The front page of The New York Times “Week In Review” section (Oct. 25) offered a sensitive appreciation of the Israeli team’s performance at Wye Plantation: “Yes, they were making it hard with their near walkouts and last-minute demands. But that was the way to real peace: you relinquish holy land with a tear in your eye and an ache in your gut, not with the detachment of the previous government,” writes Ethan Bronner.“Here were negotiators who understood the fears as well as the hopes of their people, who could build an agreement that may survive those fears.”Times columnist Thomas Friedman (Oct. 25) also contrasted Prime Minister Netanyahu with his predecessor, Shimon Peres. Friedman recalled Peres’ vulgar quote after the last Israeli election: “The Israelis lost; the Jews won.” Friedman suggests that Netanyahu needs to promote, as did Peres, “a vision of Israel at peace that will make a settlement with the Palestinians a positive choice not just for Israel’s Israelis but also for its Jews.
The Wall Street Journal’s editorial was solidly in Netanyahu’s corner (Oct. 26), praising him for delivering, in the course of the peace process, “on virtually every promise in a timely fashion.”By contrast, said The Journal, “the U.S. has so far ignored Mr. Arafat’s flagrant violation of nearly every specific commitment he had made,” from not amending the PLO covenant, to inciting anti-Israel violence on Palestinian children’s television, to not limiting his police force to 24,000 men, let alone not cracking down on terrorists.
Others think the PLO covenant is a red herring. In the Los Angeles Times (Oct. 25), Amy Wilentz, who also writes on Palestinian-Israeli affairs for The New Yorker and The Nation, reports: “The Palestinian Covenant has already been modified to exclude its anti-Israel provisions. Yet, Netanyahu [continues to] demand that Arafat ask the Palestinian National Council to reconvene and reject these clauses again.”Regarding Jonathan Pollard, Netanyahu’s effort to free the convicted spy has unleashed an avalanche of repugnance. The Wall Street Journal, despite its aforementioned support for Netanyahu, predicted in an opinion piece by Robert Satloff, that bringing up Pollard “may make many Americans chafe.
USA Today’s editorial (Oct. 26) warned, “Netanyahu must ditch political theatrics such as trying to link the U.S. release of a convicted spy with Israel’s peace efforts.”USA Today went on to publish two letters about Pollard. One, from Texas, exclaimed, “The paradox of releasing or pardoning a known and convicted traitor is pure outrage. … The Jewish community in this country that wants Pollard’s release is going to have to decide — like Pollard — where its primary allegiance lies: to Israel or to the United States.
Another letter writer, from Ohio, “was outraged [by this] crude attempt to extort the release of Jonathan Pollard.”Considering the widespread praise for King Hussein’s role in the Wye negotiations, and the perception that Israel’s peace with Jordan is solid, the Amman-based Jordan Times (Oct. 25) reported “Jordanians reacted with a mixture of hesitancy and skepticism” to the new agreement.Implementation will be difficult, predicted parliament’s Mohammad Azaydeh, described as a moderate Islamist: “We have to take into consideration the past lack of commitment on the Israeli side. Implementation will take some time and the Israelis will try to delay each step.” Nevertheless, this is “one more step towards the establishment of a Palestinian state.”Another moderate parliamentarian differed: “I do not see how this deal is making a difference or giving a chance for the creation of a Palestinian state,” said Abdullah Akaileh. “The fact that everything remains under the Zionists’ full control, and that the Palestinian charter will be rewritten to accommodate the Zionists, all confirm one thing: that the Israelis never did and never will give anything.
According to The Jordan Times, “Most politicians and some former officials viewed the security arrangements stipulated by the Wye accord as overwhelmingly favorable to Israel.”The daily Jordan Times and the monthly, London-based Palestine Times both report that Arafat has begun a serious crackdown on the media within the West Bank and Gaza in an attempt to stifle Hamas’ ability to get its message out.But Arafat’s heavy-handed methods are boomeranging. The Union of Palestinian Journalists called a strike beginning Oct. 31 to protest the arrests of 10 Palestinian journalists at the Gaza City home of Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmad Yassin. The journalists were attempting to cover Yassin’s reaction to last week’s White House signing ceremony.Arafat’s police locked up the reporters and confiscated their film. The reporters were soon released with a warning to get permission before the next time they try covering a “political subject.
The Palestine Times reports (Oct.) that even prior to the Wye accords, Arafat began attempting a blatant take-over of the Palestine Journalist Union by creating new membership criteria that would classify public relations workers for Arafat’s government and security agencies as “journalists.
And so Arafat is losing the support and sympathy of the Palestinian press. Writing from the safety of London, the Palestine Times offers critical news items such as: “Arafat received a distinctively cool welcome in Hebron during his visit to the town on 5 September. Observers believe the cool reception underscores Arafat’s dwindling popularity among his people. … Arafat told several local dignitaries that ‘We shall soon liberate the occupied part of Hebron from the Israelis,’ [but] Arafat’s words didn’t leave much of an impression on the suspecting audience.”