Middle East: how can the EU defuse the crisis?

Following the radical Islamic Hamas organisation's attack on Israel, the EU is struggling to find a united stance. At a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg it became clear that the demand for a humanitarian ceasefire for Gaza is particularly controversial. Countries like Spain and Ireland are in favour, while Germany and Austria have voiced doubts. The commentaries reflect the divided views in the decision-making process.

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Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

Too little unity

The EU has left too many important questions unanswered, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung criticises:

“The heads of state and government managed to agree on a joint declaration, but its content is not particularly robust. They condemn Hamas's terror and emphasise Israel's right to self-defence, within the framework of international law and the necessary protection of civilians. Is the evacuation of Gaza City a violation of this? Is Israel allowed to attack civilian targets if military infrastructure is located there? Or does it have to agree to a ceasefire because humanitarian aid comes before fighting terror? There is no agreement on this.”

La Vanguardia (ES) /

Europe can't take sides here

That Spain doesn't want to burn its bridges with the Arab world is entirely understandable, says La Vanguardia:

“This is not an easy position to take, especially after the controversy when the Israeli embassy accused the government of aligning itself with Hamas's terrorism because of statements made by Podemos ministers. ... Other EU countries like France or Germany have shown a much more favourable attitude towards Israel, but the Sánchez cabinet thinks this is a mistake because Europe cannot take sides. The idea is to mediate, seek a peaceful solution to the conflict and prevent an escalation leading to all-out war. ... Europe and Spain would be wrong if they were to confuse showing the necessary support for Israel with excluding the Palestinians.”

Expresso (PT) /

Convince Israel to negotiate

Expresso argues:

“Israel's allies must force it to sit down with the Palestinian Authority, the only moderate body in this conflict. The aim is first and foremost to persuade Israel to respect international law and existing agreements by negotiating a withdrawal from the occupied territories and the dismantling of illegal settlements. Then difficult negotiations on the status of Jerusalem must be started and joint security measures that do not conform to the established colonial culture must be developed. Only in this way can Hamas become the common enemy of Israelis and Palestinians. Peace will be impossible otherwise.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

Act as consistently as with Russia

The West must now fight on two fronts, former British prime minister Boris Johnson and philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy urge in Le Figaro:

“It is no surprise that Russia has failed to condemn the Hamas atrocities of October 7. ... It is hardly accidental that the Russian government maintains such good relations with the two most important global sponsors of Hamas - Iran and Syria. ... Putin's thugs and Hamas terrorists are morally identical in making no distinction between civilian and military targets. ... We are now fighting on two fronts, for the same values and the same ideals, against the same anti-democratic and terroristic forces. ... We must help protect Israel, and help save Ukraine. To choose one would be a betrayal of both.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

Development aid prevents radicalisation

Dagens Nyheter calls on Sweden to keep financial aid flowing to Gaza:

“The aid goes specifically to forces that counter radicalisation and work for democracy - all with the aim of achieving a peaceful and sustainable two-state solution based on international law. Therefore the government should continue to disburse development aid and support the residents of Gaza so that today's children can have a better future. ... So much depends on making a clear distinction between Hamas and the Palestinian people.”

Club Z (BG) /

The press must be professional

Club Z criticises the media coverage of the conflict:

“What is happening to the people in Gaza is truly tragic. But the media and human rights activists seem to overlook the fact that the same number of rockets are being fired at Israel from the Palestinian territories. And not at military targets, but randomly. The difference is obvious: Israel wants to destroy the terrorist organisation Hamas, Hamas wants to destroy Israel and all Jews. For the media, however, this is difficult to convey in these times of the dominance of social networks. They need to finally realise that they are not competing with social media but should provide a counterpart to them - one that can be trusted and whose coverage is written and reviewed by professionals.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Brussels must decide on its position

The current escalation of violence requires a clear stance from the EU, Europe correspondent Philippe Jacqué writes in Le Monde:

“As a diplomat in Brussels pointed out, 'there are as many positions on the Middle East conflict in Europe as there are member states'. A broad spectrum of diplomatic positions, from countries that support Israel unconditionally to others that have a much more critical stance and are more interested in the question of the peace process. ... However, the resumption of the cycle of violence in Gaza is now forcing Europeans to re-engage diplomatically in an area that is part of their neighbourhood. Because the war and the risk of a humanitarian disaster could have immediate repercussions.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Don't postpone the only realistic solution

Philosopher Massimo Cacciari demands in La Stampa:

“It would be insane to believe today that after the Hamas attack and the Israeli reaction - without risking an uncontrollable expansion of the war - we can continue to put off the only possible solution: the creation of a genuine Palestinian state in the territories already defined by UN resolutions and which Israel continues to occupy, in exchange for a clear and definitive recognition of the state of Israel itself. ... In this way, Israel itself is defended, not through uncritical and unconditional support of its governments, whatever they intend to do.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Internal divides exacerbated

The war in the Middle East is also fuelling tensions within European societies, fears Corriere della Sera:

“The key country is France. Ten airports have been closed. The palace at Versailles has been evacuated three times due to terrorist alerts, as has the Louvre. ... Emmanuel Macron has six million Muslims in his country, many of whom are already pretty angry. And he has a far right which between Le Pen and Zemmour polls at over 30 percent. Let's not kid ourselves: they may be sovereignists (as if Macron wasn't) and anti-globalist, but the main factor fueling the parties of Marine Le Pen and Éric Zemmour - which is not called Reconquête [reconquest] for nothing - is immigration, and Islamic immigration in particular.”

El País (ES) /

Moral authority in jeopardy

El País criticises Ursula von der Leyen's trip to Israel:

“Some governments didn't feel represented and made this clear: absolute condemnation of Hamas's attacks, but Israel's legitimate defence must respect international law. ... For Germany, Israel's security is a matter of state. ... In Spain, the Israeli embassy accused government members of aligning with Hamas. In France, La France Insoumise refused to classify Hamas as a terrorist group. The issue is developing into a clash of cultures. The European Council has now defined a common position. ... If Brussels does not condemn Israel's cutting off of Gaza's water supply, the EU will lose its moral authority. We must return to the balance that Von der Leyen disrupted.”

El Mundo (ES) /

Spain's left undermining European unity

El Mundo finds it scandalous that Spain's Minister of Social Affairs Ione Belarra of the Podemos party called for pro-Palestinian demonstrations:

“The gravity of the war in the Middle East, the risk of a new wave of jihadist attacks in Europe and its current EU presidency oblige Spain to take a leading role in this conflict. ... It is unacceptable that we have become the first European partner to clash with the country that was the victim of the Hamas attack. ... The participation of the extreme left in the government undermines Spain's international reputation and is contrary to the position of the most important European capitals. ... At a time when the terrorist threat in Europe has increased after the jihadist attack in Brussels we need democratic unity.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Crack down on antisemitism

Politicians and society in Germany and Austria must set limits for antisemitic activists, says Der Standard with regard to the debate on demonstration bans:

“Since Hamas's long-planned terrorist attack on Israel, the number of anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli incidents in Germany and Austria has skyrocketed. New official figures from Germany even show a threefold increase compared to the previous year. ... Politics and society must put antisemitic activists in their place and take action against them with all the legal means available to a democratic constitutional state.”

Dnevnik (SI) /

Germany's problematic culture of debate

In his speech at the opening of the Frankfurt Book Fair, Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek condemned Hamas's terrorist attacks but said that the concerns of the Palestinians must also be considered. For Dnevnik, the fact that he was heavily criticised is emblematic of the German debate on the subject:

“Germany's Minister of Culture Claudia Roth made clear [in her speech] what message the Fair sends: as if a book fair were not a forum for democracy, not a safe place for debate, but an ambassador for Germany's collective-guilt-ridden politics. Then Žižek explained to the shocked visitors that the Palestinians are not Hamas. ... Only when an opposing point of view can be expressed can a debate develop. ... And only when a debate develops does democracy function. We can only thank Žižek.”