As campaign heats up, Israeli parties spar over terror and approach to Arafat.
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
he Jan. 5 suicide bombing in Tel Aviv has
made terror even more of a central issue
in Israel's upcoming election — and
highlighted the major parties' different
prescriptions for ending the violence.
For months, Amram Mitzna, the Labor Party's
candidate in the elections, has advocated the con-
struction of an electronic fence between Israel and
the West Bank to keep terrorists out of Israeli cities.
After Sunday's attack, Mitzna decided to put the
fence idea at the center of his campaign.
In Labor's first television spot, which aired
Tuesday, Mitzna accused Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon of the Likud Party of dragging his feet on a
fence for "political reasons" — settler pressure and
fear that a fence might constitute a permanent
border close to Israel's pre-1967 war boundary.
So far, less than three miles of the projected
200-mile barrier between Israel and the West
Bank have been built.
"Sharon chose not to build the fence," Mitzna
declared the day after the bombing, "and so the
Sharon, for his part, launched an attack on
Mitzna this week, accusing him of "inexperi-
ence" and trying to link him to peace plans
backed by the Labor government of former
Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Presented at the
July 2000 Camp David summit and afterward,
the plans included "irresponsible" concessions to
the Palestinians, Sharon said.
Past Israeli elections also have revolved around
terrorism, but this one, scheduled for Jan. 28,
has a twist.
power, but — as the Palestinian official theoretically
most able to "deliver" a peace agreement — may
even become a productive negotiating partner.
If Israel is forced to undertake a unilateral separation
from the Palestinians — Mitzna's fall-back position —
it doesn't matter who is leading the Palestinian side.
Sharon, in contrast, has stated repeatedly that the
replacement of Arafat is a precondition for diplo-
matic progress — and even has brought President
Bush around to his view.
The aftermath of Sunday's bombing seems to indi-
cate that pressure to expel Arafat from the
Palestinian territories once again is building on
Sharon. Though it almost surely won't happen
rorists' homes — a policy blasted by human rights
groups, but one of the few Israeli steps that has proven
partially successful at deterring suicide bombers.
Given the U.S. pressure, Sharon rejected advice
from his top Cabinet ministers to exile Arafat now,
but he reportedly assured them that he would review
the situation after any war on Baghdad redraws the
political map of the Middle East.
Hours after the Tel Aviv bombing, Sharon sum-
moned three senior ministers to a late-night consulta-
tion on Israel's response. All three — Defense
Minister Shaul Mofaz, Foreign Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu and Finance Minister Silvan Shalom —
wanted to expel Arafat from the Palestinian territories.
Terror attacks crippled the campaigns of incum-
bent Prime Ministers Yitzhak Shamir in 1992,
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon visits Yvgeny Schreiber, a 53-year-old Israeli, in Tel Aviv's Ichilov hospital.
Shimon Peres in 1996 and Barak in 2001. This
time, the violence seems likely to benefit Sharon, Schreiber is one of more than 100 people injured in addition to the 22 Israeli and foreign fatalities of a double
Palestinian suicide bombing in Tel Aviv.
the hawkish father figure, at the expense of the
Sharon's policy has been to fight terror primarily by
before an anticipated American-led strike on Iraq,
As long as Arafat is around, terrorism won't stop,
military force. He advocates a peace agreement with
the day of Arafat's exile may be drawing closer.
nor is there a chance of serious governmental
the Palestinians, but only after terror stops and the
reforms in the Palestinian Authority, they argued.
Palestinian leadership is replaced.
Sharon agrees with the assessment in principle
Mitzna advocates immediate negotiations with the
but, because of the American pressure, nixed the
Palestinians without preconditions — and, if those
Sunday's attack highlighted Sharon's difficulties dealing idea of expelling Arafat. After the American offen-
fail, a unilateral withdrawal from most of the West
with Palestinian terrorism in the run-up to the expect-
sive in Iraq, aides say, Sharon believes Washington
Bank to positions behind the promised security fence.
ed American strike. The United States has demanded
will give Israel far more leeway in responding to
Another key difference is the candidates' view of
that Israel refrain from inflaming the Arab world
Palestinian terrorism, making that the proper time
Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat. Mitzna's
before a possible war on Iraq. In recent days, the
to expel Arafat.
program implies that Arafat not only can stay in
United States has criticized even the demolition of ter-
Appearing before the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and