Europe's papers divided on Lebanon

The European press remains divided over what must be done to resolve the crisis.

english papers 298.88 (photo credit: )
english papers 298.88
(photo credit: )
The European press has condemned Israel's retaliatory offensive against Hizbullah as an over-the-top response to the capture and killing of its soldiers and invasion of its territory, but remains divided over what must be done to resolve the crisis. "As always," Le Monde wrote at the start of the crisis, Israel had responded "by making disproportionate use of military force, in violation of international law." On Wednesday, the paper applauded French President Jacques Chirac's call for Israel to exercise restraint as "without a doubt the most legitimate policy." The French president's plan, Le Monde wrote, was the "only way to preserve a common line with the United States and a kernel of international consensus." It warned Israel that in implementing its "optimistic" plan "to do away with Hizbullah, it must not destroy Lebanon's efforts to reconstruct its country." The Paris daily Liberation condemned the world's "relative indifference" to the crisis, which it blamed on US President George W. Bush's "policy of going along" with Israel's decisions. "We can deplore, but we cannot be surprised by the general helplessness," it wrote Wednesday. Le Figaro of also found fault with the United States Monday for not responding more quickly to the crisis and criticized Bush's attempts to bring "something positive out of this double war against 'extremists,' out of this wreckage of weapons and blood, at least that of civilians." Italy's Corriere della Sera wrote on Wednesday that while some consider Israel's response to the kidnapping of three conscripts "disproportionate," the offensives against Hizbulllah and Hamas must be seen in the context of Israel's fight for survival. On Monday, The Guardian condemned as shortsighted Israel's "collective punishment of Lebanon's fragile economy," but said the "time for calling for restraint has passed, since too many on both sides show no signs of exercising any." On Wednesday, the paper called Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz "military novices" and suggested "both have something to prove." Former prime minister Ariel Sharon "could negotiate a prisoner exchange with Hizbullah in 2004, rather than bombing them from the sky, because he had no fear of being branded weak," the Guardian wrote. "Those who witnessed [the fighting] will not forget it, and they will carry a bitterness towards Israel for the rest of their lives, passing it on to their children" the Guardian said, as "both sides have ensured this dreadful conflict spreads, not just across borders - but down the generations." The S ddeutsche Zeitung also called Israel's response "disproportionate," but said it did have a right to defend itself. This "war was declared by Hizbullah and Palestinian terror groups, not by Israel," it wrote. On Wednesday, the German paper argued that the offensive against Hizbullah was a diplomatic blunder that had "trapped" Olmert. Striking at Hizbullah would "aggravate hatred of Israel across the world," it said. "The longer this war waged for the purpose of deterrence lasts and the more civilian casualties it causes in Lebanon, the more the images of destruction will push the party responsible for the war, Hizbullah, into the background." The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Tuesday dismissed the proposal for a UN-administered buffer zone in southern Lebanon as "an illusion." It called for Hizbullah to be "disarmed and the regular Lebanese army to occupy the border region with Israel in order to prevent terrorist raids." The paper said, "Israel would probably answer a missile attack on Tel Aviv" with a strike against the powers backing the "radicals and terrorists in Gaza and Lebanon... The next goal would be Damascus. But the Israeli government also knows" an attack would ignite "a conflagration across the Arab world" the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said. On Tuesday, the The Times of London said "only the permanent spiking of Hizbullah's guns will lead to sustainable peace." "The parameters of the current crisis are simple," The Times wrote. "Iran, with help from Syria, is trying to maximize its influence. Its arming of Hizbullah with rockets that can reach deep into Israel gives the radical militia group, and ultimately Teheran, the power to sabotage any peace plan." Israel's retaliation against Hizbullah has demonstrated the paralysis of the Arab League, The Times wrote on Wednesday. "Will the Middle East crisis prompt the Arab League at last to do something coherent and useful? Surely not; it is hard to imagine that day ever arriving." The crisis had temporarily strengthened Israel's international standing, The Daily Telegraph wrote on Tuesday, saying the G-8 declaration on the Middle East "must rank as one of the most pro-Israel international statements in at least a decade." The great powers were "motivated by the fear that a victory for Hamas and Hizbullah will be a victory for the forces of extremism across the Islamic world," it wrote. "Yet time plays against Israel by stoking international protest over the plight of civilians, and increasing the chances that a misdirected bomb on a building filled with civilians will turn the military venture into a political disaster" the Telegraph said, urging a speedy diplomatic resolution. Such a resolution could have been reached if the dispute was only between Israel and Palestine, La Repubblica of Rome argued, but "everything has changed since the fall of Saddam." "Arafat's death, Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, Sharon's retirement, the developments in Iran, Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon, growing rivalries between the Shi'ites and Sunnis, and the chaos in Iraq" were all part of a larger crisis, La Repubblica wrote. "The fire is spreading, but who can make a stand against it?"