By the BBC's Paul Wood
Middle East correspondent
"This is a war, and we should fight like we are in a war" - it's an opinion you hear every day from Israelis.
One Israeli commentator spoke of being "under a suffocating personal siege from the suicide bombers".
The country, he said, was on the verge of the abyss, and the world was against Israel, just as on the eve of the six-day war.
Some say Mr Sharon has no strategy
Ariel Sharon has not only ordered the biggest military operation for 20 years, he has also called up some 20,000 army reserves.
He has warned in unambiguous terms that the push into the West Bank will continue for weeks rather than days.
There are plans to occupy other Palestinian towns, not just Ramallah.
To what end?
Some say Mr Sharon has no strategy, that he has to do something to fend off the right-wing challenge from the former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who calls for Mr Arafat to be removed from power and expelled.
Netanyahu wants Arafat expelled
Others believe Mr Sharon intends carving up the nascent Palestinian state into a series of tiny pieces of territory, which could never threaten Israel.
The stated aim of the operation is to force Yasser Arafat to call off the suicide bombers.
But Palestinian officials say the bombers cannot just be turned off.
They say that Palestinian rage and humiliation caused by this latest Israeli assault can only mean more carnage inside Israel's borders