Daily Telegraph, London, April 12: Colin Powell arrived in Jerusalem last night on a mission that should never have been undertaken. The United States' closest ally in the Middle East is engaged in a struggle for its survival as intense as any since the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948. And the enemy's prime instrument is the suicide bomber. Yet while Israel is engaged in a life-and-death battle against such a threat, George Bush has ordered the withdrawal of its forces from Palestinian areas, the waters in which the bombers swim, and dispatched his secretary of State to enforce the message.
It is right that Israel should go after Palestinian terrorists in Ramallah and Nablus and Bethlehem. What Mr. Bush is trying to do on a global scale, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is seeking on the more limited stage of the West Bank. The latter task, of course, should have been done by Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority. But they have long abdicated responsibility for controlling violence, indeed have chosen it as an alternative to negotiation.
Obstacle to peace
Most fair-minded people hope that the Palestinians achieve some sort of state that they can call their own. But it will not be done with the PA's present configuration. Mr. Arafat has deservedly forfeited Israeli trust. One of the worst results of the secretary of State's ill-advised mission would be the resuscitation of this obstacle to peace as an interlocutor.
Liberation, Paris, April 16: Because the United States is an indispensable ally to Israel, Ariel Sharon has made a gesture -- he would withdraw from the West Bank and be prepared to participate in a great international conference on the Middle East, but without Yasser Arafat.
The latter is undoubtedly prepared to do the same thing, but without Sharon.
How can one imagine discussing the lot of the Palestinians without the Palestinians themselves?
Sharon's offer of negotiations in this landscape nonetheless marks his acceptance of the internationalization of an eventual settlement. This way of speaking to Arab nations over Arafat and Colin Powell's shoulders is condemned to failure. Sharon is also excluding the Europeans, being too pro-Palestinian, from the virtual negotiating table. At France's instigation, the Europeans signed a resolution of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights condemning "the massacres and mass killings" committed by the Israeli army.
There isn't a sadder diplomacy than that which doesn't distinguish facts from propaganda, even in a region where this blending is a sort of rule.
Jordan Times, Amman, April 17: With U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's departure from the region today, after a scheduled stopover in Cairo, time has come to take stock of his achievements. Before leaving the U.S. 10 days ago, Powell said he might not return with a cease-fire agreement. He said as much again yesterday.
He was right.
Powell met three times with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. But he failed to convince him to end the Israeli military onslaught against the Palestinians. Palestinians and Arabs nurtured high hopes that Powell could restart a political process and talk some sense into the Israeli government as to the need to go beyond security issues.
Those hopes were shattered.
Powell, and the whole world, realized that the U.S. is not a superpower when it comes to Israel. No political pressure can come between Sharon and his blind determination to rid Palestine of the Palestinians.
Powell must be asking himself as he flies home, what he really came here for. And the administration in Washington must ask itself if it has the moral stature to "lead" -- to use one of President George W. Bush's favorite verbs -- or if it wants to continue being just a military superpower.
Corriere della Sera, Milan, April 17: The general strike and the demonstrations were a success. Italy shut down as union leaders promised.
Was the strike's aim solely political -- to launch union leader Sergio Cofferati as the future leader of Italy's left -- as the governing conservative coalition claims? Or, given that all the country's major unions participated, was it not a classic workers' strike?
Ultimately, what has happened is that the country's social cohesion has been broken.
Deserving of respect
The government has the right to be strong, but it must remember that Italy is not Margaret Thatcher's Britain and that labor unions have the right to exist and deserve respect.
On the other hand, the unions have the right to try to stop the government's reforms. However, they should also make it clear that their intention is not to get rid of a government that was elected by a large majority of Italians through a general election.