The Israeli daily Ha’aretz led Friday with official Israeli denials that the airborne radar system Israel plans to build for China contains any American technology. The paper said the deal, which the United States is trying quash, could be worth up to $2 billion and represents “the zenith of transactions conducted by the Israeli Defense Ministry and China since the start of the decade.” American pressure on Israel began after the country took delivery last month of a Russian Ilyushin 76 transport plane in order to install a radar system before handing it over to the Chinese, it said. Defense establishment sources told Ha’aretz that there’s nothing new about Israel building a radar system for the China. They speculated that pressure has levied on the Pentagon by Boeing and Lockheed Martin, competitors with Israel Aircraft Industries in foreign sales of intelligence aircraft. “Those firms could argue that while they are barred from selling to China, Washington has no control over Israel’s military industries,” Ha’aretz said.
The paper published a front-page photograph of Hillary and Chelsea Clinton at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. An article in the Jerusalem Post by its New York correspondent said, “[N]obody takes seriously Hillary Clinton’s claim that her visit [to Israel] this week was strictly a personal trip.” The article said that winning the Jewish vote is critical for Clinton. But it quoted Seymour Reich, former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organisations, as saying that the seemingly disordered manner in which Clinton arranged her trip to Israel “is evidence of the fact that she’s not quite tuned into the Jewish community here yet, doesn’t understand its nuances and complexities, and is perhaps getting some bad advice.”
The Times of London, in a report from Jerusalem on Hillary Clinton’s visit, said that she “did not pass the test” at the Western Wall because “security guards from Israel and the US desecrated the women’s section of the Wall by barging through those at prayer.” Two young American students at a Jerusalem Judaic school winced when the Clinton entourage turned their backs on the Wall as they left (you’re supposed to back away from it). One of them told the Times, he plans to vote for Rudolph Giuliani in the Senate race next year. “She came here for political reasons, not to pray. It’s in bad taste,” he said. British papers Friday were dominated by a new crisis in the Northern Ireland peace negotiations chaired by former Sen. George Mitchell. “Ulster talks in dire trouble” was the Guardian’s front-page headline.
Despite Australia’s decision in a referendum to keep Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state, the controversy about her constitutional role continued in the Australian press. Before the referendum, the monarchist prime minister, John Howard, decided not to ask her to open next year’s Olympic Games in Sydney, saying he would do the job himself. But he has since bowed out and said that, to ensure that the Games would be “a great unifying national occasion,” he will invite the queen’s representative in Australia, Governor-general Sir William Deane, to perform the opening ceremony. Whoever is tapped for the job, it still won’t be the queen.
In an editorial Friday, the republic-supporting Sydney Morning Herald noted that, according to the Olympic Charter, the Games “shall be proclaimed open by the head of state of the host country.” Logically, therefore, the queen should do the honors, but “political practicalities” dictated otherwise. “If, for whatever reason, the Queen is not considered to be the appropriate person to open the Games, and thus to represent the nation on such an important occasion to the world, what is she doing as head of state in the first place?” the paper asked. “The whole issue demonstrates the continuing absurdity of Australia retaining its constitutional links to the British monarchy.”
In an editorial, the Straits Times of Singapore dwelt Friday on the threat of further secessions from Indonesia following the independence of East Timor. It praised President Abdurrahman Wahid, who is currently in the United States, for promising another referendum for the Aceh region. But the paper warned of big problems: The Indonesians “fear that if the logic of secession is not checked, there will be no Indonesia left for them to call home”; the military’s refusal to contemplate Aceh’s departure, saying it would be unconstitutional; and the region’s economic role as a major producer of Indonesia’s natural gas, oil, gold, silver, pepper, rubber, and timber. “What will a sudden break do to Indonesia’s economy, particularly at a time when the country is clawing its way back to growth after the Asian crisis?” the paper asked. “In the circumstances, it is perhaps best for Jakarta to wait for the economic and political situation to stabilize before taking a decision on a referendum.”
At a rare press conference–reported by Asahi Shimbun of Tokyo Friday–to mark the 10th anniversary of his accession to the throne of Japan, Emperor Akihito said it weighed on his conscience that the nation should be celebrating the occasion “under the present stringent economic circumstances.” He was nevertheless “deeply moved” to think he had been emperor for 10 years and “deeply grateful for the good wishes extended to me.” Asked what events have made the deepest impression on him since his accession, the emperor mentioned the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. He said walking through the Brandenburg Gate in 1993 “remains with me as an unforgettable memory.” Hirohito said Japan faced “numerous difficulties” at the moment, but added: “As I recall the history of Japan and how in its past so much hardship and distress have been overcome, I firmly believe that the wisdom of each and every Japanese and co-operation from international society will tide us over in fine style.”
Following the death of the last whale at Hong Kong’s Ocean Park, the South China Morning Post called Friday for an end to using marine mammals for popular entertainment. Barney, a “false killer whale,” died of a bacterial infection last month in a concrete tank at the theme park. His jumps through hoops had been one of the park’s main attractions. In an editorial, the SCMP noted that Barney, aged 16, was the 100th whale or dolphin to die at the park over the past 20 years. The arguments for keeping such creatures in captivity did not work any more, it said: “Children are not educated by watching a dolphin walking on its tail or a whale carrying human riders on its back.”
In India, the Hindu ran an editorial Friday on the reported return of the rickshaw to China after a 40-year ban. “Nothing can be a greater symbol of feudalism than the hand-drawn rickshaw,” it said. “It is blatantly exploitative, smacks of the ‘coolie culture,’ and is a terrible affront to human dignity. It should evoke a sense of revulsion in any sensitive human being, and has no place in a civil society.”