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Monday, 5 August, 2002, 14:07 GMT 15:07 UK
Israeli press rounds on Sharon
Ariel Sharon
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon: Under fire in the press
As this weekend's attacks bring the number of Israeli fatalities since the start of the two-year Palestinian intifada to 600, the press in Israel is asking awkward questions of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

"Six hundred fatalities are the equivalent of 30,000 dead in America," Ma'ariv says in a commentary by chief editor Amnon Dankner captioned "Sharon owes us an answer".

"Would the US president, for instance, make do with being furious?" the paper asks.

"Which country would have allowed its citizens to be slaughtered wherever they walk or sit, year after year, month after month, day after day?"

Too little too late

The largest-circulation Yedi'ot Aharonot notes that 20% of the casualties were caused in attacks on buses.

"These scary statistics speak for themselves," Alex Fishman writes in the paper's leader article.


"President Bush gives us the green light from the golf course, and we don't know what to do with it

Yedi'ot Aharonot

Measures to improve security for buses are receiving "belated and lame attention, if any at all," the paper says.

The right-of centre Hatzofe calls for tough action from Mr Sharon.

Its editorial, entitled "Day of bloodshed," urges him to "declare a state of emergency until terror is uprooted."

The left-of-centre Ha'aretz sees the prime minister playing a waiting game.

"Sharon, one of the pioneers of Israel's retaliation policies which believed in immediate, costly and escalated responses to Arab attacks, now wants to adopt precisely the opposite approach - restraint," Amir Oren writes.

Fence

One measure Israel could take, the papers agree, is to press ahead with construction of the separation fence in the West Bank.

When the 70-mile fence dividing the north and centre of the West Bank from Israel proper is complete, "the residents of Tulkarm and Qalqilyah will wake up to a view of the wall, not the Mediterranean," Ha'aretz says.

Ma'ariv notes the criticism that progress on the separation fence is slow.


"The spirit of the times is working in Israel's favour, therefore Israel has to grit its teeth

Ha'aretz

"When we ask the government why it is not taking serious steps to provide us with much more security, such as the erection of the separation fence, the government answers us by stuttering," Amnon Danker writes in a commentary.

The paper believes domestic politics is the reason for the delay with the fence.

"Does Ariel Sharon fear that a fence that leaves a large part of the settlements on the other side would enrage the right wing and the settlers?"

Playing for time

Yedi'ot Aharonot links the wave of terror attacks to the impasse in the political process.

"In August, the Americans and Europeans are on vacation," the paper's Alex Fishman says.

"President Bush gives us the 'green light' from the golf course, and we don't know what to do with it."

But, he contends, the army is buying time.

"Everybody is preparing for the confrontation with Iraq in the hope that this is what will make our internal front marginal and hide the Palestinian problem."

"The army would rather grit its teeth than stamp its feet," Ha'aretz agrees.

It pours cold water on "the expectations of simplistic critics from left and right".

"Restraint will preserve Israel's achievements, but giving up restraint will squander those gains," the paper argues.

"The goal now is to avoid escalation in the weeks and months ahead, waiting for local and regional developments that will have far-reaching implications."

Those developments, it says, are "the coming American offensive against Saddam Hussein, the rise of a Palestinian leadership that will depart from Yasser Arafat's hardline approach, and the completion of the separation fence."

"The general tendency, the spirit of the times, is working in Israel's favour, and against Arafat," the paper concludes.

"Therefore, Israel has to grit its teeth, even in the face of painful attacks."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.


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