With Israeli papers all leading Thursday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s threatened walkout from the Wye Plantation talks and the desperate American efforts to keep them going, the Jerusalem Post reported from London that King Hussein of Jordan has “no more than three months to live.” Quoting “a Jordanian medical source,” the paper said that the king, who has been receiving treatment for lymphatic cancer at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and has become involved in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, might return to Jordan earlier than scheduled (he is due back Nov. 28) because “he wants to be in his beloved country and with his people in his last days.” It added that this prognosis about the king’s health had reached both the CIA and the Israeli intelligence services.
Quoting the newsletter Foreign Report, due to be published Thursday, the Jerusalem Post said that “Jordan after Hussein” was the main topic of discussion between Netanyahu and CIA Director George Tenet when Tenet visited Israel last week. It said there is anxiety in Jordan at the prospect of the king being succeeded by his brother, Crown Prince Hassan, who is regarded as “snobbish and loquacious by his critics, who say his sentences are often so long that by the time they end, the listener or reader has forgotten how they started.”
In an editorial Thursday, the Jerusalem Post called for the adoption of the “Birthright” initiative, proposed by Knesset member Yossi Beilin, under which every American Jewish boy or girl would, on turning 17, be given an all-expenses-paid, three-week trip to Israel. This is because, “[o]ver the past 50 years, identification with Israel has been a major component of Jewish identity in the Diaspora in general, and in North America in particular. … Restoring Israel’s place in the collective Jewish consciousness should be a top priority of every [Jewish] federation on the North American continent.”
In Paris Thursday, Le Monde ran an editorial about the treason trial in St. Petersburg, Russia, of former submarine Capt. Alexander Nikitin for passing information to Norway about nuclear radiation levels in the Arctic region. The French newspaper described the trial as worthy of “the good old Soviet times” and said that, because of it, Russia should be suspended from the Council of Europe, the club of democratic European nations to which it was admitted in 1996. It said the case recalls “the most sinister practices of the Soviet Union” because Nikitin has suffered intimidation, police harassment, and many other abuses instead of being decorated by the Russian state for sounding the alarm about dangerous radiation levels. “His fate ought to disturb all the capitals of the West.”
The nomination of Italy’s 55th post-fascist government, headed for the first time by an ex-Communist, Massimo d’Alema, led several European newspapers Thursday, with great emphasis on the fact that six of the 25 new Cabinet ministers are women. In a front-page editorial, La Stampa of Turin described it as a well-balanced government born to last, “a clever mix of old and new,” but added that the political compromises it embodies will slow down decision-making and might “prolong to infinity the already interminable period of Italian transition.”
In another front-page editorial, La Stampa criticized the new German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder for canceling the Nov. 8 commemoration in France of World War I. The paper said it is understandable that Schröder’s generation should want to lift from itself blame that doesn’t belong to it. But it added that Germany remains exposed to “the perpetual and human temptation of nationalism” and has a duty to join in the commemoration.
In London, the Times led its front page with a call by Margaret Thatcher for the immediate release of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, who is under arrest in a London clinic. In a letter to the paper from the United States, where she is on a lecture tour, the former British prime minister said Pinochet helped shorten the 1982 Falklands War by supporting Britain and saved many British lives as a result. In an editorial, the Times supported her stance.
Following the blocking by the religious right of the appointment of James Hormel to Luxembourg as America’s first openly gay ambassador, the liberal Guardian of London surveyed a group of foreign countries to establish their attitudes toward gay diplomats. A spokesman for the Irish government said, “We don’t inquire”; diplomats from the Netherlands and Sweden, which recognize same-sex partnerships as equal to marriages, said discretion is used when posting gay officials to sexually conservative countries; and a Swedish embassy spokesman said the country has “two or three” gay ambassadors abroad.
But a Zimbabwean spokesman pointed out that in Zimbabwe, “sodomy is an offence.” He noted, “If the ambassador has been appointed, if we have any information that he is gay, we can’t discriminate against him. But once he starts practising, he has committed an offence.”