Yasser Arafat’s declaration of a cease-fire for the first time since the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa intifada has done little to mollify the anger of the Israeli population. The Financial Times reported that the day after Friday’s suicide bomb killed 20 and injured more than 90 outside a Tel Aviv nightclub, a “furious crowd” gathered outside the defense ministry demanding retaliation. Although Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s coalition government decided upon its response, it held off on immediate military retaliation. An op-ed in Ha’aretz observed, “It appears that the Israeli government leaders avoided surrendering to the public’s sense of outrage.” It continued, “[T]he government risks nothing by waiting a few days to test [Arafat’s] declaration of a cease-fire, which might constitute a turning point.” A Ha’aretz editorial applauded the Israeli government’s restraint. It said that although the bereaved “could not but demand revenge for this loathsome deed,” a display of Israeli military might would exacerbate the situation:
The ambition of the terrorist organizations and the Palestinian Authority is to drag Israel into such a confrontation, which would put Israel on an equal footing with the terrorist organizations and would necessitate international intervention involving the application of pressure to Israel. Israel does need to fall into this trap.
A less conciliatory op-ed in the Jerusalem Post demanded that “to restore national deterrence and personal security” Israel expel Arafat from the country and “destroy” his “terrorist regime”; answer Friday’s night’s “massacre” with a demonstration of the country’s military might; and fight a PR war to convince the world that Arafat is a terrorist.
The Jordan Times called for more U.S. involvement to end the region’s bloodshed: “Its Arab allies cannot be asked to support controversial restructured sanctions on Iraq if America does not show more evenhandedness in its policies towards the region and raises its profile in the peace-making efforts.” Le Monde of Paris viewed the United States’ low profile as an opportunity for more European influence:
With President Bush still very absent, the moment has come for Europe to settle its differences and to apply itself to the Middle East. … To put pressure on Arafat, Europe could condition its financial aid on his ability to maintain the cease-fire. Regarding Sharon, the European Union could threaten a suspension of trade agreements [with Israel] by refusing to import goods made in the settlements.
Most of the victims of Friday’s attack were relatively recent immigrants from Russia, and according toHa’aretz, “immigrants in general are having a tough time understanding the policy of restraint the government has adopted and are demanding swift and harsh military action.” Unanswered terrorist attacks are seen as a “severe blow to their dignity.” The lack of retaliation is also affecting the credibility of the political parties dominated by Russian immigrants. Speaking at a funeral Sunday, a junior minister from the Yisrael Beiteinu Party said, “[I]mmigrants who come here are prepared to fight for the country, but not to be led like lambs to the slaughter.”
Coincidentally, last week Britain’s Independent reported on the arrest in Russia of two entrepreneurs accused of fabricating evidence of Jewish identity so that Russian gentiles could emigrate to Israel. For fees of up to $3,500, the indictees’ company would allegedly provide tutelage in Jewish religious traditions and customs (for an extra fee, customers were taught to speak Russian with a “Jewish accent”), make videos showing clients grieving at Jewish graves, and supply anti-Semitic letters to provide “evidence that … clients’ lives were under threat.”
Remembering Tiananmen: Monday marks the 12th anniversary of the Chinese government’s crackdown on the Tiananmen Square protests, an event, the Hong Kong iMail reported, that Hong Kongers would prefer to forget. According to an opinion poll, support for the students’ actions and condemnation of the government’s response have both decreased significantly over the last year. The editorial posited that “the spirit of Tiananmen” is essential if Hong Kong is to retain its special status:
Apathy—or a desire to put the past behind us—is understandable, but wrong. A desire to avoid angering Beijing is understandable, but wrong. To fail to remember the June 4 massacre would be to abdicate ourselves from any vestiges of morality. It would also be against our self-interest. The moment we forget the sacrifice the students made in Beijing, we lose our will to defend the freedoms we have.
Head for the mountains of Bush: After weeks of gleefully reporting the drinking problems of President Bush’s daughters, on Sunday the British papers apparently realized that in Europe the 19-year-old twins could knock back all the beer and tequila they wanted without the benefit of a fake ID. In the Sunday Telegraph, Mark Steyn noted, in typically understated fashion, the absurdity of the United States’ drinking laws: “Jenna can drive, vote, marry, own a house, join the army, buy firearms, and hop a flight to Vermont with a lesbian, get one of the state’s new ‘civil union’ licences and spend the night having as much sex as she wants. She can do everything an adult can except go into a Tex-Mex restaurant and wash down her incendiary enchiladas with a margarita.” Also in the Telegraph, veteran Irish commentator Mary Kenny found the U.S. laws “draconian” but saw some benefits: “You don’t see drunken young yobs on the streets of American cities, and you don’t see 16-year-old American high school girls falling about in an advanced state of intoxication on a Saturday night—an altogether routine sight in Britain.” The Independent offered its own explanation for America’s prohibitionist tendencies:
[O]ne can’t help think that a country that sells handguns to its 18-year-olds but won’t allow them a bottle of beer has its priorities confused. On the other hand, if Americans are going to put up with armed teenagers, maybe self-preservation requires them to keep alcohol out of their hands.