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Jewish Journal

The Debate

by Rob Eshman

August 16, 2001 | 8:00 pm

Another gut-wrenching week.

With the murder of American Shoshana Greenbaum by a Palestinian suicide bomber, the violence in Israel turned even more tragic, if that is possible, and even more personal. As our Religion Editor Julie Gruenbaum Fax, a former classmate of Greenbaum's at Hillel Academy, writes on page 7, the brutality left not just a family bereft, but an entire community in grief.

The world's far-from-outraged response to such terror continues to confound most American Jews, but I wonder if Israel's own reaction isn't sometimes just as confusing.

Instead of a swift and bloody retaliation, Israel executed a quick takeover of the Palestinian's symbolic "Capitol" in Jerusalem, Orient House, and sent F-16s to destroy a Palestinian police station.

And, days later, just before another suicide bombing in Kiryat Motzkin, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon agreed to send his partner in the unity government, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, to negotiate a cease-fire deal with senior Palestinian officials.

This willingness to deal diplomatically with Yasser Arafat has got to be baffling, especially to those Jews here and in Israel who are convinced Arafat himself is the intractable cause of this ongoing violence, and who, they believe, seeks no less than Israel's utter destruction.

Why are Peres and Sharon, like Netanyahu, Rabin and Shamir before them, still bothering with this man?

The answer to this, as David Landau and Douglas M. Bloomfield report on page 12, goes to the heart of an ongoing debate between Israel's Shin Bet security service, which believes Arafat doesn't completely control the Palestinian violence, and IDF's Military Intelligence, which believes he can control it, but doesn't want to.

It's a debate that cannot possibly comfort those left devastated by this violence, but which, the politicians hope, will somehow lessen the violence to come.

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