There's no reason to complain to the prime minister and the defense establishment. The present policy is exactly what Ariel Sharon, the chief of staff, the government and the leaders of the settlers think is correct and desirable. They know this policy has a price and they are willing to pay the price with eyes wide open. Their hearts are rent at the sight of the tragedy in Cafe Hillel, on the No. 2 bus in Jerusalem, or at Tzrifin, but to them those who are murdered are soldiers who fell in battle.

"The policy of liquidation is working," Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon declared to one of the mass-circulation dailies, without defining the precise criterion for success. He knew that Hamas would react to the airborne attacks that also kill innocent civilians, just as occurs in Israel.

Indeed, the people who are deciding Israel's future know that they are not eliminating terrorism but heightening it, but they believe that this is the heavy price to which we have to agree in order to destroy the Palestinians' capability to maintain national existence. In their view, the breaking of the population's resistance and the ghettoization of the territories are a sine qua non for the consolidation of Israel's future. They are not naive, they are not stupid, and they don't think that liquidating the leadership of Hamas will bring about a peaceful solution - or any other solution, for that matter - but that doesn't exactly bother them, because that's not what they're after.

They all know that every liquidated individual will have a replacement, but they are not fighting only terrorism, and their strategic goal is not a peace based on compromise but the total submission of the Palestinians. From their point of view, the war will not end until the day when the Palestinians accept unquestioningly Israel's rule in the territories.

The government leadership is composed of clear-eyed, cold-tempered people. They are waging a political war, a clear-cut war of choice, which is the continuation of the policy of occupation and smashing of the territories to the point of preventing any possibility that a sovereign state will be able to exist there.

They are suiting the means to that end and they will not extricate us from the cycle of madness unless there is a popular uprising in this country on the scale of what we had after the Yom Kippur War or the Lebanon War. Let us not forget that Golda Meir fell because reserve soldiers stationed themselves behind the signs of the lone protester, Motti Ashkenazi; and that if the Israeli army did not enter Beirut, it was thanks to the stubborn public struggle that was then waged in every corner of the land and thanks to the exemplary civic action of the Armored Corps brigade commander Eli Geva. However, since Sharon lacks the sensitivity of Golda Meir or Menachem Begin, and since he does not retreat unless met by a superior force, breaking out of the impasse is conditional on mobilizing all the energy latent in Israeli society.

This must be civil society's finest hour, the shining moment of a great popular movement, of the Peace Now movement, which seems to have been swallowed up by the earth, of the social organizations that believe deeply in justice and human rights. Yes, and the time has come for the intellectuals to descend into the marketplace, too.

This must be the hour of the parliamentary opposition, of no-confidence motions, of an outcry that will be heard far beyond the Knesset building. In conditions of crisis such as these, the people who voted for the opposition parties have the right to see the leaders of those parties leading a march through the streets of Jerusalem, as on the day that Emil Grunzweig was murdered. This is the time for everyone to show himself in the heart of Tel Aviv, as on the day when Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated.

It is inconceivable that Meretz, the Labor Party and those who voted for Shinui but not so it would be a prop for Effi Eitam and Avigdor Lieberman - it is inconceivable that they do not have enough mental fortitude, enough faith in the future to nourish a protest movement of the kind we had not so long ago. After all, it is inconceivable that the Zionism of sanity is totally bankrupt.