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Western Press Review: Peace Stumbles in Israel; IFOR To Extend Stay

By Katarzyna Wysocka

Prague, 26 September 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Western press focuses on a recent clash between Israeli forces and Palestinians in Israel and the endangered peace process. Commentators also discuss continuing IFOR's presence in Bosnia.


NEW YORK TIMES: The uneasy peace was shaken

Today's editorial says "The uneasy peace that has prevailed between the new Israeli government and Palestinians was shaken (yesterday) by a spasm of violence that could easily have been avoided. There was no need for Israel suddenly to resume a construction project near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, one of the most sacred sites in the city to both Jews and Arabs. The violent Palestinian response was unjustified but could have been foreseen by anyone familiar with the volatile climate in Jerusalem and the West Bank." The editorial says: "To overcome the damage of this clash, Netanyahu should hold direct and serious talks with Arafat, not just an uncomfortable photo opportunity like their previous meeting."

THE GUARDIAN: Undermining the peace process is no longer just a figure of speech.

Today's edition of the British newspaper says, "Undermining the fragile peace process between Israel and the Palestinans is no longer just a figure of speech, with the completion of the 'tourist tunnel' on the edge of the Temple Mount and the lethal violence which has followed on the West Bank. Many Arabs believe Mr Netanyahu, who directly authorized its completion, wants to wreck the peace process. It certainly seems that he wants to redefine it on his own terms, and does not care too much if it goes wrong. If the Palestinians protest, the burden lies on their heads. This is the hard logic of a man who thinks he holds the high ground, but does he not realize that he may be digging it from under his feet?"

THE BOSTON GLOBE: The spark on dry tinder

Ethan Bronner writes, "Although the spark for the explosion was Israel's completion of a tunnel near one of Islam's holiest shrines, (the spark lit) on dry tinder." Bronner says: "The hostility has grown acute since the May election of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who defeated Rabin's successor, Shimon Peres, by vowing to slow down the peace process and place greater emphasis on Israeli security. Throughout the Arab world, Netanyahu has been the subject of escalating verbal attacks, derided as insane and demonic, and compared at times with Hitler."

DAILY TELEGRAPH: A return of the intifada

Jerusalem correspondent Anton La Guardia writes, "The bloody clashes in Ramallah yesterday follow ever louder calls by Palestinians for a return of the intifada, the mass uprising that broke out in 1987 and withered away after the signing of the autonomy accords." Guardia continues: "Mr Arafat has fanned the flames of outrage over claims that Israeli archaeological work was endangering al-Aqsa mosque, an assertion that even non-Jewish archaeologists consider to be absurd. But neither side has an interest in yesterday's violence degenerating into an armed conflict between the Israeli army and Mr Arafat's myriad security forces." The news analysis concludes: "The question now is whether the (Islamic) militants, seeing the autonomy talks on the verge of collapse, may not try to push them over with a new onslaught."

POLITIKEN: Protests may lead to new suicide bombings.

Michael Warschawski is director of the Alternative Information Office in Jerusalem comments, "The reaction of the Israeli government to Palestinian protests may lead terror organizations such as Hamas to a new wave of suicide bombings. It is doubtful that the government will be able to re-new the peace process policies that, with the enlargement of settlements and the continuation of military presence in Hebron, have effectively been halted."


ALLGEMEINE ZEITUNG: Bosnia needs supervision

The German paper editorializes: "Only optimists blind to reality or electoral fighters could, or want to, really believe that everything will have changed for the good by the deadline given in the Dayton agreement so that the NATO troops can be withdrawn. Also today, the circumstances in Bosnia and Herzegovina are such that the country, whose division is growing stronger, needs military supervision. One can dream of a lasting peace, but is not reality. It is high time that the defense ministers of the alliance make up their minds to this evaluation of the situation and drawn the necessary conclusion, IFOR 1 will be followed by IFOR 2." The newspaper says: "The continuing cooperation of America is essential, there where it counts, on the ground."

POLITIKEN: NATO members agree on continuation of IFOR

Today's editorial says "All NATO members seem to agree that a continuation of IFOR's presence in Bosnia after the expiration of its current mandate in December is necessary. And all seem to agree that it needs American participation. But U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry avoids committing himself to this." The editorial adds: "The meeting in Bergen was unofficial and therefore did not take definitive decisions. All NATO defense ministers sent a clear signal that several plans regarding Bosnia are under consideration." The newspaper concludes: "But as of now it is still unclear what the future IFOR will look like in comparison to the current 52,000-soldier mission. The Americans especially are holding their cards close to the vest when the question of U.S. participation is raised."

THE DAILY TELEGRAPH: German presence could lead to local hostility

Defense Correspondent Tim Butcher, writes in a news analysis "Any substantial German presence in Bosnia could lead to local hostility because of bitter memories dating from the German occupation and annexation of Bosnia in the Second World War. The full announcement of an IFOR replacement, referred to by senior NATO commanders as a Stabilization Force, is hindered by political uncertainties, not least the U.S. presidential election in November. No firm announcement is expected until it is over. Any follow-on force will face the problem of how to measure its success. IFOR was configured round a strict timetable of deadlines by which the warring factions were supposed to disengage, withdraw heavy weapons and demobilize. With those military targets effectively achieved, it is harder to see what military targets are left for the new force to measure itself by."