In an interview published on Monday Sharon also rejected complaints from European politicians that the Jewish state tends to stigmatise legitimate criticism of Israel's policies towards the Palestinians as anti-Semitism.

"These days to conduct an anti-Semite policy is not a popular thing, so the anti-Semites bundle their policies in with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," he told EUpolitix.com, an online newswire dedicated to EU affairs.

"Of course there are anti-Semites who use the events in Israel and the argument that Israel uses excessive force, and through this they are trying to compromise Israel's right to self-defence. Thus there is a danger to Jews."

Israel 'threat to world peace'

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom last week proposed setting up a joint ministerial council with the EU to stamp out anti-Semitism in Europe through monitoring and education.

Charges of anti-Semitism were fuelled before Shalom's visit to Brussels by a controversial opinion poll carried out by the EU's executive Commission that found a majority of EU citizens see Israel as the greatest threat to world peace.

French President Jacques Chirac chaired an urgent ministerial meeting last week on fighting anti-Semitism after the firebombing of a Jewish school in a Paris suburb.

"If I am facing the ... dilemma of whether to absorb European criticism or to add and contribute to the safety of Israeli citizens, I have no problem determining how to act"

Ariel Sharon,
Israeli prime minister

Synagogues and Jewish schools in France have been attacked repeatedly in recent years, in violence authorities link to poor Muslim youths enraged by Israel's tough policies against Palestinian unrest.

"An ever stronger Muslim presence in Europe is certainly endangering the life of Jewish people," Sharon said, adding that some 70 million Muslims lived in the 15-nation bloc.

"I would say ... EU governments are not doing enough to tackle anti-Semitism," he said.

'Dangerous generalisation'

Sharon flew to Rome last week to enlist the EU's current president, Italy, in stemming anti-Semitism in Europe and moderating criticism of Israel's approach to the Palestinians.

"Of course it is dangerous to generalise, but it is possible to say that the majority of countries in Europe do not have a balanced policy," he told EUpolitix. "Today, during the Italian presidency, we can say that Europe's policy is balanced."

Responding to sharp criticism in an EU declaration of Israel's plans to erect a barrier through occupied territories in the West Bank, Sharon said the fence was "a security measure, not a political border".

"If I am facing the question and the dilemma of whether to absorb European criticism or to add and contribute to the safety of Israeli citizens, I have no problem determining how to act," he said.