After five suicide bombings rocked Israel in the space of 48 hours early this week, the London Times declared, “The diplomatic ‘road map’ is … in danger of being all map and no road.” The editorial noted that the terror cluster was “grimly inevitable” as there had been apparent progress—however slight—toward peace in the previous week. Since the first assaults coincided with Saturday’s first meeting between the new Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, and his Israeli counterpart, Ariel Sharon, the paper concluded “they were directed as much against Mr Abbas and his supporters as Mr Sharon and his colleagues.”
The Arab press was predictably dismissive of Sharon’s decision to cancel his trip to Washington. On Monday, the Jordan Times attacked the Israeli prime minister: “How convenient for Sharon yesterday’s suicide attacks were. He himself could not have found a better excuse to once again avoid facing his responsibilities and the unanimous will of the international community. Instead, these Jerusalem bombers handed over to him on a silver plate the perfect pretext to continue ignoring international and regional peace efforts.” An op-ed in London’s Al-Hayat agreed: “The official reason is the bus bombing. But the real reasons are well known; he simply had an opportunity to prove that he is in no rush to carry out the road map, and to inform the Americans that terror has once again prevented him from responding to their invitation. But that is only a waste of time.” (Translation courtesy of Britain’s Guardian.)
The Financial Times explained that Sharon has demanded an end to “all terrorism” before Israel will begin navigating the road map, but Thursday’s Jerusalem Post reported that the United States is pushing Israel to start implementing the plan, without fully endorsing it, to get the ball rolling. Israel has offered at least 15 objections to the road map, but sources told the Post the United States “does not believe Israel’s reservations … are enough of a reason not to move forward on the plan.” Al-Khalij of the United Arab Emirates said, “The implementation of the road map should actually begin from Israel and nowhere else in the region, because Israel is the unjust and occupying country committing ugly terrorism against international laws and conventions … under U.S. protection.” (Translation courtesy of the Lebanon Daily Star’s Middle East press review.) An op-ed in Israel’s Ha’aretz agreed that the peace process was in Sharon’s hands: “He should not only blame the shaky Palestinian Authority. He should not say he doesn’t have the political power to pry the process forward and even come out of it a winner. He has the political power. He has the personal authority. As far as can be seen, it’s the desire he doesn’t have.”
The Jerusalem Post called for a change of tactics: “[F]or all the sense that we are doing everything we can, we tend to rule out the one thing we have not tried: going after not just the ‘troops’ of terror but its leadership.” By maintaining its hands-off approach, the editorial said, the Israeli government encourages terror:
This must change. If Sharon, understandably, does not want to part ways with the US, he should say to Bush that Israel, like the US, must fight terror at its source, from the top down, rather than letting more of us die to test the intentions of leaders he has already said must be removed. Bush will understand, and even if he does not, further restraint will only serve to legitimate the terror against us.