This past year has been a relatively quiet one for most of Israel. (Though not for the citizens of Sderot who continue to be bombarded regularly by rocket fire from Gaza.) The security barrier has been working, saving lives. If only a security barrier were unnecessary. If only suicide terrorists were stopped by PA security and given no quarter or support by the Palestinian populace from which they spring.
But barriers are only as good as the people who guard them. Sources have suggested that Hamas was behind the barrier between Gaza and Egypt failing two weeks ago. The break in that barrier was all it took to provide 22-year-old Luay Laghwani and his accomplice access to Egypt’s Sinai and then Israel’s Negev into the desert town of Dimona. Luay killed one woman and wounded 11 others, some of whom are in critical condition. The death toll could have been higher, if not for fast thinking Israeli rescue workers who shot a second suicide terrorist as he tried to detonate his explosive belt.
It is troubling that various Palestinian factions lay claim to the attack: Hamas, the “Army of Palestine” wing of the Al-Aqsa Bridgade (part of Fatah, the party of Palestinian President Abbas), and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Even worse, Palestinian Authority news outlets lauded Luay and his partner as shahids, heroes who die a “holy death” for Allah and thereby serve as role models for others, particularly youth.
That doesn’t sound like the kind of response a government truly interested in peace would give. That’s why this attack seems more than just an obstructionist message from radicals seeking to undermine the path towards peace.
PA President Abbas’ condemnation of the attacks in the English press is commendable. I don’t read Arabic, so I do not know if he said the same to the Arab press. And where are the Arabic editorials decrying the attack as a threat to the newest chance for achieving an independent, thriving Palestinian state? I haven’t been able to find references to either.
All this makes me wonder if Dimona is déjà vu all over again.
Journalist Yossi Klein HaLevi once commented to me that part of the reason Oslo failed was because Israeli negotiators wanted peace so badly they could not believe that what Palestinian leaders were telling their followers in Arabic is what they really meant: that negotiations were only a tactic in their long term goal to conquer all Palestine (and eliminate Israel). They therefore never confronted Arafat and others for not preparing the Palestinian people for the kind of concessions necessary in any peace process between contending parties.
Are Israeli negotiators again stuck trying to negotiate with Palestinian leaders who say one thing to the West and another to their followers?
The stakes, and the death tolls, just seem to get higher each time a peace process fails so I hope not. But if so, then hopefully, in remembering the mistakes of Oslo, they will not repeat them.
The Bible teaches, “Seek peace and pursue it” (Psalms 34:14), reminding us that peace takes real work to achieve. Both Israeli Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas have little political capital to loose and much to gain if they have the courage to make the difficult concessions necessary for a final status peace that can provide both peoples with security and success. The majority of Israelis are ready for those concessions. Hopefully the majority of Palestinians can also agree to give peace a chance.