News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Instead of falling on sword, Sharon may want to use it

Just as the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza appeared to have been a success and a starting point for further goodwill in the Middle East, a Palestinian extremist's remarks and a suicide bombing in Beersheba threaten to deepen resentment between the Jewish state and the fledgling Arab nation.

Optimists saw the successful evacuation of 8,500 Jewish settlers from 21 Gaza settlements, completed last week, as a first step toward a Palestinian state. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who may have committed political suicide by agreeing to the pullout of the settlements he championed 38 years ago, had hoped that the withdrawal could lead to a resumption of peace talks and a reciprocal show of good will. The formerly hawkish statesman believes that the killing must end, and he was willing to fall on his sword to get the peace plan in motion.

But, almost unbelievably, Hamas militants released a videotape Saturday showing senior Hamas commander Mohammed Deif taunting the Israelis, claiming that "holy war," violence and Israeli cowardice —not Israeli good will — prompted the Gaza pullout, and calling for the destruction of the Jewish state.

Adding physical violence to the insult, a suicide bomber struck outside an Israeli bus station the next day. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the blast. Security guards detained the bomber, preventing a more serious attack.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas must now show the Palestinian Authority's good faith and crack down on and disarm Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades if there is to be any hope for peace in the region. The capture of Deif would be an excellent next step.

Otherwise, Sharon may decide to use his sword rather than fall on it.

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