The debate by the Israeli parliament on whether to pull out of the Gaza Strip is the focus of much editorial comment in Europe Tuesday, while other European papers look at the high price of oil.
The planned withdrawal of Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip, "could mark the end of the Israeli dream of a biblical Greater Israel, the beginning of a civil war with the settlers, or more optimistically the start of meaningful new relationship with the Palestinians," London daily The Independent commented. While the Palestinians fear the withdrawal will quash plans for a separate state, "there is a case for arguing that the cause of peace in the Middle East is better served by this small step than no step at all," the paper said.
Rome's La Repubblica wrote that the withdrawal plan is important for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon because of simple demographics. The paper noted that the Palestinians could soon outnumber the Israelis in the territories. "The equation is simple, one cannot maintain the present situation in a democratic Israeli state and at the same time rule over some four and a half million people."
Bonn's General Anzeiger made similar comments. "The high Palestinian birth rates in the Gaza Strip and West Jordan are the decisive factor which will lead to the demise of Zionism and the only democratic country in the Middle East." Therefore, the only way to prevent another century of bloodshed is for Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories and to grant Palestinians independence, the paper argued.
Italian daily Corriere della Sera from Milan said Sharon's stubborn determination to push through his plan threatens the unity of his Likud party. "The party is divided like never before," with Sharon's plan receiving more backing from the left parties within the government. Does this signal the beginning of a new government in Israel? the paper asked.
Commenting on the impact of the high oil prices on the markets which caused both the euro and the dollar to drop in value, the Spanish daily El Mundo said a further rise in oil prices will in the short term propel inflation, leading to an increase in interest rates. "Both these factors will simultaneously put the brakes on economic growth," warned the paper.
The French business daily Les Echos pointed out that "in contrast to the shocking high oil prices that affect all industrialized countries equally, currency developments like the rising euro and the weakening of the dollar will always favor one over the other. "One of these days it will be necessary to revive international cooperation worthy of its name," the paper suggested. "It would be best if this was done as soon as possible."
As results of Kosovo's weekend's elections came in, some papers doubted whether the province could ever achieve a multi-ethnic democracy. Dutch paper De Telegraaf said that once again everything revolves around Serbian nationalism. "The political chaos in Serbia and Montenegro will affect, to a large degree, the efforts of the international community to bring peace and stability to the Balkans and whether they will stay or retreat from the region."
"One day all of the west Balkans may wind up in the European Union and NATO," stated the Financial Times of London. But both ethnic Albanian and Serbian communities in Kosovo are trying to prove the impossibility of multi-ethnic democracy, the paper wrote. "Neither should be allowed to succeed." It added that at some point Belgrade will have to accept that a negotiated settlement would best serve the interests of Kosovo Serbs and that, in the long term, Serbia must realize its best future, too, lies in the EU.