Newspapers in Arab countries welcomed this weekend's visit to Israel and Gaza by President Clinton--and so, finally, did Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after his earlier doubts. The Jordan Times said that although "Israel continues to be the beneficiary of a US double standard," the president's visit to Gaza "represents an important departure from the past and a breakthrough on which we can build for the future." The Daily Star of Lebanon said that the Wye process is "in a shambles." Nevertheless, the visit represents "a major step in the developing US-Palestinian relationship. ... We will continue our struggle for Palestinian statehood and for Israeli withdrawal from occupied lands, somewhat freed of the taboos that have inhibited our efforts for so long."
In opinion poll published Thursday in the same newspaper showed 38 percent of Israelis believe the president's visit will be "beneficial to the peace process," and 62 percent think it won't be. Asked whether Israel should release Palestinians convicted of violent crimes for the sake of the Wye accord, 17 percent of respondents said yes, but 83 percent said no. Meanwhile, the paper reported that Yasser Arafat insisted, in a speech made in Ramallah, that he will not drop his demand for Israel to release more than just common criminals from prison. "We tell our heroes in the prisons we will not close our eyes until we see them in front of us," he said.
The same Italian newspaper, commenting on the British government's decision to let legal proceedings for Gen. Augusto Pinochet's extradition to Spain go ahead, said that it represented "the new universalist conscience, which, in times of globalization, aspires ever more frequently to justice without boundaries." The paper praised the British government's courage but asked whether it was "right to inflame the nationalism of the Chileans and other Latin American peoples, to endanger difficult processes of reconciliation, and to feed the ever-present authoritarian temptations in a part of the world that is riddled with ex-dictators." In an interview with La Repubblica of Rome, Isabel Allende--not the novelist but the daughter of Salvador Allende, the socialist Chilean president ousted in the 1973 coup led by Pinochet--described the British government's decision as "a triumph for human rights."