While the election of Ariel Sharon was foreseen, the extent of his victory came as a surprise. Peace has been humiliated again. On the lips of the nationalistic and religious right wing the word now means something else. The left was not able to achieve it. By refusing Ehud Barak's accord, Yasser Arafat definitely voted for Sharon. The Palestinians no longer appear to have faith in anyone.
The essential significance of Sharon's election seems to be a policy of less concessions and more determination in the guaranteeing of the safety of Israel, present and future. This interpretation can seem optimistic because it saves the essential goal that remains peace but it does not rule out the immediate risks which are numerous.
Not even Israel's allies consider Sharon the ideal leader to govern a nation which must negotiate new borders with hostile neighbors and begin the foundations for indispensable coexistence.
It is also difficult to imagine the new American administration involved in mediating between Sharon and Arafat.
-- La Repubblica, Rome
... The new Israeli premier will have no option but to continue the peace talks. The world is expecting that from him. And the Palestinians -- who have brought this hawk in sheep's clothing on themselves -- are going to have to deal with him further.
But in the meantime, a peace accord in the Middle East is farther away than ever. Hopefully, there will slowly but surely come confidence-building deals that will eventually lay the basis for peace. War and armed peace can never be a solution.
-- De Telegraaf, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Many are concerned about what will happen after the elections. On the domestic front, (Likud leader Ariel) Sharon can have a problem building stable majorities in parliament. Flirting with hard-liners and those who are unwilling to compromise can generate international tensions, a coalition with (Ehud) Barak risks being short-lived. The main concern is the peace process. Diplomatic pressure may ensure that the new prime minister will keep the talks alive. But Sharon is a red flag for the Palestinians. With him in power, their willingness to negotiate with him will hardly increase. The light scenario is a stalemate, the dark one is that the violence from last fall is just a foreboding of what is to come.
-- Dagens Nyheter, Stockholm, Sweden
Bangkok Post, Thailand, on global reaction to disasters:
The world has in place an organization, the United Nations, which is ideal to register and have on standby a worldwide emergency relief body which could quickly respond to any national disaster such as last week's earthquake in India. It is high time that a global approach was taken to the issue of organizing effective emergency relief to deal with disasters such as floods, drought, hurricanes, tidal waves and earthquakes .... In the Indian disaster, sniffer dogs were sent by Switzerland and Wales among others, search teams from Taiwan, Australia and England, and other experts arrived from more than 20 other countries. But had an organized, worldwide body been coordinating the rapid response, these people could have been on the ground two and three vital days before they got there this time.
The world experiences a natural disaster nearly every year and the expertise gained by a worldwide relief organization handling such disasters on an annual basis would result in many lives saved both in the disaster and post-disaster care.
Utusan Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on illegal immigration:
More and more illegal immigrants from Indonesia have been encroaching on our shores, clearly a challenge to our sovereignty.
The situation could escalate if the political climate in Indonesia worsens. As we know, tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets to demonstrate, and surround the Presidential Palace in Jakarta.
Thus it is best we here heighten border security to stem the flow of illegal immigrants from that country. We must work fast now to tighten security at the entry points and not wait till the situation in Indonesia becomes worse than it is now.
Being neighbors, their political instability coupled with economic glut would definitely affect us as well.
The Independent, London, on the Lockerbie trial:
In many respects the conviction yesterday of the Libyan intelligence officer (Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi) for preparing the bomb which blew up on Pan Am's flight 103 over Lockerbie in Scotland, killing 270 people, is a matter for much satisfaction... But in another sense, yesterday has not brought closure to the Lockerbie tragedy. ...A single Libyan intelligence officer did not carry out this elaborate crime on his own. The full truth of Lockerbie has yet to emerge. A realist would concede that it is less likely to do so with every year that passes. But the effort to discover that truth must continue. A civil lawsuit by relatives which will now resume in New York may throw further light on Libya's involvement. But, once al-Megrahi's appeal has been heard, our government should set up a full public inquiry. History and above all the relatives deserve no less.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Frankfurt, Germany, on missile defense:
But Russia's leadership should take a look at the past before reviving something that would clearly exceed its capabilities: Reagan's space-based missile shield never became reality, but the concept shocked Moscow's leadership to the core. We all know where their search for countermeasures led. Overtaxing the military also contributed to the fall of the Soviet Union. Russia should thus carefully consider its response and abandon its belief that U.S. President George W. Bush's plans would fundamentally alter the strategic balance.
This is not so; the system would be useless against a Russian nuclear attack. Moscow should negotiate calmly with Washington on amending the ABM Treaty to fit present-day security threats -- and maintain its political status as an equal.
The (Amman) Jordan Times, on Israeli elections:
It was little comfort to see that only on Sunday did the Israelis peace camp finally wake up to the fact that Ariel Sharon was leading by some 20 percentage points over incumbent Ehud Barak for Israel's premiership and that, therefore, it might be time for them to take to the streets and do something.
Some Israelis appear to have finally realized that Tuesday's elections are not only about domestic issues, or even about a political choice between Likud and Labor: They are a matter of life and death, peace or war.
Sharon has not missed one opportunity to remind everyone of the recipe for disaster he has in store for the people of the entire region, and for the children of his own country: Jerusalem as the indivisible capital of Israel; no return of the Golan Heights, meaning no chance of even reopening some sorts of peace contacts with Syria; total rejection of any plan to recognize the right of return for Palestinian refugees; and, of course, a pet project, continuation of settlement activities.
This is what Sharon calls 'looking not to build bridges, but real partners for peace'.
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