German Press Review: Sharon′s Goals | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 27.10.2004
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German Press Review: Sharon's Goals

Many German papers on Wednesday commented on Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plans to evacuate Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip. Others considered Germany's budget deficit problems.

A big step was taken on Tuesday, began the Lausitzer Rundschau from Cottbus: “The Gaza Strip will become Palestinian and Jewish settlements will be evacuated." But the paper was quick to add that "for the moment this is true in theory only. Until the planned pull-out can finally be implemented within the next year, Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon will have to overcome huge political obstacles." Nevertheless the paper was optimistic that the withdrawal will prove to be positive for both sides in the conflict: “For the 1.3 million Palestinians in Gaza it will bring a little more freedom, for the Israelis, economic and possibly also military relief. And for both, Palestinians and Israelis alike the pull-out holds hope for better times," the paper concluded.

The Kölner Stadtanzeiger from Cologne was more critical, arguing that Ariel Sharon is an unlikely dove. “While the opposition Labor party hopes that the Gaza withdrawal will be a starting point for a broader process leading finally to the creation of a viable Palestinian state -- Sharon's goals are very different," said the paper. “By leaving Gaza the Israeli prime minister only wants to secure the Jewish settlements in the West Bank."

Even if this were Sharon’s true objective, for the Hamburg-based Financial Times Deutschland, things could still turn out very differently: The paper predicted that a pullout from Gaza is likely to trigger a whole new dynamic in the Middle East: “It will be the first time ever that Israel has given up settlements in the Palestinian territories. Up until now its policy has been build and expand." The paper said that just like the Israeli public, Sharon has begun to understand that "Israel cannot go on being a Jewish state and a democracy if it doesn’t give up the occupied territories."

Other German papers were critical of German finance minister Hans Eichel’s plans to reduce the country’s budget deficit next year, accusing him of using cheap bookkeeping tricks. Eichel reportedly considered pocketing gains from Deutsche Telekom and Deutsche Post in exchange for taking over part of their pension liabilities.

The Westdeutsche Zeitung from Düsseldorf called on Eichel not to treat people as if they were stupid: “Everyone knows that we are facing economic problems in Germany. Most people would even be willing to make sacrifices in order to reverse that trend," it wrote. But the paper criticized the government for even considering to play with the numbers, concluding: “Financial tricks don’t help, the only thing that will help us and the following generation is honesty."

The Handelsblatt from Düsseldorf agreed, saying “the basis of any solid budget policy is truth and transparency." Given the difficult economic situation in the country, the paper said that the German finance minister has two options: “Either he makes a last real attempt to rein in the budget deficit. And that would mean introducing a program of financial cuts which would hurt everyone.Or he must openly admit that his plans to consolidate the budget have failed and that therefore the European Stability and Growth Pact has become obsolete." But were he to choose the latter option, he would also have to tender his resignation, the paper said.

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