- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 30, 2002

In the wake of Thursday's deadly terrorist attacks against Israeli voters and vacationers, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's landslide victory over Foreign Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in the Likud primary was bittersweet indeed. On Thursday, Mr. Sharon, (who last February defeated Prime Minister Ehud Barak, the dovish Labor Party leader), dispatched his hawkish challenger, Mr. Netanyahu, by 56-40 percent. Mr. Sharon is a prohibitive favorite in the Jan. 28 general election against Labor Party standard-bearer Amram Mitzna, a dove who favors a unilateral pullout from the West Bank, something few Israelis are in any mood to accept.
Word of Mr. Sharon's election victory came at the end of a day in which suicide bombers killed Israelis and Kenyans at an Israeli-owned hotel near Mombasa, Kenya. Approximately five minutes before that attack, terrorists fired missiles at an Israeli-owned Boeing 757 aircraft that had just departed the Mombasa airport for Tel Aviv. Israeli officials believe that the organization most likely responsible for the Mombasa attacks is al Qaeda, given its past actions in Kenya. (In August 1998, al Qaeda killed 231 persons and injured close to 5,000 in near-simultaneous bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania).
As the nation was learning the details of the Kenya attacks, two Palestinian slipped into the northern city of Beit Sh'an, drove to a polling station and waited for Likud primary voters to line up to cast their ballots. The pair opened fire, killing six persons, before they were shot to death by an off-duty border policeman. The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a Palestinian terrorist group linked to Yasser Arafat's PLO, claimed responsibility for the attack.
During the Likud primary campaign, Mr. Netanyahu sharply criticized Mr. Sharon for failing to bring an end to Palestinian terrorism during his 21 months in power, vowed to expel Mr. Arafat if he were elected prime minister and flatly opposed creation of an independent Palestinian state. By contrast, Mr. Sharon, taking his cue from President Bush, has resisted calls to expel Mr. Arafat and has left open the possibility of a Palestinian state that does not support terrorism. In the end, Likud voters decided that, in wartime, Mr. Sharon's careful and measured style of handling the current terrorist siege was the best option.

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