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Suicide Bombing in Netanya or 'The Iranian Candidate?'


By most indications, the Islamic Jihad and their Iranian patrons have started off the Israeli election campaign with a bang. Thus far, five people have died after a suicide attack in Netanya. Fifty-five people were treated for injuries, and 29 remain in hospitals.

When there is a great "achievement" like this mass murder, there is no lack of people to take credit. The Fatah Al-Aqsa brigades took credit first, but then repudiated the bombing. Then Islamic Jihad took credit. At this moment there is also a report that the bomber left a tape in which he claims he is an independent. Free enterprise! Is it possible that in the West Bank there are such ingenious and dedicated people who have the know-how to make bombs, who smuggle in explosives and detonators and make their own video-tapes before they go off to blow people up?

Very likely, the invention of "independent" suicide bombers is yet another stage in the delegation of deniability. Yasser Arafat invented it in the 70s, when hijackings and terror attacks like the Munich Olympics massacre were assigned to Black September or other splinter groups. Arafat could then say that the PLO was not involved in terror, but the Munich massacre was reputedly financed by the PLO. Now the deniability has reached a new stage, since organizations like Islamic Jihad may want to reap the chaos benefits of terror without having to bear responsibility. In any case, Israel is working on the assumption that the bombing was done by Islamic Jihad, and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz has reportedly ordered a sweeping response.

It doesn't require great insight to understand that this bombing is a boon for right-wing Israeli political parties. As Akiva Eldar notes, it puts the focus of the Israeli elections back on security. Labor's Amir Peretz, once so promising, is showing himself to be increasingly problematic and erratic. He tried to emphasize social and economic issues, but is now scrambling to put together a security and foreign policy platform. Ignoring security issues in an Israeli election is quite an oversight. Peretz really has no experience in security. That isn't his fault. However, he has recklessly apparently alienated most of the politicians in the party who do, including Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak. Now he has hastily called a meeting to seek the advice of some of the same people he alienated, by refusing to give them responsible positions.

For Islamic Jihad, assuming they did the bombing, it is a win-win-win situation. They show up the rival Fatah and Hamas as weaklings who won't stand up to Israel's occupation (of Nethanya?). They also help to ensure that Israel will elect a government that will block any hope for peace. This is important, because groups like Islam Jihad would disappear if there was a peace agreement. The bombing helps Islamic Jihad take pressure off their Iranian patrons, fingered by the IAEA as soon to join the nuclear club. It also shifts the focus away from the Syrians. All of this is risk-free because the Palestinian National Authority continues to announce that it will not disarm terrorists. Given the looming Israeli elections, Ariel Sharon's government is likely to react with more vigor than usual. Sharon is running for Prime Minister as head of his Kadima party. Defense minister Mofaz is competing for head of the Likud. Neither one can afford to be labeled "soft on terror" by Benjamin Netanyahu, heir apparent of the Likud and number 1 rival of both Sharon and Mofaz.

A vigorous Israeli reaction is just what the extremists want. It will cause more misery that can be blamed on "the Zionists," on Mahmoud Abbas or on both. All in all, it's a great day for terrorism and chaos and hate.

Everyone will no doubt draw their own conclusions as to the causes of the bombing, and Islamic Jihad will probably find some excuse as well. Depending on the timing, a bombing can be worth several mandates for right wing Israeli political parties.

In Israel a few themes are are already dominant among the "I told you so" chorus. The first blames the bombing on disengagement, which, opponents say, proved that Israel is weak. The second, also from the right, claims the bombing proves that the security fence, a project identified with the Israeli political center, is worthless. They neglect to note that the fence is porous because settlers object to a magnetic card system and checkpoints for vehicles with yellow Israeli license plates. The Israeli left and Arab media will insist that the bombing is due to lack of progress in the peace process, and to repressive security measures. However, everyone understands that relaxing security measures like checkpoints and progress in peace talks is politically impossible for Ariel Sharon while the terror continues, especially in an election year. If anyone needs an example of what happens to politicians who take that route, they can examine the sad career of Ehud Barak. Sharon will not make that mistake. He will make different ones instead.

The PNA has already issued the ritual condemnation statement:

This operation ... against civilians causes the most serious harm to our commitment to the peace process and the Palestinian Authority will not go easy on whoever is found to be responsible for this operation...

Saeeb Erekat said:

"I believe that this harms Palestinian interests and is another act to sabotage efforts to revive the peace process and to sabotage the Palestinian elections

However, as often as Palestinian officials condemn terror, they also provide justifications for it. As often as they say they will honor the quartet roadmap, they also insist that they will violate it.

Erekat is absolutely right. Not only does the bombing harm Palestinian interests, it harms Fatah interests and PA interests, since Fatah is supposedly committed to the peace process and the Palestinian Authority is a creation that exists in virtue of the peace process. The Palestinian Authority under Abbas pledged itself to non-violence, and its credibility with the international community is on the line. That being the case, dismantling the terror groups, peacefully if possible or not peacefully if there is no other way, should logically be a top priority of the Palestinian Authority, but it is not. In fact, they have done everything possible to avoid their roadmap commitment to stop terror. The question then is why the supposedly moderate Palestinian leadership is intent on committing political suicide.

Ami Isseroff

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000411.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

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