In March 2002, a Palestinian suicide bomber walked into a hotel in Netanya and blew up a dining hall hosting a Passover holiday celebration, in an attack that murdered 30 civilians. It became known as the Passover Massacre.
The horrific bombing represented the peak of a Palestinian campaign of indiscriminate violence that ultimately claimed the lives of more than 1,000 Israelis, most of them civilians. It was Sharon, prime minister of Israel at the time, who successfully quashed the Palestinian killing spree.
Two days after the Passover Massacre, Sharon consulted army brass, called up 30,000 reserves, and ordered the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to enter deep into West Bank cities (vacated by Israel in the 1990s as part of the Oslo peace process).
The army was instructed to destroy the hornet's nests of terrorist activities that developed in inner city regions of Nablus, Jenin, Tul Karem, Ramallah, Bethlehem, and Hebron. Twenty nine Israeli soldiers were killed in the house-to-house urban warfare that ensued, and hundreds were wounded, but the operation dealt a major blow to Palestinian terrorism.
After seizing control of West Bank cities, Sharon ordered the construction of the security fence, while Israel's domestic intelligence service, the Shin Bet, strengthened its grip on Palestinian territories. These combined measures meant that in 2005, three years after the operation, Israel suffered 57 casualties from Palestinian violence, compared with 452 in 2002, according to Shin Bet figures.
Ten years on, in 2012, not a single Israeli lost his or her life in attacks in the West Bank, or attacks that stemmed from it, a first since 1973. In 2013, a limited resurgence in terrorism saw five Israelis killed - in Israel and the West Bank - by attackers who came from these territories.
Today, Secretary of State John Kerry is putting the full force of his weight behind a peace initiative which has seen Israel and the Palestinian Authority engaged in negotiations behind closed doors, aimed at the establishment of a Palestinian state and ensuring vital Israeli security needs.