- The Washington Times - Monday, April 8, 2002

TEL AVIV Israel's West Bank offensive has sent Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's popularity level soaring amid growing indications that the public has been incensed by American attempts to end the fighting.
A poll in the mass-circulation Yediot Ahronot newspaper over the weekend showed a dramatic recovery in Mr. Sharon's approval rating because of his military tour de force in the West Bank. He was back at 62 percent, up 17 percent over the previous month.
A random survey among pedestrians and shoppers in central Tel Aviv, however, found that Israelis share the concern voiced privately by their leading officials that American intervention could force Israel to pull back without achieving its goals.
"I often wonder what President Bush or [British Prime Minister] Tony Blair would do if they were in our shoes," said Amir Batat, a 38-year-old salesman. "You can't cut and leave without anything to show for your efforts.
"Europe has no business meddling here. Let them take care of anti-Semitism in their own countries and shut up."
Security guards have now become a familiar sight in shopping centers and outside suburban supermarkets and stores because of the constant fear of suicide bombers.
And armed Israeli female soldiers began daily patrols outside schools yesterday to reassure concerned parents.
According to the newspaper survey, more than half of the respondents said they have changed their lifestyles because of the situation. Seventy percent said they were going out less or not at all.
"My husband and I used to eat out quite often with the children," said Ronit Kornik, a 43-year-old bank clerk. "Not any more. We now watch more videos at home and visit with friends or have them come to us."
One cafe owner said his business has slumped 40 percent in recent weeks and has practically turned into a "huge take-away place."
The Yedioth poll had 52 percent of respondents declaring themselves pessimistic, nearly double the figure earlier this year.
Meanwhile, several of Israel's top entertainers have recorded a new song seeking to fight pessimism with patriotism. Commissioned by the quasi-governmental Jewish Agency, normally charged with bringing new immigrants to Israel, the song praises togetherness in the face of "deepening darkness."

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