- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 4, 2003

Excerpts from editorials in newspapers around the world:

De Telegraaf

Year of horrors

AMSTERDAM The year was horrible for the state and for the country, with the exception of the marriage of Crown Prince William Alexander and his Argentine bride, Maxima.

Prince Claus, the husband of Queen Beatrix, died.

It was also the year that for the first time in centuries, a successful politician, Pim Fortuyn, was murdered: an attack on a man, but also on democracy. The disturbed loner who shot him down presumed to deny people their say at the ballot box.

Two governments collapsed before their time. The old parties were handed an electoral defeat of unheard-of proportions, but the new parties failed their voters utterly.

Prominent leaders received death threats, causing some to retreat from public life.

The rest of the world looks on in amazement at how the Netherlands, once a harmonious model for the world, was shaken to its foundations.

Helsingin Sanomat

The Middle East

HELSINKI The fundamental problem of Israel has remained the same since the 1967 occupation. It is the inability to decide what Israel values most: a tolerable solution to the Middle East, or the freedom to grab more of biblical Palestine for Jewish settlements. One government after the other has lulled itself into the belief that no real decision has to be made. Of Israeli prime ministers, only Ehud Barak has tried to acknowledge the contradiction. Still, settlements were built during his time as well.

[Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon has from the beginning acted as if the entire problem didn't exist. And for the time being the Bush administration has given him free rein.

Straits Times

The new year

SINGAPORE Seasonal greetings are offered more in hope than conviction these days (but hope had better spring eternal). The United States-Iraq confrontation is being framed by the U.S. in pious hues of light shaded by darkness. But the world at large is right to be troubled as the major players remain in denial about the economic reverberations that a questionable war could bring. Might it not be smarter to consider other means of dealing with one murderous dictator than to incinerate whole swaths of economies for disproportional reasons? This is the big imponderable of 2003.

Then there are the will-o'-the-wisp terror attacks. Mombasa and Grozny have been early sequels to New York, Bali and Moscow. Countless other attempts have been thwarted, security services claim. While governments have a duty to their citizens to not take chances, what the world does not need is to have provincial politicians hawk terror as Gotterdammerung. It may be safe politics to cover one's hide, but that also abets terrorists.

Egyptian Gazette

Arab-American relations

CAIRO For decades, Arab-American relations have been swayed by the developments of the Palestinian problem, the resolution of which is widely seen as the key to regional stability. Generally speaking, these links were in good shape when those at the helm in the White House made serious and conscientious efforts to help the Palestinians and Israelis sit down at the negotiating table and bid to thrash out their intractable differences.

Arab-American relations are presently at limbo, or they are not in the best possible form to put it mildly. A key reason for the visible strains is the Bush administration's confused approach to the Palestinian question. Almost one year ago, President George W. Bush drew plaudits when he proclaimed his support for the creation of a Palestinian state to live side-by-side with Israel within secured borders. His support for Palestinian statehood was with strings attached, however.

Bush has made no bones about his anti-Arafat line. He has been keeping the democratically elected Palestinian leader at bay from the White House. Repeated bids by the embattled Arafat to break the ice with Bush have all been stymied over what is seen as Bush's prejudice against the Palestinian leader. Whatever Arafat does continues to be dismissed by the Americans as inadequate.

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