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Western Press Review: From The Middle East To JFK Jr.

  • Anthony Georgieff
  • Don Hill



Prague, 20 July 1999 (RFE/RL -- Commentary in the Western press, finding no single issue to focus on, ranges over a variety of topics, from the prospects for Mideast peace to the unexpected death of John F. Kennedy Jr.

WASHINGTON POST: Ehud Barak took Washington by storm

Several commentaries assess, mostly favorably, early moves toward peacemaking by Israel's new prime minister, Ehud Barak. The Washington Post says in an editorial: "Israeli leader, former chief of staff Ehud Barak, has been taking Washington by storm. His evident purpose is to nail down American commitment to Israeli negotiating methods and goals -- to come as close as possible to a partial dependent's dream target of an independent policy."

The newspaper says: "These are the sunny days. Direct Arab-Israeli negotiations are on holiday, and so are the tensions built into the different situations of the secure, globally positioned United States and the strong but regionally besieged Israel. In the past few days, moreover, few Arab voices have been heard speaking for the people who will be across the table. But those voices will be heard, and the United States will be called on to mediate the differences that emerge. This is an opportunity for a ready Clinton to shape a diplomatic result that could be central to the legacy of his presidency."

FINANCIAL TIMES: The mood in the Middle East suddenly is upbeat

Barak also has made a good impression closer to home, the British economic newspaper Financial Times said in an editorial yesterday. The FT said: "The mood in the Middle East suddenly is upbeat. Ehud Barak, Israel's new leader, (says) he could reach a comprehensive peace with the Palestinians, Syria and Lebanon within the 18 months that President Clinton has left in the White House."

What the Post calls an "opportunity," the Financial Times labels a "challenge." The editorial said: "This presents a challenge for Mr. Clinton to rise to. He would end his checkered presidency on a high note if he could help bring lasting peace. But a settlement must be one that is truly comprehensive, providing a fair deal for the Palestinians."

NEW YORK TIMES: Barak and his agenda for peacemaking deserve bipartisan support

And The New York Times says in an editorial: "It has taken Israel's new prime minister, Ehud Barak, less than two weeks to breathe life and urgency into the stalled quest for Mideast peace. By setting a 15-month timetable for reaching broad agreement on a final settlement with the Palestinians and a deal with Syria covering both the Golan Heights and Lebanon, Barak is making clear that he believes that the basic issues can be resolved relatively quickly, if all sides are committed to peace. That will not be easy. To encourage steady progress, Barak and President Clinton have agreed to meet regularly at four-month intervals."

The editorial continues: "Barak's projected timetable takes appropriate note of the American political calendar. His target date for agreements falls within the working life of the Clinton administration, and the plan for regular meetings will encourage close and consistent American cooperation." And it concludes: "Barak and his ambitious agenda for peacemaking deserve unstinting bipartisan support (in the United States)."

NEW YORK TIMES: Too many young people in Iran today know how the rest of the world is living

A columnist in The New York Times, Thomas L. Friedman, contends that, in this age of technology and the free flow of information, the young people of Iran know too much about what's happening in Paris to live quietly at home in Tehran. Friedman writes: "The Iranian government has a big, big problem. Too many young people in Iran today know how the rest of the world is living, and they want a slice of it."

He writes: "So the Islamic government's response has been to try to get its young people not to want the lifestyle others have, by trying to shut out the world and -- when that hasn't worked -- the mullahs have sent vigilantes into student dormitories to beat it out of them. (But this) simply won't work -- not in an age when everyone knows how everyone else lives."

DIE WELT: Tudjman will have to wait for the Nobel Prize

In the German newspaper Die Welt, columnist Boris Kalnoky writes satirically from Budapest about Croatian President Franjo Tudjman. "A modest man," Kalnoky says, "he was not the man to suggest that he should be awarded the Nobel Prize for his 'achievements as historian and national leader.'

"No, it was a high-ranking international official who suggested exactly that to Tudjman, said the self-effacing president in a recent interview. Tudjman, of course, is powerless to sway the opinions of the Nobel committee, although he might try it if they resided in Croatia."

So, writes Kalnoky, "It looks as though Tudjman will have to wait. But, fear not, he already is securing his place in the history books in a domain he knows he can, his own country. Two weeks ago, he cut the ribbon on the house where he was born and declared it a national monument. The little house had been renovated and painted a pale green."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: The euro is subject only to the invisible hand

Staff writer Steven Levingston -- writing from Paris in an International Herald Tribune news analysis -- says the weak euro has confounded the optimistic predictions of international economists. Levingston observes that efforts by EU finance ministers to speak with one voice falter regularly. He writes: "So now what? There will be further streams of commentary, promising steeper declines and loftier ascents, and more gnashing of teeth. But no amount of jawboning -- by EU ministers, analysts or traders -- will sway the euro from its market destiny. Quite simply, the euro is subject only to the invisible hand -- not to the all-too-visible flapping lips."

INFORMATION: Members of the Kennedy family are known for their capacity to play with death

Finally, the death of John F. Kennedy Jr. -- son of the assassinated U.S. president -- continues to draw comment, not only in the U.S. press.

Denmark's Information says in an editorial, "Members of the Kennedy family are known all over the world for the (willing or inadvertent) capacity to play with death. The demise of (President Kennedy's) son will hardly be the last tragedy for a political dynasty that continues to fascinate the Americans."

The editorial says: "To lose John F. Kennedy Jr., the son of a president, and to many an epitome of America's unceasing energy, intelligence and optimism, is a reminder -- or even a vicarious experience -- of the unforgettable shock the American nation suffered in Dallas in 1963."

ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: Even for the famous life can be savagely whimsical.

The editor-in-chief of the Cox newspapers in the United States, Arnold Rosenfeld, writes in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Some people have 15 minutes of fame. John F. Kennedy Jr. had 38 years. He was, by all accounts, a decent young man with no airs or damage from years of media scrutiny. He tried to make something of himself, and became more famous for his trouble. (But in truth), he was (simply) a human being people might have known and liked had things worked out -- a human being who might have liked them; a reminder that even for the ostensibly famous and glamorous, life (still can be) savagely whimsical."

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