If anyone had any lingering doubts about what the obstacle to peace between the Israelis and Palestinians was, the five Palestinian suicide bombings within the space of 48 hours this week should have cleared that up. Just as Prime Ministers Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas were sitting down in Hebron to discuss how to solve the conflict – the highest-level talks in two years – the terrorists carried out a bombing there. Then they proceeded to carry out four more bombings, one after another.
Palestinian terrorists are not fighting occupation, and they’re not fighting for a Palestinian state. Their goal is to destroy Israel. They are the enemies of peace.
Suicide bombings happen when an individual straps on an explosive vest stuffed with screws, nails, metal filings and ball bearings, saunters up to the most pedestrian-heavy location in sight and pulls a trigger. This sends hundreds of pieces of white-hot metal flying in all directions, searing flesh, ripping through organs, and severing heads, arms and legs. Many victims are left with permanent brain and bodily damage and spend months in the hospital thereafter. Because of their grotesque and heartless purpose of killing and maiming anyone and everyone in sight, the world’s leading human rights group, Human Rights Watch, labels these monstrous acts as crimes against humanity.
The terrorists – collectively the groups Hamas, Islamic Jihad and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades – are, as we speak, making an all-out effort to do one thing: derail the peace talks. This is what they always try to do when peace seems possible, because how can you make peace with a nation that you’re trying to destroy? After that, they’re sending a message to newly appointed Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, who has declared that terrorism is wrong and hurts Palestinian national interests, a controversial position among Palestinians. Their message is that they will not stop, and they will not be quiet.
So there exists the great dilemma: You have a number of individuals actively organizing to carry out murderous attacks. Somebody has to stop them, obviously. Either it’s Abbas or it’s Sharon. There have been six suicide bombings and dozens of other types of attacks – the very thing Abbas is supposed to prevent – since he ostensibly took the reins. On the other hand, while there may be no military solution to the conflict, there’s definitely a clear military solution to terrorism.
At the end of last March, there were seven suicide bombings in seven days, including the infamous Passover Massacre, in which 29 were killed and 150 injured. In response, Israel launched Operation Defensive Shield. For those three weeks, when Israel really occupied the West Bank, there were exactly zero attacks. When Israel left, having incapacitated the infrastructure of terrorism, the number of attacks dropped precipitously and stayed that way for the rest of the year. More troops in the West Bank, because of their policing and intelligence functions, means less terror. It would always be better if there were peace talks, but five suicide bombings in 48 hours doesn’t leave you with many options.
The future of the road map isn’t clear yet, but two things are: The past three days have been extremely damaging to the road map, and if the attacks continue to a comparable degree, you can expect Israel to begin serious counterterrorism operations. Still, Ariel Sharon is exercising restraint by not retaliating, giving Abbas more time to take on the terrorist groups.
But as for what must happen for progress in peace talks, there is no more room for doubt: The central requirement is a stop to Palestinian terrorism. Without that, nothing can happen.
Joey Tartakovsky is a Daily Nexus columnist.