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Monday, 11 February, 2002, 19:45 GMT
What should Europe's Middle East policy be?
Europe and Israel are involved in an increasingly bitter verbal exchange - could it herald a new, more aggressive European engagement in the problems of the Middle East?

There's been widespread condemnation in Europe of Ariel Sharon's comments that Yasser Arafat should have been liquidated - as he put it - years ago.

The Israeli Prime Minister now says that Europeans want a submissive leadership in Israel, one that will surrender.

Mr Sharon said anti-Semitism was increasing in Europe and the hostility he faced was a consequence of that.

For this week's Europewide Debate, Europe Today's Mark Reid brought together two analysts - Lara Marlowe of the Irish Times in Paris, who reports frequently from the Middle East, and first Jenny Frazer of the Jewish Chronicle here in London.

Is Mr Sharon right - does Europe want a submissive leadership in Israel?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

If Europe wants to step in and try to solve the problem, by all means please do so!

Doc M, USA
Israel and Palestine are at war and there is no other way to describe it. American efforts to bring peace failed when Arafat launched his intifada 16 months ago. The intifada led directly to the election of Sharon, who in turn escalated the conflict further. Neither side is willing to back down. If Europe wants to step in and try to solve the problem, by all means please do so! I doubt American efforts can have any effect at this point. Clinton did his best, but it wasn't good enough.
Doc M, USA

Doesn't anyone find it funny that the most repressive regimes on this planet want to support 'freedom fighters' to send against Israel? My opinion of European governments that buy into this propaganda is dropping.
John, Canada

It's a fight for survival

Dmitriy Moroz, USA/ Russia
The Europeans value human rights. Israel puts them second next to its survival as a nation. Make no mistake - it's a fight for survival, a war. And this is Middle East - you back off once and the winner presses you for even more until there is nowhere left to back off.
Dmitriy Moroz, USA/ Russia

It's not a submissive leadership Europe wants but one that is willing to recognise the basic rights and desires of the Palestinian people
William S. Parker, UK

I believe that the European Union's intention concerning the Palestian and Israeli conflict is to ensure both sides are being dealt with equally. The government of America has shown favouritism towards Israel by giving the country billions of American taxpayers' money and not chastising it enough for using unnecessary military force. I applaud the European Union for expressing dismay for Israel's unjustified military actions and for pressing the Palestinian Authority, to act to stifle extremist groups.
Ernest Williams, USA

It signals a citizenry that is morally astute

Elle Johnson, USA
It is a good sign that Israeli reservists are refusing to serve in the occupied territories. It signals a citizenry that is morally astute. Under the leadership of Sharon, Israel is bearing a fair resemblance to the South Africa of old. Anti-Semitism does exist but Mr Sharon cannot hide his atrocious policies under its cloak.
Elle Johnson, USA

I think what Europe is failing to see is the continuous bloodshed committed by the Palestinians. Does Europe expect Israel to just stand there and not do anything? Israel has the right to defend itself. The most shocking thing is that nearly half the atrocities that are committed towards the Israeli citizens are done by Arafat's men.

Arafat speaks nice words of peace in English, but in Arabic, he speaks of words of pure hatred and violence. Again, Europe is failing to see that Arafat is causing a lot of this violence. He is not committed to peace.
Wadud Miah, UK

Those who forcefully occupy the lands of defenceless people and are currently conducting a policy of oppressing their own neighbours, should not bring up the issue of Anti-Semitism. They are not the only ones being discriminated against. Think of the "Roma" of Europe who are still to this day being discriminated against, the Muslims that are targets of racism, the Hindus and so on. Mr. Sharon should have never been elected to any kind of official post. This man, who is sometimes called the Butcher of Shatila, would have been in prison if he had been a citizen of a morally just nation. Shame on the Israeli people for electing a war criminal as a leader. Europe along with Asia and the Middle East should jointly censure this man and arrest him if he steps into any of their borders. If Israel's/Sharon's policy of targeted assassinations of suspected terrorists/freedom fighters and razing of Palestinian homes continue in this thirty year old conflict, economic, political and spiritual isolation is all that Israel justly deserves.
Floyd Paterson, U.S.A.

I do think that the Europeans have favoured the Palestinians like Americans have favoured Israel. The most important point to remember is that regardless of the eventual establishment of an independent Palestinian state, violence against Israel will continue due to the simple but little publicized fact that many in the Arab world do not believe Israel has a right to exist regardless of the establishment of peace with Arab neighbours. The Europeans by supporting the Palestinians are simply telling Israel and America that they also are beginning to buy into the idea that Israel does not have a right to exist peacefully without suffering constant attack because of ethnic hatred. It would be better for the Europeans to support the lone democracy in the region rather than supporting regimes that sponsor organizations that will never want true peace.
Leah, USA

See also:

25 Jan 02 | Middle East
Yasser Arafat's dilemma
31 Dec 01 | Middle East
Q&A: Arafat and Israel

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