The Middle East was the focus of several newspapers as editorialists examined the growing political uncertainty of Yasser Arafat and the frosty relations between France and Israel.
The Independent in London described the crisis in Gaza as "possibly the gravest challenge to the political career of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat since it comes from many of the core supporters he has alienated." It stated that many younger Palestinians are attempting to assert themselves over the "old guard" represented by Arafat and his cronies ahead of the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza by 2005.
The Dutch paper, Algemeen Dagblad noted that Palestinian unrest was so great that it forced Arafat to cancel the appointment of his cousin Mussa Arafat as the head of security, out of concern over more protests and violence. The paper said Arafat's actions "not only mean a loss of face but also show his isolation for many years in Ramallah." It added that Arafat is out of touch with what his own people are really feeling.
On the plummeting relations between France and Israel, the French paper Le Monde commented on the remarks made by Israeli Prime Minister Arial Sharon urging French Jews to return to Israel because of the rise of anti-Semitism in France. The French reaction was swift and strong with the government saying that "Sharon was no longer welcome in France" until he explains his remarks. The Parisian daily wondered what Sharon is trying to achieve. Perhaps he wants to encourage French Jews to migrate to Israel, it suggested, but the issue of security in the Middle East will certainly discourage such a move. Perhaps Sharon is trying to discredit France and keep Europe out of any peace resolution on the Middle East, the paper commented. If that is the case, then the message should be read as saying the Middle East's political situation remains an affair between Israel and the United States and Europe should be kept out of the talks because of its pro-Arab bias.
Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung observed that despite the rise of anti-Semitism in France there is no doubt that Jews living in Paris, Marseille and Lyon are safer there than they would be in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. The paper noted that there are more people leaving Israel than entering the Jewish state and this could cause demographic problems in the future. The paper said the fact that Sharon does not hold back from open controversy with Jewish communities in the Diaspora shows how seriously his government views the situation in France.
The Luxemburger Wort said Sharon is pursuing several goals. First, he wants to contain France’s influence because it is too pro-Palestinian. Second, Sharon dreams of a million Jews moving to Israel from all over the world. But, the paper asked, where would all these Jews come from? Most American Jews are so well off where they are that they would not think of emigrating. It noted that there are 200,000 Jews in Argentina and 600,000 in France, and suggested that France logically offers the most obvious reservoir of Jews in order to carry out Sharon’s dreams for Israel.