Middle East

Middle East

Mapping a Middle East Peace

A Palestinian girl walks by Hamas graffiti in Gaza
A Palestinian girl walks by graffiti reading "Hamas" and "the holy warriors" in Jabalia, Gaza, April 16, 2003 (Photo: Mohammed Saber/AFP).

London Al-Sharq al-Awsat (Arabic-language, pan-Arab, Saudi-owned), April 22: The importance of the “road map,” which comprises delineated steps for the proclamation of a Palestinian state by the year 2005 with international supervision to help accomplish these steps, is that it is the first international commitment from four principal international powers—the United States, the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations—for the establishment of a Palestinian state. It is unfortunate that the actual proposal doesn’t include the deployment of international forces in the Occupied Territories to supervise its implementation and make the conditions incumbent [on Israel], as the Palestinians ardently hoped it would. This would have meant that the road map had some teeth to it. But at the same time the road map embodies oversight by those four international powers who have announced their commitment to it. In some way, this oversight could be the strength needed to pressure Israel to heed the conditions laid out in the plan. For this reason, it is obvious that the road map doesn’t please Israel. This explains why Israel is trying to insert modifications to the proposal that would support its position.
—Ali Ibrahim

Tel Aviv Ha’aretz (Israeli, Hebrew-language, liberal), April 22: This is a new era for Israel: All the Arab countries around it have been weakened, especially those regarded as a strategic threat. After Iraq, Syria has been whacked across the knuckles with a ruler and shown a yellow card. Iran, branded the third leg of the “Axis of Evil,” is bound to be more cautious now. In the Palestinian Authority, a campaign is under way to neutralize [Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat altogether, now that the Palestinians have realized that their salvation will not come from terrorism and America represents their last hope.
—Yoel Marcus

Jerusalem Al-Quds (Palestinian, Arabic-language, pro-Palestinian Authority), April 22: [As the United States and Great Britain condemned Iraq], they evinced support for Israel, despite its refusal to acknowledge dozens of resolutions, whether issued from the Security Council or the General Assembly of the United Nations, which have called for it to withdraw from occupied Palestinian lands and make it possible for the Palestinian people to achieve their legitimate national rights. Now, on our way to the negotiating table, we find the American peace initiative, called the road map. This initiative is probably nothing more than an attempt to buy more time for the Israelis. Or perhaps it is a bit of smoke and mirrors to distract the world from the aggression that is truly happening in Iraq. But, on the Palestinian side at least, pessimism doesn’t preclude cooperation with this American vision. For we hope that this may actually be a serious attempt to arrive at peace; it might even intend to impose an American peace through pressure on both sides: Palestinian and Israeli. On the other hand, everyone knows the United States is biased in favor of Israeli interests, which will make implementation of the initiative limited or partial. Responsibility for its implementation may eventually wind up in the hands of the Israeli government. They would then have the opportunity to denude the agreement of its substance and convert it into an exact replica of [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon’s project to eliminate the “Palestinian question” altogether.

Tel Aviv Ma’ariv (Israeli, Hebrew-language, centrist), April 22: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict today isn't just a conflict between leaders and worldviews, it is a conflict between two peoples filled with bitterness and hatred, between parents and children who have lost many of their relatives and their belief in peace. They won't place their destiny in airy promises of a new Middle East. There isn't, and there cannot be, an agreement for mutual trust between the two peoples in this manner. Perhaps in the next generation....[U.S. President George] Bush's road map is a positive step but nothing more. Even if both sides agreed to accept it exactly as it is written, without changes or comments (and there is no possibility of that happening), there is nothing in the road map or in Bushs vision that will allow the spanning of a bridge across the deep abyss between the two peoples and which would bring an end to the dispute.
—Dan Shilon

Cairo Al-Wafd (Arabic-language, organ of the opposition Al-Wafd Party), April 21: The White House has become the executive arm of [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz]'s gang. The Pentagon has turned into Israel’s war room. A flagrant example to cite here is America’s current threats against Syria. [Former U.S. President Richard] Nixon’s conviction that his country’s Zionist-controlled media had been working against the presidential institution no longer holds since the president of the United States has now been reduced to a mere employee translating the exact meaning of Sharon’s Hebrew utterances into plain English. The U.S. media have turned a short-cut by parroting the chorus of Israeli generals and rabbis. There are no longer differences to be found in the political jargon used by either country, the plans set, or the means to which either of them will resort in order to achieve their goals.

Tel Aviv Hatzofeh (Israeli, Hebrew-language, organ of the right-wing National Religious Party), April 21: While Sharon declares that the selection of Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] as Palestinian prime minister presents opportunities for a political breakthrough with the Palestinians, [Israeli] security sources tell us...that the Palestinians are coming to the point at which they can declare that the Al-Aqsa Intifada has been a success. These things leave the Israeli public with the feeling that Palestinian terrorism has worked and that the Palestinian Authority is interested in an agreement only to clear the way for a real war, pitching Israel against the terrorists. This despite the statistics showing that the number of terrorist attacks has gone down and that there is an easing of tensions. But it is important not to lapse into delusions. The murderous terrorists haven't changed their program or its intensity. The terrorist organizations openly say as much, and they continue to attempt to carry out murderous terrorist attacks.

Beirut The Daily Star (independent, English-language), April 22: Many observers have long complained about the oft-delayed release of the road map to peace. In addition, there have been widespread fears that Sharon would do everything in his power to keep the proposal off the table indefinitely, or at least until he could convince Bush to emasculate it. The way things stand now, there is no need for the Israelis to play that card, or for the Americans to respond: The Palestinians are close to scuttling the process all by themselves....This homegrown obstacle comes in the form of an ugly contest between Arafat and his prime minister-designate, Mahmoud Abbas, who has threatened to resign unless the president accepts his Cabinet nominees....By failing to make the best of a bad situation, though, both Arafat and Abbas are hurting no one so much as their own people.

Jerusalem The Jerusalem Post (Israeli, conservative, English-language), April 20: Despite Sharon’s politically courageous acquiescence to the eventual creation of a Palestinian state, it is obvious that Israel can never agree to the emergence of such a state until there is firm evidence that the Palestinians have overcome their feral hatred for Israel, have recognized Israel as a legitimate state of the Jewish people, have forfeited their demand for the return of the Palestinian refugees to that Israel, and have effectively reined in and disarmed their terrorist groups.
—Yosef Goell

London Al-Hayat (Arabic-language, pan-Arab), April 21: One may assume that the occupation of Iraq represents the start of a new regional order in the Middle East. The aim of such a regime is to allow Israel to dominate the Arab world….And since Bush’s arrival at the White House, the similarities between the American and Israeli interests in the Arab world have become quite visible. Yet despite all the superior power that the United States and Israel have, the new order will not last long since history tells us that the days of empires are usually short for domestic and external reasons. The military power that the Americans have, while superior to that of other nations, does not serve in winning the hearts of peoples whom it claims to be liberating from oppression.

Tel Aviv Hatzofeh (Israeli, Hebrew-language, organ of the right-wing National Religious Party), April 20: No, esteemed Mr. President of the United States, your initiative to give a prize to terrorists is not acceptable to us. We do not intend to put Israeli citizens at risk and in danger as we have in the past. We are not planning to do that again after we have done it so many times, some of those times at the behest and pressure of the Americans.

Jerusalem Al-Quds (Palestinian, Arabic-language, pro-Palestinian Authority), April 15: The British government seems to have taken responsibility for the peace process, beginning weeks before the Anglo-American aggression against Iraq. Since then, the British have been acting as the official spokesman for itself and the U.S. administration, which has kept a deafening silence in this regard….It seems that the U.S. administration has found another excuse to postpone opening the Palestinian file: namely, heating up the front that it has opened with Syria and heaping loads of threats and accusations against Damascus.

London Al-Hayat (Arabic-language, pan-Arab), April 19: The Arabs, who have always been at odds with the administrations in Washington, have not answered the question: Is the United States an enemy, or is it an intermediary and referee? If it’s an enemy, as we used to say during the Cold War, then we shouldn’t be surprised by its pro-Israeli policies and should ready ourselves for a fight. If it’s now a referee, as we used to ask it to be during the Cold War, then we should abandon the rhetoric of the Cold War. In other words, those Arab politicians who were the puppets of [Soviet Premier Leonid] Brezhnev and [East German leader Erich] Honecker during the Cold War cannot continue in Arab political life.
—Hazem Saghiya

Tel Aviv Yediot Aharonot (Israeli, Hebrew-language, centrist) April 16: The disagreement between Israel and the United States over the road map is getting sharper. On April 15, Powell announced for the first time that the road map would be based on the Saudi initiative for a peace agreement in the Middle East, which consists mainly of a return to the June 1967 borders....Until then, officials from the U.S. administration refrained from mentioning the Saudi initiative in their discussions about the U.S. road map. Now the United States wants to have Saudi Arabia participate in the peace process in exchange for quiet cooperation on its part in the war against Iraq. Israel has already rejected the Saudi initiative, which turned out to have been formulated in cooperation with the Americans, and which was adopted by the Arab League....Government sources in Jerusalem said last night that Israel would not be able to accept the American demand that the road map be based on the Saudi initiative.
—Orly Azolai-Katz

Beirut Ad-Diyar (Arabic-language, independent), April 15: Washington is relying on its power and is not taking justice into consideration. It is implementing its old double-standard Middle Eastern policy with excessive impudence: On one hand, it supports the invader Israel with money and weapons; on the other hand, it barbarically invades Iraq and threatens Syria without any justification....The United States is standing naked, without any credibility...as long as it talks about Syria and ignores Israel....The current U.S. policy is what is really dangerous for international stability. [U.S. President George] Bush, [U.S. Secretary of State Colin] Powell, and [U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld are implementing the Zionist dream….America will eventually be destroyed by Zionism.
—Charles Ayoub

Tel Aviv Ha’aretz (Israeli, Hebrew-language, liberal), April 17: Sharon notes that he accepts the principles mentioned in Bush’s vision of June 24, 2002 [outlining a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict], but, on the other hand, he does not accept everything mentioned in the road map. There really are differences between Bush’s speech and the road map….Bush’s speech mentions two clear principles in this matter: that settlement activity must be halted, and that there be an end to the occupation that began in 1967….The expansion of settlements means only one thing: The continuation of the occupation and the rule over another people, if not over all of it then over most of it. All the word games will not whitewash this fact. The inevitable result of the continued occupation, even via settlements and outposts, will be an increase in terrorism and its reinforcement by external radical elements. And if the terrorist attacks resume after the Iraq war, how has it helped the struggle against terrorism?

Amman Al-Ra’i (Arabic-language, pro-government), April 12: The Anglo-American axis has undertaken some formal maneuvers and reactivated diplomatic efforts regarding the Palestinian issue. This is an attempt to throw sand in everyone’s eyes and create a false impression that the United States will help the Palestinians after it has settled its accounts with Iraq. [British Prime Minister Tony] Blair’s meeting with certain Palestinian politicians should be seen within this framework. Bush’s attempt to rediscover the link between the Palestinian and Iraqi issues and talk about the road map and his vision of two countries also falls within this framework.
—Fahd Al-Fanik

Tel Aviv Ha’aretz (Israeli, Hebrew-language, liberal), April 14: What is the prime minister doing to help Abu Mazen establish the government that Sharon wants so much? What gestures has he made? Has he ordered a reduction in house demolitions, armored raids, the waves of nighttime arrests, the closures?...There is a gnawing concern in reading Sharon’s words, given the way his government has been dealing with the Palestinians, that the prime minister is raising “the issue of stages,” as he called it, as a means of undermining the road map by entangling it in endless and barren arguments dooming it to oblivion.

Istanbul Sabah (Turkish-language, independent), April 17: U.S. policy on the Israel-Palestine issue is another aspect of the Bush administration’s new Middle East plan to watch carefully....Considering the U.S.-Israeli approach to formulating the road map, we can draw a pessimistic conclusion as to its eventual outcome. The way Washington sees the road map tells us that the Israeli government will not face any pressure to arrive at a peace, at least in the near future. In other words, peace and stability in the region are still far in the distance.
—Soli Ozel

Tel Aviv Ma’ariv (Israeli, Hebrew-language, centrist), April 15: The most recent meeting in the White House between [Deputy Israeli Prime Minister] Silvan Shalom and leaders in the U.S. government strongly suggests that Bush is steadfast about presenting the road map in its original formulation in order to get the peace process moving between Israel and the Palestinians. Powell said this week that the road map will be presented in its current form and that the United States will be prepared to receive the parties’ responses afterward. Meanwhile, political pressure is growing on the U.S. government not to enter into conflicts with the government of Sharon in connection with the road map. In response to a letter signed by 70 U.S. senators and more than 235 congressmen, as well as to communications from Jewish lobbyists, [National Security Adviser] Condoleeza Rice has said that the United States is committed to the vision of two states described in President Bush’s speech.

Istanbul Milliyet (liberal), April 17: A peace between Palestine and Israel can be made possible if the United States exerts enough pressure on Sharon, especially after having “normalized” Iraq and Syria. Such a development might have positive effects for change in Lebanon as well as in Iran....The current situation in the Middle East is in the midst of a transformation. This means a certain amount of instability. Yet the current situation is also inherently unstable. Therefore, Turkey should refrain from seeking to maintain the status quo and instead encourage the change.
—Hasan Cemal

Jerusalem Bitterlemons.org (Israeli-Palestinian online weekly), April 14: It is difficult to avoid the impression that the course of U.S. road map politics in the coming months will be determined by a combination of two external developments: the vicissitudes of the American occupation of Iraq, and Bush’s calculations regarding his reelection in November 2004. Meanwhile Abu Mazen, if and when he is certified as prime minister, will feel obliged to avoid displaying too much friendship for the American occupiers of Iraq, to the detriment of Palestinian interests. And Sharon will blame Arab pressures if Bush tries to hold him to road-map obligations, rather than face up to the objective need to cease the settlements lunacy. This is regrettable from every aspect. But better a peace process generated by the conquest of Iraq than none at all.
—Yossi Alpher

London Al-Sharq al-Awsat (Arabic-language, pan-Arab, Saudi-owned), April 17: One can travel along a road at various speeds, following it along twists and turns that make the final objective seem like an elusive mirage. So it is with the road we have been on since Bush promised the establishment of a Palestinian state by 2005. But many Palestinians fear that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has a secret agenda: that he will accept Bush II’s road map and then make it a dead, meaningless document, just as happened with [former Israeli Prime Minister] Itzhak Shamir’s agreement to the “Madrid Spectacle” Bush I proposed [that is, the 1991 Madrid Framework for resolving contentious issues between Israel and the Arabs—WPR].

Jerusalem The Jerusalem Post (Israeli, conservative, English-language), April 14: The road map makes a subtle change that makes all the difference. Like [the 1993] Oslo [Agreement] and all the failed peace plans before it, the road map is built upon a moral equivalency between Israel and the Palestinians, whereby demands to “both sides” are carefully matched….A reader of this document would have trouble determining which side is blowing up buses and which side is trying to prevent buses from blowing up. The truth is that the road map is so obsessed with placing equal blame and making equal demands of both sides that it is hard to see how it can be satisfactorily amended….Bush should say simply that he has confidence the people and government of Israel are ready for peace the moment the Palestinians and the Arab world demonstrate they are ready to live with Israel.

Ramallah Al-Ayyam (Palestinian, Arabic-language, pro-Palestinian Authority), April 13: Many recent American statements have confirmed that while the road map will be made public after the formation of the new Palestinian Cabinet, it will not be immediately imposed on the parties. The U.S. administration has stressed that it will wait to hear reaction from both sides. This means that it is very possible that the old Israeli game of stalling and prolonging negotiations will resume, which is basically to say that the whole plan will be abolished. This is exactly what Sharon needs to impose his plan to continue expanding the settlements and dividing the Palestinian areas into cantons isolated by separation walls.
—Gazi Al-Khalili

Tel Aviv Ma’ariv (Israeli, Hebrew-language, centrist), April 15: Despite all the uncertainty that has enveloped the Middle East since the completion of the American project to eradicate the Iraqi regime, one can determine with near certainty that if Israel does not make substantive changes to its political and military positions, it will be because someone on Israel’s team has failed to recognize that fundamental changes in the region have taken place.... Even if international (including American) pressure, reaches Israel only after all of the other countries in the area have learned their lesson, it will still be brought to bear on Israel. That is a good reason for the prime minister to think seriously—and not just speculate in a newspaper interview—about dismantling settlements. It is a good reason for the prime minister to think about meaningful Israeli gestures that will promote a more pragmatic leadership among the Palestinians, showing that Israel is capable of thinking outside its traditional box when a new reality begins to take shape around it.
—Arik Bachar

Dubai Al-Bayan (government-controlled), April 21: What should be abundantly clear is that Israeli policies are in concert with political developments and current circumstances in the region and the United States. Its attempts at orchestrating the future American policies in the region are not simply based on wishful thinking. Their attempts are solidly grounded in a careful reading of the nature of political patronage that the influential officials in the American administration are currently weilding. The Israeli government has also studied those influential factors in American domestic and foreign policies and is in a good position to benefit based on all the cards it holds in the American political arena. On all of these fronts, Sharon's government has been working tirelessly to superimpose its interests and interpretations over the heart of American plans. Despite the obvious disparaties and disagreements the Israeli government may have with the Bush administration, they aren't far from achieving their goal….

Oslo Aftenposten (conservative), April 12: For now it is unclear to what degree Bush will try to pressure a very skeptical Israeli government to accept this so-called road map for peace. Bush’s nomination of the strongly Israel-friendly retired general Jay Garner as acting leader in Iraq has for now weakened the Arabs’ hope that the United States meant it seriously.
—Per A. Christiansen

Tokyo Asahi Shimbun (centrist), April 15: As Iraq comes under the control of U.S. and British troops, post-Saddam Hussein “waves of change” are expected to sweep the Middle East. As things stand, the United States, having demonstrated its overwhelming military might in the war in Iraq, is expected to hold sway over the region, probably setting its sights on Syria and Iran as its next military targets. As the balance of power between the U.S.-Israel group and the Arab world is fast crumbling, the outlook for Middle East peace appears to be more distant than ever.

London The Guardian (liberal), April 14: Bush, at Blair’s request, has already agreed to publication of the road map, a peace plan which would see the creation of a Palestinian state by 2005. The plan was agreed in December by “The Quartet:” the United States, Russia, the United Nations, and the European Union. But Israel has since been delaying it, saying first that it should wait until after the Israeli election at the end of January, then until after the Palestinians appointed a new prime minister, and now until after the prime minister, Abu Mazen, appoints his cabinet. Bush has hinted that it will be published soon, but publication does not amount to much. For the road map to succeed, there has to be political will behind it, a determined desire to overcome the issues of the Palestinian refugees, territorial boundaries, the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, and the future of Jerusalem. There is no such will in either the United States or Israel.

Johannesburg Rapport (National Party-oriented, Afrikaans-language), April 13: A formidable task awaits Bush if he is to try to regain the trust of the Arab world.…The key to this project is...a speedy answer to the Israeli-Palestinian question….Should Bush manage to install a credible government in Iraq and a safer Israel next to a viable, independent Palestine, he could start a new era in the Middle East. Even Bush’s biggest critics should give him a fair chance.

Sydney The Sydney Morning Herald (centrist), April 16: With the dust yet to settle on the expeditious capture of Iraq, the rattling of American sabers at neighboring Syria is untimely and unsettling. It fuels suspicions that the United States led the pre-emptive strike against Iraq while concealing its real intentions. Critics can legitimately celebrate Iraq’s liberation from decades of tyranny while questioning the consequences for international order if the world’s only superpower chooses gunboat diplomacy to create its own domino effect. As pressing as the United States may regard the bringing to heel of Syrian excesses, the investment of energy, persuasion and stamina on the Israel-Palestine question is more likely to pay peace dividends.

Casablanca Le Matin (government-owned, French-language), April 16: Having won the war in Iraq, the United States now wants to be more involved in the future of the Middle East. Bush and his advisers have made plans indicating that Syria will be the next target of the American strategy after Iraq....The intimidation campaign against Syria is aimed at neutralizing Syrian support to Hamas and Hezbollah and reducing Damascus’s influence on radical Palestinian elements in order to relaunch the road map.

Amsterdam Der Standard (liberal), April 15: As soon as the Palestinian Cabinet exists, the…road map for peace in the Middle East—which the European Union, the United Nations, and Russia have been bragging about in the United States for months—will finally be published. Bush himself promised this. And now Arafat is doing everything to prevent the composition of the Cabinet from being finalized and the road map from being published. He has shot himself in the foot here....Dov Weisglass, head of Sharon’s Cabinet, was supposed to call on Bush’s Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice on Monday [April 14] in order to present Israel’s reservations regarding the road map: He was able to nonchalantly point out that nothing can be done as long as Arafat is still around.
—Gudrun Harrer

Stockholm Svenska Dagbladet (conservative), April 15: The liberation of Iraq has, at last, opened slightly the window of opportunity in the Middle East. There are also signals from Washington that indicate that Bush would be willing to open it completely....The toppling of the Iraqi dictatorship might be an impulse for the building of democracy in the Arab world. The creation of a Palestinian state next to Israel would no doubt facilitate such a process. Sharon, who until now has only lived up to the negative expectations the world has of him, now has the chance to go down in history with a different posthumous reputation. Whether he can bring himself to take it, however, is another matter.

Johannesburg Business Day (financial), April 10: Throughout the period leading up to the war and during it, the coalition, prodded by Blair, has been promising the publication of a road map for the resolution of the Palestinian question.…The United States, and long before Bush’s time, has an awful record of bias on the issue. Now that Bush has won so easily and convincingly against Saddam Hussein, it is profoundly to be hoped that he and his advisers can summon the courage and the wisdom to drive through a settlement between Israel and Palestine. They say it takes conservative governments to do the obvious thing in situations like Palestine. Well, they do not come more conservative than the Bush administration.