New York Times
Israel's new national election campaign comes at a delicate moment. The threat of Palestinian suicide bombings has not abated, and a new American-led war in Iraq could be imminent. Yet Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was right to call for an early vote rather than accept the far right's provocative conditions for reinforcing his minority government, which would have severely strained relations with Washington.
Going to the voters serves Israel's long-term interests. Since early last year, crucial policy choices have been blurred by the peculiar dynamics of the now-dissolved national unity government. Any cabinet whose leading figures included Mr. Sharon, a lifelong advocate of confronting the Palestinians with military force, and Shimon Peres, the co-negotiator of the Oslo peace accords, was bound to send out conflicting messages. Israeli voters are entitled to a clear choice between the different approaches to the Palestinian question represented by Mr. Sharon's Likud party and the Labor party that Mr. Peres once led.
Historically, Likud has tended to believe that negotiated transfers of occupied territory to the Palestinians risk undermining Israel's security, while Labor has held that Israel's future as a predominantly Jewish and democratic state is best secured through Palestinian governing of the Gaza Strip and most of the West Bank. These differences were submerged during the national unity government and now need to be updated and clarified.
Both parties will hold leadership primaries in the coming weeks to choose their standard-bearers for the general election now set for early next year. Labor will decide between its current leader, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, and two more dovish opponents, Haim Ramon and Amran Mitzna, a former general. In Likud Mr. Sharon faces a challenge from his right by his newly appointed acting foreign minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. No sooner was Mr. Netanyahu sworn in this week than sharp differences emerged between him and Mr. Sharon over an American peace plan.
The challenge for all contenders is to satisfy voters' insistence on effective security policies without undermining the longer-term goal of a two-state solution, as envisioned by Israel's most important ally, the United States.
San Jose Mercury News
The Immigration and Naturalization Service finally has taken its first step into the last century.
As Mercury News writer Pankaj Paul reported Monday, some immigrants will now be able to use the Internet to check the status of an application to the INS. That's a major achievement for the technology-crippled INS and will be a big source of relief for immigrants.
Many will now be able to go online to the INS Web site and enter their application number to learn whether the INS has received and filed, say, their fingerprints or a missing piece of information.
Until now, immigrants had three other, mostly unsatisfactory options. They could telephone an IRS 800 number and wait for hours, if not days, to get through. They could send in a request by mail and wait up to 30 days and often longer for a response. Or, as many immigrants locally have done, they could get in line at the INS office in San Jose.
Doing the latter often requires lining up before 5 a.m., just to ensure that they'll be seen that day. Yet hundreds do that, out of fear that the INS may have misplaced whatever they had sent by mail, indefinitely delaying their applications.
The INS has been among the slowest federal agencies to use the Internet, which is a principal reason for the miserable backlog in processing citizenship and work permit applications. With post-Sept. 11 security concerns now taking precedence, those delays may get worse unless the INS makes use of technology.
The INS' next step should be to let immigrants fill out and submit all standard forms online. And, would it be too much to ask that the INS start responding to inquiries by e-mail?
The office in San Jose, at the confluence of the nation's immigrant and technology centers, would be a good place to start.
There might be some U.S. nervousness about Turkey's election last Sunday. The Justice and Development Party, which grew out of a narrowly sectarian Islamist party, won a huge victory in parliamentary elections. But will this new government threaten Turkey's constitutionally mandated secularism?
Probably not. Ultimate power rests with the Turkish army, not parliament, and just as the army intervened five years ago to force an Islamic party from power, it would not hesitate to do so again. But that may not be necessary. The Justice and Development Party, despite Islamic roots, embraces Turkey's secular constitution. As its leader, Recep Erdogan, has said, "secularism (in Turkey) is the protector of all beliefs and religions."
Further, this election was fought on political and economic grounds -- not on religious ones. The parties that have dominated the government are severely corrupt, and have seriously damaged the economy. The change that voters want is systemic: a popular government responsive to their needs and a political system running on something other than greased palms and coercion. And Turkey desperately wants to join the European Union; it cannot hope to do so until major reforms have been enacted.
One first step would be for the army to pull back to its barracks. Turkey's judicial establishment -- encouraged by the general staff -- has sought to ban the Justice and Development Party, and Mr. Erdogan is barred from political office because he once publicly recited a poem that "incites religious hatred." But no democracy can long operate where poems are seen as threats to the state, or where the army can veto political parties. Turks have made it clear that they want change, and Mr. Erdogan and his party deserve the chance to see what they can accomplish.
Turkey completed its elections process Sunday with a 79-percent turnout. A 34.3 percent plurality provided a clear mandate to a new moderate Islamic party with a dynamic leader. The goal now should be to hoist that country of 68 million out of the economic doldrums and into the European Union.
The government and leader that the Justice and Development Party and its leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, 48, replaced were ripe for the plucking. The Turkish economy had shrunk by 9.4 percent in 2001. Per capita income dropped 27 percent. Inflation was above 30 percent.
Outgoing Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, 77, was so ill that he literally did not seem to understand what was going on around him. Several previous prime ministers had turned out to be either corrupt or incompetent. Turkey had been required to agree to stringent terms imposed by the International Monetary Fund to get a $30 billion credit to enable it to dodge default on its $200 billion public debt. ...
Turkey needs to be belted firmly into Europe. It is a bellwether of the NATO alliance. Its air bases are essential to the West's playing an active role in the Middle East and South Asia, particularly as Gulf and Arabian states' sands shift under our feet. As a 99 percent majority Islamic state with a firm secular, democratic government and a liberal economy, it can offer the other 55 majority Muslim states an alternative model of governance.
Wise American policy will be one of close cooperation with Mr. Erdogan's new government and a certain amount of missionary work with U.S. allies in the European Union.
It can no longer be said that the United States is behaving unilaterally in insisting that Saddam Hussein disarm and surrender his weapons of mass destruction programs. That is the meaning of the newly revised text of a disarmament resolution that the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations presented to the Security Council Wednesday.
This third version of the original American-British draft concedes practically every point demanded by France and Russia, two permanent Security Council members with veto power and considerable commercial interests tied to Saddam's regime.
The latest resolution proposed by the Bush administration contains no language that could be construed as an automatic ''trigger'' for war against Saddam's dictatorship. If Saddam continues to conceal his weapons of mass destruction programs, President Bush would have to return to the Security Council and ask for a second resolution authorizing the use of force -- assuming he wants the United States to wage war against Saddam in the name of the United Nations. ...
If UN inspectors are not able to remove his fangs, he will have to be removed from power by force.
The victory of an Islamic-oriented party in a secular democracy sounds like it augurs religious extremism and a rejection of Western values. In Turkey, the story is a bit more complicated. Sunday's election brought to power a party whose leader once went to jail for allegedly inciting religious hatred. But in an important sense, the vote suggests that Turkish democracy is maturing, not regressing.
No one should have been surprised to see the mainstream parties thrashed at the polls. Turkey is in the throes of a severe economic slump and the public understandably blamed the ruling coalition, which was seen as corrupt and incompetent. One of the assets of the victorious Justice and Development Party is its reputation for honesty.
Although leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan once was known as a religious firebrand, he and other party elders have greatly altered their approach. They've dropped all references to Islam, stressing their respect for the nation's secular tradition and endorsing stronger ties with the West. "We are going to push hard for membership in the European Union," he said after the election. "And we don't plan to disturb anyone's way of life." ...
As one Turkish commentator put it, "This is the first time in the world that we have a chance to marry Islam with liberal democracy." If the important players behave with restraint and moderation, this election could be a watershed, and not just for Turkey.
Dallas Evening News
President Bush said he wanted the Security Council to support a new resolution on Iraq within days or weeks, not months. That was back in September. After eight weeks of deliberations, the council finally appears ready to give Mr. Bush something close to what he wants. The Security Council should show Iraq its resolve and unanimously approve the U.S.- and British-sponsored resolution - without abstentions. ...
Security Council members should not consider the resolution an accommodation to U.S. and British concerns. Iraq is an international threat that the world must face together. For Mr. Hussein to understand that resolve, all 15 members of the Security Council -- including Russia, China, France and Mexico -- must approve the resolution. The United Nations should give Saddam Hussein a stark choice.
Kansas City Star
As the United Nations Security Council prepares to vote on Iraq, Saddam Hussein isn't the only one on the spot. The outcome of the vote could be a turning point for the United Nations itself. As President Bush said in September, the question now is whether the world body is willing to enforce its own resolutions. ...
In agreeing to what could become another cat-and-mouse game with Hussein, Bush has gone the extra mile to allow France and Russia to save face. The U.N. Security Council now faces a pivotal choice: Deal seriously with the threat posed by Hussein or sink into irrelevance.
Even when it appears that conditions couldn't get worse in Haiti, they do. Armed gangs now roam the streets. Drug trafficking, highway robbery and violence are widespread. The economy is a black hole.
Meanwhile, Jean-Bertrand Aristide's government and opposition groups irresponsibly are not meeting the commitments that they agreed to in a plan that aims to end Haiti's political and economic paralysis. They missed the plan's first deadline this week to appoint a nine-member electoral council. ...
If Haiti's political parties continue to play winner-take-all politics, there won't be much left to take of their country. While Haiti's impoverished people suffer the consequences, so do neighboring countries -- including the United States -- on the receiving end of drugs and refugees.
Friends and neighbors of Haiti must redouble efforts to support the OAS plan. Investing in restoring democracy and security now is far better than dealing with a nation after it has descended into chaos.
(Compiled by United Press International.)