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Western Press Review: Sadness In Israel

  • Don Hill



Prague, 1 August 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Western commentary continues to center on the Mideast after Wednesday's terrorist bomb explosion in a Jerusalem marketplace.

PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER: Arafat's ability and willingness to crack down on terrorism is at issue

Peter Slevin writes today in a commentary that Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat is one key to the Mideast's future. Slevin writes: "As Israelis bury their dead and President Clinton's foreign-policy team scrambles for answers, the latest Middle East crisis may turn on Yasser Arafat's efforts to stop the recent fits of violence. Bombs targeted at Israeli shoppers Wednesday focused attention on the Palestinian leader, who broke off security cooperation with the Israeli government four months ago. Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Arafat must do more.

"Yet as Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met with top White House advisers (yesterday) to map a response, including a possible trip to the Mideast, the difficulty of repairing the peace process was clear in ways great and small. One question is Arafat's ability to crack down on terrorism and less-violent forms of protest. Another is his willingness to do so."

TIMES OF LONDON: Israeli stall owners resumed trading less than 24 hours after the attack

Ross Dunn today comments on the ability of Israelis to bounce back, even when security measures seem uncertain in effect. He says: "Israeli resilience was on display yesterday in the Jerusalem market. Less than 24 hours after two suicide bombers killed themselves and 13 Israelis in the Mahane Yehuda, stall owners resumed trading." He writes: "One vendor said he expected to be operating in about a week. He was receiving government support but questioned whether increased security would prevent more terrorist attacks." Dunn says: "The security forces obviously felt they could make a difference. Hundreds of police and soldiers were stationed in and around the area, while government officials visited the site to assess the full extent of the damage. The officials walked along pedestrian lanes, crowded with customers and curious onlookers."

WASHINGTON POST: Israeli officials say they would arrest the chief of the Palestinian national police

An analysis today by Barton Gellman, writing from Ramallah in the West Bank, says that the prospects for cooperation on security between Israeli and Palestinian authorities seem dim. Gellman says: "The day after twin suicide bombing attacks cut down 13 Israelis at a Jerusalem produce market, Israel's government lashed out as never before against the Palestinian self-rule administration and its leader, Yasser Arafat." He says: "In Ramallah and elsewhere in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Palestinian security chiefs said they had no intention of complying with Israeli demands for a broad and deep assault on the Islamic extremists believed responsible for Wednesday's bomb blasts."

Gellman writes: "Faced with another round of what Israelis call 'complete closure' of their borders -- Palestinians use the term 'siege' -- Palestinians debated the morality of Wednesday's attack but found consensus in their bitterness at the collective punishment they perceive in Israel's response." He says: "U.S.-backed Israeli demands for renewed cooperation by Palestinian security agencies were greatly complicated by an escalating Israeli campaign against Brigadier General Ghazi Jabali, the Gaza-based chief of the Palestinian national police. Israel officials declared they would arrest him if they could, saying he was not implicated in Wednesday's bombing but had formed a unit of police officers earlier this month with orders to shoot at Jewish settlers in the occupied territories."

LONDON INDEPENDENT: Netanyahu can deliver neither peace nor security

Patrick Cockburn writes in a commentary today that Wednesday's carnage was an inevitable outcome of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's politically inept policies. Cockburn contends: "It was a contradictory policy, always likely to provoke a crisis. From the moment he became prime minister of Israel last year, (Netanyahu) demanded total cooperation over security from Yasser Arafat, (but) he rejected all other aspects of partnership with the Palestinian."

The commentator says: "The outcome was inevitable. The only surprise about the bombs on Wednesday was that they were so long coming. For months, Shin Bet, the Israel internal security force, predicted violence. But Mr. Netanyahu seemed to feel that by starting to build a settlement in Jerusalem (he was calling) Mr. Arafat's bluff."

Cockburn writes: "Mr. Netanyahu is a man of great ingenuity, but not of great political intelligence. (He) won the election by promising peace and security -- and the bombs in Mehane Yehuda show he can deliver neither."

NEW YORK TIMES: The bombing was the worst terror attack since Netanyahu came to office a year ago

Writing yesterday in an analysis, Serge Schmemann also alluded to Netanyahu's failure to achieve "peace and security." Schmemann wrote: "The suicide bombing was the worst terror attack since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came to office one year ago, and it brought an abrupt halt to tentative new efforts to revive the moribund peace politics. (But) For all the horror, the bombings had a grim familiarity to Israelis. Fifteen suicide bombers have struck in Israel over the last three and a half years, killing at least 140 people and wounding hundreds."

"The immediate question was what impact the attack would have on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Though attention for the moment was focused on the death and destruction, political experts noted that the attack would probably serve to give Netanyahu a temporary respite from American pressures to make concessions. But it was also likely to present him with a political problem, since he had come to office promising "peace with security," and now could demonstrate neither movement toward peace nor security."
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