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Europe

German Press Review: A Toothless Resolution

German newspapers on Thursday react to Israel's claims that it will continue building its West Bank barrier in spite of overwhelming condemnation by the UN General Assembly.

The business daily Handelsblatt wrote that, as far as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is concerned, the UN resolution is not worth the paper it was written on, even though it was endorsed by 150 countries. "The Israeli government knows that its position is relatively secure," the paper wrote. "Firstly, resolutions passed by the General Assembly are not binding. Secondly, the United States voted against it. There may well have been criticism of the barrier in many parts of the world, Washington included, but that will be quietly forgotten when the time comes to stand up and be counted. Good friends can be relied upon. That will also hold true if the Security Council starts to deliberate over the barrier."

Another aspect of the Middle East conflict was taken up by the Wetzlarer Neue Zeitung. The paper looks at the row between Israel and France over Ariel Sharon's call on French Jews to flee rising anti-Semitism by leaving the country. "This was a broadside fired at France's four million Muslims," the paper wrote. "But Sharon should ask himself why Jews are the targets of Arab violence, in France as elsewhere. It is the Middle East conflict that is to blame -- a conflict that Sharon himself has stoked rather than pacified." There is the suspicion, the editors wrote, that Sharon is not really interested in the well-being of France's Jews, but rather in the role played by western Europe in the Middle East conflict. This has been a thorn in his side for some time. "Looked at from this perspective," the paper concluded, "Sharon is fighting a war by proxy at the cost of the French Jews."

In an oblique reference to Yasser Arafat, the Berliner Zeitung wrote: "There is no point in handing over money to a man to finance an organization whose sole purpose is to keep him in power." The European Union has been financing the terrorist PLO for decades, it wrote. It also helps finance the Israeli military machine. One has to be a politician to regard this as a sign of commitment to the Middle East peace process. "One step in the right direction would be for the EU to freeze its payments to the Palestinian Authority and to attach clear conditions to any future funding," the editors concluded.

Another focus of German newspapers on Thursday was the country's economic and political malaise.

The Badische Neuste Nachrichten wrote that top players in German industry believe that neither the government nor the opposition have what it takes to lift the country out of its present crisis. The paper quoted a survey of decision-makers in the German business weekly Capital, which says that 88 percent are convinced the government is "too weak" to take any real decisions. "A truly disastrous figure," the paper wrote, "especially when one also reads that 70 percent think that it is impossible to say who will win the next general election." The opposition conservatives and business-friendly liberals are not seen as a viable alternative to the government of Social Democrat Gerhard Schröder. Germany's managerial elite may be opinion formers, but they are also the target of fresh public debate about "fat cat" salaries. The former head of DaimlerChrysler, Ezard Reuter, has suggested that the salaries of top managers should be capped.

But the editors of Cologne's Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger don't think much of the idea. They wrote that capping salaries wouldn't really reduce costs. Instead, they argued, "it would be far better if the government were to work at top speed to make our country more competitive."

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