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Sharon rebuffs critics, calls current policy 'the right path'

"We have made our position quite clear...Arafat can prevent these attacks," Sharon said.  

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Facing shouts of protest from critics within his own party, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon declared his policy "the right path" to peace in an address Sunday to the Likud Central Committee.

Sharon sought to rebuff criticism from Likud party members -- including former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- who say Israel should abandon its self-restraint policy and adopt a more vigorous stance against Palestinians.

"There were two possibilities confronting us -- one was to undertake major attacks on the Palestinian Authority, its heads and its installations," Sharon said, as the audience shouted and waved banners in support of this proposal.

"The second was to act differently," Sharon continued, "and I propose that you listen to this."

CNN's Jerrold Kessel has more on the continuing violence in the Mideast (July 20)

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Sharon set out a three-fold approach, which includes immediate, short-term reactions to terrorist attacks on Israel; a policy of active defense, with special emphasis on securing roads, and exercising self-defense.

"We have made our position quite clear ... Arafat can prevent these attacks," Sharon said. "If he doesn't do so, we'll do it for him."

After the speech, Palestinian cabinet member Nabil Sha'ath accused Sharon of driving his people into a "frenzy," and blamed him for the violence against Palestinians.

"This self-restraint (policy) means he has to assassinate people ... without due process," Sha'ath told CNN. "He allows settlers to go on a rampage shooting and killing people."

A U.S.-brokered plan for peace in the region -- the Mitchell Report -- has yet to be implemented, as violence between Palestinians and Israelis enters its 10th straight month.

The two sides disagree over whether third-party observers should be deployed to the region, as called for by the Mitchell Report.

Palestinian leaders have urged that international observers be put in place. Although Israel has said it opposes them, Israel's defense minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said last week that "if they were imposed on us, the presence of American observers would be acceptable."

Sharon made no mention of third-party observers in his speech Sunday.

Sha'ath urged Sharon to accept international monitors. "He has got to accept observers and monitors on the ground because that is the only way we can stop the blame game," he said.

-- CNN Correspondent Jerrold Kessel contributed to this report

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