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Monday, 25 March, 2002, 12:16 GMT
Zinni fails to impress media
Zinni and Arafat at his West Bank office in Ramallah on 19 March
Zinni is trying to secure a ceasefire
Newspapers in Israel and the Arab world see little chance of any improvement in the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation from the visits to the region by US envoy Anthony Zinni and Vice-President Dick Cheney.

In Israel, the centrist Yedi'ot Aharonot forecasts that any easing of Palestinian attacks would be just a temporary ploy by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to enable him to attend next week's Arab summit.

"Arafat may slightly ease up on the terror in the coming days: he wants to travel to Beirut and realizes he mustn't overdo his attacks on Israel," its editorial said.

"But he is contemptuous of Cheney and despises Zinni, and even if he agrees to uphold a cease-fire for several days, there is almost no doubt that he will go back to his nasty old ways."

In light of yesterday's lethal terrorist attack, it is hard to say that Cheney got us back on a track leading to peace


The right-wing Hatzofe noted that Mr Cheney had failed to secure Arab support for action against Iraq and said Wednesday's suicide attack on a bus in northern Israel undermined even his limited success in bringing Israeli and Palestinian negotiators together.

"The only achievement Cheney may take credit for - and that's also in doubt - has to do with the US efforts to bring about a resumption of the talks between Israel and the PLO [Palestinian Liberation Organisation]," it said.

One optimistic voice was heard in the left-of-centre Ha'aretz, whose editorial said outside involvement was vital to give "moderates on both sides... a political horizon to rescue them from the dizzying and disastrous spiral of violence".

Mutual blood-letting

But a commentary in the same paper was sceptical about the benefit of the US role.

The dozen years in which the US has purported to play the role of the world's sheriff... were not, to put it as an understatement, times to boast about

Ha'aretz commentator
"The dozen years in which the US has purported to play the role of the world's sheriff... were not, to put it as an understatement, times to boast about," Meron Benvenisti said.

"In view of the statements and policy initiatives made by America's current leaders, it is not easy to conclude that lessons of the past decade have been learned," he continued, questioning whether the administration had thought through its chances of securing Arab support for action against Iraq while Israeli and Palestinian leaders were bent on "mutual blood-letting."

Arab newspapers were critical of the two missions.

The Palestinian Authority's Al-Hayat al-Jadidah accused Mr Cheney of trying to "slap all Arabs in the face and openly disregard all the sufferings and sacrifices of the Palestinian people".

Cheney with Israeli FM Halfon on March 18
Cheney's Mid-East tour was dominated by the conflict
Syria's Al-Thawrah complained that "Cheney's statements regarding Washington's commitment to so-called Israeli security and Zinni's condemnation of the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem martyrdom operations overlook the Palestinian bloodbath".

Another Syrian paper, Tishrin, agreed, calling for "an Arab response commensurate with the challenges, particularly when the USA has distanced itself from its commitments and pledges and chosen to be biased in favour of Sharon's racist government".

The Saudi Arabian Al-Watan likewise spoke of Arab "anger against American policy and its unlimited support for Israel".

Iraqi papers were predictably dismissive of the motives behind the US missions.

The ruling party paper Al-Thawrah was representative in declaring that "the main American aim is to save the Zionist entity - in other words to save the USA itself, the partner in the Zionist plan".

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

21 Mar 02 | Middle East
Mid-East talks end without truce
17 Mar 02 | Middle East
Zinni plans fresh Mid-East efforts
16 Mar 02 | Middle East
Mid-East ceasefire talks on hold
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