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Western Press Review: Israel's Continuing Violence; Yugoslavia; EU

  • Joel Blocker

Prague, 5 October 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Western press commentary continues to analyze the violent events in Israel, in the aftermath of the failure of high-level talks in Paris to bring about a formal ceasefire between Palestinians and Israelis. There are also comments on the swiftly changing situation in Yugoslavia and on the future of the European Union after last week's Danish referendum on the euro, the EU's common currency.


In a commentary for The New York Times, analyst Allegra Pacheco writes of "Israel's Doomed Peace." She says that the blame for the deaths of more than 60 people in recent days should not be put solely on Israeli right-wing politician Ariel Sharon, whose visit to the Muslim hold Noble Sanctuary in Jerusalem seemed to trigger the violence last week. Pacheco writes:

"The painful truth [that] many supporters of the Middle East peace agreement signed in Oslo in 1993 do not want to admit [is]: The Oslo process cannot succeed. The proponents of the agreement, including the Clinton administration, never fully informed the Palestinian people that the accord did not offer any guarantee of Palestinian self-determination, full equality and an end to the military occupation. In reality, 'Oslo' wears no clothes at all."

Pacheco then notes that "the agreement formally authorized the Israeli military to dictate the movement of Palestinians, their immigration to the West Bank and Gaza, and the location of the borders of their land. During [a] period of limited 'self- rule,'" she goes on, "the Palestinian Authority has become corrupt and oppressive, with officials embezzling millions of dollars and arresting those who attempted to criticize their acts. The Palestinian legislature became powerless, its members concerned chiefly with amenities of office like VIP treatment and new cars." Pacheco concludes: "Sharon's provocative visit was merely the spark that lit a mountain of frustration and anger built over seven years."


In a commentary for the Washington Post (published in the IHT today), foreign-affairs columnist Jim Hoagland is far more critical of Sharon. He writes: "[An] enduring image of this crisis will be Mr. Sharon strutting for political effect that day (Sept 28) on the paved pavilion of the Temple Mount, site of Islamic and Jewish holy shrines. Fearful of a challenge to his leadership of the Likud coalition, he made a spectacle of walking on territory that most Israeli politicians and citizens avoid."

Hoagland adds: "Mr. Sharon claims that he did not set out to provoke Palestinian violence. But it is clear that he did nothing to avoid becoming a pretext for a predictable upheaval," the commentator adds. "He offers the equivalent of a manslaughter plea: He admits that he played into the hands of [Palestinian leader] Yasser Arafat and his lieutenants -- who have in fact orchestrated much of the violence for their own political effect. Mr. Sharon styles himself a fool rather than a knave."


Analyst Rashid Khalidi, in a commentary for The Los Angles Times (also published by the IHT today), sees "the killings by Israeli troops of dozens of Palestinians, and the wounding of more than 1,000 others -- dozens of them children -- as a direct consequence of last Thursday's provocative visit by Mr. Sharon to the precincts of the Al Aqsa Mosque. [The events, he adds,] show once again that the status quo of Israeli occupation in East Jerusalem is completely unsustainable and is an open invitation to instability."

Khalidi zooms in on the issue of Jerusalem, which he sees as "too dangerous to swept under the carpet." He writes: "When the current tension dies down, there must be a realistic effort to change the status quo in Jerusalem, end the occupation, end the suffocating closure of the city to the 3 million Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and end the subjugation of one people by another." "Jerusalem," he goes on, "can only be an open city, free of borders and barriers, if both the peoples who regard it as their capital feel that their national aspirations are realized, there is security for both and each has full control over its own part of the city."

The commentator sums up: "It is inconceivable that there could be a permanent settlement in Jerusalem acceptable to either side whereby their civilian population, and their holiest sites, continue to be subject to the control of others. [A] real settlement will require a fundamental shift in a situation in which one people has created massive and continuing insecurity for another in the name of its own security."


A far different view of Sharon is provided in a commentary in the Jerusalem Post by Israeli analyst Uri Dan. He writes: "Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount [saved] Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Even if [Sharon] never becomes prime minister," Dan says, "it will be recorded to his great credit that he was the sole Jewish leader in 2000 who, by a single act, put the fate of Jerusalem, in its true colors, on the national agenda."

Dan goes to say that after Sharon's visit Israeli Arab parliamentarians, "under Arafat's orders, and in coordination with him, rushed off to incite the Israeli Arabs and to turn the entire country into a battlefield. They rioted [throughout Israel]. Their real face," he argues, "was thus once again revealed. In their hate-distorted view, the entire Jewish state [is] the real provocation. The Israeli Arab violence on Rosh Hashana [the Jewish new year] proved that their aim is identical to that of Arafat -- to wipe out Israel."


Turning to Yugoslavia, Russian-affairs analyst Anatol Lieven says in the Wall Street Journal Europe that the West "may need Moscow to deal with [President Slobodan] Milosevic." He writes: "The cold, subtle monster in Belgrade may still be able to mobilize enough resources to crush the opposition and remain in power. There is even a risk that Mr. Milosevic may launch some form of attack on the government of Montenegro in order to try to force a NATO intervention there." Lieven adds: "As so often before, this would allow [Milosevic] to portray himself as a Serbian hero fighting the aggressive West. In recent weeks, U.S. officials have admitted that they were relying on Moscow to deter Mr. Milosevic from such a course."

"But," the commentary continues, "Moscow is by no means sure that it wishes to be used in this way again [that is, as it was during the Kosovo crisis last year]. One reason," he says, "for the Russian government's ambiguous stance concerning the present crisis is the presence of pro-Milosevic hard-liners, especially in the Russian military. More important is that even Russian officials who desperately want to be rid of the Milosevic incubus resent the way Russia has been treated for its role in ending the war in Kosovo."

Lieven adds: "Seen from Moscow, it was Russian pressure on Mr. Milosevic that brought him finally to agree to NATO's terms in June of last year -- pressure that took real courage given the fury of many Russians over NATO unilateralism. [But, Lieven says,] Russia believes it has received no tangible rewards for saving NATO from potential disaster in this way. The Russian elites," he acknowledges parenthetically, "have received large amounts of International Monetary Fund money as a Western geo-political bribe, but neither we nor they can admit that this is what it was."

Lieven also says: "While there is considerable division in Moscow over what policy to follow with regard to Yugoslavia, there is a consensus that Russia must not simply be the channel for a new Western ultimatum. And if Russia is to provide asylum for Mr. Milosevic or facilitate his peaceful departure to some third country, it wants written guarantees that it will not then be subjected to future Western pressure for extradition."


In an editorial, the Los Angeles Times also sees Russian playing a crucial role in coming Yugoslav developments, writing: "The key to a Milosevic departure is the will of Serbs to stand up to their ruthless leader, plus a nudge from Moscow, Serbia's traditional ally, to push him aside."

The paper goes on: "Moscow played a big role in getting Serbian troops out of Kosovo, and it can help the Serbs in ridding themselves of Milosevic. Russian President Vladimir Putin was helpful in offering to play the role of a mediator between Milosevic and the opposition. But it is unclear, the editorial says, "whether [Putin] wants to negotiate an end-game for Milosevic or to find some way to keep him in office a while longer."

"Putin's choice should not be difficult," the paper concludes. "Milosevic has lost legitimacy at home, and he can remain in office only by inflicting pain on his people. That of course will not stop him. Only when he is gone will Yugoslavia's most critical problems be solved."


The after-effects of Danish voters' rejection last week of the EU single currency, the euro, are still being discussed in the Western press. In an editorial, the Wall Street Journal Europe notes French President Jacques Chirac's call Tuesday (Oct 3) for more "flexibility" within the EU, but wonders what all the fuss about a so-called "two-speed" Union is about. The paper writes: "The fact is that [the Union] is already composed of two or more speeds. Some EU members have opted out of the single currency, as Denmark did last week, or other policy-making areas. There is a euro-12 group of finance ministers of single-currency members. Not all EU members are members of the Schengen group that has abolished internal border controls. Modifications to the Amsterdam Treaty [at the EU summit] in Nice in December are likely to make 'enhanced cooperation' even easier for those who wish it."

The editorial goes on: "The idea of a two-speed Europe implies that there is some destination yonder where the pastures are greener. On the contrary, we'd suggest that European integration is well advanced and that future progress will depend less on strengthening the 'core' and more on enlarging the whole." It adds: "The EU already has a single market -- if still not an entirely open one. It has a single currency, if still not an entirely credible one. [As] for building on these achievements, Europe has a full plate, [including] the grand project of enlargement."


Writing for the Los Angles Times Syndicate (and published in today's IHT), columnist William Pfaff says that the Danish vote "has generally been interpreted as a blow to European federation. This is quite wrong," Pfaff argues, "It has made federation possible. By declaring last Thursday that they want 'Europe,' but on their own terms, the Danes have freed other Europeans to make their own versions, including a true federation of core Europe."

The commentary goes on: "The 15 nations are [preparing] the EU to accommodate the former communist nations when these meet the EU membership criteria. But this 'widening' conflicts with the EU's ambition to 'deepen' integration and federal union. The result has been stalemate," Pfaff says, which "has left the Central and East Europeans frustrated and annoyed, while EU institutions languish.

Now, the commentator says, "the Danes have handed the European Commission and [EU] governments a knife to cut through this knot of problems, conflicting interests and unresolved ambitions. The Danes have determined that if Europe includes them, it will be multiple, with more than one level of membership." And he concludes: "Contrary to what most European commentators have been saying, all this is not a blow to 'Europe.' It liberates Europe's full potentialities. Let reality be recognized. Let there be several 'Europes' with different and parallel powers and ambitions."