Schalit dominates German media coverage

Intense coverage reflects key role of German mediator Gerhard Konrad in negotiating Schalit's release.

October 21, 2011 02:31
2 minute read.
Angela Merkel

Merkel reuters 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

BERLIN – Gilad Schalit’s release from captivity in the Gaza Strip blanketed the headlines of most German national newspapers and many regional papers on Wednesday.

The intense coverage reflected the key role played over the past four years by German intelligence officer Gerhard Konrad in laying a blueprint for the complex agreement to effect Schalit’s release in exchange for convicted Palestinian terrorists.

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While Egyptian negotiators brought the deal to closure, the Netanyahu administration has highlighted Germany’s contribution to Schalit’s freedom.

The centrist Berlin daily Tagesspiegel showed a photograph of Schalit on the telephone and quoting him as stating “I feel healthy.” The broadsheet used pages two and three to report on Schalit as well as Konrad’s activities.

The conservative national daily Die Welt headlined its frontpage story “The lost son returns home” and included a photograph of Schalit, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and Schalit’s father, Noam.

Writing from Tel Aviv, Welt correspondent Michael Borgstede authored an extensive dispatch on Schalit and the swap.

The left-liberal national daily Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) featured a frontpage photograph of Schalit saluting Netanyahu. The headline read: “Israel celebrates the return of Gilad Schalit.” The conservative national paper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) used the same photo as the SZ and ran the headline “Gilad Schalit is home” and the sub-headline “477 Palestinian prisoners free.”

Writing a front-page editorial titled “After Five Years,” FAZ journalist Wolfgang Günter Lerch commented on the release of the 1,027 Palestinians who were involved in “serious criminality” as “horrible for the family members of the victims” in Israel.

The left-liberal alternative daily Tageszeitung (TAZ) showed the ratio “1:1,027” on its front page and ran an editorial from the paper’s Israel-based correspondent, Susanne Knaul, with the headline “The Three Winners.” She wrote that Netanyahu, Hamas and Egypt’s transitional government secured victories in the complicated bargaining.

The mass circulation Bild, Germany's largest paper, reported about Schalit on page two. The headline read “Malnourished! After five years kidnapped soldier is again home.” The paper’s popular columnist Franz Josef Wagner wrote a “Dear Gilad Schalit” letter and tried to imagine the repatriated soldier’s thoughts. He termed the thought process “torture.”

Wagner said Schalit had the face of a “knowledge-hungry university” student.

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