Our support for Israel must be assured

Many American Jews undoubtedly were unhappy with the election this week of Ariel Sharon as prime minister of Israel.

But that was a choice that the people of Israel made, and we must support them for it.

Prime Minister Ehud Barak made one concession after another to win peace, but the Palestinians rebuffed him and chose terrorism instead. Israelis apparently believe Sharon will be best at fighting that terrorism and making Israel a safer place to live.

The selection of Sharon over Barak happened in a democratic election in the only democracy in the Mideast. We must respect the results of that election whether or not we agree with the election results.

More importantly, we need to sustain our support for Israel and for our mishpacha who live there.

Over the years, AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, has followed a policy that all American Jews should emulate. AIPAC supports the state of Israel regardless of the prime minister.

Some AIPAC leaders over the past decades undoubtedly preferred one candidate over another. Nevertheless, AIPAC has maintained its nonpartisanship.

AIPAC realized long ago that Congress and the U.S. president need to see that American Jewish support of Israel is non-flinching. Even when Israel had a prime minister that many American Jews frowned upon, AIPAC would not allow U.S. political leaders to drive a wedge in the Jewish community.

Like Sharon, Menachem Begin was disliked by many American Jews when he became Israel's prime minister. He was another tough Likud leader who was not going to be pushed around by the Arab world.

Yet it was Begin who negotiated the Camp David accords with Anwar Sadat and made peace with Egypt.

At age 72, there is a chance that Ariel Sharon wants to go down in history as more than a former general who lucked into the prime minister's job at the end of his career.

Sharon could surprise us all.

At the very least, we can hope he puts a stop to the daily terrorism that threatens the lives of the Israel public.

But no matter what happens, we need to continue our bond with the people of Israel. They need to know that we are there for them.