According to the Israeli daily Ha’aretz, there is one politician who rises in the polls for no apparent reason. Exposing his lies on television has no effect on his potential supporters, nor even, it appears, on many of his nonsupporters, Ha’aretz commentator Gideon Samet wrote. The politician in question is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the “odds-on favorite to win the next general election.” A Gallup poll in Israel last weekend gave Netanyahu a 56 percent chance of victory. “The legendary phoenix that rises from the ashes is nothing compared to Netanyahu,” Samet said.
Both Ha’aretz and Yediot Aharanot reported Monday that Yasser Arafat will now delay the declaration of a Palestinian state, which had been planned for May 4, until the end of the year. Ha’aretz attributed this report to “sources close to the Palestinian leader,” while Yediot Aharanot gave it as the opinion of U.S. Special Middle East Coordinator Dennis Ross, as contained in a “secret report” from the Israeli Embassy in Washington to the foreign ministry in Jerusalem. Ha’aretz said Arafat is ready to negotiate a new date with the United States, with the most likely one being Dec. 31, the eve of the new millennium. It said Arafat was willing to negotiate this postponement because he fears that a Palestinian independence declaration on the eve of an Israeli election would give Netanyahu a boost.
In Russia, Nezavisimaya Gazeta said Monday that the idea of a Russo-American partnership is now a dead duck. Washington is angry about Russia’s criticisms of Operation Desert Fox, while Moscow is angry with the United States for boycotting Russian research centers as a punishment for them allegedly having supplied nuclear missile technology to Iran. America is pragmatic and dedicated exclusively to the promotion of its own interests, the paper said, and it is time that Moscow realized this. “Why beat on a closed door?” it asked. “Why do it now when the U.S. so frequently demonstrates its dissatisfaction with the Russian stand on many issues, and is even prepared to punish us for it?”
Meanwhile, Segodnya reported that there is no sign of the documents cited by National Security Adviser Sandy Berger as proof of Russia’s nuclear cooperation with Iran. “The US Administration stated on January 12 that all documents on ‘the Iranian case’ have been transferred to the competent Russian agencies through diplomatic channels,” Segodnya said. “This newspaper tried to trace these documents in Moscow, but failed to find them in the government, the Security Council, the Federal Security Service, or the Foreign Ministry. Neither could the State Department and the US Embassy in Moscow say to which address these documents had been dispatched.” The paper added that Moscow is now preparing to publicly accuse Washington of defamation. Denying all the American allegations, an unnamed Russian intelligence official interviewed by the newspaper blamed them on “the current political situation in the US.” The official added, “Some faction probably used ‘the Iranian factor’ artificially to complicate relations with Russia.”
On the new illness of Russian President Boris Yeltsin, the newspaper Vremya said his “acute hemorrhaging ulcer of the stomach” was bad news for several reasons. “First, a hemorrhaging ulcer is a serious and painful disease, which even younger patients find it difficult to combat. Second, this reveals the full extent of the incompetence of the president’s doctors,” the paper said. “Too many cooks spoil the broth, as the saying goes. The best doctors in the country either didn’t notice the development of ulcer in the case of their important patient, or they themselves produced it by filling the president up with pills before the New Year.” Vremya also pointed out that to this day President Yeltsin remains the only guarantee “against which international financial organizations would agree to give further credits to Moscow or to postpone the repayment of its debts, provided Yeltsin promised to make the Primakov government pursue a reasonable economic policy.”
The main story across Europe Monday was the massacre at Racak in Kosovo in which 45 Albanians were killed, with many newspapers demanding steps by the West to bring the perpetrators to justice. In Paris, Tuesday’s edition of Le Monde carried an editorial, headlined “There Will Be Other Racaks,” saying that the massacre had been wholly predictable because the West “didn’t even give itself the means to be taken seriously by Milosevic. … Once again, the day after Racak, they multiply their warnings and threats, and send NATO generals to Belgrade, when they should be putting on a show of force on the ground.”
In London, the liberal Guardian said that war over Kosovo will be inevitable if Americans and western Europeans don’t send in troops. “This will almost certainly have to be a NATO rather than a United Nations operation, as in Bosnia,” the Guardian said. “It will especially be a test for the British and French governments, and of their new understanding on security matters, since the United States is unlikely to be willing to contribute more than a token number of ground troops.”
The conservative Daily Telegraph also argued for a tough line, saying that “the atrocity cannot be allowed to go unpunished” and that if the culpability of the Serb police was established, “Milosevic should face indictment as the commander-in-chief of the Yugoslav security forces, with ultimate responsibility for their actions. … As for stopping the killing, only drastic measures are likely to work, such as deployment of a fully armed NATO deterrent force, as is being proposed in some quarters of Congress.”
In an editorial Monday devoted to the Clinton impeachment, the Times of London said that only a confession by the president that he had lied under cross-examination could bring the trial to a swift end. But instead he will continue to rely on public opinion to keep his jurors from convicting him, and in his State of the Union message will “propose scores of popular measures designed to secure poll ratings, even if they have no chance of entering law.” The editorial continued, “He is rightly confident that that by such means he can maintain himself in power. But he should also be concerned about his reputation. Martin Luther King, whose memory Americans celebrate today, once asserted: ‘On truth there can be no ambiguity, on justice no compromise.’ “