By Tuck Wesolowsky/Alexandra Poolos
Prague, 19 July 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Western press commentary focuses again today on the Middle East peace summit at the U.S. presidential retreat of Camp David. Other topics range from Montenegro to compensation for Nazi-era slave laborers, to trade with China.
International Herald Tribune:
Today's International Herald Tribune runs a commentary by Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post, which says that any peace agreement should end Palestinian claims against Israel.
Krauthammer says that if the final agreement coming out of Camp David does not contain two provisions, it will be worthless. He says the agreement should both mark the end of Palestinian claims against Israel and close the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and that the finality of the agreement should be guaranteed by the United States.
He writes: "Finality does not mean that the Palestinians pledge an end to conflict and violence. They pledged precisely that seven years ago on the White House lawn and have routinely used violence and the threat of violence ever since. ... Finality means something else. It means that Palestinian claims against Israel have come to an end. No more demands for territory, no more demands for refugee resettlement, no more demands for financial compensation."
Krauthammer says that the Camp David accords must be the last of the giving. He writes, "No more claims, no more demands, no more negotiations."
But for finality to be in the agreement, Krauthammer says that it has to be ratified by the U.S. and enshrined by the UN Security Council as the new international norm.
Los Angeles Times:
In the Los Angeles Times of yesterday, commentator Warren Bass says not to believe the gloomy predictions surrounding the Middle East peace talks at Camp David. He writes that commentators and analysts are wrong in estimating the chances of a deal between Israel and Palestine as no better than 50-50.
He writes: "In fact, a historic deal is by far the most likely outcome. Much of the pessimism has been seriously overdone by negotiators seeking to drive up their opening bids and by commentators unfamiliar with the peace process's wonky rhythms. Nor, strange to say, does Barak's political face-plant back home make much difference at Camp David. Nor do President Clinton's Nobel Prize ambitions much matter; the key is that a major deal is the best self-interested result for both Barak and Yasser Arafat."
Bass says that both sides have powerful incentives to reach an agreement. He says alarm over the negotiations should be reserved for what he calls the "tougher part" -- selling the deal after the summit. In his words: "Still, the outlines of Camp David Two, as batted about in the Israeli and Palestinian media, make it clear that both sides have excruciating sales jobs ahead. Neither constituency is ready for the agonizing trade-offs that may be in the works ... including, perhaps most painfully of all -- shelving both side's claims to feel permanently abused by the other."
Also in the Los Angeles Times, Tracy Wilkinson writes that the plight of more than 3 million Palestinians -- refugees and their descendants -- is one of the most vexing issues blocking the end to decades of Arab-Israeli strife. She notes that Palestinian leaders insist they will not relinquish the right of return for the refugees, while Israeli leaders say they will never permit such a return.
Wilkinson writes: "Israel says it cannot allow repatriation en masse, because to do so would destroy the Jewish state. ... However, Israel is offering to accept a limited number of refugees who have family in the Jewish state, and it wants to participate in a multi-billion-dollar international fund that will pay to resettle Palestinians elsewhere and improve their mostly dire living conditions."
Wilkinson writes that Palestinians are divided on their dreams for a homeland. She says that while some refugees hope to return to the soil they fled, others prefer a new state in West Bank and Gaza. "Despite the rhetoric of their leadership," she writes, "there is widespread awareness among Palestinians that there will be no collective return home. The faded dream has been replaced increasingly in recent years by the desire for an independent and sovereign state on attainable land, such as the West Bank and Gaza Strip."
But Wilkinson says that the right to return home is deeply important to many Palestinians, especially those of older generations who have passed their lives in squalid camps. She writes, "They feel that they were done an injustice, and they need vindication."
Isabel Hilton writes in the British daily Guardian today that this week's signing of the settlement for people forced into slave labor by the Nazis is what she calls a "partial victory" with some "disturbing aspects."
Hilton says the payment of 10,000 million German marks ($4,800 billion) is only a fraction of the estimated 100,000 to 180,000 million marks that slave labor under the Third Reich is estimated to have been worth to industry. She adds: "Industry is only putting up half the money, the other half coming from the German taxpayer. And, of course, the half that industry is supplying is tax deductible, so the taxpayer is actually footing three-quarters of the bill."
Hilton also points out that German industrialists have now secured legal closure on the matter of Nazi-era slave labor. In her words: "The 55 class actions currently underway in the United States -- which might have produced much higher settlements -- will be discouraged by means of a presidential statement of interest when President Clinton will make it clear that he considers them detrimental to the interests of the U.S."
Wall Street Journal:
Turning to China, an editorial in the Wall Street Journal notes that last weekend's test of an Iranian medium-range ballistic missile raises further concerns that China is exporting destabilizing military technology. But the paper questions whether the U.S. Senate's threats to delay establishing permanent normal trade relations with China can spur Beijing to change its behavior.
"Both sides in the debate," the paper says, "tend to overemphasize the link between trade and China's behavior on human rights, weapons proliferation, and other concerns. This is a mistake. Normal trade relations should be weighed on its own merits." The editorial says U.S. can have an impact on China's peddling of missiles by pursuing missile defense for both itself and its allies. "China complains frequently about American moves to develop a national missile defense," the editorial notes. "The obvious counter is that it is made necessary partly by China's contributions to weapons proliferation."
The Danish daily Politiken today considers the difficult predicament of Montenegro, the smaller republic of Yugoslavia that has distanced itself from the policies of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. In an editorial, the paper notes: " Djukanovic is under pressure to call a referendum on the republic's sovereignty. However, the West does not want him to proceed with such a referendum, for fear it may provoke another armed conflict in the Balkans. Still," the paper continues, "if such a conflict does materialize, the West's 'prudence' will also be held accountable. NATO has warned against any military action against Montenegro, yet it has failed to give it any credible security guarantees. The West should have come to know better: only decisive NATO action can keep Milosevic away from what he has set his eyes upon."
Politiken chides the West over its indecision over Yugoslavia. "The West has opted for a policy toward Yugoslavia that may best be termed 'treading water,'" the editorial says, "hardly a reasonable option given the kind of government that has its grip on the remains of Yugoslavia."
(Anthony Georgieff contributed to this report.)