Speaking to Likud Knesset members on Monday while protesters
outside urged him to take a firm hand against the
Palestinians, Sharon said there is a limit to his restraint,
but that he would resist calls to escalate the conflict.
"I hear this and I say unequivocally: I will not lead this
nation to war," Sharon said. "War is the last resort, and we
currently have other options to try and resolve the security
situation. To go to war today, in my opinion, is totally
incorrect and inappropriate. This is not something we should
Sharon said that the cooling-off period that is to follow
the cease-fire, as stipulated in the Mitchell Report, will
not begin until the violence ceases completely and he
pledged to be absolutely meticulous in monitoring
The continued violation of the cease-fire by the
Palestinians and murderous attacks "create an unbearable
situation that will not enable Israel to continue with its
present approach over time," Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
said Monday night speaking at a meeting with the leadership
of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish
Organizations. Conference leaders Mortimer Zuckerman, Ronald
Lauder and Malcolm Hoenlein were present.
A senior aide to Sharon said the prime minister stopped well
short of saying that Israel believes the cease-fire is
breaking down, only that Israel will not carry out its
commitments under the Tenet plan for "redeployment and
easing economic restrictions" in areas where the
Palestinians are not abiding by the truce.
Charging the Palestinians with more than 40 violations since
they agreed to the Tenet plan, Sharon said the only loser
from Palestinian aggression will be Palestinian Authority
Chairman Yasser Arafat himself.
He rejected charges that Israel has lost its ability to
respond to Palestinian terror by agreeing to the cease-fire,
declaring that Israel will respond and do everything
possible to make traveling safer in Judea and Samaria.
"We will not surrender to the demands of Arafat," Sharon
said. "Arafat has not issued orders to stop incitement or
arrest terrorists. He proved with Beit Jala that he can stop
the violence if he is willing.
"Pressure must be placed on Arafat in order to bring about a
complete cessation of the violence, terrorism and incitement
and lead to the implementation of his commitments according
to the agreements that he has signed and as per the Tenet
document. This includes a halt to the incitement and the re-
imprisonment of the terrorist leaders who have been released
and who are behind the continued attacks," Prime Minister
"Any concession on the issue of the Palestinian Authority's
honoring of agreements today is liable to have serious
repercussions regarding the honoring of our agreements with
other Arab countries," Prime Minister Sharon stressed.
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said at a ministry policy
meeting Monday that in certain high profile areas "such as
Beit Jala and Netzarim" the Palestinians have enforced a
cease-fire. In Rafah, he said, Arafat has trouble exerting
Peres, like Sharon, demanded that Arafat implement the cease-
fire fully before moving on to the cooling-off period. That
period, he said, will be for six weeks, followed by
confidence-building measures, which he said will extend for
some three months.
Peres said there is presently no pressure from the U.S.
administration to have the clock start ticking now, and that
they too believe there needs to be cessation of bloodshed,
and not merely a drop in the level of violence.
Sharon, addressing his dispute with Peres over the wisdom of
meeting Arafat now, said that anyone who thinks his
government is in danger of falling is incorrect. The prime
minister said that his real differences with Peres only
apply to later stages in the Mitchell plan that may never be
reached. He reiterated that there are no plans for Peres to
meet with Arafat now.