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Jewish Journal

Guilt and Responsibility

by Yoram Ben Ze

August 14, 1997 | 8:00 pm

Since the barbarous July 30 bombings that claimed the lives of 13innocent Israelis, we have heard and read the following claim: Notonly was the atrocity predictable, but it was also a direct result ofIsrael's recent actions. I strongly take issue with this.

This argument lacks both political realism and morality. Lack ofpolitical realism -- because it suggests that terrorism serves as acatalyst in the peace process. We know, however, that after six yearsof direct peace talks, political disputes cannot be resolved by useof violence. Lack of morality -- because it contributes to therevictimization of the victim.

In February and March of 1996, in a quite different politicalclimate, a wave of suicide-bombing attacks traumatized Israel andclaimed the lives of 65 innocent people. We heard that Hamas was outto derail the fast-advancing peace process. Now, after the peaceprocess has been slowed down, we are told that Israel is to blame forthis latest terrorist attack.

Does anyone remember the Sharem el-Sheik Summit? Leaders from allover the world, headed by President Clinton, gathered following awave of four attacks on Israelis; they all pledged to prevent futureterrorism. Arafat was there.

A reminder: From September 1993 through all of 1995, the peaceprocess was in full swing. Forty-one donor nations pledged $2.4billion in aid to the newly formed Palestinian Authority. The futurelooked bright, yet there was terrorism. There was no Har Homa housingproject, yet there was bloodshed.

Since the inception of the political process between Israel andits Arab neighbors, it was clear to us that in order to achieve peacein the Middle East, we urgently needed to bring about a profound anddramatic change in our region's political culture, from a belligerentculture that believes in power and violence to one ofnon-belligerency that believes in compromise and peacefulcoexistence.

One wonders if this message of steadfastly rejecting violence wasabsorbed by the Palestinians. Clearly, the answer is no. Since thesigning of the Declaration of Principles in September 1993, 231Israelis have been killed as a result of acts of terror.

The recent deadly attack at the marketplace could have beenprevented by Arafat. We know, for a fact, that Arafat has the abilityto destroy terrorism. While we are fully aware of the fact that it isvirtually impossible to completely and successfully preventterrorism, we demand that a 100-percent effort to combat terrorism beinvested by Arafat and his Palestinian Authority.

Indeed, the July 30 twin bombings were carried out by Islamicextremists. Hamas, an Islamic terrorist organization, tookresponsibility for the attack on the Thursday thereafter. We know whois responsible. The attack, and the conditions that enabled it, tookplace in a militant political atmosphere -- one that accepts violenceas a legitimate form of political discourse. Much of the blame shouldbe put on Arafat, who cultivated and encouraged this atmosphere.

It is not only obvious that violence and peace are mutuallyexclusive, but it is equally obvious that one cannot be an honestpartner for peace while countenancing terrorism. No nation, includingthe United States, is immune to the threat of this type of terror.Only two weeks ago, a potential mass disaster was averted in New Yorkas terrorists were apprehended while planning a major strike against"American and Jewish targets in New York."

Words, however heartfelt, are not enough. We expect thePalestinian Authority to take the necessary measures to restore ourconfidence in its ability and desire to combat terror.

Yoram Ben Ze'ev serves as Israel's consul general for theSouthwestern region of the United States. He can be reached atisrainfo@primenet.com.

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