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Opinion | MEDIA

World to Bush: Get Real!

June 30, 2002|Gale Holland

His name was never uttered, but Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was clearly the target of President Bush's major speech on the Middle East conflict last week. Bush's call to oust the Palestinian Authority president, as a precondition for a "provisional" Palestinian state, aroused predictable fury in many Arab newspapers and equally predictable joy in at least some of the Israeli press. But the rest of the world had serious questions about how the Palestinians could be persuaded to go along with the plan--particularly in lieu of any U.S. demands being placed on the Israelis. Some editorialists suggested that Bush may have even strengthened the tottering Arafat regime by appearing to meddle in internal Palestinian affairs. What follows is a sample of commentary from papers around the world on the Bush address:

ISRAEL

The genius of Bush's speech is that it finally spoke the truth about who is standing in the way of Palestinian liberty and independence. Those who continue to blame Israel for Palestinian suffering are not doing the Palestinians any favors, and they certainly are not realists. The lesson of Sept. 11, and the core of the still-evolving Bush Doctrine, is that basing peace or stability on belligerent dictatorships is like building on sand. Bush's new emphasis on democracy is not starry-eyed naivete, but realism based on bitter experience.

--Unsigned editorial, Jerusalem Post

The only useful thing in President Bush's useless speech is that now we know which way the dice in Washington have fallen when it comes to the Middle East. Those millions of Israelis who are losing hope for an agreement to end the conflict through political means now have authorization from the leader of the West that, for a long time to come, there won't be even the beginning of movement.

--Gideon Samet, Haaretz

It must be clear to all that beyond all kinds of justified claims regarding the conduct of Israeli governments from Rabin's to Barak's vis-a-vis their relations with the Palestinians and the implementation of the Oslo accords, most of the burden must be on the shoulders of the Palestinians, part of whom either perpetrated or encouraged terror, and part of whom neither reined it in nor fought against it.

--Unsigned editorial, Maariv

PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

Bush clearly views the Palestinians as being the direct cause of Israeli suffering, but as for the Palestinians--dispossessed of their country and freedom for 54 years--Israel has no culpability at all. It is as if the Palestinians, due to a bit of rotten luck, have caught a cold ....The future for Palestinians and Israelis is as grim as it has ever been. What Bush has offered is not a formula for provisional ... Palestinian statehood, but a vision of permanent war.

--Ali Abunimah, Ramallah Online

Few speeches could be considered to be as destructive as today's address from the American president.... While a cynical push for Palestinian reform has been issued both from the United States and Israel, there has also been a growing movement from within the fledgling Palestinian civil society for democratic reform of Palestinian governance, under occupation. Whether intentional or not, this speech, declaring a veritable open season on Arafat, short-circuits those efforts. The Palestinian people are surely not going to pressure their leadership to step down when this is what is being demanded by Israel and the U.S. What people could tolerate their leaders being assigned by an external power, especially one with which it is locked in an increasingly heated conflict?

--Mitchell Plitnick, Palestine Chronicle

LEBANON

[Bush's speech] was packed with demands of the Palestinians in exchange for a vague "provisional" status that could, if they did what they are told, lead to statehood and peace in three years. In contrast, Bush only warned Israel that it could not hold on to territories it overran in the 1967 war and expect the Arabs to offer it security and recognition.

--Mona Ziade, The Daily Star

IRAQ

Bush's cheating speech aims at curbing the Palestinian armed resistance against the Zionists' [Israeli] occupation and denying the Palestinians the right to live.

--Unsigned editorial, Babel

SAUDI ARABIA

The notion of an interim state is unheard of in international politics. There are interim governments and interim presidents, never an interim state. A provisional state will have none of the prerogatives of statehood, no final borders, no capital, and no say in when or indeed if Israel will pull out of Palestinian territories. The idea provides too little hope for the Palestinians while heightening risks.

--Unsigned editorial, Arab News

BRITAIN

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