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Western Press Review: Mideast And Kosovo Stir Comment

  • Don Hill
  • Dora Slaba



Prague, 27 October 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Many European and U.S. editorial pages today focus on the prospects for peace in the Middle East and Kosovo.

NEUE ZUERCHER ZEITUNG: EU foreign and security policy is practically nonexistent

From Switzerland, the Neue Zuercher Zeitung laments European inaction which required the United States to take the lead on both the Mideast and Kosovo. In an editorial, the paper writes: "It needed pressure from America once more to set in motion the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. It also needed the authority as a whole of the Western leadership and NATO in the Kosovo conflict. The EU was relegated to the (role of) onlooker." The paper continues: "Both these topical examples clearly illustrate the role of the foreign and security policy of the EU in the world: it is practically nonexistent and stands in flagrant contrast to the significance of the Brussels Community and its economic power."

NEW YORK TIMES: We saw a president at the top of his form

World affairs columnist Anthony Lewis, writing in The New York Times, lauds U.S. President Bill Clinton for his role in the Mideast negotiations, and decries his lost opportunities elsewhere in his presidency. Lewis writes: "Not since Jimmy Carter at Camp David 20 years ago has a president involved himself so deeply in a Middle East negotiation. No one else had the prestige, the knowledge of the issues and the personal commitment needed to make this negotiation work."

Lewis continues: "That estimate of Clinton's role was a common thread in the remarks by (Israeli) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, (Palestinian Authority President) Yasser Arafat and (Jordan's) King Hussein. Netanyahu's words were in a way surprising, because he and Clinton have not exactly admired each other - not since Clinton virtually campaigned for Shimon Peres in the 1996 Israeli election."

Lewis dismisses Clinton's Monica Lewinksi troubles as frivolous, but castigates Clinton for lack of commitment on other issues. The commentator writes that in the Mideast negotiations: "We saw ... a president at the top of his form, intelligent, at ease, the master of (the issues)."

Lewis continues: "What might have been if Bill Clinton had had that kind of commitment on other things over the last six years - if he had not so often waffled on issues and abandoned friends. He had exceptional leadership qualities. He understood that Americans wanted pragmatic solutions, not ideology. But again and again he did not seem to care."

WASHINGTON POST: Counterterrorism in that corner of the world must go both ways

A Washington Post editorial marvels at what it calls a "New Mission for the CIA (U.S. Central Intelligence Agency)." The Post says: "For the United States, the new element in the Wye accord between Israelis and Palestinians is the role assigned to the CIA. The agency, long a quiet fixture and fixer on both sides of the divide, is to monitor the security provisions of the Wye agreement."

The editorial concludes that the "new" mission may be an appropriate one. It says: "Checking to make sure Yasser Arafat is keeping any of his own, Hamas's or other freelance terrorists from spoiling Israeli-Palestinian peace is a new mission for an agency that needs a sharper post-Cold War focus. The agency presumably will also be available to observe official Israeli pursuit of Israeli settler violence." The paper says: "Counterterrorism in that corner of the world must go both ways."

NEW YORK TIMES: The CIA is not making policy

"What 'New' Role for the CIA?" demands Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet, in a commentary published today in The New York Times. He says the CIA's part in the latest Mideast peace plan is just more of the same for his agency. The CIA traditionally has been a foe of terrorism and a supporter and monitor of peace accords, he says. Tenet writes: "In sum, the CIA is not making policy, but helping carry it out. This is consistent with the agency's history of fighting terrorism and helping friends and allies in the region live together peacefully and safely. Some have said the CIA is exceeding the limits of its charter. But fighting terrorism is our charter."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Israelis must now take risks for peace

The Los Angeles Times published yesterday a pair of commentaries presenting Israeli viewpoints on Mideast peace. Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, chancellor and dean of Ohr Torah Stone Colleges, commented that "a Likud government (gave) up 13 percent of the Judea-Samarian heartlands of Israel." He writes: "It is only (Jewish) optimistic faith that gave us the courage not only to give up our children in order to win back our homeland, but also to give up sacred parts of the land for which they died in order to demonstrate our belief in a time when 'nation will not lift up sword against nation and humanity will not learn war anymore.'" He concludes: "In the final analysis, we've already taken risks for war; we must now take risks for peace."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Palestinians must see and feel the change

Daoud Kuttab, Director of the Institute of Modern Media at Al Quds University in Jerusalem, wrote in an accompanying editorial that the world has come to doubt Netanyahu's motives and his commitment to fair treatment for Palestinians. Kuttab wrote: "To deliver home the message of peace, Palestinians must see and feel the change. The right of Palestinians to be free and independent, to move around in their own country, to travel in and out of their homeland and to pursue economic prosperity should not be obtained as a result of the charity of the Israelis. It must be clear in word and deed that such basic rights are inalienable and are to be honored." He continued: "Palestinians have prayed for the day that their lives will no longer be used as a political bargaining chip. The Wye Plantation Memorandum should put an end to this dark chapter of holding the people of the region hostage for the political ambitions of power hungry politicians."

WASHINGTON POST: The troop withdrawal would lift the immediate threat of punitive NATO air strikes

Analyzing the tentative motion toward peace in Kosovo, The Washington Post's R. Jeffrey Smith writes today that Serbian forces appear finally to be yielding in the face of NATO threats. Smith writes: "Several thousand Yugoslav Interior Ministry troops packed their gear and boarded buses heading out of the embattled province of Kosovo today, marking the first step in what the government promised would be a total withdrawal of 4,500 troops before today's NATO deadline. The withdrawals, if carried out, would put Yugoslavia substantially in compliance with demands that it remove a large number of its forces from Kosovo ... and would lift the immediate threat of punitive NATO air strikes."

GUARDIAN: Basic flaws in the Kosovo agreement have become apparent

The Guardian of London says in an editorial that the delicate Kosovo situation is as open to disruption by Kosovar Albanian fighters as it is by Serbian intransigence. The Guardian says: "It has not taken long for the basic flaws in the Kosovo agreement to become apparent on the ground. A hard core of Serbian forces will not leave the region or even return to barracks if their withdrawal means that the Kosovo Liberation Army is going to establish a presence in areas from which the Serbs retreat. The (UCK), on the other hand, will not hold back from trying to establish such a presence just because Western missions appeal to them to do so. Ultimately, negotiations between the Serbs and the Kosovo Albanians are meant to lead to the formation of a new police force. But such negotiations have not even started and could be much delayed or, once started, descend into inanity."
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