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Jewish World Review March 15, 2002/ 2 Nisan, 5762

Don Feder

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Sharon's no Churchill | Ronald Reagan had an 11th Commandment for the GOP: Thou shall speak no ill of a fellow Republican. American friends of Israel have a similar dictum: Thou shalt refrain from openly criticizing the leader of the Jewish state -- however senseless his policies. (Why add to a beleaguered ally's burden of grief?)

But when stupidity borders on insanity, caution must give way to candor. When you see a friend gunning his car as he heads for the edge of a cliff, the proper response is not to whistle a happy tune and hope for divine intervention.

Ariel Sharon has a split personality. He wants to be both Winston Churchill and Neville Chamberlain. His unilateral concessions, his unwillingness to treat Zion's fight for survival as the war it is and the weakness he exhibits to a remorseless foe has his country on the edge of extinction.

Throughout his tenure, the prime minister demanded seven days of absolute calm (no terrorism from the Palestinian Authority) before negotiating a ceasefire. Now, he's willing to resume negotiations with suicide bombs as background music.

Since December, Yasser Arafat has been confined to his Ramallah headquarters. This week, Sharon decided Arafat may travel within the territories. Next, he announced that F-16s would no longer be used against terrorist targets.

But Sharon's worst mistake has been to treat Israel's equivalent of World War II as a military exercise. Take his raid on Ramallah this week. Troops and tanks are deployed. Shots are exchanged. Prisoners are taken. But Arafat and his terrorist infrastructure are sacrosanct. Foot soldiers of the jihad are fair game. The high command is strictly off limits.

Sharon has never had a long-range strategy. His game plan seems to be: Hang on, and hope they'll get tired of killing us. Every time they murder more civilians, the Israeli Defense Force will strike back (often this consists of urban renewal -- leveling empty buildings). In a war with terrorists, tit for tat is a prescription for defeat.

Israel's actions are routinely portrayed as a part of a "cycle of violence."

Sharon can't even decide on the nature of the conflict. "We are at war, and while we are taking all necessary steps against terror, we are doing everything not to escalate the situation," the general heroically declares. Imagine Churchill telling the British people in 1940: "You may ask me what my policy is? I will answer: Not to escalate the situation."

On Monday, in response to grumblings from his Likud Party, Sharon testily replied, "You may want to go to war, but I don't." What does he want -- negotiations leading to statehood with satanic creatures who revel in the slaughter of women and children? (Ararafat's official radio station calls the ongoing massacres "heroic martyrdom operations.")

Admittedly, Israel's suicide is assisted by its alleged friends in the Bush administration. Last week, Secretary of State Colin Powell (soon to be an honorary Arab) warned Sharon, "If you declare war against the Palestinians thinking you can solve the problem by seeing how many Palestinians can be killed, I don't know that that leads us anywhere."

Doesn't Powell understand that war has been declared -- by the side he's supporting? Perhaps America should stop trying to solve the problem with al-Qaeda by seeing how many of them can be killed.

Powell wants Arafat to attend the March 27 Arab League summit in Beirut, there to present the Saudi peace plan (blessed by the White House) -- giving Israel indefensible borders in return for diplomatic baubles. While Crown Prince Abdullah presses this stratagem, the Saudi press accuses Jews of using the blood of children to bake Purim pastries.

But Sharon can't use Washington as an excuse. Of course, Israel needs U.S. support. But what will it gain Sharon to secure Bush's backing if he loses Israel in the process?

Fortunately, his government's days are numbered.

Earlier this week, 100,000 Israelis rallied in Tel Aviv demanding an end to the Palestinian Authority. The next day, three conservative parties withdrew from Sharon's governing coalition. Opinion polls show Likudniks prefer former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over Sharon as their candidate in the next election by 57 percent to 21 percent.

In the meantime, friends of Israel must redouble their efforts to save it from Arafat's killers, Bush appeasers and a rudderless government in Jerusalem. Since Israel doesn't have a Churchill at the helm (though Bibi waits in the wings), we must play the part. Hand out the cigars and bowlers.

JWR contributing columnist Don Feder's latest books are Who is afraid of the Religious Right? ($15.95) and A Jewish conservative looks at pagan America ($9.95). To receive an autographed copy, send a check or money order to: Don Feder, The Boston Herald, 1 Herald Sq., Boston, Mass. 02106. Doing so will help fund JWR, if so noted. He is also available as a guest speaker. To comment on this column please click here.

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© 2002, Creators Syndicate