Politicians adjust message after attack

Politicians from across the political spectrum used Monday's terrorist attack as an opportunity to promote their campaigns. One of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's associates said the attack would help Sharon politically because "it would remind voters that he is the only candidate for prime minister who could be trusted to handle the Palestinians with the proper judgment." Others said it would also refocus the campaign away from socio-economic issues and back to security and the question of where the border will be, which helps Sharon and hurts Peretz. To prove that the Labor Party has a wide array of military experts in spite of its left-wing policies, party head Amir Peretz hastily convened a meeting of his newly created security team made up of former generals, admirals and police commanders. But a Sharon associates said the meeting proved that when it comes to security issues, "Peretz needs someone to hold his hand." Labor stands strongly for peace and for the need to fight terror, Peretz said. "We see terror as our worst enemy." As he spoke, MK Ephraim Sneh, a former general, sat at his left and Ami Ayalon, a former OC Navy and Shin Bet head, on his right. "We would do everything necessary to anyone who uses terror to threaten Israelis. As peace people, we would have even more of a right to fight back against terror. No one can prevent us from using any means necessary against terror," Peretz said. Among those present was former defense minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer; MK Matan Vilna'i, a former OC Southern Command; MK Danny Yatom, an ex-major-general and the former head of the Mossad; and Arye Amit, a former Jerusalem police chief. Peretz also invited former prime minister and chief of General Staff Ehud Barak to join the security team, but was told by his office that he was out of the country. But Barak said he had heard of the invitation through the media. Earlier in the day, Peretz urged the government to take next month's Palestinian Legislative Council elections into account in determining its response to the attack. "We have to be careful before assigning blame, check the impact of the elections," he said. "The PA has an interest in making sure terror doesn't come from it. The people who want to rule have to prove that they can rule without allowing terrorist attacks to happen." "This is not a time for politics. It's a time to be there for the families and the soldiers," Peretz added. Politicians from other parties also responded to the attack. MK Ran Cohen (Meretz) stated that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas must "firmly and unequivocally fight terror." MK Chemi Doron (Shinui) criticized Sharon for being preoccupied with building his election "dream team" and neglecting national security.