What the foreign papers are saying.
Jan. 21 1998 3:30 AM

There was nothing but gloom in the Israeli press over the prospects for this week's Middle East peace talks in Washington. Both the liberal daily Ha'aretz and the conservative Jerusalem Post lamented the collapse of efforts to get Yasser Arafat to visit the Holocaust Museum during his visit, but they were far apart in attributing the blame.


Ha'aretz, in an editorial, attacked the museum authorities for refusing to receive Arafat as an official guest and "rudely" announcing that he would have to buy a ticket like anyone else. It blamed the incident on powerful American supporters of the Israeli government who, in their hostility to the peace process, "are not prepared to allow Arafat ... to show homage to the victims of the Holocaust." The Jerusalem Post, by contrast, accused Arafat of having turned this "well intended gesture sour." "A way should be found to reverse Arafat's refusal to visit the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, after museum officials refused to treat him as a head-of-state," it said in an editorial, though it did not offer any suggestions for how this might be achieved. Ha'aretz also published an op-ed article by Akiva Eldar under the headline "Talks Born to Fail," in which he said that "Bill Clinton and his aides no longer have expectations of Netanyahu. They consider failure a certainty."

Claims by the former U.S. ambassador to London Raymond Seitz that the previous British government "stopped passing sensitive intelligence to the White House because it often seemed to find its way to the IRA" were the subject of a strongly worded editorial in the Times of London. Under the headline "Secrets and Lies: American betrayal of British trust on Irish affairs," the conservative, Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper described Seitz's revelations as "damning and devastating," and said, "They will inevitably cast a shadow over the present American role in the Ulster peace process."

"Britain deserves not only an apology from the White House but credible assurances that such episodes will not occur again," the Times said. "There is one move the President can make as belated compensation. He must show that there is more to his stance on Northern Ireland than pandering to the Kennedy clan. To that end, Mrs. [Jean] Kennedy Smith should cease to serve as her country's Ambassador to the Republic of Ireland."

In more moderate language, the Financial Times also described Seitz's revelations (from his forthcoming memoirs being serialized in the Sunday Telegraph of London) as "deeply alarming." And it said it was now "the duty of the US administration ... to use all its political weight to persuade Sinn Féin/IRA to keep talking" in the multiparty talks in Belfast. "Access to the White House and the capacity to raise funds from Irish-Americans are precious commodities for Mr. [Gerry] Adams," the FT said in an editorial. "The White House should make it clear that both will be withdrawn--permanently--if the present ceasefire is broken. If he does otherwise, Mr. Clinton will lay himself open to the charge that he puts votes for US Democrats ahead of lives in Northern Ireland."


Irish newspapers defended Kennedy Smith. The Irish Independent quoted Irish government sources as saying that the attacks on her had to be seen in the context of Seitz's problems in trying to counteract her influence with the White House. "The Government believes she has been critical in focusing the White House on the peace process and in helping to bring about the IRA ceasefires," the newspaper said. "As the process enters a crucial phase, the Government believes that President Clinton will keep Mrs. Kennedy Smith on as Ambassador and will not be deflected by the attacks."

The Times of London also continued its serialization of the revelations in verse of Ted Hughes, the British poet laureate, about his much-discussed relationship with the American poet Sylvia Plath, whom he married in London in 1956. Of their Bloomsbury wedding, Hughes wrote:

You said you saw the heavens openAnd show riches, ready to drop on us.Levitated beside you, I stood subjectedTo a strange tense: the spellbound future.

Since the Times started publishing these poems over the weekend, there has been much comment tending to exonerate Hughes of the blame often attributed him for Plath's suicide.

The Sydney Morning Herald of Australia commented in an editorial on the news that in Britain since the death of Princess Diana, secular funeral music has become the rage. A chart issued by Co-operative Funeral Services listed the top 10 tunes chosen in Britain for playing at funerals, of which the first four were: Candle in the Wind (Elton John), Simply the Best (Tina Turner), My Way (Frank Sinatra), and Knocking on Heaven's Door (Bob Dylan). In Australia, reported the Herald, the top choices were different, the three most popular being Wind Beneath My Wings (Bette Midler), Unforgettable (Natalie Cole), and Because You Loved Me (Celine Dion).