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German Press Review: Is Sharon a Threat To Peace?

Germany's biggest newspapers on Thursday lamented the latest suicide bombing in Israel and Sharon's response and weighed in on the ongoing debate in Berlin over pension reforms.

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The suicide bombing in Jerusalem on June 11 set off a new wave of violence in the Middle East

On Wednesday, a Palestinian terrorist dressed as an Orthodox Jew killed 16 people and injured 80 in a suicide bombing attack against a public bus in Jerusalem and Israeli troops retaliated in the Gaza Strip, killing at least 9 suspected members of the Palestinian Hamas organization. A day later, German newspapers asked whether the road map to peace is navigable considering the current political situation.

The Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung asked who's to blame for the escalation of violence in the Middle East. Or rather, who doesn't want peace in the Middle East. "At the talks in Akaba, three men were present," the paper wrote, "Sharon, Abbas and Bush. There can only be peace if all three want it." The paper said Bush risks his reputation as the most powerful man in the world if he can't push the road map through. Abbas, too, risks his office and probably his life if he can't prove to his people that his controversial handshake with Sharon can lead to a better way of life. That leaves only Sharon. The paper opined that with the attack on Hamas leader Rantissi, Israel gave the signal for a fresh wave of violence. Rantissi may be a fanatic and a criminal, it concluded, but it's becoming increasingly clear that with Sharon in the mix, there'll never be peace.

The editors of the Cologne-based tabloid Express dedicated their editorial page to concerns about the situation at home. It painted a picture of Germany in June 2003: "Economic growth is at a low, unemployment is at a high. In the east, metal workers want to strike for a shorter working week. They're just one example of the many unions who just don't seem to grasp the economic realities," the editors wrote, adding: "The union bosses are acting like the resources are still there to spread around." The Express said it is unacceptable for entire branches of the economy to be strangled in the choking grip of the unions, which don't seem to care whether German companies are faring well or not.

Berlin's Die Welt picked up on another source of discontent in Germany -- the bankrupt pension system and the debate over its reform. The paper agreed with German President Johannes Rau that the current generation of pensioners should be left untouched by any new regulations. "Not because they were the generation that rebuilt Germany after the war," the paper wrote, "but because they're totally dependent now on their pension and can't choose any other form of old age security." But the paper said the pension reform process needs to pick up steam now if it's to help the people currently in the middle of their working lives.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung in Munich considered a recent statement from the premier of North Rhine-Westfalia that the creation of jobs should take precedence now over the protection of the environment. "It hurts to hear something like that from the highest representative of such a large state in the year 2003," the paper wrote. "Hasn't anyone told Peer Steinbrück that the market for environmentally friendly products and services is going to be among the fastest-growing economic sectors in this century," the paper asked. And in a dig at Germany's traditionally strong industries, the Süddeutsche said that environmental businesses are going to create more jobs in the future than the manufacture of machines and cars.

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