Hawks say Israel should show no restraint in their war on terrorism

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The Independent Online

The message of the right flank of Ariel Sharon's coalition to George Bush was simple: You've sent the bombers and the marines to fight terrorism in Afghanistan. Stop telling us to show restraint in fighting terrorism in our own back yard.

Avigdor Lieberman, the minister of national infrastructure who reprsents a right-wing Russian immigrant party, urged the Prime Minister to topple the Palestinian Authority. Activists of the Kach movement, barred from parliament as racists, demonstrated at the scene of the Jerusalem suicide bombing, chanting: "Death to the Arabs." They always do, but there were more of them this time.

Ruby Rivlin, the Communications Minister, said: "Israel can't go on any longer with this situation. We are in a war. They are killing us every day. We have to protect ourselves. It's not our right, it's our duty." What did Mr Rivlin propose? "Arafat has to fight the terrorists. If that means opening fire on them in order to capture them, let him open fire ... If he isn't fighting and capturing them, we shall have to go in and fight and capture them ourselves."

Until Mr Sharon returns from the United States, Likud ministers are reluctant to spell out what that would mean. But if Mr Rivlin's view prevails, it would inevitably entail sending tanks deeper into Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank and Gaza – and keeping them there longer. It would probably also spawn more assassinations of alleged terrorist leaders.

Roni Shaked, who covers the West Bank forYediot Aharonot, said: "[Arafat] knows how to make statements against terrorism, but on the ground does nothing to stop this madness. This is no longer terrorism by Islamic Jihad or Hamas. This is terrorism by all the Palestinian organisations."

Every bomb makes it harder for Israeli doves. Yet some, such as the novelist Amos Oz, argue that the intifada which broke out 14 months ago has at least destroyed illusions on both sides. Everyone now knows that two states living side-by-side is the only solution.

Naomi Chazan, an MP from the left-wing opposition Meretz party, said the latest bombings made negotiations more urgent than ever. "What we're getting today," she said, "is the result of eight months of Ariel Sharon's refusal to link a ceasefire to a diplomatic process. It leaves both sides with no alternative but to use force."

She scorned demands from the far right to topple Mr Arafat. "We deal with the Palestinian Authority," she said, "because any other alternative is 10 times worse. Do we really want Hamas to rule the West Bank and Gaza?"

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