November 2, 1999
MIDDLE EAST: AT OSLO SUMMIT, CLINTON 'LEGACY' EMERGES AS 'KEY' TO PEACE
Opinionmakers from the Middle East, along with their European and Asian counterparts, continued to follow closely events in Oslo, where President Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Barak and Palestinian leader Arafat are meeting to discuss ways to push forward talks on a permanent Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. A few commentators were hopeful that the two-day summit would yield tangible results. Most writers, however, didn't expect any breakthroughs from the confab, and some were already setting their sights on a possible follow-up "Camp David-style conference" early next year. Many anticipated that President Clinton would play an active role in the peace process over coming months, in part to "crown" his peacemaking "legacy." Regional highlights follow:
MIDDLE EAST: The Israeli and Palestinian press continued to devote extensive headlines and editorial page coverage to the Oslo meetings. Tel Aviv's pluralist Yediot judged that Mr. Barak's "ambitious mission" may be hampered by the fact that "Clinton, in his last year of office and without congressional and popular support, will be hard put to offer the parties the leverage they need." Nevertheless, pluralist Maariv argued that, at this stage, "nothing can blur the grand plan of recognition between Israel and the PLO, and, ultimately, a Palestinian state." West Bank dailies focused on the U.S. role in the peace process. According to independent, pro-PA Al-Ayyam, "The challenge standing before the Oslo summit is immense. And, if the American weight is not present and sufficient to free the final-status negotiations from Barak's no's regarding Jerusalem, the refugees and the settlements, then this Oslo trip will remain just a memory." While semi-official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida asserted that "it is clear that the American solutions to the Middle East conflict will reach a dead end in a very short time," independent Al-Quds had a more optimistic take: "We hope for an American effort that will advance the final-status negotiations as soon as possible." Elsewhere in the Arab world, papers remained skeptical about the Oslo summit and the peace process in general. Some, citing Congress' refusal to pass the CTBT, questioned the extent to which President Clinton will be able "to implement his policies or important decisions" during the "so-called 'lame duck' stage."
EUROPE, EAST ASIA: Editors in these regions registered varying degrees of confidence--or skepticism--that the Oslo meetings would yield any major accomplishments. Optimists in Norway, Germany and Italy contended that, building on the "spirit of Oslo," the "peace of the brave" was about to "start all over again from Oslo." A British paper stressed the "intractability" of the peace process, but emphasized the U.S.' key role in any possible settlement. "Intractable disputes need mediators," that paper contended, "and in both [the Middle East and Northern Ireland], the U.S. is the only one around." Moscow's reformist Noviye Izvestiya remarked, "U.S. diplomacy can work wonders, unless Russia is in its way." Writers in France and South Korea had lesser expectations for Oslo. "The most tangible result" of the Oslo conference, said Paris's right-of-center Le Figaro, "is the possibility of a three-way meeting at Camp David in January."
EDITORS: Katherine Starr, Kathleen J. Brahney, Gail Hamer Burke
EDITOR'S NOTE: This survey is based on 30 reports from 17 countries, October 26-November 2. Editorial excerpts are grouped by region; editorials from each country are listed from the most recent date.
ISRAEL: "Barak To Clinton: We'll Evacuate Numerous Settlements"
Diplomatic correspondent Shimon Shiffer wrote from Oslo in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot (11/2): "Prime Minister Barak for the first time yesterday outlined to President Clinton 'The Permanent Arrangement Principles Between Israel and the Palestinian Entity.' Barak said that Israel will be evacuating a considerable number of settlements and consolidate the others in clusters of communities. Barak told Clinton: 'We and the Palestinians must go our separate ways.'... Barak is hoping to arrange within 100 days a summit meeting which would give birth to a framework agreement with Arafat, and several months later, to a final arrangement.... In his meeting with Clinton, Barak took care to use the phrase 'Palestinian entity' and not 'state.' Barak considers an Israeli agreement to a Palestinian state a bargaining chip. As to the Syrian track, Clinton had no good news to deliver. He told Barak there is no indication now that Assad is prepared to renew the negotiations. The Americans believe that several more weeks will be needed to determine whether Syria wants to revive the talks."
"Clinton's Suggestion: Palestinian State Alongside Jewish Settlements"
Ultra-Orthodox Hamodia noted in its lead story (11/2): "President Clinton surprised Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat by the heavy pressure he brought to bear on them right after his arrival to reach an agreement on two of the key controversial issues. Clinton is seeking an arrangement under which a Palestinian state would be created in the territories, and Jewish community blocks would remain under Israeli sovereignty. Israel and the Palestinians have shown interest in the American proposal.... The Americans want the parties to immediately begin drafting a paper stating an end to war and hostilities and to follow this up with a Camp David-style conference next January."
Senior analyst Nachum Barnea front-paged this analysis in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot (11/2): "The next 100 days present Ehud Barak with his big chance to mold the future of the state of Israel. Yesterday in Oslo, he tried to get President Clinton and Yasser Arafat to share with him this sense of historic opportunity. However, Clinton is cautious. He fears inflated expectations. And Arafat is suspicious; he is more interested in seeing past promises fulfilled.... Barak has committed himself to a very ambitious mission...and Clinton, in his last year in office and without congressional or popular support, will be hard put to offer the parties the leverage they need."
"Oslo Alive And Kicking"
Senior analyst Rafi Mann held in popular, pluralist Maariv (11/2): "Ehud Barak said last week that he was going to Oslo to 'see the Fjords.' Barak has on several occasions expressed his uneasiness with the original Oslo agreement. One feels that he may be trying to chart a different path from the one devised by the fathers of the historic agreement. But no attempt to modify the Oslo course can change the fact that Oslo remains a turning point. Even the Likud government did not succeed in destroying Oslo. Nothing can blur the grand plan of mutual recognition between Israel and the PLO and, ultimately, a Palestinian state."
"Middle Eastern Footdragging"
Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote in independent Haaretz (10/26): "Bruised and worn out by partisan battles in Washington, Bill Clinton is setting out for his farewell initiative in the Middle East peace process. International diplomacy is a convenient way out of troubles at home and Clinton is returning to the arena that has provided quite a few admirable photo-ops. Next week, in Oslo, the cradle of Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation, he will announce the opening of the permanent settlement negotiations. Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat will be standing at his side.... Grateful for the honors heaped on them by the world leader, the Norwegian hosts will perhaps chalk some points up to him: Next October their academy will be crowning the Nobel peace laureate.... Behind the smiles and handshakes there is increasing discomfort in the American administration at Barak's footdragging, and the widening gap between his ambitious timetables and the deadlock in the talks with the Palestinians."
WEST BANK: "American Weight In Oslo"
Hasan Al-Kashif commented in independent, pro-Palestinian Authority Al-Ayyam (11/2): "The challenge standing before the Oslo summit is immense. And, if the American weight is not present and sufficient to free the final-status negotiations from Barak's no's regarding Jerusalem, the refugees and the settlements, then this Oslo trip will remain just a memory. Not one Palestinian would be convinced that the American president was unable to influence Barak to promise to stop settlement activities. And not one Palestinian would be convinced that the American president was incapable of forcing Barak's government or any other Israeli government to withdraw from the Palestinian land occupied in 1967. Every Palestinian is in a position to compare between the American position regarding the Israeli occupation of Palestinian and Arab territories for more than 32 years and its position on other occupations in Kuwait and Kosovo."
"Role Of Safeguarding Peace"
Amjad Arrar commented in semi-official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (11/2): "After this long and bitter experience with the conflict in the region and the U.S. handling of it, it is clear that the American solutions to the Middle East conflict will reach a dead end in a very short time. We were, and still are, suffering from the absence of peace. And for this peace to be achieved in our time and to take the right direction in the future, the United States must replace its role of being downright biased towards Israel with a more balanced role of safeguarding peace."
"Towards A More Active American Role"
Independent, moderate Al-Quds editorialized (11/2): "We hope for an American effort that will advance the final-status negotiations as soon as possible. The Palestinian expectations of the Oslo summit are realistic, and consequently the Palestinian side is endeavoring for a more active American role capable of reviving the peace process and pressuring the Israeli prime minister to implement the promises that he pledged within the deadlines."
"The Engineer Clinton And Two Contractors"
Hasan Al-Batal, senior columnist for independent, pro-Palestinian Authority Al-Ayyam, averred (11/1): "In this new Oslo, we have one engineer and two contractors. The engineer is President Bill Clinton. The first contractor is Palestinian President Arafat, the owner of many records including that for meeting with the largest number of Israeli prime ministers. The other contractor is the current Israeli prime minister, the record-setter with the largest number of medals for killing [Arabs]. With all this highly touted preparation for the summit, full of symbolism and various dimensions, the countdown to the February deadline begins. The American engineer and the Palestinian and Israeli contractors are determined to lower
expectations for the trilateral Oslo summit. Barak and Arafat are going to Oslo with different views on what can be achieved by next February. From those two views, Mr. Clinton will try to draw up a third, American, view, to be discussed in a later--also trilateral--summit."
EGYPT: "Israeli Intentions On Syria"
Adel Mogahid opined in Islamist-leaning, opposition Al Shaab (11/2): "Many Arabs were so optimistic about Barak that they almost forgot the massacres he committed in southern Lebanon as war minister in Israel. But the truth soon appeared and the peace process became only a vague act. The real image of the American role emerged to be nil, except for the attempt to put the peace process in Israel's hands and impose the status quo on the owners of the cause. Secretary Albright visited the region and met with Syrians. Other American officials came as well, carrying new proposals for Syrians, pressures on Palestinians or a fresh illusion to Egyptians and Jordanians. Israel acted devilishly in managing talks with Palestinians, after they have been dispossessed of almost all their pressure tools, such as the PLO and the Palestinian opposition. But Israel could not dissuade Syria from unifying its track with Lebanon. Thus, realizing the depth of Syria's strategic thinking and insistence on its rights, they started talking about painful sacrifices in Golan. Undoubtedly, the European mediation efforts with the absence of an effective American role, the Arab role led by the king of Jordan and Mandela's tour had a great effect on this. But can these roles actually activate the Syrian track in the absence of American honesty and with Cohen's pledging to continue financial and military support to Israel? Do Israelis really intend to withdraw from Golan and Lebanon?"
Salama Ahmed Salama, columnist for pro-government Al Ahram, observed (10/27): "President Clinton has reached the so-called 'lame duck' stage, in which he cannot implement his policies or important decisions even before the election battle.... The Congressional refusal to pass the CTBT was a harsh blow against the Clinton administration, where the Republican majority stepped out of line an effort to take revenge against him.... This may not be the first time the United States' internal affairs precede world peace and security principles. There are many other examples in the Middle East of how American domestic considerations and pressure groups can direct American foreign policy against world peace. But Clinton's signs of weakness may not stop at the CTBT issue. Some observers have high expectations for his role in the MEPP.... This is certainly doubtful, especially since Al Gore...hinted that he will ask President Clinton to stay away from his presidential campaign.... This means that Arab calculations, which depend on Clinton to make a peace deal in the Middle East, need a radical revision."
KUWAIT: "Recognizing The State Of Israel"
Independent Al-Watan ran this piece by Ayed al-Manaa (10/31): "Whoever hasn't yet recognized the state of Israel, will eventually have to. Because Israel is a political and military power that has imposed its existence over its Arab surroundings for over 40 years--regardless of the pros and cons of the Palestinian recognition of Israel-- this cannot justify the Arab rush [to recognition]. The Arabs don't need to establish diplomatic relations with the Hebrew state except to please the United States. Israel will be the real beneficiary if it breaks into the Arab markets, and this is the Arabs' negotiating card, not to offer concessions, but to pressure Israel to return the land it occupied in 1967."
QATAR: "Clinton Focused On Building Legacy"
Semi-independent Al-Watan argued (11/1): "The American president will be trying to build his own legacy in the Oslo meeting, especially as the presidential elections draw nearer. Hence he will not take any step which might anger Israel or American Jews. This makes the Oslo
meeting a ceremonial gathering only, aimed at honoring Rabin and reminding all that there are difficult issues that may remain hanging for a very long time."
SAUDI ARABIA: "Pressure On The Palestinians; Partiality Toward Israel"
London-based, pan-Arab Al-Hayat's editorial read (11/2): "It is likely that pressure will be put on the Palestinian side to make them accept a settlement which reflects the dirty face of the Oslo agreements.... President Clinton has seriously followed the details of the negotiations but, regrettably, this effort has remained captive to the deep-rooted partiality towards Israel. We are still asking how the United States can make peace if it does not recognize facts?... How can the United States support Israeli peace proposals if Israel wants to extend sovereignty over a nation and physically separate (its citizens) from their land. This peace will have no meaning unless it realizes the right of return of refugees."
Jeddah-based, moderate Ukaz ran this news analysis (11/2): "It is unlikely that President Clinton will be able to put pressure on Barak and dictate to him.... On the other hand, what we fear is that President Clinton will be able to exert political pressure on the Palestinians so that they become the party which will provide, on a golden plate, necessary concessions to the Israeli side."
SYRIA: "The Oslo Summit Won't Do Unless..."
Fouad Mardoud, chief editor of the government-owned Syria Times, editorialized (11/2): "All parties do not expect a real breakthrough, and Israeli officials played down any expectations of a negotiating breakthrough during the two-day summit (in Oslo). By committing himself to Yitzhak Rabin's legacy, Ehud Barak will prove that he understands that Israel needs...a real peace and a real breakthrough on all fronts, especially with Syria and Lebanon.... Peace with Syria will mean peace with all Arabs and will make the Israelis feel more secure."
"Hard Choices For All, Including U.S."
Fouad Mardoud, chief editor of the government-owned Syria Times, commented (10/31): "Mr. Clinton was right in his statement that the Middle East peace process requires hard choices and hard work.... This is needed from all parties involved in the peace process, including, of course, Israel and the United States. For the latter, hard choices would mean a new approach to the Middle East issues and more evenhandedness.... It means a complete halt to the arms flow to Israel and demonstration of stronger U.S. leadership. President Clinton's commitment to help achieve a just and comprehensive peace is good...but it is not enough.... The U.S. administration should stop viewing Israel as its partner in the region, because the Arabs could be real peace partners if their rights were preserved and their lands returned.... The United States should understand that sending more U.S. arms to Israel neither encourages Israel to make peace, or makes it feel more secure."
TUNISIA: "Missing Facts!"
Editor-in-chief Abdelhamid Riahi asserted in Arabic-language Ash-Shourouq (10/31): "Before he left for Oslo, President Clinton stated that 'the likelihood of a lasting peace in the Middle East is slim and, in the absence of improvement in the current situation, stability in the region will be threatened.'... President Clinton should explain his thinking with regard to the final status talks and clearly indicate which side is placing obstacles in the road to a lasting peace.... The American president knows very well that his strategic ally (Israel) is not in compliance with UN resolutions.... He should not treat the victim and the torturer in the same way.... Clinton's public statements on the peace process conceal a hidden desire for more concessions from the
Arabs--to get Arabs to accept peace on Israeli terms, ie., peace for peace and not peace for land."
NORWAY: "Expectations For Oslo Meeting"
Leading, conservative Aftenposten's editorial opined (11/2): "There can...be no doubt that the Oslo meeting has created expectations that these meetings now taking place will contribute to a new life for the peace process.... 'Norway will go on working for international acknowledgement of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, and I know that the United States and President Clinton have the same point of view,' [Norwegian Prime Minister] Bondevik expressed after yesterday's talks with the president of the United States. It's not a given that this was a wise comment for the parties that are supposed to find a solution."
"Close Friend On Visit"
In Social Democratic Dagsavisen, foreign affairs editor Erik Sagflaat observed (11/2): "President Bill Clinton came to Norway as a close friend. The state visit yesterday was characterized by hearty friendship and close ties. This is good, because in the time to come, Norway may become more dependent on the United States and the United States' good will than is actually good [for us].... With the good chemistry that now obviously exists between Norway and the Clinton administration, it is in many ways a shame that Clinton's time as American president will definitively end next autumn."
BRITAIN: "Two Sets Of Peace Talks, But Only One Honest Broker--America"
The centrist Independent had this lead editorial (11/2): "On opposite sides of the North Sea this week, in Oslo and in Belfast, two entirely separate but oddly similar searches for peace grind on. President Clinton is in Norway in the hope that a summit on the fourth anniversary of the murder of Yitzhak Rabin can speed progress towards a Middle East settlement.... Though geographically far apart, the Irish and Middle Eastern disputes have not a little in common. Their very intractability reflects a shared mentality of the zero-sum game--the conviction of the negotiating parties that a gain by the other side is automatically a loss for themselves. Partly as a result, both sets of talks are in a curious no man's land where no breakthrough seems likely, yet no breakdown will prove terminal. And, last but not least, in each case the United States is involved.... Ultimately, of course, only the direct parties to these conflicts will resolve them; no outside power can impose an unwanted agreement. Equally, however, intractable disputes need mediators, and in both cases the United States is the only one around. It is the one country that Israel trusts--but by the same token the only power that Arabs believe is remotely capable of inducing Israel to do something that it does not much want to do."
FRANCE: "Barak Takes His Time"
Philippe Gelie stressed in right-of-center Le Figaro (11/2): "The most tangible result of the Oslo conference is the possibility of a three-way meeting in Camp David next January.... It is clear that Ehud Barak came to Norway to get Arafat's green light for his agenda. For Barak, time management is a key element. This allows him to remain the master of the game while the Palestinians appear to be left without any strategy.... Paradoxically, the deadlines set by the Oslo accords have not triggered any discussions. Ehud Barak is taking his time, something which has plunged the Americans and the Palestinians into perplexity."
GERMANY: "Sorcerers In Oslo"
Centrist Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich argued (11/2): "A meeting in Oslo was successful once before. This is why they return to the Norwegian capital to conjure up the spirits of the past.... Obviously, there are symbolic sites, where the apparently impossible becomes possible.... Israel's Premier Barak wants peace, and this as quickly as possible. But he wants peace according to his own conditions.... The issue in the coming two days is to build up confidence between the two main antagonists to such a degree that the talks about the final status will result in reasonable compromises. This is the only possibility to safeguard the survival of both sites and to guarantee lasting peace. This spirit from Oslo--and from Rabin--is to be conjured up in Oslo."
"Words Can Make Deeds Happen"
Malte Lehmig judged in a front-page editorial in right-of-center Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (11/2): "For the first time, it is not nostalgia but hope that is characterizing our memories of [Yitzhak Rabin.]... The presence of Ehud Barak, Yasser Arafat, and the U.S. president are evidence of this change of mood in the region. This may be called symbolic, but it should not be disparaged as mere symbolism. Deeds count more than words, but once in a while, words must be said to make deeds happen. The Middle East summit in Oslo is a gesture, but a gesture that can have a greater effect than quite a few documents."
ITALY: "Ten Months To Achieve 50-Year-Old Dream"
Pro-DS (leading government party) L'Unita told its readers (11/2): "Ten months to realize a half-century old dream--peace in the Middle East. Ten months to be remembered in history books as the U.S. president who managed to achieve something 'impossible': to turn a new page in the most tormented area in the world. The 'peace of the brave' starts all over again from Oslo, and from the memory of the man who laid the foundations for the dialogue with the Palestinians--Yitzhak Rabin. For two days, Oslo will be the center of international diplomacy again."
"Aiming Toward A 3-Party Summit In January?"
Conservative Il Resto del Carlino/La Nazionale/Il Giorno syndicate had this from Jearusalem (11/2) "Among other things, Barak and Arafat will have to convince Clinton today of the seriousness of their intentions in order to obtain full American involvement. After the U.S. Senate's 'no' to new economic assistance, for the time being there will be no U.S. funds as promised to the two sides in order to implement the Wye Accords.... The Israelis and the Palestinians will ask the U.S. president today to commit himself to a new three-party summit in January to help overcome the inevitable obstacles along the road of the so-called 'structure of the agreement.'"
Boris Volkhonsky remarked in reformist, business-oriented Kommersant Daily (11/2): "For all the propaganda noise over the [Oslo] summit, observers are skeptical. The talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians have not made much progress to date, and there is no way a lightning assault will make this process any faster."
"Clinton The Architect"
Reformist Noviye Izvestiya (11/2) front-paged this by Sergei Guly: "The occasion is dubious, and so is the symbolism of this rendezvous. It is hard to tell how Rabin would have gotten along with Arafat, had he lived to this day.... Clinton likes to say that he models himself on
Kennedy, who dreamt of an 'empire of freedom,' the protagonist of a global information civilization. The dreams of the 'imperial president' are coming true now.... Clinton has only 15 months to complete his global reform project. The Chief Architect intends to crown it with two more feats--a settlement in Nagorno-Karabakh and a settlement in the Middle East. Both are quite feasible. U.S. diplomacy can work wonders, unless Russia is in its way. While unable to solve problems on its own, Moscow can still stop others from doing that."
CHINA: "Palestinian, Israeli And U.S. Leaders Meet In Oslo"
Yi Huaijie pointed out in official Beijing Youth Daily (Beijing Qingnianbao, 11/2): "Although people do not expect any significant breakthrough from the ongoing Oslo summit, the entire international community is still hoping that the meeting can promote the healthy progress of the Middle East peace."
SOUTH KOREA: "The Final Fine-Tuning"
Cho Chil-hyun emphasized in conservative Segye Ilbo (11/2): "While the gathering of President Clinton, Prime Minister Barak and Yassar Arafat in Oslo has symbolic significance, some believe it won't make a real contribution to advancing the Middle East peace process. This is primarily because many issues await resolution before there will be progress in any real sense. On his way to Oslo, President Clinton discouraged high expectations of the Oslo meeting."
PAKISTAN: "To Oslo, With Hope"
A news story in the Karachi-based, independent national Dawn held (10/26): "As the Likud interlude under Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu clearly demonstrated, Palestinian-Israeli peace is possible only when the moderates are in office. Mr. Arafat has demonstrated his commitment more convincingly by neutralizing, somewhat, the Islamic extremists who are as opposed to peace as the Israeli hawks. Mr. Barak's performance has been much less inspiring. He has made a number of promises and given deadlines which might not actually be met.... The issues to be tackled are complex and have historical and sentimental importance for the two sides. All one can hope is that the Oslo summit will serve to remind the participants of the extra commitment still needed from them."
For more information, please contact:
U.S. Department of State
Office of Research
Telephone: (202) 619-6511
# # #