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Friday, 22 February, 2002, 13:22 GMT
Israeli press blasts Sharon
Man watches Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's speech at shopping mall
Coruscating criticism from some Israeli newspapers
Many Israeli newspapers have strongly criticised the speech delivered by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Thursday night.

Our Jerusalem correspondent, James Reynolds, says that by and large commentators in the country's main papers did not like what they heard.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
Sharon is taking a lot of criticism in Israel's media
In an acerbic opinion piece in Ha'aretz, a left-wing daily, Yoel Marcus said: "The true reason why Prime Minister Ariel Sharon does not make a habit of addressing the public was finally exposed: He simply has nothing to say."

Mr Marcus continued: "With speeches like these to the nation, it is doubtful whether England would have emerged whole from World War II, or whether the United States would have dragged itself out of the economic crash of 1929."

Doubts

The centre-left Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper was equally sceptical about the prime minister's speech.

"What we wanted to hear was ... how Sharon intends to achieve calm. Sharon has no answers to that question," Yedioth Ahronoth's commentator Sima Kadmon wrote.

And Maariv, a centre-right newspaper, was coruscating.

"Sharon's speech sounded like a pep talk to the folks, taken straight from the lexicon of cliches and slogans," it thundered.

"His advisors will hope the speech improves his position," says the paper. "But it may be remembered as the beginning of the end when it finally becomes clear that Sharon has no answers."

Key issues 'not addressed'

Although less critical than some other newspapers, The Jerusalem Post, a conservative daily, expressed reservations about the prime minister's address.

"Neither the limited buffer zones that Sharon discussed in his speech nor Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's temporary and tactical retreats will change the basic elements of this confrontation," writes Gerald M. Steinberg in the Post.

Mr Steinberg adds that up until now, as was the case before the 1973 war, Israel's army and political leadership, have "grossly underestimated the threat."

Mr Sharon has faced growing criticism for failing to end the Palestinian uprising despite the increasing use of force, correspondents say.

A poll published on Friday in the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper said Sharon's credibility in the eyes of Israelis had dropped to 54% in February from 70% in December.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's James Reynolds
"This is the latest in a series of attacks on Jewish settlements"
See also:

21 Feb 02 | Middle East
Israelis look for key to peace
20 Feb 02 | Middle East
Dissent in the ranks
18 Feb 02 | Middle East
Israel reservists back occupation end
25 Jan 02 | Middle East
Yasser Arafat's dilemma
16 Feb 02 | Middle East
Israel's history of bomb blasts
02 Dec 01 | profiles
Who are the suicide bombers?
15 Feb 02 | From Our Own Correspondent
Arafat: Down but not out
20 Feb 02 | Middle East
Fear and pride in Ramallah
20 Feb 02 | Middle East
Palestinian militants 'change tactics'
21 Feb 02 | Middle East
Testing time for Sharon
21 Feb 02 | Middle East
Divided voices over MidEast
21 Feb 02 | Middle East
Sharon speech: More of the same
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