Middle East

Middle East

‘Road Map’ Revived

Middle Eastern leaders discuss steps toward ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with George Bush in Aqaba, Jordan
U.S. President George Bush discusses steps toward ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with Middle Eastern leaders in Aqaba, Jordan, June 4, 2003 (Photo: Eric Draper/AFP).

Tel Aviv Ha’aretz June 4: Here are some tips for George W. Bush from the shelves of the local souk. Sharon can do it. Let nobody tell Bush that Sharon doesn’t have all the power he needs to push through a deal. He could successfully market to the Americans the terrible difficulties of removing all the outposts and freezing the settlements. It’s not true. The Israeli majority wants it. The local stock market is bursting from pleasure at the possibility. And the opposition inside the government is feeble….Watch out for fraud. We have long experience with the prime minister’s skills at manipulation.….Bang on the table. One of the traditional weaknesses in American diplomacy regarding Israel has been the fear of raising its voice at Jerusalem….Go all the way….Listen to us Israelis, who know the local material. Go for it, George, all the way. Don’t let slip this extraordinary opportunity that we here, together with the Palestinians, have so tragically missed over and over again.
—Gideon Samet

Beirut The Daily Star (independent), June 4: Dear George, … The symbolism of your visit is profound: You, the world’s most powerful leader, are visiting an idyllic, always pleasant, safe, quiet Jordanian town in the midst of many regional troubles and conflicts, to bring together leaders of two warring nations (Israel and Palestine), while also laying down Washington’s new law in the region, enforced by hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers…. Out there in the Middle East, it’s easy to be awed by the landscape, overwhelmed by the spirituality, dazzled by the history, and then duped by local guides who prey on powerful and wealthy visitors from distant continents. So, the lesson is: Beware if the locals offer to take you for a ride and show you the lay of the land and lead you to your desired destination. When someone offers to help you in the land of Midian, they’re probably using you to help themselves.
—Rami G. Khouri

Tel Aviv Yediot Aharonot (centrist) June 4: Sharon, who has depended so heavily on the confidence that Bush displays toward him, will find how easily Bush betrays him with his new man of peace, the Saudi crown prince….Sharon has dedicated 35 years of his life to building the settlements. The arguments were strategic, Zionist, messianic. The opposing camp views them as a national disaster. Bush does not understand what the debate is about. In his eyes, the settlements are simply a dumb investment in hopeless stock. Israel builds them, and the Palestinians will live in them….Likewise for the Palestinians: Bush has no ear for their political nuances, for the constraints, for their difficulty in releasing themselves from the tradition of terrorism. He is like a child who is not sure he likes the toy that has fallen into his hands. If it annoys him, he will kick the toy under the bed….Who knows? Perhaps Bush’s brutal, somewhat childish simplicity will succeed more than Clinton’s patient sophistication.
—Nahum Barnea

Jerusalem Al-Hayat al-Jadedah (Palestinian), June 4: The implementation of the road map requires a real change in the American position, especially regarding settlements and Israeli state terrorism. This new American position should not take for granted every Israeli claim regarding its evacuation of some settlement outposts, simply because such outposts are imaginary, a fact that can be easily discovered by the American observers when they get here. Nevertheless, even when the road map takes off, it will need the involvement of President Arafat….
—Hafez Barghouti

Amman Al-Ra’i (pro-government), June 4: If President Bush succeeds in achieving peace in the Middle East, then this will be a compensation for some of the negative repercussions of the aggression against Iraq. His success in this regard will serve the interests of all parties and will be an accomplishment that no one can deny....But the bitter experiences of the past call for caution today. We are much more pessimistic than optimistic. Sharon’s acceptance of the road map under pressure may be a mere tactic, after which Sharon will jump at the first opportunity to back out and render the plan a failure.
—Fahd Fanek

Casablanca Al-Sahara (semi-official), June 4: Bush’s tour to the Middle East has reminded us of his father, who went on a tour of the Middle East after the 1991 Gulf War to arrange the international Madrid conference on achieving a Middle East peace....One does not need to be a storyteller to come to know the horizons of the road map. Past experience provides the best means to foresee the future. Israel has violated all previous agreements, and we have all the time in the world to witness Israel renege on all future agreements.
—Abdelahdi Mezrari

Dubai Al-Bayan (government-owned), June 4: Bush’s official statements represent a change in the U.S. vision of Middle East issues, and we hope that these statements will be followed by action....The road map is a real test, not for the Zionists who make promises and statements about peace that we don’t trust, but for the U.S. administration, an administration that we fear will ignore its own promises…especially considering that the U.S. presidential elections are approaching.

London Al-Hayat (Saudi-owned, pan-Arab), June 3: Bush deserves to feel comfortable now, because his participation in an Arab-American summit in Sharm El-Sheikh is extremely significant for the Middle East. He is actually the Arabs’ lone partner in discussing the future of the region and its “hot” issues. He deserves to smile. No one ever said Vladimir Putin had to be present, no one even cared to invite Jacques Chirac, and no one bothered to send Kofi Annan a formal invitation….
—Ghassan Charbel

Cairo Al-Ahram (government-owned), June 4: Today Bush meets with Palestinian Prime Minister [Mahmoud Abbas, also known as] Abu Mazen and Prime Minister [Ariel] Sharon to lay down the cornerstone for a durable peace in the Middle East. Everyone wishes to see this dream realized and hopes Sharon’s confessions about the Palestinians and the Palestinian territories [i.e., that Israel occupies the West Bank and Gaza] are not just maneuvers to find a way out of the siege of international consensus after the Arabs presented their peace initiatives while Israelis were demolishing Palestinian houses and assassinating Palestinians, imposing a horrible siege of their own.
—Ibrahim Nafie

London The Times (conservative), June 4: Bush will not achieve a breakthrough in just two days of meetings; but he will have undercut skeptics, at home and in the Muslim world, who doubted his commitment to the road map in the run-up to the U.S. elections, and he will have launched the most ambitious U.S. diplomatic mission since coming to office. Until now Bush has rightly been wary of over-engaging the authority of his office in the elusive search for peace. He saw how his predecessor’s focus on the minutiae made him a prisoner of the region’s politics.

Frankfurt Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (conservative), June 3: Without talking the new Middle East road map to death, we must warn against raising false hopes right from the beginning. We must concede that Bush brought together Sharon and Abbas. But one single Palestinian attack would be enough to destroy this new beginning initiated in Aqaba….
—Wolfgang Guenter Lerch

Milan Il Giornale (conservative), June 4: Bush left the Sharm al-Sheikh summit with a glass that was half-full.…But the taste of the drink in the glass is, for the time being, much more American than Arab. Bush succeeded in making this summit...look like the direct continuation of the military victory in Iraq.…The glass remained half-empty, however, for other explicit and implicit reasons. The first is that the Sharm al-Sheikh summit represents the end of the Arab political world as it has been conceived so far. The Secretary of the Arab League was not invited. Syria, Lebanon, and Libya were absent. And the symbol of Arab resistance, Arafat, was not only uninvited, but continues to be a virtual prisoner in Ramallah.
—R.A. Segre

Moscow Vremya MN (reformist), June 3: This week may make or break the situation in the Middle East. Bush is going to play the main role in the drive for peace. This is like a boss coming to put his house in order. Had there been doubts in his mind about this mission, Bush would not have organized summits in Sharm al-Sheikh and Aqaba. Throughout the past week, Washington held intensive consultations with the Israelis, Palestinians, Egyptians, Jordanians, and Saudis. The go-ahead was given after it became clear that there really is a chance for change in the Middle East.
—Konstantin Kapitonov

Jakarta Kompas (independent), June 4: Bush’s recent trip to Europe and the Middle East has been perceived as illustrating a shift in U.S. views about the world after the Iraq war....Relations are shifting. The United States is getting closer to Poland and Qatar than to France and Germany....Bush’s seriousness about advancing the road map for peace in the Middle East could be seen in Sharon’s change of attitude after his trip to the United States. Before his meeting with President Bush in Washington, Sharon seemed to be rejecting the road map....After the meeting, Sharon said he accepted the phases in implementation of the road map....Of course, some still doubt Sharon’s seriousness, given his reputation as a Jewish fanatic who represses the Palestinians. But many are also impressed by his changed attitude. There is increased room for optimism.