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Western Press Review: Israel's Security Barrier, Russia And Kyoto, And NATO In Afghanistan

Prague, 5 July 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Among the topics at issue in the press today are the Israeli Supreme Court's ruling that part of the security barrier under construction violates the rights of Palestinians; Russia's decision to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on global warming; NATO's lackluster performance in Afghanistan; and revamping U.S. policy in Iraq.


A ruling on 30 June by the Israeli Supreme Court maintained that a portion of Israel's security barrier in the West Bank must be dismantled because it infringes upon the rights of Palestinians.

An item from "The Boston Globe" reprinted in the "International Herald Tribune" today calls the decision "a partial victory for justice."

The paper writes: "In saying that Israel has to balance the requirements of security against the imperative of lawfulness, the high court sounded a magisterial note. If [the 30 June] decision of the three-judge panel is heard properly, it may teach Israelis a crucial lesson about the sources of their society's true strength while at the same time suggesting to Palestinians how they can achieve the goal of an independent, state living in peace alongside Israel."

The paper quotes the court's decision as saying, "Regarding the state's struggle against the terror that rises up against it, [we] are convinced that at the end of the day, a struggle according to the law will strengthen [Israel's] power and spirit."

The paper says that with these words, the Israeli judges "were telling their compatriots that Israel is stronger when the state acts in lawful ways. By implication, the judges were also warning that when Israeli authorities give in to the temptation to disregard the law, the ultimate effect can be to leave Israel less secure."


Russian President Vladimir Putin's recent announcement that Russia, after much hesitation, will ratify the Kyoto Protocol on global warming "received little attention, but may signal that the agreement will finally become legally effective," say Stuart Eizenstat and David Sandalow in New York's leading daily.

Eizenstat was former U.S. President Bill Clinton's chief negotiator on the protocol, which has yet to be accepted by the United States. Sandalow is an environmental scholar at the Brookings Institution.

The authors say the Kremlin's acceptance of the protocol would be welcome "because, even with its imperfections, the protocol has several elements that will contribute to a sensible long-term solution to global warming."

Chief among these practical provisions is the Kyoto agreement's allowance of emissions trading, which allows a country with emissions below its allowed limits to "trade" its limits with another country that is exceeding its controls.

The authors says this is an effective, low-cost way to reduce overall greenhouse-gas emissions.

"Still," they say, "Progress in the international climate negotiations has been painfully slow."

"Waiting to address global warming would be a reckless gamble," they write. "If present trends continue, greenhouse gas concentrations -- during the lifetimes of children born today -- will reach levels higher than in the last 50 million years."

But the Kyoto Protocol alone is not the answer. Its limits "will apply to less than half of the world's global emissions, because the United States is not participating and major developing countries are not covered."

Eizenstat and Sandalow say that in the next few years, "it is essential that we shape a new strategy, one that should be based on, or informed by, the lessons we have learned so far about the difficulty of putting a climate change agreement in place."


Columnist Jackson Diehl remarks that a U.S. administration that once dismissed the NATO alliance while it was in the throes of unilateralism is now embracing the trans-Atlantic partnership as a centerpiece of a more multilateral approach to world affairs.

But behind the spin, Diehl says, "America's most important international partnership is on the brink of a crippling failure."

NATO has adopted Afghanistan as its major ongoing mission and its first operation "out-of-area," or beyond Europe's borders. In 2003, the alliance pledged to expand its peacekeeping force to establish security beyond Kabul, as much of the country remained lawless and under the sway of regional warlords and their militias.

An expanded mission is "critical" to establishing the central government's control beyond the capital and making possible elections planned for later this year, Diehl says.

He calls it "humiliating" that, with "26 nations and 5 million men in arms," NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer had to "[struggle] to obtain just three helicopters for the Afghan operation."

Diehl notes that NATO will have 8,400 troops in Afghanistan by the fall, "or about a fifth of the number it dispatched to tiny Kosovo in 1999."

"Though it now extols NATO rhetorically, the Pentagon's practical approach to it hasn't changed: No American troops have been pledged to the NATO Afghan mission," Diehl writes.

European governments, for their part, "doubt that Bush's conversion to multilateralism is real -- and consequently have little appetite for an operation that appears thankless as well as dangerous and expensive."


Columnist Eric Le Boucher says after the refusal of U.S. President George W. Bush to endorse the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the world fight against climate change rests solely on European goodwill.

But Moscow's recent decision to ratify the agreement is decisive, he says. After the U.S. refusal, only an endorsement by Russia, which accounts for 17.7 percent of global emissions, will grant the necessary 55 percent that would bring several of its provisions into effect. Only 111 countries, representing 44 percent of global emissions, have officially adopted the agreement.

And even this development required European intervention, says Le Boucher. Europe made clear it would only support Russian's bid to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) if it ratified Kyoto. But whether Russia sticks by its pledges remains to be seen, he says. Russian President Vladimir Putin's promises remain dubious, particularly regarding energy matters and those obtained through coercion. The Kremlin's efforts are sure to be minimal, he says.

The Kyoto Protocol is moribund, Le Boucher says. And in itself, the agreement was supposed to be only the beginning of a much larger worldwide effort to halt global warming. Western Europe, responsible for 20 percent of emissions, can try to set an example by adhering to the treaty. The continent is too small to have an effect on climate on its own. In effect, says Le Boucher, the ecological results of all European efforts will be nil.


Middle Eastern affairs analyst Walid Phares of Florida Atlantic University says the jihadists in Iraq are certain to strike again, most likely at targets relating to the new Iraqi government. But interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi now has a chance to make a preemptive political strike. Phares says Allawi should begin by making a declaration of independence; deploying Iraqi forces to engage the insurgents, repeatedly, in a bid to demonstrate the strength of Iraq's nascent national force; and moving diplomatically.

"More than ever, the members of the Allawi government should have taken all the necessary precautions. To be sure, attacks against coalition forces will continue, and perhaps increase," says Phares. "The terror cells will now do all they can to hit the U.S. forces as a way to corner the new government."

"The pre-emptive transfer of power in Iraq has granted the new Baghdad leadership a golden opportunity. It is really up to this new multi-ethnic team to speed up the return of the country to regional and international realms."

The new players on the Iraqi stage are now Prime Minister Allawi, suspected terrorist mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and radical Shi'a cleric and militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr. Phares says the Iraqi people must now "make their choice on who they wish to lead their embattled country toward a better future."


If U.S. President George W. Bush wants to rescue his mission in Iraq, he might try spending less time with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and more time watching Al-Jazeera, the Arab world's best-known television news station. Columnist Nicholas Kristof says the fundamental problem with the U.S. administration's policies in Iraq "was hubris born in a Washington echo chamber, and a resulting conviction that Iraqis would welcome Americans with flowers."

"Senior U.S. officials seemed genuinely convinced that the invading troops would be hailed as heroes, while ordinary Iraqis often talked about fighting U.S. troops with guns, grenades and suicide bombs. Iraqis typically hated Saddam [Hussein], but also hated the idea of an invasion.

"But the neocons refused to hear it. From their Washington and New York cocoons, they insisted that ordinary Iraqis welcomed an invasion."

But the Arab world, too, must listen to the other side, Kristof says. "If the Arab world is going to break out of its self-pitying eddy, it's going to have to understand American attitudes," he writes. "And if the Bush administration is going to turn Iraq around and engage the Arab world effectively, then it must try harder to escape the echo chamber and understand the Arabs -- and it could do worse than switching from the reassuring euphony of [the U.S.-based] Fox [television network] to Al-Jazeera."