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Wednesday, July 26, 2000

Mideast peace effort
hasn’t been abandoned

Bullet The issue: The Israeli-Palestinian talks at Camp David failed to reach agreement but both sides expressed a desire to continue their efforts.
Bullet Our view: The fact that progress was made and both sides want to keep trying is encouraging.

TWO weeks of negotiations at Camp David failed to produce the breakthrough on the Israeli-Palestinian issue that was achieved there 18 years ago between Israel and Egypt. But the three key figures -- Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, the Palestinians' Yasser Arafat and President Clinton in the role of intermediary -- spoke not of failure but of determination to keep working for a settlement. The emphasis on the positive was significant.

Although progress was reported on several issues such as the return of Palestinian refugees and secure borders, an impasse was reached on the status of Jerusalem, the most emotionally powerful question on the table. Because of its sensitivity the issue was deferred for years while lesser matters were negotiated.

Jerusalem, of course, is holy to Christians, Jews and Muslims. Both Israelis and Palestinians regard it as the capital of their nation. After the fighting that broke out following the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948, East Jerusalem was occupied by Jordanian forces for 19 years.

During that period Jews were denied access to the holiest place in their religion, the Western Wall, and Jewish cemeteries were desecrated. The area was captured by the Israelis in 1967. Since then, under Israeli rule, Muslims as well as Christians have had full access to their holy places.

The victorious Israelis vowed in 1967 that Jerusalem would never again be divided, and that has been the position of Israeli governments since.

But the Palestinians are equally determined to obtain a share of Jerusalem as their capital -- it has been the principal city of Palestine since biblical times -- and Arafat did not dare to make a deal that did not satisfy that claim.

Barak reportedly offered concessions on Jerusalem in an attempt to paper over the sharp differences, but Arafat would not or could not accept the proposal.

That should not be cause for despair. The talks did not succeed in all respects, but it apparently is inaccurate to say they collapsed. Both sides seemed willing to continue trying to bridge the gap.

It is impossible to predict how long that process might take. There is a deadline of Sept. 15 for the achievement of a full peace settlement, but that deadline could be pushed back. And Arafat seems to be disinclined to make good on his threat to declare Palestinian statehood in the absence of an agreement.

The immediate concern is the domestic politics in Israel and the Palestinian areas. Barak's government is in disarray and he will soon face a no confidence vote in parliament. What happened at Camp David could damage Barak's efforts to survive. Meanwhile Arafat is being hailed by the Palestinians for his refusal to make concessions on Jerusalem, which may encourage him to be inflexible.

The failure at Camp David could be a prelude to a full settlement -- or an opportunity missed, with disastrous results.

Cheney brings
strength to
Republican ticket

Bullet The issue: Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush has chosen former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney as his running mate.
Bullet Our view: The selection adds substance to the Bush ticket and puts pressure on Al Gore to make a similarly worthy selection.

RUNNING a presidential campaign critical of Washington insiders, Texas Gov. George W. Bush has selected a running mate with little flair but a wealth of experience inside the Beltway. As the former chief of staff under President Ford, a six-term congressman and defense secretary in the administration of Bush's father, Dick Cheney would be a major player in a Bush White House. The vice presidential hopeful's credentials in foreign affairs would be important in an area where Bush is lacking.

Bush had named Cheney to head his vice-presidential selection team only to decide that Cheney himself should be the candidate. Cheney, 59, whose heart problems had prompted his decision not to make a presidential run himself in 1996, apparently became Bush's choice after a doctor determined him to be physically fit.

In the Ford White House, Cheney gained a reputation as a smooth manager, a welcome aftermath to the feverish drama in the Nixon administration. After Ford's defeat, Cheney returned to Wyoming and was easily elected to Congress. Serving 12 years in the House, he was then appointed defense secretary by President Bush, playing a key role in the Persian Gulf War. Since his departure from government, Cheney has been a prominent oil engineering and construction company executive.

Despite his lengthy political career, Cheney remains an ideological enigma. Although his voting record in the House was conservative, it may have merely reflected the consensus of Wyoming's Republican Party. Cheney rose to minority whip in the House but was not considered a conservative force in Congress.

Cheney's selection eliminated any prospect of suspense in next week's Republican National Convention in Philadelphia and probably ruled out any controversy over Bush's choice of a running mate.

The selection will put pressure on Vice President Al Gore to choose a running mate of comparable substance, a Democrat who will add balance to his strengths and weaknesses. Those reportedly under consideration include former Maine Sen. George Mitchell, Florida Sen. Bob Graham and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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