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Sunday, 22 September, 2002, 14:55 GMT 15:55 UK
Papers question Israeli move
Israelis pulling down the Palestinian flag and raising their own atop Arafat's HQ
Papers criticise the Israeli move
Arab and Israeli papers largely agree that the siege of Yasser Arafat's compound in Ramallah is unlikely to oust him from power or end suicide attacks.

The Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds says the Israeli Government "crossed all borders and international standards and humanitarian principles" in the attack, and asks how the campaign is expected to achieve security for Israel.


Who will get these two inert madmen off the roof? The world doesn't seem to care much any more, and neither do the antagonists themselves

Doron Rosenblum, Israeli analyst
It also asks the United States to consider, "How can the current campaign of aggression and destruction be seen as self-defence?"

Muhammad Shakir Abdallah, the political editor of Al-Quds, writes that the attack shows the US double standards in how it claims to treat Iraq on one hand and the Palestinians on the other.

"What is happening now in Palestine where an unarmed, innocent and oppressed population is abandoned by the international community and left exposed to the mighty power of the Israeli Army, is yet another example of hypocrisy and biased positions."

Neighbours angry

The Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram writes that the siege "will not end the resistance of the Palestinian people... Such lessons were manifested in South Africa and in Algeria and elsewhere".

It praises the European Union's criticism of the siege as a "wise and rational voice," and asks how long it will take Mr Sharon to "learn the lessons of history... and call President Arafat to the negotiation table instead of isolating him from the world?"


Sharon is now discovering how naive he was

Abdul Bari Atwan, Al-Quds
The Jordanian newspaper Al-Ra'yy says Mr Sharon's aim is to use the opportunity while the world's attention is drawn to Iraq to end the Oslo peace process and re-draw the map of the Middle East.

"Sharon is making a mistake if he believes that he can draw such maps or force the Arabs to deal with them from the logic of victorious and defeated parties. A thing that Israel so far has been unable to achieve," it warns.

In the United Arab Emirates, Al-Khaleej says Mr Sharon plans nothing less than to expel the Palestinians into Jordan and annex the West Bank, which makes the "Palestinian battle more fierce, because it is a battle for existence".

Lebanon's Daily Star sees the conflict as a decade-long proxy war between the European Union, which is trying to foster a Palestinian state, and the US, "which funds... the Jewish state's insatiable appetite for other people's land".

It calls on the international community to pull together for Palestinian statehood and a peace settlement as the only hope for the region.

'Warrior's response'

Abdul Bari Atwan, the editor of the London-based newspaper Al-Quds al-Arabi, says Mr Sharon should have used the six-week lull in suicide attacks to take practical steps to revive the peace process, but instead deliberately avoided doing so in the belief that the Palestinians had been quashed.

"Sharon is now discovering how naive he was," says Mr Atwan, adding that the lull in Palestinian attacks was a "warrior's repose" while Palestinian armed groups engaged in a dialogue to assess the situation and consider future strategy.

The invasion of Gaza or banishing of Mr Arafat will only provoke more suicide bombings, he added.

Israeli uncertainty

In Israel, Ma'ariv said the prime minister had told Palestinian parliament speaker Ahmed Qurei that Mr Arafat was "finished" and that the Palestinians ought to find a new leader.

But even the pro-government Jerusalem Post is unsure of Mr Sharon's strategy, saying the siege is likely to "revive the Palestinian leader's sagging popularity, and put on hold recent attempts led by Arafat loyalists to force him to share power".


The siege on Arafat appears to be the government's attempt to divert attention away from its inability to prevent terrorism

Ha'aretz
An editorial in the liberal Ha'aretz says the siege is an "uninspired and even harmful attempt to take the easy way out", and a bid to appease public opinion and the ministers on the extreme right.

The net result will be to freeze Palestinian security forces reforms and hopes that Mahmud Abbas would be appointed Palestinian prime minister at a meeting planned for this Friday, as the Palestinians cannot be seen to be accepting an Israeli diktat.

The paper notes that no government spokesmen have addressed the fact that Hamas was responsible for the recent attacks, not the Palestinian Authority.

"The siege on Arafat appears to be the government's attempt to divert attention away from its inability to prevent terrorism and its unwillingness to propose a political channel that would bring hope to Israelis and Palestinians alike," Ha'aretz concludes.

'Imbecilic tango'

Analyst Doron Rosenblum condemns both Mr Arafat and Mr Sharon for dancing a "two-year imbecilic and inert tango" on hopes for a political settlement.

He denounces suicide bombing as the "awesome depth of stupidity", adding: "If this is a national struggle for independence and liberation from occupation, then it is not only one of the most murderous in history, but one of the dumbest."

He also articulates a widespread Israeli fear that the suicide attacks are "some kind of atavist trance of enmity, which bites randomly at its surroundings and maybe at itself".

Writing in Ha'aretz, Mr Rosenblum is equally critical of the unthinking Israeli response, although he is clear to lay the responsibility at the Palestinian door.

He holds out little hope for outside intervention either. "Who will get these two inert madmen off the roof? The world doesn't seem to care much any more, and neither do the antagonists themselves."


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22 Sep 02 | Middle East
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