How Not To Fight Terror

Published January 10, 2003, issue of January 10, 2003.
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The two Palestinians who blew themselves up in downtown Tel Aviv last Sunday, killing 22 innocent victims and wounding more than 100, were identified by their handlers this week as young men from the West Bank city of Nablus, Burak Hilsa and Samar A-Nuri. According to a statement from the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the Fatah offshoot that claimed responsibility for the massacre, the two killers reached Tel Aviv from their hometown without difficulty, passing through a “Zionist checkpoint” in an orderly fashion and then proceeding to their target in Israel’s main city.

That Palestinian terrorists can still move freely from their dens in the West Bank to the main centers of Israeli population ought to be a scandal of the first order. That Israel has not built a fence to separate itself and its citizens from the festering hatred in the neighboring territories ought to be the central issue in public discussion in Israel and wherever Jews gather. But there is no fence, because building a fence would amount to an acknowledgement that the historic land of Israel will some day be divided between the two peoples that live there. And so Israelis continue to live in an undivided land, and to die there in unconscionable numbers.

Palestinian terrorism claimed 447 Israeli lives last year, or about 37 per month. During the first four years after the signing of the Oslo accords between Israel and the Palestinians in September 1993, the rate was about seven per month. Terrorism has exploded since the collapse of the peace process in September 2000. Yet Israeli hawks and their allies here continue to insist, more than two years into the maelstrom, that the violence is the fault of those long-defunct accords and the liberals who signed them, and has nothing to do with the policies of the government now charged with maintaining Israel’s security.

What are those policies? It’s hard to tell. Prime Minister Sharon has stated repeatedly that no diplomatic movement is possible until Palestinians put an end to terrorism, but he and his ministers sneer at efforts, by Egypt, the European Union and moderate P.A. leaders, to broker a unilateral Palestinian cease-fire. Sharon insists the Palestinian Authority will not be a viable partner until it has implemented thorough-going reforms in its structure and leadership; yet this week the government torpedoed two upcoming meetings, in London and Ramallah, that were to have begun implementing those reforms.

In place of a fence, and in place of a visible diplomatic strategy, Israel relies on a form of mass house arrest, fueling even greater hatred. And the killing goes on.

Let there be no mistake. The blame for the misery and heartbreak in Israel and the territories lies squarely with the Palestinian terrorists who wreak death and despair and the terror-masters who arm and dispatch them. The Palestinian territories under Israeli military control have become swamps of murderous hatred.

The question fair-minded observers must ask is not who is guilty of murder, but how to stop the bloodshed. Israel’s prime minister owes it to his own people to come up with some real answers.

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