What the foreign papers are saying.
Dec. 16 1998 3:30 AM

President Clinton's arrival in the Middle East was greeted with pessimism in both the Israeli and the Arab press. Both the liberal Ha'aretz and the conservative Jerusalem Post led Monday on Benjamin Netanyahu's warning that he wouldn't carry out the next West Bank withdrawal on schedule even if Bill Clinton persuaded the Palestinian National Council to vote against Palestinian Covenant articles calling for Israel's destruction. "Clinton lit plenty of Hanukkah candles yesterday, but the way it looks so far, there won't be any great miracle here," commentator Yoel Marcus wrote Monday in Ha'aretz. "The big winner is Arafat. ... It's been a long time since any American president won such a welcome in an Arab state. But when the dizzying pride of the Palestinians subsides, the peace will remain unfulfilled."
       In the big-selling Israeli newspaper Maariv, Chemi Shalev wrote Monday that "Clinton at long last receives a warm and sympathetic welcome--not from the American Congress, which threatens to impeach him, and not from the Israeli Knesset, which gives him a sour welcome; but a former terrorist organization called the PLO, which the Americans wouldn't touch with a barge pole for many years, is receiving him with the tumultuous plaudits a hero deserves."
       Shalev said Netanyahu knows that Clinton's thoughts are not in the Middle East but in the West, where he will face an impeachment vote on his return to Washington. "Netanyahu, a well-known short-distance runner, calculates that in the near future the President will have neither the inclination nor the time to tackle those stubborn people in the Middle East," he said. "He will have enough trouble with his own lunatics back home."


In Yediot Aharanot, Nahum Barnea described Bill and Hillary Clinton as "two gloomy, sad people" who have arrived in Israel at a moment when their fate is no longer in their own hands. "The chances of being driven from the White House at the end of the process are slim, but the subordination is degrading," he wrote. "So much strength is concentrated in the hands of this couple, and so much weakness." Writing Monday in the same paper, veteran Israeli journalist Hanah Zemer predicted that a Palestinian state is now close to fulfillment. "The question is no longer if, or even when, but how; in other words, unilaterally or by consent, and under which conditions," she wrote.
       In an editorial Monday, titled "End the obsession," Ha'aretz welcomed the Palestinian National Council's nullification of articles in the Palestinian charter calling for the destruction of Israel and said that "the time has come for the government of Israel to strike this issue off the top of its agenda. ... The ceremony today in Gaza is aimed at displaying to the world the Palestinians' support for the peace process and their rejection of the charter. This is how Israel should see it, and it must stop its obsessive concern with the issue."

In the Saudi paper Asharq al-Awsat, analyst Bilal al-Hassan wrote that the PNC's abrogation of the charter "in effect means disbanding the Palestinian Liberation Organization and leaving the majority of the Palestinian people, those in the Diaspora and in Israel, without representation." A formalized split in the Palestinian ranks was the first consequence of Clinton's visit, Al-Hassan said. This means that "what is being termed a solution to the Palestinian Question is not a solution, and that the amendment (and abrogation) of the charter is a setback rather than a way out." He added that it was wishful thinking for Palestinians to believe that Clinton supported the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. The furthest Clinton had ever gone was to say he would support whatever the Palestinians and the Israelis agreed on.
       The pan-Arab daily al-Quds al-Arabi said in an editorial that the Palestinians will discover that "the money they spent buying American flags from Taiwan was wasted, and that the hope they pinned on the White House's friendship was a mirage." And in another pan-Arab paper, al-Hayat, Jihad Khazen wrote that "Clinton's need to appear 'presidential' doesn't necessarily benefit the Palestinians, and he might return with nothing more important than a snapshot of Hillary and Chelsea at the Church of the Nativity." In Egypt, Ibrahim Nafei, editor of the semi-official daily al-Ahram, wrote that "the visit is likely to prove a great success in terms of PR, but quite the opposite in terms of tackling the principal challenges impeding progress in the peace process."

The impeachment issue dominated much of the world's press. The Times of India complained Monday in an editorial that "[e]ven as the world watches with admiration the majesty of the process of law in the first democracy of the world, there will also be some wonder about the different standards the US Congress applies to domestic and international rule of law. ... [T]he US has long treated truth as a branch of linguistics." It said, "[A]s its economic and military power has increased so has it[s] aptitude in what might be called the etymological exploration of lexical ontology." Saying that, for example, the United States used the word "non-proliferation" to mean unlimited license to proliferate for the five nuclear powers, the paper asked, "Why should Mr Bill Clinton be impeached for the sin of taking liberties with the phrase 'sexual relations'?"