Media: Media Watch - Middle East peace mission fails to inspire optimism

Violence in the Middle East forced President Clinton to organize an emergency peace summit between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt.

Violence in the Middle East forced President Clinton to organize an emergency peace summit between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt.

Violence in the Middle East forced President Clinton to organize an emergency peace summit between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt.

The US media quoted political analysts who were doubtful that the summit would succeed. Research by CARMA International found that few expected the ceasefire agreement, reached at the summit, to hold. The continuing unrest in the West Bank and Gaza has been seen by many as evidence that the ceasefire is either not being enforced by the leadership, or not being taken seriously by the public.

According to The Washington Times, the only consensus reached was that 'the summit might not even end the violence, let alone renew peacemaking' (October 16).

Some analysts saw Palestinian rage as a reason for the lack of trust in the peace accord, as living conditions for Arab Israelis have deteriorated over the course of talks in the nineties. Others highlighted the transformation of the conflict from a territorial dispute to a holy war, which has polarized the two sides even further.

Part of the failure of the summit, the media reported, was the lack of support for peace among both Israelis and Palestinians. CNN correspondent Rula Amin described the feelings of college students at Arafat University, saying: 'For these students, Yasser Arafat's call for calm won't ring true until they can be assured the Israelis will also comply with the ceasefire agreements' (CNN, October 18). One Israeli settler responded: 'We are ashamed by our own government that dares to continue talking with the murderer Arafat' (ABC, October 16).

Journalists more often reported that Arafat seemed to have little control over his people, as many opined, 'Yasser Arafat will have a difficult, if not impossible, time selling the cease-fire agreement to his people' (USA Today, October 18).

However, Barak appeared also to be caught between a rock and a hard place, as he seeks to carry his fragile government through an alliance with Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon, whose visit to an area sacred to both Muslims and Jews sparked the most recent turmoil. Barak's leadership seemed no more secure than that of Arafat. '(Camp David) may have ended Mr Barak's power to negotiate. He can thump and temporize; he can no longer compromise. Few expect him to be in office long,' concluded an editorial in The New York Times (October 18).

An additional number of reports discussed the implications the violence has for the rest of the region. Many noted the pressure brought on Arafat by other Arab nations. Egyptian President Mubarak urged both sides not to 'aggravate and destabilize the situation in the region and ruin the relationship between Arabs, Jews and Christians' (Houston Chronicle, October 17).

The media appeared to conclude that the agreement reached in Sharm-el Sheikh is merely a bandage for a much more serious disease, and that political officials around the world will have to work diligently to stabilize the region and to initiate a meaningful dialogue between future Israeli and Palestinian leaders.



- Evaluation and analysis by CARMA International. Media Watch can be found at www.carma.com.



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