Today's Papers

Enough, Already

All the papers lead with President Bush’s speech demanding an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, a halt to Israeli settlement in the West Bank and Gaza, and greater effort from Arafat and other Arab leaders to stop terrorism. Bush also announced plans to send Secretary of State Colin Powell to the region next week to help plan a cease-fire and accords for Palestinian statehood. Bush’s speech also tops the Wall Street Journal’s world-wide news box. The New York Times and the Washington Post tuck separate stories into their front-page Mideast packages detailing yesterday’s military developments: Israeli forces moved into Hebron, “the one remaining major West Bank city”(NYT), as Bush was giving his address, and military officials said that Israel will need several weeks to complete their operations in the West Bank.

Bush’s exasperated quote “Enough is enough” makes the headlines of the WP, the Los Angeles Times, and USA Today. All the papers save USAT—which only refers to a “new Mideast peace initiative”—call yesterday’s address a major policy shift for Bush. In addition to committing the U.S. to a larger role in the peace process, the LAT notes that the administration now wants simultaneous action on the political and security fronts, after weeks of agreeing with Israel’s insistence on a cease-fire before resuming the political process. The WP says that yesterday’s speech also marked the first time Bush has publicly demanded the cessation of Israeli settlement in the West Bank and Gaza outlined in the Mitchell plan Israel endorsed last year.

The papers say Bush’s actions were prompted by growing pressure from European and secular Arab countries and worries that instability is spreading to other nations in the region. The WSJ adds “jittery oil markets” and “warnings from U.S. intelligence officials that the U.S. could again become a target for terrorist attack if the violence isn’t reined in” to the list of influences.

Everyone notes that Yasser Arafat accepted Bush’s speech “without conditions.” The Israelis “declined to address publicly the call for a pullout”(USAT), but Prime Minister Sharon agreed to let U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni meet with Arafat, a liaison he had previously blocked. A WP front-pager surveying the domestic reaction to Bush’s remarks finds “widespread agreement among people on both sides of the conflict that Bush found the proper balance in yesterday’s speech.” The WSJ notes that Bush’s speech ran repeatedly on Al Jazeera, with commentators describing it as an important initiative.

Much of the coverage focuses on specifics of Bush’s speech. The WP and LAT remark that Bush did not give Israel a deadline for withdrawal, but he did say that the cease-fire and resumption of negotiations must begin immediately. The LAT quotes officials who say Israel must pull out its forces “very soon.” The WP also mentions that a U.N. Security Council resolution passed last night supporting Powell’s mission was endorsed by the U.S. only after the Palestinians and Syria agreed to drop a demand for the “immediate withdrawal” of Israel forces from Palestinian cities. The NYT notes that the president mentioned Arafat by name but not Sharon, and that, for the first time, he called for Israel to show “a respect for and a concern about the dignity of the Palestinian people who are and will be their neighbors.”

The WSJ and LAT speculate briefly on the specifics of Powell’s visit. Sources tell the WSJ that Powell will “almost certainly” meet with Arafat and probably with other Palestinian leaders, which the LAT calls “a slap on the wrist as well as a step preparing for a possible post-Arafat era.”

The NYT and LAT fronts say that Israeli tanks moved into Hebron as President Bush was speaking, and that guerrilla fighters in Lebanon fired rockets, without casualties, across the Lebanon-Israel border. In an address that preceded Bush’s, Sharon estimated that the military operation in the West Bank would last several weeks, while the Israeli army chief of staff called for three more weeks of operations and four weeks of “mopping up.” (LAT) The NYT says that 70 Palestinians have been killed and 150 injured since last Friday, according to Israeli army officials. It also says that “the Palestinian count is higher” but doesn’t give it. Nor does it include a death toll for Israelis, which the LAT says is “at least 63.”

The LAT also fronts yesterday’s address by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, which was “laced with volatile rhetoric” but ended with Mubarak reaffirming his country’s commitment to its peace with Israel. The article’s claim that Mubarak was seriously upstaged by Bush’s speech an hour later is born out by the other papers: the only other mention of it is buried in a page 12 WP article about Jordan. 

The LAT and NYT reefer the signing of a cease-fire between warring generals in Angola after almost 30 years of near-constant fighting.

The LAT fronts (and the other papers reefer) the publication of the first maps of the rice genome today in Science. The release has sparked controversy because the journal, which normally insists on the free availability of such data as a requisite for publication, has relaxed its rules—the companies sponsoring the research are only allowing free access to researchers who promise not to use the data commercially.

The NYT front notes a disheartening (for the worker) corporate milestone: for the first time in decades, workers now contribute more to their retirement funds, on average, than their employers. And the gap between employer and employee contributions appears to be growing. Best get back to work.