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Western Press Review: Long Odds For Israel And Palestine

Prague, 7 April 1997 (RFE/RL) -- As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepared to meet today in Washington with U.S. President Bill Clinton, Western commentary over the weekend scrutinized the dwindling hope for peace in the Middle East.

NEW YORK TIMES: Clinton could negotiate permanent Israeli and Palestinian boundaries in Jerusalem

The paper said Sunday in an editorial that the only way the United States can live up to assertions by Clinton and Secretary of States Madeleine Albright that it is "the indispensable nation" is to take a daring stand. The editorial said: "Washington's role as avuncular mediator will suffice no longer. Clinton and Ms. Albright must make some hard decisions and take some political risks to end the conflict."

The newspaper contended: "(A) daring option may be available if the White House is willing to bear the risks involved. It is to move directly to intensive negotiations on a final settlement. That would mean negotiating permanent boundaries between the areas of Israeli and Palestinian control and defining the respective rights of the two peoples in Jerusalem."

And added: "Compromises on Jerusalem and the other issues will be painful for both sides, and impossible without sustained pressure and encouragement from Washington. They will have to honor Israel's need for military security and legitimate Palestinian aspirations to national dignity." The editorial concluded: "Nothing, however, will happen without the direct and active involvement of Clinton and Ms. Albright. America can only be the indispensable nation if its leaders are prepared to make it so."

NEW YORK TIMES: Netanyahu proposes direct, intensive negotiations

Steven Erlanger writes from Rochester in the U.S. state of Minnesota in a news analysis today that the Clinton Administration appears not to be leaning toward such a "daring stand." He writes: "Netanyahu has proposed breaking the cycle of violence by moving directly to intensive negotiations with Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, on the final political status of Jerusalem and the Palestinian Authority, and he discussed that proposal with Hussein, recuperating here after a prostate operation at the Mayo Clinic on Saturday."

However, the writer says: "Clinton, partly on the advice of the king, is leaning away from dramatic gestures, fearing that if any proposals are not well prepared they will fail, causing further damage, senior American officials say." Also, Erlanger writes: "Arafat is skeptical about Netanyahu's offer." he says: "Arafat is concerned that Netanyahu is simply trying to avoid the peace agreement's formula of gradual troop pullouts and increasing autonomy for the Palestinian Authority. Under Oslo, the final-status talks are supposed to be concluded by May 1999."

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR: Norway could try to fix the broken peace

Speaking of Oslo, Martha Andersson writes from there today in a news analysis in today's edition of the U.S. newspaper that another chance, albeit slim, for resurrecting Israeli-Palestinian peace is to go back to where it came to life. She writes: "If President Clinton fails to fix the broken peace between Israel and the Palestinians, who can? The people who secretly brokered the 1993 deal known as the Oslo accords think they can. Leaders in Norway, a country with 4 million people and a propensity for peacemaking, say they are again probing opportunities to smooth the ruffled feathers of both sides."

The writer notes that Norwegian Foreign Minister Bjorn Tore Godals met Friday with Albright, discussing the Mideast peace process and other topics

MIAMI HERALD: 'Peace is dead'

In an analysis over the weekend, writer John Donnelly found cause for pessimism in the words of Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Donnelly wrote: "For those with hope that the meeting (today) between President Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington will revive Middle East peace, it may be wise to hear the words of a prominent preacher at Palestine Mosque's prayers last week: 'Peace is dead. The whole peace process is dead,' said Wajih Yaghi, also an elected member of the Palestinian Council." Donnelly adds: "And it may be wise to listen to Meir Indor, one of Israel's most formidable grass-roots, right-wing organizers, 'We are the last wall against terrorism in the world.' "

He wrote: "The lesson here (is that) even as Clinton brings to play all the influence of the world's only superpower on a peace process involving two peoples on a tiny strip of land, the process remains extremely vulnerable to the extremes -- in Israel, Gaza Strip and the West Bank."

NEW YORK TIMES: Jerusalem has always been the sticking point

Commentator William Safire took the position in a column Sunday that Israel has been wholly within its rights in acting "as if it controlled its own capital" and that Clinton should "resist the temptation" in today's meeting "to appear evenhanded."

Safire contended: "The sticking point in the negotiation between Israel and the Palestinians has always been Jerusalem."

He charged: "Yasser Arafat incited a furor over a tunnel that Israelis had every right to reopen in their capital. He then seized on the construction of housing on a barren hill inside the city limits to incite rioting -- all to assert a claim to a piece of Jerusalem to be his capital."

Safire claimed: "Since Arafat chose to put his claim to Jerusalem on the world's agenda, Netanyahu proposes to address it now. The easy part of plans laid in Oslo -- awarding the Arabs much of the West Bank in return for a permanent renunciation of terror -- was supposed to come first. But reality intruded." And concluded: "If Arafat balks, the world will know which side is not dealing in good faith."

SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: A coalition Israeli government is not a solution

In a news analysis over the weekend, Anne Ponger in Jerusalem broached the notion of creating a coalition government in Israel take some heat off Netanyahu in dealing with the Palestinians. She conceded, however, that the idea has roughly the staying power of a teardrop in the Negev Desert. She wrote: "In the current crisis a grand coalition 'government of national unity' might well suit luckless Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu and a number of Likud ministers, especially Infrastructure Minister Ariel Sharon. Their jobs are unlikely to be offered to Labor Party nominees in a grand coalition cabinet."

"Yet far too many signs indicate that the idea is unlikely to get off the ground," she wrote. "In the Labour Party Peres' impassioned campaign to 'save the peace process' is seen more as a desperate bid to retain the party leadership, for which his rival Ehud Barak is running in June. Besides, what influence might six Labor ministers exercise on 12 right-wingers?"

U.S. Domestic Issue: Controlling the Internet

A mass suicide last month and long-running concerns about children's access to pornography have turned U.S. domestic commentators' attention to the Internet and issues of its control.

NEW YORK TIMES: The Supreme Court should reject state limitations on the Internet

In an editorial today, the paper says: "Is the Internet a serious threat to children that justifies government censorship (or) is it a distinctive, democratizing forum for worldwide conversation warranting maximum First Amendment protection? The Supreme Court now is weighing these questions. It ought to reject the idea that the transmission of information on the Internet should be limited by the state."

ORLANDO SENTINEL: I'm all for the First Amendment, but...

Myriam Marquez commented this weekend: "I'm all for the First Amendment, for free speech and the exercise thereof -- however graphic that exercise might be. (But) Kids need not apply."

PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER: Many people are turned off by the Internet

And an analysis, the paper said: "There is evidence that many people are turned off by the Internet, and that others remain off-line because they can't afford a computer or don't work with one."