Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's tough response to Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's call of condolence echoed from Los Angeles on Wednesday, as Israel's consulate fielded nonstop calls from journalists and concerned Angelenos.
"We are touched by [Arafat's] expression of concern and condolence," said Israeli Consul General Yoram Ben Ze'ev. "But it is not enough. We do not expect Arafat to be able to stop all terrorism. [But] he can and should do more."
The peace process, stalled since the spring, will undoubtedly remain on hold until Arafat meets Israel's expectations in combating Palestinian terrorists. But Ben Ze'ev was not prepared to say that it was finished.
"What we tried to do in Oslo was to change the politics of the Middle East so that terrorism is no longer an option," he said. "Since then, we've had more terrorism than before. I don't know that Oslo has failed. Certainly, it has not delivered what we wanted. But it is part of a longer process. We knew there would be many obstacles along the way."
But Ben Ze'ev said that peace efforts will not slip easily back on track. "We do not take this easily," he said. "We do not just turn the page."
Many analysts credit the last spate of Jerusalem bombings, in February and March 1996, with bringing about the electoral defeat of then-Prime Minister Shimon Peres. Netanyahu won the office with the promise of increasing Israelis' sense of security. Did Wednesday's market bombings mean that Netanyahu failed the voters?
"It's not a time we discuss politics," said Ben Ze'ev. "At least at this time, we don't distinguish between right or left or center. There is no right or left or center now. There is a nation in deep grief."
Expressions of that grief poured into the consulate all day on Wednesday. Several Arabs were among the dozens of callers expressing condolences. "One of them was named Jihad," said Deputy Consul General Ido Aharoni.
The consulate informed callers with friends and family in Jerusalem that a complete list of the dead and wounded would not be available until Friday. In the meantime, consular staff gave callers the telephone numbers of Jerusalem's three major hospitals -- Hadassah Ein Kerem, Hadassah Har HaTzofim and Sharei Tzedek.
"We tell them they need to check with the emergency wards," said Aharoni.
Not a Coincidence
Carmen H. Warschaw, chair of the Los Angeles Jewish Federation Council's Jewish Community Relations Committee, issued the following statement regarding the latest act of violence in Israel:
"Today, we again mourn the loss of innocent lives in Israel that occurred in Jerusalem. Our heartfelt condolences are extended to the victims and their families of this latest tragic act of violence. All of us in the Los Angeles Jewish community are touched by the loss of innocent lives anywhere.
"It is surely not a coincidence that this bombing occurred only one day after the announcement of the resumption of a dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians. Additionally, we support Prime Minister Netanyahu's call to Yasser Arafat that he take immediate action against terrorist organizations and their infrastructure. This senseless act of terror must not diminish desire for peace nor our work for greater understanding among all of the peoples in the region. Any loss of innocent life is tragic.
"Once again, we offer our heartfelt sympathies to the families of the victims of this senseless act." -- Robert Eshman, Associate Editor