The Jerusalem Post of June 6, 2001

TIME TO ACT

By Michael Freund

(The writer served as deputy director of Communications & Policy Planning in the Prime Minister's Office from 1996 to 1999.)

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Sitting on the couch in front of the television, full of anger and frustration, I clench my fists and consider whether pounding on the screen will somehow bring this madness to an end. I am sick and tired of watching Jews die nearly every evening on the news.

The events of recent weeks have left us all breathless and bewildered. One shocking terror attack is followed abruptly by another, which is then quickly forgotten as the next incident flashes on our screens a few hours later. Despite occasional respites, such as the present cease- fire, the macabre dance of death continues to haunt us, threatening to reignite at any moment.

For over eight months, the Palestinian Authority has been committing atrocity after atrocity, lynching our soldiers, burning down our holy sites and blowing up Jewish children. We know who the perpetrators are, we know where they live, and yet we seem powerless to stop them.

According to the IDF, there have been a total of 4,823 shooting attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians since the start of the intifada last September, an average of nearly one attack every hour over an eight-month period.

If this is not a war, then why are we calling the current hiatus a "cease-fire?" And if it is a war, then why aren't we fighting it? It is hard to believe this is the same country that vanquished its enemies in just six days back in 1967, or rescued Jewish hostages at an isolated Ugandan airport called Entebbe in 1976. Where have all our heroes gone? What has happened to the Jewish pride and the Zionist values that enabled Israel to withstand the most difficult of challenges?

It is as if we have learned nothing from history, not one thing. After 2,000 years of exile and persecution, the Jewish people did not hang on just to create another Diaspora-like outpost of fear on the shores of the Mediterranean. Through our passivity, we have tragically begun to turn the State of Israel into the Shtetl of Israel, as we hide under our beds waiting helplessly for the next Palestinian pogrom.

The cold, hard truth is staring us all in the face. Everyone knows we are at war, everyone feels we are in a battle for the country's survival, yet we continue to delude ourselves, refusing to acknowledge what we know to be the truth: Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat has declared war on the Jewish people. It is time that he be treated accordingly.

No other country would tolerate ongoing terrorist incursions into the heart of its territory. The PA has become a threat to the safety and well-being of Israel's citizens, and it is a threat that must be overcome. The United States spares no effort to track down and punish suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden, going to the ends of the earth if necessary to protect its citizens. There is no reason why Israel should refrain from doing the same.

THE OSLO process is dead because Arafat killed it. Former prime minister Ehud Barak offered the Palestinian leader far more than he could ever have hoped to receive from an Israeli premier. Rather than responding with a counter-offer, Arafat reached for his pistol. He drew first blood, and now it is time for him to pay.

At this difficult hour, Israel needs a "fireside chat." Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is a man of integrity, and the country needs to hear from him, to be reassured by him, just as president Franklin Delano Roosevelt's candid addresses bolstered the morale of the American people during World War Two. Sharon's message should be straight and to the point: This is a war. We didn't ask for it, and we didn't start it. But we will end it.

No one knows better than Sharon what needs to be done. That is why he was chosen by an overwhelming majority of the electorate. If there is a war to be won, he is the man to do the job.

Yes, the Security Council will convene, the Europeans will be hopping mad and the Syrians will make threatening gestures. Israel will pay a heavy diplomatic price for defending itself, but it is a price that pales in comparison with the innocent lives that are being lost to terror every day.

It is not a pretty picture, nor even a particularly desirable one. But we have no choice. This cannot continue. Your time is up, Arafat. The Jewish people have had enough.

(c) Jerusalem Post



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