European Press Review: Sharon Misjudged his Own Party | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 04.05.2004
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European Press Review: Sharon Misjudged his Own Party

European papers on Tuesday focused on the alleged mistreatment of prisoners-of-war by U.S. and British troops in Iraq and Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon’s tussle with his own Likud party.

French daily Liberation wrote that wars can also be lost off the battlefield. The allegations of torture are a defeat for the United States and only serve to increase the hatred of Americans in the Arab world, it added.

Another French paper Le Monde warned that even a swift response by Washington to punish the guilty will probably not be enough in view of the general hostility of the Sunnis and Shi’ites in Iraq.

Der Standard from Austria clamored that the U.S. reaction to the accusations had been arrogant. The paper wrote it’s stupid and not enough to claim the situation under Saddam Hussein was worse and that the U.S. troop offenses were not systematic. To limit the damage, the paper urged Washington to tear down the prison in Iraq where the alleged crimes had been committed.

Italy’s Corriere della Sera focused on the Spanish troop withdrawal from Iraq by the new government in Madrid. It’s true, the paper said, that Americans and the others in Iraq are viewed as occupiers. But, the solution invoked by Spain’s new prime minister Zapatero has made Spanish troops look like they were running from battle. And that, the paper emphasized, is a major victory for Islamic fundamentalism, which is fanning the flames of rebellion in the Middle East and mobilizing against the West.

Italy’s Il Messaggero took a closer look at the Middle East and Israeli premier Ariel Sharon. It commented on Sharon losing a vote in his own Likud party to fully withdraw from the Gaza Strip. Sharon created the settler’s movement in Israel, the paper said, and now this monster has turned against him. Sharon misjudged the determination of the settlers and did not consider what a large part of his party they had become.

Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung opined it’s highly unlikely Sharon did not know where his party stood. He can now claim that he’s tried to move the peace process along, while not having to withdraw from Gaza and still keeping the option of annexing it open, it wrote. Early

elections are not a problem either, the paper stated flatly, because Sharon enjoys broad support among Israelis to assassinate leading Palestinian radicals and build his security fence.

Dutch daily De Volkskrant said that with the Likud vote against Sharon extremists on both sides will block the peace process. How long is the international community going to let the two sides muddle along before intervening, the paper asked.

Belgium’s Flemish daily De Standaard agreed and wrote that it is more obvious than ever that peace in the Middle East requires pressure and force from the outside. And, of course, everyone looks toward the U.S. But, the paper chided those who sit back and accuse the Americans of both doing too much and too little in its role as the world’s policeman. The European Union grew larger last weekend, the paper noted, but where is its role in the Middle East, besides sending a few envoys and supporting the corrupt government of Yasser Arafat?