peace Accord"

Business-oriented Valor Economico maintained (8/11):  "Although everything points out towards the already routine defeat of hopes for peace, there are various indications that now the chances of progress are real....  Sharon’s effort to take the first step without demanding compensations is one of the new and auspicious facts in the scenario.  It is very likely that a failure could occur and would be almost certain should the initiative of partial withdrawal from the Palestinian territories have come from a Labor Party government.  Israel counts on the support of the U.S., for which, after 9/11 and even more after the invasion of Iraq, initiatives to reduce the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have become an important ingredient of its strategy in the Middle East....  The Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and the peaceful administration of that territory by the Palestinians will be a test for the feasibility of a peace accord.  First, if successful, it will show for the first time in 40 years the Israeli government’s determination to demonstrate Israel’s will to abandon its annexation policy.  Then, the PA will be in a position to demonstrate that it is capable of establishing the embryo of a real Palestinian state and ensuring that it has conditions to fulfill its part in the difficult truce withIsrael.”   

"Split In Israel"

Liberal Folha de S. Paulo declared (8/9):  "Netanyahu’s resignation as Israeli minister of finance illustrates very well the state of tensions in the Jewish state on the eve of the withdrawal from Gaza....  With that decision, Netanyahu has become the leader of the Israeli radical right wing....  Most of the Israeli population, as well as the international community, clearly support the withdrawal, but the radical right wing and religious groups oppose it violently....  The withdrawal from Gaza is a necessary, but insufficient step for the peace process.  Most settlements illegally built in Palestinian territories are not located in Gaza, but in the West Bank.  Less than 4 percent of the 240,000 settlers will be affected.  What is worse is that Sharon has already indicated that he wants to leave Gaza to reinforce the Jewish presence in the West Bank.  If this is the strategy, the prospects of peace in the region are minimal.  As the most powerful force, Israel can impose the terms of the negotiations.  But it is evident that there can only be peace if the Israelis are willing to give back the territories occupied after the 1967 war.”

JAMAICA:  "Israel's Withdrawal From Gaza"

John Rapley wrote in the left-of-center Daily Gleaner (8/11):  "Sharon was once the godfather of the Israeli settlement movement....  However, the settlers now feel he was manipulating them.  Of course, that should surprise nobody who has followed Ariel Sharon's career, with all its Machiavellian twists and turns.  For him, settlement was never an ideological or religious imperative.  It was purely strategic....  More recently, with growing international pressure to return the occupied territories to the nascent Palestinian state, Mr. Sharon appears to have gambled that giving a bit on Gaza would increase his leverage over the West Bank...Having judged that the Gaza Strip is expendable, he has apparently decided that unilateral withdrawal will give him the bargaining power he needs, particularly in Washington, not to return all of the West Bank.  However, while he may garner the sympathy of the present U.S. administration, he has incurred the fierce wrath of the settlers....  Fortunately for them, they may have a co-conspirator....  Netanyahu will not likely be able to prevent next week's evacuation.  But he may be able to provoke Mr. Sharon's downfall within the party....  However, Sharon enjoys one big advantage...the public at large supports the withdrawal....  Some prominent Israelis are saying that after the Gaza pullout, Ariel Sharon should quit Likud and form a new party with Labor and centrist parliamentarians....  But Mr. Sharon, as ever, remains cagey about his intentions.  And as is typical in Israeli politics, one cannot look too far beyond the next policy move in predicting the future.  If a week is a long time in politics, it can be an eternity in Israel."

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