Le Monde of Paris showed sudden optimism Sunday about a Middle East peace settlement. In an editorial titled “Israeli Neorealism,” it said that the hand-over of the little West Bank town of Kasbatieh last Friday shows that “very slowly, in distrust, recrimination, and mutual regret, by the government of Benjamin Netanyahu and also by Yasser Arafat, the Israelis and the Palestinians are progressing toward peace.” Pointing out that Netanyahu had battled against the Oslo accords and promised his fellow countrymen that they wouldn’t have to give up territory in exchange for peace, Le Monde said he has now come to recognize that territorial concessions are necessary. “In his day, another Likud leader, Menachem Begin, went down the same road,” the paper said. “He said that Sinai belonged to the Israelis. And to make peace with Egypt, he gave it Sinai, even charging a certain Ariel Sharon–now foreign minister–to expel the settlers who had established themselves there. Are we permitted to dream?”
On the continuing showdown with Iraq, the liberal Independent of London called for the lifting of sanctions because, “in the long run, free trade is the surest way to undermine totalitarianism.” In an editorial Monday (once you’re on the page, scroll down to read the piece), the Independent said it is now widely assumed that “the object of Western policy in Iraq is the removal of Saddam Hussein–a polite way of saying killing him, because it is hard to see how he might be dislodged otherwise.” But the paper said that even if it is argued that the rule of law would continue to be flouted as long as Saddam was in power, “there can be no consensus that the death penalty is called for.”
In Paris, Libération published extracts from a conversation between its Moscow correspondent and Galina Starovoitova, President Boris Yeltsin’s former adviser, three days before her assassination in St. Petersburg last Friday. “The greatest threat today is the lack of a liberal anchorage in the country,” she was quoted as saying. “The people are disoriented. There is a political void.” The conservative Le Figaro of Paris said Russia is haunted by “political terror” and described Starovoitova as the latest victim of “a series of politico-Mafia murders.”
Despite the furor in Turkey over Italy’s refusal to extradite Abdullah Ocalan, the Kurdish rebel leader, the Turkish Daily News said Saturday that “it would be wrong and even self-defeating to make the entire Italian nation pay the price for the mistakes of a few misinformed and misguided people in their government. … We do not and should not have a vendetta against the Italian people. So let us stop this campaign of antagonism towards Italy and start using our resources and friends in Italy to convey our clear messages to the masses.”
London’s Financial Times pointed out in an editorial Monday that Ocalan is being sought on charges of violence and terrorism not only in Turkey but also in Germany. It proposed that Germany request his extradition from Italy and put him on trial for the offenses of which he is accused there. At the same time, it called on the Turkish authorities “to answer the genuine demands of the Kurdish people for more autonomy and more economic development.” A military solution “is neither workable nor stable,” the paper said. “That should be the clear and repeated message from Turkey’s friends in Europe, the US and the Middle East.”
The Independent reported on its front page Monday that six leading London law firms are being investigated on suspicion of laundering profits from drug trafficking, gun running, and contract killings by international racketeers, including Colombian cocaine barons and the Mafia. Saying the firms include “household names,” the paper added that they are suspected of acting as fronts for clients who include “crime syndicates in eastern Europe, Italy and the US, British gangs and the Colombian cartels.” It quoted police sources as saying that arrests are imminent.
In Israel Monday, the Jerusalem Post said that, next week, Israel will “officially release a so-called dirty list, containing the names of more than a dozen international organizations, both public and private, which the government alleges hold information on Holocaust victims and other related activities, which they are refusing to publish.” Bobby Brown, the Israeli prime minister’s adviser on Diaspora affairs, will release the names during the State Department’s Holocaust era restitution conference starting in Washington Sunday, the paper said, adding that the list will include the Vatican, the Czech Republic, the KGB, and Britain’s MI-5 espionage service.
On the sale in New York of Vincent van Gogh’s Self-Portrait Without Beard for $71 million, the Financial Times–noting that his Portrait of Dr. Gachet, bought in 1990 for $82.5 million by Japanese industrialist Ryoei Saito, reportedly was sold off to satisfy creditors after Saito’s death–said that “Van Gogh, the artistic genius, has been reduced to the status of mere collateral.” It concluded, “The price of artistic genius, it seems, is often a better guide to the state of the banking market than the aesthetic spirit of the age.”