International Papers

The Arafat Ultimatum

Most papers led on this weekend’s carnage in Israel, where 26 Israelis were killed in four attacks over the course of 12 hours. The biggest incidents occurred in Jerusalem, where two suicide bombers detonated themselves in a crowded mall late Saturday night, and in Haifa, where a suicide bomber blew himself up on a bus. (The Jerusalem Postalso reported that an Israeli nuclear scientist was shot and killed by two Hamas operatives on Sunday.)

The liberal daily Ha’aretz reported that following the bombings, “right-wing politicians [were] feverishly championing the destruction of the Palestinian Authority and the eviction of Yasser Arafat from the territories.” The Jerusalem Post’s editorial Monday called for Israel to present Yasser Arafat with a “Taliban-like ultimatum”: “[T]he Taliban were given an ultimatum [by the United States] to either give up Osama bin Laden or give up power. The Palestinian Authority must be given a similar ultimatum with respect to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.” Ha’aretz presented the counter to this argument: “[N]ot only is the U.S. a superpower, it also does not share a common territorial and demographic space with Afghanistan.” A leading leftist politician added: “The Americans have not been occupying the country for 30 years. They also haven’t built settlements in Afghanistan.” As to whether Israel should “topple” Arafat, Ha’aretz’s Palestinian affairs correspondent said that the spate of suicide bombings—which coincided with a series of meetings between Arafat and U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni—”testifies to Arafat’s eroding power. … In Palestinian terms, what is going on at present in the PA areas can be defined as the rebellion of the Islamic organizations against the regime of Yasser Arafat.” An op-ed in the Jerusalem Post said it was time to give up on Arafat:

If Arafat could not or would not halt terror even now … then he never will. The time has thus come for Israel to state clearly that it will negotiate with any future Palestinian leadership willing and able to make peace—but it cannot, should not and will not sign any more agreements with Yasser Arafat.

The new recipe for Taiwanese democracy: Saturday’s parliamentary elections in Taiwan represent the maturation of Taiwanese democracy and the decline of the once all-powerful Kuomintang Party (KMT, also known as the Nationalists), according to the pundits. Although Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party won last year’s presidential elections, the KMT had controlled Taiwan’s legislature for more than 50 years. On Saturday the DPP became the largest bloc in parliament, taking 87 seats in the 225-seat legislature, up from 70 in the 1998 election. The KMT took just 68 seats, down from 123. The Financial Times declared that the poll “marked a new reshaping of a political landscape repeatedly transformed in the decade since the Nationalists begin allowing free elections to the legislature, an institution the party brought with it to Taiwan when it fled into exile from the mainland in 1949.” Although the DPP lacks a parliamentary majority, President Chen now has a much better chance of forming “a coalition to end the sparring between the executive and legislature that has bedeviled local politics since his May 2000 inauguration.” (Click here for more on the March 2000 presidential election.)

The Taipei correspondent from the Ageof Melbourne dished up mainland China’s verdict on the vote: “Taiwanese politics is not so much a pressure cooker as a sizzling wok into which fresh ingredients have just been tossed to concoct a new recipe. To Beijing, the flavour is bound to be unpalatable.” The DPP formally supports independence from mainland China, although it has avoided this topic since the 1998 election. The Financial Times reported that thanks in part to the contributions of “ghost-catchers”—individuals who blow the whistle on candidates who try to buy votes—the weekend’s elections were Taiwan’s “cleanest ever.” Still, according to Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post, voters were subjected to a uniquely Taiwanese form of electioneering: In the run-up to Election Day, candidates or their relatives go down on bended knee and beg for votes at campaign rallies. “They hope this tear-jerking and heart-wrenching spectacle will impress the voters so much that they will change their mind at the last moment. … On Thursday, at least four candidates or their spouses knelt at rallies in a bid for support.”

Land of the rising daughter: The birth of a daughter to Princess Masako and Crown Prince Naruhito of Japan on Saturday, after eight and a half years of marriage, provided the nation with a welcome distraction from economic and security woes. The Japan Times observed: “In an instant the symbolic value of the monarchy … becomes clear again. For a brief, shining moment, people will set aside anxieties about terrorism, war and recession to contemplate simpler, happier things.” Currently, the Imperial House Law prohibits women from ascending to the throne, but since the royal family has failed to produce a male offspring for 36 years—the new baby is the ninth successive female—there are moves to amend the laws of succession. The Japan Times said such reform would reflect “a growing feeling that the Japanese monarchy should serve as a model for 21st-century views about the importance of equality between the sexes. The monarchy may have been stripped of its political power, but it remains uniquely influential as a social exemplar.” A Japanese student told Britain’s Observer, “As a woman, I’m pleased that the baby was a girl. But I feel sorry for Masako that it was not a boy. If there is no change in the law, she will face pressure to produce an heir again.”

Smokin’ George: The papers published scores of George Harrison tributes this weekend, among them Mary Kenny’s reflection in Britain’s Sunday Telegraphthat “a symbol of youthful exuberance … was now stricken in consequence of such a commonplace habit”: smoking. It concluded, “Millions will know that George Harrison died, too early, from smoking both tobacco and cannabis: one such powerful example will be worth a thousand scolding prohibitions.”