On Friday, major German newspapers reflected the angst here about terror attacks in Israel and how they threaten to derail the Mideast peace process. They also called on Bush to remain an impartial mediator.
German newspapers offer George W. Bush a few tips for refurbishing his image in "Old Europe."
On its editorial page, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung expressed its fear that all out war threatens to break out between Israelis and Palestinians. Following the latest suicide bombing, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has given the military orders to destroy the radical Islamic organization Hamas, the paper wrote. And for its part, Hamas has let it be known that the terror is only just beginning. The paper found it difficult to believe that just one week after the friendly photos from Sharm-al-Sheikh and Akaba, the agreements made there have unraveled in the brutal reality of the Middle East conflict. Now, it concluded, much depends on whether US President George W. Bush remains an impartial mediator.
The Süddeutsche Zeitung from Munich opined that Bush won't give up so easily on the peace process, commenting: "He knows what's at stake." The paper predicted that with pressure from the U.S., Sharon will really have to clear illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, not just tear down a few rusty old watchtowers ... because the Palestinians need proof that he'll keep his word. Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, the paper said, will have to hunt down and imprison the murderers in his ranks, instead of just relying on ceasefires and negotiations ... because the Israelis need to see that he's serious about peace too.
The editors of the Stuttgarter Zeitung were less optimistic that Bush would be able to achieve a breakthrough in the Middle East. They commented: "Palestinian terrorists and Israel's head of government are doing more than killing people, they're also killing Washington's dreams of bringing peace to the region. Until now, Bush has always been the man who does what he says. His credibility was beyond doubt." But now, the paper concluded, his credibility is on the line.
Berlin's Die Welt applauded Bush for demanding restraint on the part of the Israeli government. It wrotes: "The use of military means to pursue individual terrorists inevitably brings with it the death of innocents. That's not just inhumane, it's counterproductive." Besides, the paper added, past experience shows that massive military attacks can't defeat terrorism. Rather, the opposite is true. It concluded that if peace is to be achieved, Israel has to show itself to be the cleverer party.
The Rhein Zeitung noted that while Washington is normally only too happy to act as the world's policeman, this time, it really needs to fulfill that role. "And this time," it wrote, " Bush can be assured that his actions have the support of everyone -- including Old Europe."