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Western Press Review: Explosion Tears Up 'Peace' Plans

  • Don Hill

Prague, 31 July 1997 (RFE/RL) -- The Hamas bomb that exploded in Jerusalem yesterday reverberates today in Western press commentary.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR: Bombing diminishes Palestinian credibility with U.S.

In a news analysis today, Ilene R. Prusher writes from Jerusalem that one effect of the explosion will be further wounding of Palestinian credibility in the United States. She writes: " The bombing, the most grave act of terror that has taken place since Netanyahu's election just more than a year ago, seemed likely to have a formidable effect on prospects for the resumption of talks. Negotiations broke off in March when Israel began building a controversial Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem."

Prusher concludes: "The (U.S.) Middle East Peace Facilitation Act, if allowed to expire in mid-August, would decrease funding and legitimacy afforded the Palestinians in the form of a quasi-embassy in Washington and aid to the Palestinian Authority. The act's renewal would require a report stating the PA is in compliance with its peace commitments, something that could be difficult to do given anger in Congress over several alleged violations."

TIMES OF LONDON: Peace process must continue

An editorial today exhorts the United States and both sides in the Mideast to try harder for peace. The newspaper says: "The attack in the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem yesterday was carefully and callously targeted. The timing reflected the slow but significant recovery of the peace process."

It says: "The United States has played a modest role in Middle East matters over the past few months as the Israeli-Palestinian dispute - centered on the Har Homa settlement - dragged out in deadlock. If the Americans decide to maximize their leverage then they will need to assert some additional influence. Six months after taking office, Madeleine Albright, U.S. secretary of state, has yet to visit an area where her predecessors - Democratic and Republican - expended enormous effort."

The Times says: "The Middle East peace process has endured such outrages before and survived despite much skepticism. If it is to do so again - as it can and should - a decisive blow must be struck against terrorism."

LONDON INDEPENDENT: Netanyahu must rise above party allegiances and forge peace

The "Independent" editorializes today that terrorist attacks ultimately will fail to undo peace talks, because no other option is acceptable. It says: "Terror in crowded shopping precincts will not prevent what has to take place sooner or later in some form: dialogue between the Israelis and Palestinians leading to the establishment in all or part of Gaza and the West Bank of a political entity in whose interests it is to maintain order. That proposition can be advanced because no other passes muster."

The Independent concludes: "Of course, (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu also will have to lift himself above his party allegiances and face down the hardliners who surround him. Is he capable of such statesmanship, especially at this fraught time when voices close to him will be crying for bloody revenge? For the sake of Israel, he has to keep striving.

LONDON GUARDIAN: Israel, Palestine must realize nature of final settlement is clear

Writing today, Ian Black comments that the rest of the world must take a stronger role in promoting Middle East peace. He says: "What is so tragic amidst the gore and the grieving is that the shape of the final settlement is clear. Both sides know that sooner or later, the sovereign states of Israel and Palestine will coexist, in borders that -- give or take the odd hill -- will be little different from those that separated the two sides before 1967. Until that truth is grasped, in Gaza, Tel Aviv, and Washington, the Holy Land will see not a peace of the brave, but only the peace of the grave."

WASHINGTON POST: Clinton must strengthen U.S. role in peace process

The Washington Post editorializes today that U.S. President Bill Clinton has done less than he should to support Middle East peace. The Post says: "The Clinton Administration has seen the damage being done but has yet to muster itself to make the requisite repairs to the prospects of diplomacy. It has tried to enliven Israeli-Palestinian talks with behind-the-scenes prodding. But Washington is concentrating on little things, like a Gaza port, while the problem goes to basics."

NEW YORK TIMES: Clinton accused of allowing peace process to deadlock

Alison Mitchell today reports from Washington that President Clinton "bristled" yesterday at a suggestion that his administration has been dilatory. In an analysis, she writes: "President Clinton condemned the suicide bombing in a Jerusalem market (yesterday) as a 'barbarous act and called on the Palestinians to take 'concrete steps' to increase security and work more closely with the Israelis to fight terrorism.

She says: "The administration reduced its high-level public role in the Middle East in the spring after peace efforts broke down when Netanyahu decided to proceed with an Israeli housing project in East Jerusalem. The decision was followed by a series of Palestinian attacks on Israelis. Clinton seemed to bristle (yesterday) at a suggestion by a reporter that the administration had not done enough to break the Middle East deadlock in recent months."

Arab, Israeli Reactions

Unsurprisingly, Israeli and Arab newspapers today comment extensively and contradictorily on the terror.

ISRAELI NEWSPAPERS: Israel, Palestine incapable of reaching agreement?

"Inferno in the market," reads a headline across Israel's biggest daily "Yedioth Ahronoth." The rival Israeli daily "Maariv" headlines a front-page commentary: "The terrorism is back." The liberal newspaper "Haaretz" says in an editorial: "No political dispute or religious disagreement justifies or excuses the murder (and) the wounding of dozens, including women and children."

Left-wing Israeli author David Grossman writes in a "Maariv" front-page commentary that the United States must get more involved to save Israelis and Palestinians from themselves. He writes: "It seems to me the latest blast requires us to recognize reality for what it is: Israel and the Palestinians alone are incapable any longer of reaching an agreement on their own that will ensure true peace."

ARAB NEWSPAPERS: Netanyahu's 'expansionist policies' responsible for bombing

The United Arab Emirates daily "Gulf News" editorializes: "Although only Palestinian militants were involved in this attack, this is a time when Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza are frustrated beyond endurance by the hardline policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu." Qatar's "Gulf Times" says: "There is no justification for yesterday's attacks, but the Israeli premier should blame himself first because his expansionist policies and anti-peace moves have created extremists among the young Palestinians."

The UAE's "Al-Khaleej" daily says that the attack might not be the last if current Israeli policies continue. It editorializes: "It is Netanyahu who should be accused of what has happened in Jerusalem and of what could happen in other Palestinian cities under occupation." And Iran's Akhbar newspaper says: "Netanyahu should reap the grapes of wrath."