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Western Press Review: Other Issues Rising Up On Kosovo

  • Don Hill

Prague, 21 May 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Western press commentary continues to focus much attention on Kosovo, but for today at least, a range of other international issues push it aside.

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Satisfying Palestinian aspirations is not a one-sided gift

Henry Siegman, a senior fellow at the U.S.-based Council on Foreign relations, says in a commentary published by the "International Herald Tribune" that Israel's new prime minister understands, as his predecessor failed to, that meeting aspirations of Palestinians will be to Israel's long-term advantage.

Siegman writes: "Mr. [Benjamin] Netanyahu's three years as prime minister saw a dramatic hemorrhaging of Israel's national assets in every area of its life." The commentator says: "What really distinguishes [Ehud Barak from Netanyahu] is that Mr. Netanyahu sees the peace process as a zero-sum game, while Mr. Barak, like the late Yitzhak Rabin, understands that satisfying Palestinian aspirations for national dignity and independence is a vital element in Israel's security, not a one-sided gift that damages Israel's interests."

WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE: Mr. Netanyahu fell because he moved the peace process forward

In the "Wall Street Journal Europe", Israeli newsman and commentator Saul Singer examines the same facts and reaches the opposite conclusion. He writes: "It was a flawless operation. In broad daylight, Israel's Number One soldier parachuted into politics and captured the premiership by a landslide. As a superb tactician, he should appreciate that his first challenge is counterintuitive -- preserving the accomplishments of the vanquished Benyamin Netanyahu and avoiding the pitfalls of the martyred Yitzhak Rabin. That there would by anything to salvage from Mr. Netanyahu's short but tumultuous reign may sound strange given his vilification internationally and by many Israelis."

The writer continues: "What most observers have missed, however, is that Mr. Netanyahu fell not only because the peace process was stuck but because he moved it forward. Like Winston Churchill after World War Two and George Bush after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Benjamin Netanyahu was rejected by the voters partly because he had made himself obsolete. Mr. Netanyahu was a war leader elected by a public that could not square grisly suicide bombings with the peace process, but did not want that process to stop."

WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE: Hopes in Ukraine are likely to be disappointed

Ukraine, Lithuania, the United States, India and Pakistan also come in for critical editorial scrutiny today. The "Wall Street Journal Europe" says in an editorial that Ukraine seems set for more of what it already has as President Leonid Kuchma seeks reelection. The editorial says: "Kuchma officially declared his candidacy this week for the presidential elections on October 31. In a flurry of headline making, Mr. Kuchma announced Ukraine's readiness to send peacekeepers to Yugoslavia, issued several decrees on the economy, and created a council for Crimean Tatars, hoping to diffuse the crisis of 35,000 Mejlis' marching on Simferopol on the 55th anniversary last Sunday of Stalin's deportations."

The editorial says: "Hopes that the presidential elections will bring fresh initiative to Ukraine's reform program are likely to be disappointed. Parliament remains dominated by the Communists, just elected in March for another four-year term. While Mr. Kuchma has the support of other main political factions, the need to appeal to the country's hard-line, Russophile eastern voters often makes for a jumble of contradictory policy statements."

FRANKFURTER RUNDSCHAU: In Lithuania Paksas' election has resolved a weeks-old leadership crisis

Commentator Jannes Gamillscheg, writing in the "Frankfurter Rundschau", hails the confirmation of Rolandas Paksas as Lithuania's new prime minister. Gamillscheg says Paksas' election "has resolved a weeks-old leadership crisis." Gamillscheg writes: "Paksas, of the Conservative Party [intends] to continue the rule of the previous center-right coalition under the aegis of the conservatives."

The German commentator says that previous Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius attempted being a spoiler. Gamillscheg writes: "After negative forecasts on economic growth emerged, the outgoing premier apparently was trying to pull his Conservatives out of the coalition ahead of elections due in a year so as not to be burdened with responsibility for the poor performance figures. But during a meeting of the parliamentary party, [the Conservatives] bowed to pressure from (Seimas Chairman) Vytautas Landsbergis and agreed to stay in the government."

ECONOMIST: The Pakistani government has turned out to be systematic in its awfulness

Britain's "The Economist" magazine in its current issue (May 22) argues that the Pakistani government of Nawaz Sharif is a dreadful government getting worse. The magazine says: "Pakistan has been run by such dreadful governments for so long that it seems barely worth remarking on any deterioration. But whereas previous governments were chaotic in their awfulness, this one has turned out to be systematic. Over the past two years, Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister, has been picking off individuals and institutions that he believes pose any threat to his own power. He has seen off a president and the chief of the army staff, and now is trying to push through a constitutional amendment that would give him sweeping powers to ignore Pakistan's legislature and provincial government in the name of Islamization."

WASHINGTON POST: There could be no shootings if there were no guns

The "Washington Post" looks at its own country, the United States, and finds that -- at least in the realm of guns and shooting and gun control -- it is wanting. Says The Post editorially: "This time, it happened in Georgia -- another high school shooting. Six wounded, no one killed, came the news flash. Not as bad as what happened a month ago in Colorado. That's how the familiarity of these horrible occurrences has begun to deaden the response. It is frightening, an epidemic that no one quite knows how to stop. But surely one part of the answer is clear. There could be no shootings if there were no guns."

The Post hails a modest gun control bill just approved by the U.S. Senate. The editorial continues: "Recent shootings in schools are what have moved the middle on this issue -- disaffected students using guns to mow down fellow students and teachers. Not even schools are sanctuaries; parents sending children off each day are afraid, and with reason."

The editorial says: "Republicans can be right in accusing some Democrats of grandstanding on the gun issue, and Democrats can still be right on the merits. [Advocates of unhindered gun ownerhsip], the gun lobby, like the tobacco industry, is on the defensive, and deservedly so."

TIMES: Non-natives try too hard to prove their nationalist credentials

The "Times" of London places its editorial magnifying lens over politics in India, long a British enthusiasm, and describes this insight: "'Though born in a foreign land, I chose India as my country. I am Indian and will remain so till my last breath,' Sonia Gandhi declared earlier this week, and promptly resigned as leader of the Congress party. She had been stung by the criticism of a party elder who said that her Italian origins disqualified her from running for Prime Minister." The Times editorial says: "Mrs. Gandhi may well be unsuited to be Prime Minister but her origins cannot rationally be held against her; India is more ethnically diverse than almost any other country in the world."

The Times says: "Adopting non-natives as leaders may be unwise: they try too hard to prove their nationalist credentials. Hitler, an Austrian, and Stalin, a Georgian, brought misery to Germany and Russia. The trade in kings and queens has also been unfortunate -- King George the First could not speak English; Catherine the Great, a German, gave a new meaning to royal favorites; and King Canute is remembered only for a maritime experiment. But at local level the experiments are happier; many a revered foreign resident becomes a pillar of the community."