TEL AVIV – Recent days have seen the bloodiest fighting in the 17-month-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict against the Israeli occupation and the death toll continues to rise.

In less than a week, at least 47 Palestinians and 22 Israelis lost their lives because of Israel’s refusal to withdraw to its 1967 borders and to end expansion of the Jewish settlements in the occupied areas. Both demands are consistent with international law and various U.N. resolutions. Sharon’s “war against terror,” on the one hand, and, on the other, stiffened Palestinian resistance, has turned the conflict into a full-scale war of attrition.

At the same time, public opinion in Israel is rapidly changing, a development summed up in a March 4 editorial in the daily newspaper Ha’aretz: “The public is beginning to show signs of fatigue in light of [Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon’s ongoing failure to make good on his threadbare promises to bring peace and security. Peace seems today a distant vision, and security no longer exists.”

The Israeli peace camp has closed ranks and now forms a coalition comprising all major movements and groupings who are marching under the banner “For peace – Get out of the occupied territories,” “Evacuate the settlers back into Israel proper” and “The occupation kills us all.”

The latest escalation was triggered by an invasion of Israeli elite troops, accompanied by a large number of heavy tanks, into the two largest Palestinian refugee camps situated in an area controlled by the Palistinian National Authority and inhabited by nearly 45,000 refugees.

Many Israeli media commentators pointed out that the massive show of force had drawn condemnation from many European leaders, and, a much milder way, from some U.S. leaders.

The recent suicide bombings in Jerusalem were sharply denounced by President Arafat. And, as has been the practice, these denunciations were rejected by Sharon and his spokespersons as hypocrisy. For them, Arafat and his authority remain the root of all evil — the terrorist twin of bin Laden. So far Sharon has been unable to convince the U.S. Bush administration to include the PLO in their “war against terror,” but he continues to try. t

Regretfully, many American leaders, lend their ears and minds to this effort. During a visit to Israel Hillary Clinton had an official dinner with the right-wing and fascist-like tourist minister who, day in and day out, calls for expulsion of all Arab Palestinians into the deserts of neighboring Arab countries.

This apologia for Israeli leaders and their war mongering policies should be recognized as a real danger, one that could turn the Afghan pipeline war into a major regional war in Central Asia and the Middle East, and even into a third world war.

All this demands a strengthening of the solidarity of the worldwide peace forces with the Palestinian people as well as with the Israeli peace forces against the forces of U.S. and Israeli war mongering.