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Western Press Review: Bush's Mideast Speech, G-7 Meeting

Prague, 25 June 2002 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. President George W. Bush's speech yesterday on the Mideast captured the attention of Western press commentators on both sides of the Atlantic.


"The Guardian's" Suzanne Goldenberg, writing from Jerusalem, declares in a news analysis that Bush, in his speech, made demands only on the Palestinians. "In stark contrast, the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, faced no immediate pressure for an end to the army's reoccupation of West Bank towns, or for a freeze on illegal Jewish settlements."

Goldenberg says: "Beyond Washington's focus on the removal of Mr. Arafat, the U.S. president's vision went no further last night than a vague promise of a provisional Palestinian state, to be redeemed within three years -- by which time Mr. Bush may no longer be in the White House. He held out no details on the borders of the state that will emerge three years from now, the location of its capital, or the future of millions of Palestinian refugees -- all vital concerns for the people of the West Bank and Gaza."

"While Israel does not yet have license to expel Mr. Arafat -- as Mr. Sharon's hard-line allies demand -- after last night's speech that day may not be far off."


"The Wall Street Journal Europe" found much to applaud in the speech, calling it "daring" and "potentially a major leap forward in U.S. Middle East diplomacy."

The newspaper editorializes: "The fear among many, including us, was that after several vicious weeks of suicide bombings, Mr. Bush would seem to be rewarding Palestinian terror. Some in the State Department were pushing a speech that would have done precisely that. But instead, the president broke from the tired Saudi-State diplomacy and made the Palestinians a far more radical offer -- U.S. recognition and aid, but only after they've elected new leaders who reject terrorism in deed and word and build institutions worthy of a state."


"The New York Times" called the Bush vision "A Plan without a Map." The newspaper says in an editorial that in order for Palestinian and Israeli states to co-exist as neighbors, they need specific direction, which Bush fails to provide.

The editorial says: "In broad terms, Mr. Bush told Israel the right things. It must help the Palestinians achieve democracy by releasing its frozen revenues, end settlement building in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and negotiate all the difficult remaining issues, like Jerusalem and refugees. But the president set no timetable."

The editorial concludes: "Mr. Bush may have a vision of a Palestinian state being declared in three years, but a great deal of harm can occur while everyone is waiting for Yasser Arafat to leave and political reform to take place. Israeli officials and many Americans worry about 'sending a message' that terror works if Israeli concessions are made now. But without steps by both sides, a different message could be received by the Palestinians -- hopelessness."


Commentator Alan Philips, writing in Britain's "The Daily Telegraph," says: "President Bush's formula for Middle East peace came as a shock to Palestinians, but hardly as a surprise. It fulfills their worst suspicions that, on key issues, Washington is firmly allied with the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon."


An editorial in "The Washington Post" remarks on the speech's lack of specific demands on Israel, such as determining what should be done about Israeli West Bank settlements. "Mr. Bush remains unwilling to address that side of the equation with any vigor. He gave little substance yesterday to what, if the Palestinians do reform, he would support with respect to such difficult issues as borders, contiguity, and Jerusalem. And he did not spell out in any detail what he would do to push the process forward; there was no mention of Secretary of State Powell's multinational conference. Mr. Bush's call for new Palestinian leadership and institutions is on target; but if he does not fill in those blank spaces, the danger is that yesterday's address will go into the archives as just another recitation of worthy goals, and the violence will continue and escalate."

Several British commentators, joined by a writer in "The New York Times" analyze today prospects for a meeting this week in the Canadian Rockies of the G-7 industrialized nations plus Russia.


Britain's "The Times" says in an editorial, "The U.S. president must be persuaded to focus on Africa." It says that the G-7 plus Russia will be, as the editorial puts it, "discussing one of the most intractable issues of world development -- how to stop Africa sliding ever further into the abyss."

The editorial says, "The New Partnership for Africa's Development -- NEPAD -- has been likened by its proponents to a Marshall Plan for Africa." It adds, "Fewer bargains have ever been struck with such poor prospects of delivery."

It will be difficult, "The Times" says, to get President Bush "to devote much time to the subject during this 30-hour summit." The editorial concludes: "He may recognize that combating poverty is a way to eliminate breeding grounds for terrorists, but it will take some persuasion to stop this summit being dominated by the war against terrorism. The war on poverty is vaguer, costlier, more diffuse, and more frustrating, but it must be fought."


An editorial in the "Financial Times" also calls for effective attention to the poverty of the African states. "The road to Africa's renaissance is paved with good intentions. So it is easy to be cynical about the sales pitch that African leaders will make to the Group of [Seven plus Russia] summit in Canada tomorrow. But the plan spearheaded by South Africa and Nigeria promising good government in return for more open trade and increased aid deserves a generous response."

The editorial concludes: "African leaders have much to do to prove their commitment to democracy and clean government -- and their willingness to stand up to transgressors. A promise of better government must be met by a promise of more aid. But ultimately, Africa should stand up for the principles of NEPAD, money or no money."


Writing in "The Guardian," commentator George Monbiot condemns the meeting in hyperbole and irony, calling the G-7 plus Russia convocation a "messianic cult of empire." Monbiot writes: "In the Canadian fastness of Kananaskis this week, the messianic cult of empire will solemnly worship itself. The leaders of the [G-7 plus Russia] nations will declare that they have come to deliver the world from evil. They will announce that they are sacrificing themselves for the good of lesser nations. They will propose solutions from on high, without acknowledging any responsibility for the problems.

"It is traditional, when empire celebrates, that its vassal states come to pay tribute and beg for deliverance. This time, the African leaders who will be admitted to the summit on Thursday are prepared to suffer the final humiliation by blaming themselves for the disasters visited upon them by the [G-7 plus Russia]."


"The New York Times's" Nicholas Kristof uses the G-7 plus Russia meeting as a springboard to plead for the preservation of even sweatshop wages in Third World countries. Satirically, he writes: "When the [G-7 plus Russia] leaders meet this week, cowering in a Canadian mountain resort beyond the reach of organized anarchists, here's a way for them to bolster terror-infested Third World countries like Pakistan. They should start an international campaign to promote imports from sweatshops, perhaps with bold labels depicting an unrecognizable flag and the words 'Proudly Made in a Third World Sweatshop!'"

Kristof tells the story of a 14-year-old Pakistani, Ahmed, who earns $2 a day as a carpet weaver. Those are sweatshop wages to be sure, but Kristof quotes Ahmed say saying he prefers it to farm work, because it "makes much more money and is more comfortable."

Kristof writes: "The G-7 plus Russia leaders will never dare, of course, begin a pro-sweatshop campaign. But at a summit that will discuss how to bring stability and economic growth to some of the world's poorest nations, it would be a start if Westerners who denounce sweatshops would think less of feel-good measures for themselves and more about how any of this helps people like Ahmed."

Two editorials in the U.S. press examine Supreme Court pronouncements yesterday on aspects of the death penalty. The court already has established that each of the 50 states may decide for itself whether and under what circumstance to execute people convicted of heinous crimes. Recent decisions deal only with whether the various state statutes conform to federal constitutional requirements.


"The Washington Post" says that two Supreme Court decisions yesterday challenge the logical consistency of an earlier determination that juries -- not judges -- must decide whether elements of a crime that determine maximum sentences have been "proven beyond a reasonable doubt."

The editorial says that the court this week invalidated Arizona's capital sentencing law because it permitted judges to order a death penalty based on "elements" of a crime not proven to a jury. But, it says, the court upheld another law that allowed judges to determine mandatory minimum sentences based on unproven "factors."

The newspaper says: "The court -- having articulated a sweeping principle two years ago -- now is finding out just how much turmoil applying that principle necessarily generates. A big part of the problem is that the court has not precisely defined the difference between sentencing 'factors' and 'elements' of crimes."


"The New York Times" editorializes: "Only four days after its landmark ruling barring the execution of retarded people, the Supreme Court announced another big change yesterday in the application of the death penalty. A 7-to-2 majority declared that a jury, not a judge, must make the factual determination about the existence of 'aggravating factors' that make a convicted murdered eligible for the death penalty."

The editorial adds, "It would be wishful thinking to attribute the new ruling to mounting anti-death-penalty fervor on the court." It concludes, "For the moment, at least, it is up to individual states, and to Congress, to respond to the increasing public doubts about whether the death penalty ever can be applied justly and evenly."