What the foreign papers are saying.
Dec. 10 1998 3:30 AM

After leading Monday with the news that the Israeli Cabinet was having "second thoughts" about President Clinton's visit to Israel this weekend because of worries that he would encourage Palestinian claims to statehood and press Israel to give up more territory to the Palestinian Authority, the leading Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz condemned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Tuesday for "conducting a chorus of war whoops by his ministers against Israel's most important friend." Saying that Netanyahu had had plenty of opportunity to make any reservations he might have had about the presidential visit known at the time of the Wye Plantation talks, Ha'aretz added in an editorial: "What good will it do for Israel's strategic interests to transform the visit that was to have strengthened Palestinian public support for the peace process into an open crisis in Israel-US relations?"
       "The verbal violence directed at one of the friendliest presidents Israel has ever known, completes the grim picture of a quarrelsome, contentious prime minister and a leadership that has lost its way," the editorial went on. "In the few days remaining before his arrival, the government must change its wild clamor into a saner and more reasonable tone. It must make it clear to the United States, and to the entire world, that even if Netanyahu pushed him into Gaza, the president of the United States is a welcome guest in Jerusalem."


Netanyahu was also under fierce attack Tuesday in the conservative Jerusalem Post for his delaying tactics to extend the life of his beleaguered government. Calling for early elections, the paper said in an editorial that the sight of Netanyahu making wholesale promises to any member of the Knesset within earshot, "pleading and cajoling them while casting about for any tactical move that could possibly avert the fall of his government, was more than merely embarrassing. It indicated that this government is coming to the end of its road."
       It said that "the government does not know where it is going, is not seriously dealing with affairs of state, and has only its own inertia as its sole justification for continuing. No country can be run under such conditions," it said. On the peace process, the paper said that "Netanyahu may have exhibited commendable political resolve in the face of loud opposition from the right at the time the Wye agreement was signed, but he has since gone back to a juggling act regarding some of the most vital and fateful national decisions any government can be called on to take." The editorial concluded, "A coalition cobbled together by adjusting its policies in accordance with the price offered by the highest bidders in Knesset vote auctions is simply not going to be capable of taking the difficult decisions that will be forced on it in the coming months as the Oslo interim period draws to a close."

The Jerusalem Post also revealed Tuesday that Clinton will not be staying in the largest and most expensive suite in the Jerusalem Hilton--"the recently inaugurated $1,720 a night Rabin Suite on the ninth floor"--but in the smaller $1,380 a night Presidential Suite on the floor above. The Rabin Suite is being given to Madeleine Albright, who had requested that its kitchen be equipped with a toaster, it said. The paper marveled at the effort and expense that have gone into the arrangements for such a brief visit. "Over the past week, some 25 rooms on the third and eighth floors have been set up for Clinton's delegation and converted into offices, some of them code-named POTUS (president of the United States) and some code-named FLOTUS (first lady of the United States)," it said. The Presidential Suite contains "an extremely well-stocked mini-bar," "a sugared silver bowl of chocolate truffles," and "a bookcase containing several ancient clay pots and 58 books on Judaism and Israel," it added. As for the president's bed, the paper said the mattress is "quite hard."
       In Britain, the liberal Guardian said Tuesday in an editorial that "[f]ollowing the rollercoaster ride that is the career of William Jefferson Clinton is not for the faint-hearted: you're liable to suffer from extreme nausea, as you track the sudden ups and dramatic downs that tend to come within days of each other." On the new danger of impeachment now facing him, the paper said that "[f]irst fault must lie with Bill Clinton himself. He antagonised Republicans with the legalistic, blame-dodging tone of the written answers he delivered to the 81 questions he was set by the judiciary committee." However, it added that more blame rested with the Republicans for pandering to their right-wing hard-liners. "Republicans are losing sight of what is surely the most reasonable course of action: to accept that the president did wrong and should be formally rebuked for it--but that the offences he committed fall short of impeachment," the Guardian said. "That logic informed voters last month, and it should govern their representatives this week."
       In China, the Straits Cities Daily reported Monday that the authorities in the southern Chinese coastal city of Fuzhou have promulgated a ban on dog ownership and ordered the destruction of all dogs found in the city after Dec. 20. There are reported to be more than 10,000 pet dogs in the city, the capital of Fujian province, and dog owners are said to have reacted to the decree with panic and disbelief. The Fuzhou city propaganda department has refused to give any reason for the ban.