Prime Minister Sharon is not without his thoughtful critics over his policy of restraint. Those of us who have regularly argued that it is folly to signal to Arafat & Co. that there will be anything but horrible consequences to terrorism, can certainly understand the clamor for massive retaliation and an uprooting of the terrorist infrastructure. And those of us who have relentlessly pointed to the cynicism of the international approach to the Mideast conflict ? which is concerned more about how events fit into the prism of national interest than about notions of justice and truth ? can certainly understand the cry that public opinion be damned. Yet we still strongly believe in the appropriateness of the Prime Minister's course to this point.
There is no denying that the spectre of a massive strike against the Palestinian Authority ? one that even leads to the destruction of its infrastructure and the expulsion of Yasir Arafat ? is upon us. Each terrorist attack seemingly brings us closer to a large-scale Israeli move into the West Bank and Gaza designed to uproot the safe harbors for terrorists. Indeed, one now regularly reads of Israel's expanding military preparations. And there is also no denying that there is a distinct difference between the submissiveness of prior governments and the policy of restraint. Surely, no one can seriously believe that Prime Minister Sharon is simply accepting the murderous attacks out of a lack of resolve.
In fact, the policy of restraint has overnight rallied the Bush administration and much of world opinion to Israel's side. For how long, no one knows. But there is no mistaking the general sense now that Israel is granting the Palestinians every opportunity to avoid a wider conflict, even in the face of great provocation.
Of course, President Bush's goodwill is key. And everything one hears from the President and Secretary of State Powell ? which is in full support of Israel's determination that a total cessation of violence must precede any resumption of talks ? seems to point to the wisdom of Prime Minister Sharon's strategy.