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Thursday, 25 October, 2001, 15:06 GMT 16:06 UK
Arabs see advantage in terror war
Israeli solder trains his sights on Palestinian position
Israel is under pressure to pull out of Palestinian towns
Frank Gardner

As Muslim condemnation of US air strikes on Afghanistan continues, Arabs are not forgetting their prime grievance: Israel's occupation of Palestinian land.

Israel's tough response to the recent killing of its tourism minister by Palestinians has prompted fresh calls by Arab governments for Western intervention.

There is no justification for hitting Afghanistan under the slogan of justice while Israeli 'terrorism' is all over Palestine

Egyptian newspaper editorial
They want the Palestinian issue solved - not in 10 years' time, but now.

On Thursday, Syria's government-controlled press called on the United Nations Security Council to condemn Israel's military incursion into the West Bank and to force Israel to withdraw from Arab land.

Egypt's Foreign Minister, Ahmed Maher, has also appealed to the world, especially the West, to take a stand against what he calls "Israel's insolent defiance of its commitments and agreements".

In the Gulf, papers railed against Israel's killing of Palestinians.

"What is currently happening in the Palestinian territories cannot pass in silence... what Israel is doing is state terrorism," the official Emirates paper Al-Bayan said on Thursday.

So far nothing new there.

Call for US intervention

But the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and America's subsequent need for a global coalition against terror, have also raised fresh hopes amongst Arabs of a more even-handed American approach.

An editorial on Thursday in Egypt's widely respected newspaper Al-Ahram says that now is the best time for the US to intervene in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

A Palestinian boy plays on the ruins of a house destroyed by Israeli soldiers
Arab media routinely accuse Israel of war crimes against the Palestinians

It says President George W Bush has a full mandate to act, without having to worry about the Jewish lobby in Washington.

"There is no justification for hitting Afghanistan under the slogan of justice while Israeli 'terrorism' is all over Palestine," the editorial says, in a view shared by much of the Arab world.

Egypt's newspapers compete with each other daily to lambaste Israel.

The previous Israeli ambassador to Cairo complained earlier this year that each day he would count up to 60 examples of what he called "anti-Israeli propaganda" in the local press.

'Strategy of reoccupation'

But amidst all the rhetoric and slogans, the Arab press often contains some incisive comments.

The pro-government Egyptian paper Al-Akhbar said on Thursday that America and the world should understand that Israeli aggression generates frustration and despair that only finds an outlet in violence to fulfil the desire for revenge.

The Jeddah-based Saudi newspaper Arab News carried a special article on Thursday entitled "Sharon's strategy of reoccupation".

Israeli patrol in Beit Rima, where Palestinian fighters were shot dead on Tuesday night
Israel says it needs to occupy Palestinian towns for security reasons
Despite Israel's insistence that it does not want to permanently reoccupy Palestinian-controlled areas, the article maintains that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has embarked on a three-pronged strategy.

The article's author, Fawaz Turki, says the first goal is to undermine the legitimacy of the Palestinian leadership by portraying them as "terrorists".

The second, says Turki, is to create conditions not conducive to peace talks by taking the war into the Palestinian heartland.

And finally, says the article, Mr Sharon wants to impose deadlines on the Palestinians which he knows they cannot meet, allowing him to say that he has tried to pursue peace and failed.

Solution cannot wait

And in London, another Saudi-owned newspaper, Al-Hayat, adds a note of urgency to the need to restart peace talks.

In an article on Thursday entitled "Postponement is not realistic", the paper says it is unreasonable for Washington to think that Arabs will be satisfied with President Bush's verbal promise of a Palestinian state.

It says Arabs cannot wait for America to finish its war in Afghanistan, which could last a whole year.

Al-Hayat concludes by calling for more Arab pressure on Washington to settle the issue of a Palestinian state once and for all.

See also:

25 Oct 01 | Middle East
Israeli press splits over US stance
25 Oct 01 | Middle East
Israel discusses West Bank pull-out
17 Oct 01 | Middle East
Echoes of Lebanon for Israel
17 Oct 01 | Middle East
Questions over Israel security failure
24 Oct 01 | Middle East
Analysis: Little hope for Mid-East peace
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