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Western Press Review: Fighting In Kosovo, Israeli Elections

Prague, 28 December 1998 (RFE/RL) -- In comments today and over the weekend, Western analysts are concerned with the renewed violence in Serbia's southern Kosovo province and events in or touching on Israel.

DAILY TELEGRAPH: Kosovo Must Be Free.

Britain's Daily Telegraph proclaims "Kosovo Must Be Free" in its editorial today. The paper writes: "The [Kosovo Liberation Army, or UCK] has emerged as the dominant movement in Kosovo because all else has failed. There is no turning back after the savagery of the Serb military campaigns this year, which left more than 1,000 dead. Any arrangement that falls short of full independence cannot be made to stick."

The editorial goes on: "Both sides have violated the cease-fire in recent days, but there is no moral equivalence to these infractions because the [UCK] was not party to the agreement in the first place....It is clear that [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic is trying to provoke the [UCK] in order to justify a pre-emptive counter-insurgency, knowing that the rebel forces are gaining in strength by the month."

The DT sums up: "The West has got itself into this familiar mess because it has been disingenuous in condemning Mr. Milosevic, while tacitly using the Serbs as proxies to prevent the creation of an Islamic 'Greater Albania.' It is time to get back to principle....Any attempt to impose a settlement that leaves the ethnic Albanians under continued Serb control is not only unjust, it is unworkable."


The Wall Street Journal Europe calls its editorial today "Christmas in Kosovo," writing: "Peace on earth is a long way the people of Kosovo, where Christmas eve marked the start of the worst fighting to hit...the province in two months....Like most every other battle in Kosovo's 10-month-old war, the most recent fighting has been characterized by Serb aggression."

The WSJ continues: "It never made much sense to send 'peace verifiers,' as the [OSCE] observers are termed, to a region where there was clearly no peace to verify. Worse yet, Milosevic knew very well that with 600 unarmed civilians stationed in Kosovo, it would be impossible for the West to punch him militarily."

The paper concludes: "The West is in a straight jacket. Backing independence would give some credibility to future military threats from the West....But the West, of course, realizes that there are dangers in supporting Kosovar independence. Albanians in Macedonia might join a greater Albania, and other regional ethnic entities, such as Republika Srpska in Bosnia, might demand their own states as well."

On the same editorial page, the WSJ carries a commentary today by U.S. analyst David Phillips, who urges: "Bring Milosevic to Justice." Phillips says that "Milosevic...has outlived his usefulness. The recurrence of conflict in Kosovo suggests that the U.S. and its allies need to undertake a policy review and summon a new strategic vision."

"A good place to start," the commentary continues, "would be to prosecute Milosevic for war crimes and, at the same time, take steps to normalize relations with Yugoslavia. The allies simply can no longer tolerate Milosevic's recurrent aggression or continue to be involved in resolving every catastrophe he creates."

Phillips says further: "The United Nations War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague should publicly issue a warrant for the arrest of Milosevic, who is widely referred to already as a war criminal by several former U.S. officials...including former secretary of state Lawrence Eagleburger....The time has come to wipe out the virus of militant ethnic nationalism that has found a victim in Milosevic's Serbia."

AKTUELT: UCK Gathering Strength

The Danish newspaper Aktuelt says that the UCK "has used the cease-fire period to consolidate itself. Now," adds the paper, "it is showing that it has gained the upper hand over the Serbs....The exchange of fire over Christmas demonstrates that the [ethnic] Albanian-Serb conflict is beginning to resemble warfare in Afghanistan. The Government troops are beginning to lose."

"Currently," continues the paper's editorial, "more than 40 percent of the territory of Kosovo is under the control of the [UCK]. During the relatively short cease-fire, the UCK managed to smuggle into the province more effective arms such as grenades, mortars and ground-to-air missiles. A professional officer corps recruited abroad is now leading the previously spontaneous local guerrillas. The UCK's improved state has prompted its leaders to make new demands on the Serbs."

The editorial also says: "In the wake of the [U.S.-brokered] peace agreement, which the UCK has never been asked to accept, it may be fortifying itself beyond recognition. If the UCK continues to do so, it will not be after too many wintertime weeks before the Yugoslav tanks find themselves unable to move in the snow. Then the UCK will start playing a game of cat-and-mouse, which Afghan guerrillas have played for many decades with Russian, British and Soviet troops."

WASHINGTON POST: Growing Support For Unilateral Withdrawal from Lebanan

In the past three days, the Washington Post has run two editorials on Israel's foreign and domestic problems. Today's editorial takes up the question of Israel's northern neighbors, Lebanon and Syria. The paper writes: "Another burst of Israeli-Lebanese border violence has taken the lives of civilians on both sides --the Lebanese losses the result of military accident, Israelis claim, and the Israeli losses the result of acknowledged Hezbollah vengeance. It is a small corner of a broader struggle but a bloody and neuralgic corner."

The paper continues: "In this phase of the violence, the Israelis set up a turncoat Lebanese warlord as a partner in protecting their northern border. The connection gave Iran a target for its extremist Hezbollah clients. The connection also gave Syria, which owns Lebanon, an easy place to bleed Israel for Syria's own bargaining purposes.....The Syrians do not want a quiet Lebanese border. They want full Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon and from the whole occupied Golan Heights."

It adds: "The latest military activity in southern Lebanon, however, may be Middle East code for a demand by Syria to come back in out of the diplomatic cold ....Lebanon, potentially the only Arab democracy, would in good times be a likely partner of Israel, the only Mideast democracy. Syria forbids it. Still in Israel there is increasing [support] for a unilateral pullback from Lebanon's south. The rationale would be to deny Hezbollah a target, Lebanon a grievance and Syria a pretext. "

WASHINGTON POST: Israeli Government Must Listen To Voters

On Saturday, the WP discussed the prospect of early elections in Israel, writing: "A delay in the peace talks is expected now that Israel has decided to go to early elections, perhaps next spring, rather than to have Benjamin Netanyahu serve out his term in 2000. But that's no disaster," the paper added. "A stalemate with the Palestinians was already in effect as a result of the crisis that developed in Prime Minister Netanyahu's coalition over the Wye accords."

The WP went on: "Even in the volatile Israeli scene, it is hard to imagine that the electorate would restore the very political configuration responsible for this negotiating stalemate. Any new government is going to have to answer to the polled large majority of voters who favor careful continuation of negotiations with the Palestinians."

The editorial concluded: "In Israel's century-old core conflict with Palestinians, a succession of American administrations has helped bring the two sides to a point at which their goals --security and statehood, respectively --are within reach: within reach but at cost and risk. As a father of Palestinian nationalism, Yasser Arafat possesses his own political resources. For Israel, its democratic nature compels the politicians to seek electoral authorization of the gravest national choices."

Several German newspapers comment briefly on Israel and the stalled Mid-East peace process.

LUEBECKER NACHRICHTEN: Left-Right Coalition Could Kickstart Peace Process

The Luebecker Nachrichten says: "That's it. Nothing's going to move until new elections are held [in Israel], another test of patience for the Palestinians led by Yasser Arafat. For Israel, perhaps the best outcome would be a [national, Left-Right] coalition. It could help provide the kick start necessary to begin the peace process again."

NEUE PRESSE: Netanyahu Finished

The Neue Presse, published in Hanover, believes that Benjamin Netanyahu's political life is finished, at least for the time being. The paper writes: "[Netanyahu's] agreement to call new elections is also an admission of defeat. He ruled the county in a manner that was like 'a bull in a china shop.'"

NORDKURIER: Netanyahu Gambled And Lost

Finally, the Nordkurier, published in Neubrandenburg, writes: "No-one can please all the people all the time: Netanyahu is a classic example. Instead of putting to good use all the good work in the peace process left behind by the late Yitzhak Rabin, he gambled his advantages with the Arabs away. He also spoiled relations with his main ally, the U.S."