Middle East


Israel’s Withdrawal From Gaza

Paint is thrown on Israeli security forces as they storm a synagogue in Kfar Darom, Gaza’s largest settlement, to remove protesters from the rooftop. (Photo: Sebastian Scheiner / AFP-Getty Images)

“Their Finest Hour”

TEL AVIV — Ha’aretz (Liberal), Aug. 20: “The army and police received a thankless task: preparing for a confrontation with Israeli citizens, many of them personal friends and comrades in arms, due to a political decision that was legally approved by all three branches of government but remains controversial among the public. … The integration of army and police forces was successful. Both forces had the maturity to put talented, thorough, professional and serious commanders at the head of their battalions, brigades and commands. … They understood that what mattered was not merely getting the job done, but the price that Israeli society as a whole would pay if the task were accomplished in too wounding a fashion.”

“Words Left Unsaid”

JERUSALEM — The Jerusalem Post (Conservative), Aug. 20: “For Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, loving the settlements means never having to say you’re sorry. That, at least, is what emerged from his two public appearances during the past dramatic week — the first during his taped address Monday, on the eve of disengagement, and the second at a press conference with President Moshe Katsav on Wednesday, as the heartbreaking pictures began flowing in from Gush Katif. … Sharon was unable in either case to mouth words Katsav said last week: ‘I apologize.’ … To apologize, pointed out one of his top aides, would be to admit error, and that is something he simply doesn’t feel is the case. … After all, Sharon says continuously, look what the settlement movement accomplished: the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb are in Jewish hands; the U.S. recognizes both that the Palestinian refuges won’t be able to return to pre-1967 Israel, and that the major settlement blocs will remain a part of Israel forever.”
—Herb Keinon

The Pullout is Part of the Process

BEIRUT — The Daily Star (Independent, English-language), Aug. 18: “At this point, it is impossible to gauge what Sharon’s true intentions with the pullout are. He could be merely hoping to withdraw from Gaza to alleviate a demographic time bomb or to draw attention away from his expansionist policies in the West Bank. But regardless of his intentions, the international community — particularly the ‘Quartet’ — can still ensure that the pullout is part of a peace process and that Sharon doesn’t bulldoze the ‘road map.’ … The biggest player in this international process by far is U.S. President George W. Bush. … His promise to help Palestinians and Israelis achieve this dream means that his credibility and reputation are now at stake in the region. We are all left wondering whether Bush will now promote peace or turn a blind eye while the Israelis, through their settlement project, plant the seeds of perpetual war.”

“The Wall Is Closing in Around Jerusalem”

AMMAN — The Jordan Times (Independent), Aug. 16: “There is nothing contradictory about the facts Israel is creating on the ground in the West Bank. The wall is closing in around Jerusalem and snaking its way up and down the West Bank. Settlements are expanding at pace to the exasperation of various international envoys and American officials. … There are many reasons for the international community to take this seriously, Gaza withdrawal or none. For as long as Israel is allowed to unilaterally dictate what will happen on the ground, the message to the Palestinian people is clear: Only violence works. … It would be good to hear the international community stop lauding Sharon for his ‘tough choices’ and instead intensify efforts to push the Israeli leader towards the only rational and sensible course of action, tough as it may be: A full, negotiated withdrawal from all occupied territory.”

The Settlers Have Lost Their Power

TEL AVIV — Yediot Aharonot (Centrist), Aug. 15: “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.”
—Nahum Barnea

It Remains to Be Seen

TEL AVIV — Ma’ariv (Centrist), Aug. 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.”
—Amnon Dankner

Viewpoints includes items drawn from the U.S. Department of State’s daily digest of international media opinion.