The Jerusalem Post, June 29, 2004

ELIMINATE THE MENACE (SHARON)

by Michael Freund

This past Monday yet another Jewish family was destroyed, joining the dreaded list of those who have fallen victim to our enemy's thirst for blood and our leadership's indifference.

Mordechai Yosefov, 49, and three-year-old, Afik Zahavi, were killed outside a kindergarten when Palestinian terrorists in Gaza launched Kassam rockets into the southern Israeli city of Sderot. Zahavi's mother, Miriam, was seriously injured in the attack, and is struggling to recover in a local hospital.

She and her husband made aliya from the former Soviet Union, undoubtedly seeking a better life, one free of anti-Semitism and full of opportunity. In an instant that dream was shattered.

Instead of watching her beloved child participate in his end-of-the year celebration, Miriam saw what no parent should ever have to see: her young son die before her eyes.

And little Afik's classmates, who heard the rocket's explosion outside their school, are now confronting issues no four- or five-year old should ever have to tackle, such as why someone they have never met would possibly want to do them harm.

The state has dispatched specially trained psychologists to tend to the children, and I don't envy their task. Try explaining to a group of 20 kindergarten children how and why such a thing could happen.

But those kids, like the rest of us, deserve an answer, and it is time we stopped pretending that we don't know what it is.

Afik and Yosefov and the more than 1,000 other innocent Israelis who have been killed in terror attacks in the past four years, all died because Palestinians bent on our destruction have tossed aside diplomacy, preferring to use violence as the means of achieving their goals.

We must never, ever forget that this conflict was imposed upon us against our will, and that Israel did everything it possibly could to bring about a peaceful resolution of the Middle East dispute.

But there is another reason why so many Jewish men, women and children have been ruthlessly slaughtered, and why the killing has not come to an end. That answer has a name, and it is Ariel Sharon.

For all his talk and bluster about fighting terror, the fact is that Sharon failed to take a strategic decision to eliminate the menace of Palestinian terror once and for all, essentially subjecting the Israeli populace to a protracted, and needless war of attrition.

Monday's attack was hardly the first time Palestinian terrorists have fired rockets at Israeli communities. Indeed, over 4,160 missiles and mortar shells have been launched by Palestinians against Jews in Gush Katif in the 45 months since the violence began in September 2000.

That averages out to the Palestinians firing three rockets per day, every day, for a three-and-a-half year period against Gaza's Jews.

THAT PALESTINIAN terrorists can still carry out such assaults, in broad daylight no less, demonstrates the extent to which Sharon's tactics and strategy have proven to be a clear and unequivocal failure.

For, rather than reasserting complete military control over the territories, dismantling the Palestinian Authority and uprooting the terrorist infrastructure, Sharon has chosen to project weakness, signaling his intention to withdraw, as though hiding from the problem will somehow make it go away.

In so doing, Sharon has abdicated his primary responsibility as prime minister, which is to protect and defend the safety and well-being of Israel and its citizens.

Simply put, by failing to crush the terror, Sharon has allowed it to fester. And by choosing to reward it with withdrawal, he is seemingly encouraging the terrorists to intensify their attacks.

In recent years Sharon had ample opportunity, and justification, for reversing the disaster brought on by the Oslo Accords. He could easily have made a convincing case to the public about the need to retain Judea, Samaria and Gaza, and to stand firm in the local manifestation of the global war on terror.

Sure, there would have been protests, and even outrage, but had Sharon deployed the IDF to wage a long-term and relentless battle against terror, had he quelled the rocket attacks and suicide bombings with an unyielding counter-terror campaign, he could at least have claimed that he had done all in his power to protect Jewish life and limb from those who seek to destroy it.

Instead, guided by complacency and shortsightedness, Sharon has brought Israel to a new low. Three years after he assumed power, even Jewish children attending kindergarten can no longer feel safe.

For that alone Sharon should be toppled, using all the legal and democratic tools at our disposal. His disastrous handling of Israel's security cannot, and should not, be forgotten.

Now, more than ever, Ariel Sharon has got to go.

The writer served as deputy director of communications & policy planning under former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu.