The world press on Israel

Former speaker of Israel's Knesset Avraham Burg: "There may yet be a Jewish state here, but it will be a different sort, strange and ugly."

By Compiled by Laura McClure
Published September 16, 2003 9:43PM (EDT)

Israel, Editorial in the Jerusalem Post

The world will not help us; we must help ourselves. We must kill as many of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders as possible, as quickly as possible, while minimizing collateral damage, but not letting that damage stop us. And we must kill Yasser Arafat, because the world leaves us no alternative...

Only now, after more than 800 Israelis have died in three years of suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks, has Europe finally decided that Hamas is a terrorist organization. How much longer will it take before it cuts off Arafat? Yet Israel cannot accept a situation in which Arafat blocks any Palestinian break with terrorism, whether from here or in exile. Therefore, we are at another point in our history at which the diplomatic risks of defending ourselves are exceeded by the risks of not doing so...

When the breaking point arrives, there is no point in taking half-measures. If we are going to be condemned in any case, we might as well do it right.

Arafat's death at Israel's hands would not radicalize Arab opposition to Israel; just the opposite. The current jihad against us is being fueled by the perception that Israel is blocked from taking decisive action to defend itself.

Arafat's survival and power are a test of the proposition that it is possible to pursue a cause through terror and not have that cause rejected by the international community. Killing Arafat, more than any other act, would demonstrate that the tool of terror is unacceptable, even against Israel, even in the name of a Palestinian state.

Arafat does not just stand for terror, he stands for the refusal to make peace with Israel under any circumstances and within any borders...

Whom the Palestinians choose to lead them is none of our business, provided it is a free choice, and provided they do not opt for leaders who choose terror and aggression. So long as the Palestinians choose such a leadership, it should be held no more immune to counterattack by Israel than the Taliban and Saddam Hussein were by the United States.

India, Amit Baruah in the Hindu

"Israel is using the language of the mafia," the Palestinian Ambassador to India, Osama Musa, has said in response to the public statement by a senior Israeli Minister that Tel Aviv was considering the "option" of "killing" the Palestinian President, Yasser Arafat.

Talking to this correspondent today, Mr. Musa described the statement by the Israeli Vice-Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, as an "ugly joke" ... Terming it an act of aggression, he said such statements came very easily to "occupiers."

"They [Israel] have proved that they are a terrorist state," he said pointing out that no government anywhere had announced plans to assassinate the president of another country.

Asked what would be the response of the Palestinian people, Mr. Musa said they had "nothing" -- all the tanks and weapons are in the hands of the Israelis.

The Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, he said, had the aircraft and tanks to carry out the "option" of assassinating Mr. Arafat. Mr. Musa, however, had his own message for Mr. Sharon: "Go to hell."

Israel, Ze'ev Sternhell in Haaretz

There's no reason to complain to the prime minister and the defense establishment. The present policy is exactly what Ariel Sharon, the chief of staff, the government and the leaders of the settlers think is correct and desirable. They know this policy has a price and they are willing to pay the price with eyes wide open. Their hearts are rent at the sight of the tragedy in Cafe Hillel, on the No. 2 bus in Jerusalem, or at Tzrifin, but to them those who are murdered are soldiers who fell in battle...

Indeed, the people who are deciding Israel's future know that they are not eliminating terrorism but heightening it, but they believe that this is the heavy price to which we have to agree ... In their view, the breaking of the population's resistance and the ghettoization of the territories are a sine qua non for the consolidation of Israel's future. They are not naive, they are not stupid, and they don't think that liquidating the leadership of Hamas will bring about a peaceful solution -- or any other solution, for that matter -- but that doesn't exactly bother them, because that's not what they're after...

They are waging a political war, a clear-cut war of choice, which is the continuation of the policy of occupation and smashing of the territories to the point of preventing any possibility that a sovereign state will be able to exist there.

They are suiting the means to that end and they will not extricate us from the cycle of madness unless there is a popular uprising in this country on the scale of what we had after the Yom Kippur War or the Lebanon War ... This must be civil society's finest hour, the shining moment of a great popular movement, of the Peace Now movement, which seems to have been swallowed up by the earth, of the social organizations that believe deeply in justice and human rights...

This must be the hour of the parliamentary opposition, of no-confidence motions, of an outcry that will be heard far beyond the Knesset building...

It is inconceivable that Meretz, the Labor Party and those who voted for Shinui ... do not have enough mental fortitude, enough faith in the future to nourish a protest movement of the kind we had not so long ago. After all, it is inconceivable that the Zionism of sanity is totally bankrupt.

United Kingdom, Former speaker of Israel's Knesset Avraham Burg in the Guardian

The Zionist revolution has always rested on two pillars: a just path and an ethical leadership. Neither of these is operative any longer. The Israeli nation today rests on a scaffolding of corruption, and on foundations of oppression and injustice. As such, the end of the Zionist enterprise is already on our doorstep. There is a real chance that ours will be the last Zionist generation. There may yet be a Jewish state here, but it will be a different sort, strange and ugly.

There is time to change course, but not much. What is needed is a new vision of a just society and the political will to implement it. Diaspora Jews for whom Israel is a central pillar of their identity must pay heed and speak out...

We live in a thunderously failed reality. Yes, we have revived the Hebrew language, created a marvellous theatre and a strong national currency. Our Jewish minds are as sharp as ever. We are traded on the Nasdaq. But is this why we created a state? The Jewish people did not survive for two millennia in order to pioneer new weaponry, computer security programs or anti-missile missiles. We were supposed to be a light unto the nations. In this we have failed.

It turns out that the 2,000-year struggle for Jewish survival comes down to a state of settlements, run by an amoral clique of corrupt lawbreakers who are deaf both to their citizens and to their enemies. A state lacking justice cannot survive... A structure built on human callousness will inevitably collapse in on itself. Note this moment well: Zionism's superstructure is already collapsing like a cheap Jerusalem wedding hall. Only madmen continue dancing on the top floor while the pillars below are collapsing.

Here is what the prime minister should say to the people: the time for illusions is over. The time for decisions has arrived. We love the entire land of our forefathers and in some other time we would have wanted to live here alone. But that will not happen. The Arabs, too, have dreams and needs...

The prime minister should present the choices forthrightly: Jewish racism or democracy. Settlements, or hope for both peoples. False visions of barbed wire and suicide bombers, or a recognised international border between two states and a shared capital in Jerusalem...

What's needed is not a political replacement for the Sharon government but a vision of hope, an alternative to the destruction of Zionism and its values by the deaf, dumb and callous.

Lebanon, Editorial in the Daily Star

Colin Powell is back in the lonely role of trying to maintain some semblance of balance in U.S. foreign policy. With the rest of Washington asleep at the switch over the ominous potential of the Israeli Cabinet's decision to get rid of Yasser Arafat, Powell admonished the Jewish state on Sunday to back away from its threats. Expelling or assassinating Arafat, the former general warned, would provoke "rage throughout the Arab world, the Muslim world and in many other parts of the world."

Although probably an understatement, this assessment of the situation was a welcome break from what has been a steady torrent of bias and baseness from official Washington for weeks, a tide that in all likelihood led the Israelis to believe that they could get away with Arafat's "removal"...

Powell seems to understand what is at stake. The Oslo process may be dead, but its effect was to alter profoundly the manner in which Arabs and Israelis view the possibilities for a negotiated solution to their long and costly struggle. Considerations of mutual recognition, visions of burgeoning economic opportunities, dreams of an end to needless bloodshed: All these would go out the window if Arafat, dead or alive, were muscled out of the West Bank...

It will not be easy to convince Sharon to stand down. His policy has been to demonize the Palestinian leader at every turn, creating a powerful domestic constituency for what amounts to lunacy. In addition, Sharon and his allies have some very influential friends in Washington who could make life difficult for Powell at home. Nonetheless, this is no time for the most respected public figure in America to flinch. And he has all the ammunition he needs to win this showdown: Washington has consistently acknowledged both the illegality of Israel's settlement schemes and their corrosive effect on the peace process. Convince the Israelis to get rid of those obstacles, and Arafat becomes an afterthought to friend and foe alike. The alternative can be attractive only to those who long for a dystopia, a global shop of horrors whose victims will be grim testimony to the ultimate impotence of the world's sole remaining superpower.

Israel, Meron Benvenisti in Haaretz

A record sum of more than a billion dollars contributed to the territories since the Defensive Shield Operation ... was the main cause preventing a humanitarian crisis of catastrophic consequences.

The Palestinians managed to survive thanks to the international aid, but as usual in these cases, the beneficiary of the international community's rallying to the rescue was their Israeli enemy. Moreover, the contributing states' humanitarian enlistment became a safety net, enabling Israel to impose a deluxe occupation in the West Bank -- total military domination with no responsibility for running the life of the occupied population, and no price tag attached.

Had Israel been required to fulfill its commitment as an occupying power, it would have had to pay NIS 5-6 billion a year just to maintain basic services for a population of more than three million people. But it created an international precedent -- an occupation fully financed by the international community. The harsher the Israeli measures with "closures, blockades and safety fences," the larger the international aid "to prevent a humanitarian crisis," and Israel is not held accountable. Israel isn't even required to display minimal politeness and gratitude to the donor states for their generosity in providing the economic safety net. Indeed, the greatest contributor -- the European Union as a body and European states individually -- are treated with contempt and condescension: pay up and shut up, or we'll accuse you of anti-Semitism.

President Bush should be envious of Ariel Sharon for his cunning in setting up the deluxe occupation regime. In Iraq, the Americans are trying to get the U.N. and the states of Europe, which objected to the war, to partake in the burden of the occupation, but they are raising all kinds of demands and conditions. Sharon is exempt from all this, even though with one decision -- removing internal roadblocks that have nothing to do with security, and are intended entirely to serve the settlers -- he could, according to the World Bank, "improve the West Bank's domestic product by 21 percent."

Israel will not pay for its actions, but the international community will, because according to the Israeli concept there is no connection between humiliation, poverty and loss of hope to violence and terror, and any attempt to link them "justifies the murders." Only the international community must worry about the loss of the chance of reconciliation and pay for it dearly.

Lebanon, Ibrahim Ghraybeh in Al-Hayat

Why did the murder or assassination attempt of Abdulaziz Al Rantissi, Ismail Abu Shanab, Ahmad Yaseen and Mahmud Zahar, all of them Hamas leaders, take place at a time when Hamas had agreed to freeze military operations and initiate a dialogue with the Palestinian factions, the Egyptian government and Europe?

Why didn't Israel kill or try to kill them when the Intifada was at its peak? Was the escape of those Hamas leaders, with the exception of Abu Shanab in Gaza, and before them Khaled Mishaal, a coincidence? Or is it that Israel threatens them but doesn't want to kill them? Does it only want to send a message to Hamas and maybe to the world, especially to the countries and forces that have a role in the Palestinian cause?...

Hamas might have achieved a huge political breakthrough when it initiated a dialogue with Egypt and Europe. The political scene witnessed an Egyptian move, a European change and an American one as well. The European Union refused to put Hamas on the terrorism list. President Bush himself welcomed the suggestion of releasing 200 Hamas and Jihad detainees and welcomed as well the suggestion of turning Hamas into a political party that would participate in the political and public Palestinian life.

Israel along with all the forces that are related to the Palestinian issue, understands that eliminating Hamas' leaders will not weaken it or change its directions, for it is a popular social movement stemming from the Palestinian society and the Islamic network and the Palestinian circles abroad.

If Europe and the U.S. really did shift towards differentiating among Islamic movements, and are open to dialoguing and cooperating with the moderate ones, Hamas would have something to gain, while Israel would lose, as it seems to want war on terror to remain blind, roping in all Arabs and Muslims together without differentiation...

The latest events, which have been harsh for Hamas and for the Palestinians in general, uncover Israel's weakness and opportunities for the Arabs and Palestinians ... The Iraqi opposition represents a strong source of pressure on the U.S. and the international community, which serves the Palestinian cause, because reaching stability in Iraq and building an American and international credibility among Iraqis and Arabs must begin in Palestine. The U.S. today seems to need the Arabs more than anytime before, for their cooperation in Iraq.

Japan, Editorial in Asahi Shimbun

How long must the Palestinian issue remain chaotic? ...

Unless there is some change in the situation, the Palestinian people will continue to be the ultimate victims of their own circumstances. Trapped between the "holy war'' advocated by the Islamic extremists and the internal power struggle within their governing authority, the Palestinians will only grow more desperate.

What do the Palestinian people really want, and what do they expect of their leader? Perhaps one way to find out is to go through with the general election that was originally scheduled for the start of this year.

Arafat's term in office has already expired, as have those of the incumbent legislators who were elected in 1996. We believe an election should be held to bring in a whole new leadership for the Palestinian Authority, with the prime minister's authority clearly specified in a new Constitution.

Such a legitimately elected leadership should be able to negotiate much more effectively with the United States and Israel. And if the Palestinian people eventually agree to lay down their arms, this should serve to keep extremist organizations in check.

We certainly understand how difficult it must be for the Palestinians to hold a general election now. But if they want to draw international public opinion to their side and stand up to Israel, which vastly overpowers them, there is no other option but to let the "voiceless people'' speak out.

Saudi Arabia,Editorial in the Arab News

From around the world, protests have poured in to Israel about any plans it might have to send Palestinian President Yasser Arafat into exile. From Washington to the E.U. to the U.N. to the Arab League, the message is the same: Should Arafat be deported, the event would have extremely serious repercussions, not just in the occupied territories but all over the Middle East...

Banishing Arafat is not the answer. There was an assumption that progress in achieving the road map's goals would be made. But the road map collapsed -- a result not of Arafat's doing but of Ariel Sharon's blanket refusal to accept even the slightest possibility of peaceful coexistence with the Palestinians.

Sharon's decision to remove Arafat may be connected to polls showing that Israelis think their leader is not doing enough to prevent bomb attacks. A survey published on Friday found that 66 percent of Israelis thought Sharon's administration was doing a bad job against "Palestinian terror." Sharon indeed has failed to deliver peace. Israel has not relaxed the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. It has not frozen the building of Jewish settlements nor has it freed thousands of Palestinian prisoners. Abbas was able to provide seven weeks of relative quiet -- but there was no end to occupation, settlement construction, assassinations of leading Palestinians or a halt to building the wall of separation. The natural result was that the cease-fire announced in June collapsed.

Israel has, under the present government, become increasingly reckless in the last few months in its quest to obliterate the Palestinian leadership. Now it wants Arafat, the democratically elected leader and symbol of the Palestinians' 55-year-old struggle for independence.

Israel claims that getting rid of Arafat would remove a big obstacle to peace. But Arafat is not the obstacle. He himself has said his being sent into exile was not the real danger and has urged Israel to return to negotiations. The real obstacle remains an Israeli adversary that believes it can cow the Palestinians into surrender. If it succeeds in doing anything, Arafat's removal will only blow up in Israel's face.

Compiled by Laura McClure

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