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Middle East
Arab media judge Mitchell tour
Middle Eastern media discuss George Mitchell's peace talks tour and its failure.
Last Modified: 20 Sep 2009 09:25 GMT
Arab newspapers, like the Arab street, were unimpressed with what Mitchell achieved [AFP]

When the US envoy to the Middle East returned to Washington empty-handed, the Arab press asked why he had failed to secure a compromise deal for renewed peace talks.

But rather than pointing a finger at George Mitchell, editorials for the most part blamed Israel - and Netanyahu in particular.

A Fatah-owned Palestinian paper, Al Quds, said that "as planned" by [Israeli PM] Netanyahu, the two men's talks had ended in deadlock. Israel had remained "adamant in its desire to steal land, expand settlements and judaize Jerusalem".

The newspaper called on Washington and Brussels to understand Israel was seeking to destroy any peace process.

But the daily also expressed its doubt about a Palestinian policy focus of putting pre-conditions on talks - such as a complete halt to illegal settlement expansion in the West Bank. "This gave Israel more time to impose its plans and evade the requirements of just and comprehensive peace."

In a commentary printed by Al Ayyam, another privately owned pro-Fatah newspaper, pessimism about the chances for a breakthrough were also voiced.

It said the Obama administration was "too weak" to sacrifice the US strategic alliance with Israel for the sake of stopping settlement activity as this would effectively mean breaking apart Netanyahu's coalition government.

Meanwhile, the Gaza daily Filastin said the meeting between [Palestinian President Mahmud] Abbas and [Hamas political leader Khaled] Meshaal would achieve more than of any of Mitchell's efforts to bring together Abbas and Netanyahu.

A second commentary condemned Mitchell for not visiting Gaza or talking to Hamas, accusing him of "going to the wrong addresses and knocking on the wrong doors".

The wider picture

Press opinion around the Middle East was similarly unenthusiatic, with most newspapers agreeing Mitchell had failed to move things forward and blaming Israeli intransigence.

In Syria, al-Thawrah said the "outcome" of Mitchell's talks had shown the world that peace is something Israel does not care for, while Qatari paper Al Watan concluded that the US envoy had "failed to budge" Netanyahu.

The editorial in Jordan's Al Dustur said Israel's "refusal" to halt settlement expansion had put Washington in a "moment of truth", as it now has to "take measures to force this ally to bend to the international community's will".

Several commentators expressed the belief that Mitchell's repeated visits to the region have yielded very little, and that they considered future visits a waste of time.

"Between every Mitchell visit more Palestinian land is being lost and more Israeli settlements are being built"

Editorial, Lebanese newspaper al-Safir

In Jordan's Al Rai, the editor wrote it was unlikely Netanyahu would ever back down on the settlements issue, arguing that doing so would wreck his government. And a journalist at Syria's Al Tahwrah predicted that future visits by Mitchell would "not be better than the pervious ones".

Syria's Tishrin noted that "after five visits to the region, Mitchell is still touring" while "the peace process is completely stuck". And Lebanon's leading Al Safir said that "between every Mitchell visit more Palestinian land is being lost and more Israeli settlements are being built".

Nevertheless, at least one commentator - in Syria's Al Thawrah - appeared to be prepared to give Washington the benefit of the doubt, saying it was still just "testing the water" and knew full well that the "Israeli entity is weakening its position in the world" by appearing unco-operative.

However, Jordan's Al Ghad criticized what he described as a lack of US clarity and policies to coerce Israel into settlement shutdown.

Jordanian paper Al Rai also criticised the US for seeking to persuade Arab states to accept normalise relations with Israel in return for a mere halt to the construction of settlements, arguing this should happen once Israel agrees to their demolition.

Israeli press

Israel's reaction was more upbeat. Maariv reported that Washington was eager to hold next week's tripartite summit.

"Its postponement or cancellation can seem as White House failure and dent Obama's status. This is also the reason why Netanyahu is in no hurry to show flexibility in his positions ... so far Israel has announced that it is ready to freeze construction in the settlements for a limited time. The debate is on the length of the freeze".

The Jerusalem Post said that "notwithstanding what they may say on CNN, it is not Netanyahu's intransigence that is holding up a meeting between the prime minister, Abbas and US President Barack Obama".

Netanyahu, the daily continued, has said he will declare a settlement construction moratorium if the Arabs offer some substantial normalization gestures, but so far the gestures haven't been pouring in.

"If Mitchell thought it was tough getting the Arab world to make normalization gestures before Goldstone issued his report alleging Israeli war crimes in Gaza, then one can only imagine how difficult it will be now".

Haaretz followed a similar tack. "The idea that Bibi can bluff the Americans is foolish. There is no possibility that we would get aid from the Americans while, on the other hand, not paying attention to what they expect of us.

"Obama is not opposed to Israel, but he is against being misled by us. And so this is the time to say to Bibi: Suckers, get off your high horses!"

Source:
Al Jazeera
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