Fifteen dead, six of them children, five members of one
family, another her parents' only child and herself pregnant
with her first child; 130 injured, dozens seriously. Yet, says
the world, even if Israel could have identified last
Thursday's suicide bomber or his handlers in advance, she had
no right to act preemptively.
Imagine that the FBI learned that Mexico was harboring 20
Timothy McVeighs. Would the U.S. stay its hand out of respect
for Mexican sovereignty?
Israel finds itself in precisely that situation today. Islamic
Jihad and Hamas boast of hundreds of would-be "martyrs"
waiting in line, all provided sanctuary within the Palestinian
Since January 1, nearly 50 Israelis have been killed and more
than 400 injured in suicide bombings within Israel's 1967
borders. Two more suicide bombers were foiled the week of
August 4 by alert bus drivers, as they attempted to board
crowded buses; another blew himself up prematurely last
Those bombings are planned and the bombers equipped in the
territory under the quasi-sovereignty of the Palestinian
Authority. That sovereignty -- the irreversible outcome of the
Oslo process -- is universally recognized, including de facto
by Israel, but its implications are too little understood.
Treatment of the Palestinian Authority as the quasi-sovereign
over areas in which nearly all the Palestinian population
lives explains the harsh American criticism of Israel for its
brief foray into Gaza in April after mortar attacks on Sderot.
It also explains Israel's reluctance to enter Beit Jala,
despite ten months of unremitting shooting directed at Gilo
from there, or to seize control of areas from which Israelis
have been killed by snipers or along roads which have been the
scene of deadly drive-by killings or roadside ambushes.
Sovereignty makes Yasser Arafat the accountable party for
terrorist activity emanating from Palestinian Authority
territory. Israel has no ability to arrest terrorists in PA
territory or to try them in its courts, and Arafat has refused
all Israeli extradition requests.
Worse, Arafat has refused to control terrorist activity, even
when provided detailed information on its sources by Israeli
intelligence. He flung open the doors of the PA's notoriously
porous jails at the outset of the current violence to all
Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists then in custody,
effectively giving a green light to renewed terrorist attacks
on Israel. Even in the wake of the U.S.-brokered "ceasefire"
in June, Arafat pointedly refused to arrest a single terrorist
identified by Israel.
Sovereign states can engage in war. Israel and the Palestinian
Authority have been at war for more than ten months. Israelis
have been subjected to an average of 22 attacks a day in
violence deliberately instigated by the PA. Members of the
official Palestinian security forces have murdered at least 57
Israeli civilians during that period, often with arms provided
To describe Israel's targeting of those involved in terrorist
attacks as "executions without trial" is absurd. In war, there
are no judicial proceedings. The aim is to kill enemy
soldiers, and with far fewer restrictions than Israel has
imposed on itself.
In war, it is irrelevant whether an enemy soldier has
previously killed one's own soldiers or is actively firing at
that moment. Yet Israel has confined itself to targeting those
actively involved in the planning and execution of terrorist
attacks, and to doing so at a time and place designed to
insure minimal chance of civilian casualties. Salah Darwazeh,
killed by Israeli tank-fire on July 25, learned his trade
under "the Engineer," Yehiya Ayyash, and planned the March and
May suicide bombings in Netanya, in which Israelis lost their
lives. Jamal Mansour and Jamal Salim, killed in the July 31
attack on Hamas headquarters in Nablus, were vocal advocates
of suicide bombing, repeatedly calling in public for killing
as many Israeli civilians as possible, and promising to make
Israelis "cry over your dead ones." Both were involved in
decades of terrorist activity and planned a number of previous
On several recent occasions, Israel has even managed to strike
at terrorists while they were transporting bombs for use
against Israel. Amar Hassan Hadiri, whose car was hit by an
Israeli missile last week, falls into this category.
The terrorist threat facing Israel is unparalleled anywhere,
yet Israel is being told to fight with both hands tied behind
its back or face international opprobrium. The only course
allowed her is to permit suicide bombers to be rigged and sent
on their way and pray for a miracle.
Yet, as Louis Rene Beres, a professor of international law
notes, "International law is not a suicide pact." No country --
certainly not the United States -- would allow its citizens to
become sitting ducks in such a fashion, the territorial
integrity of other states be damned.
After two GI's were killed in a West Berlin disco bombing,
believed to be the work of Libyan agents, U.S. fighters bombed
Muhammar Qaddafi's palace, seeking, in President Reagan's
words, to "cut off the head of the snake." President Clinton
ordered 75 cruise missiles fired at Osama bin-Laden's training
bases and weapons factories in Sudan and Afghanistan, after
the bombing of U.S. Embassy in Nairobi in August 1998. Sudan
and Afghanistan were treated as responsible for the terrorists
for whom they provided a safe haven.
Israeli parents have the right to put their children on a bus
or send them to a pizza parlor without wondering if they will
ever see them again. And their government has no less right or
duty to ensure that they can do so than the United States has
to protect its citizens from new Timothy McVeighs.
Rabbi Rosenblum is the director of the Jerusalem office of
Am Echad and a columnist for the Jerusalem Post.