Campaign of terror against peace Tel Aviv bomb: Breakdown of talks is what Hamas terrorists hope to provoke.

March 05, 1996

IF THE PEACE PROCESS in the Middle East stops, the terrorists wion. If Israel and Syria never swap land for peace, the terrorists win. If Palestinian autonomy is frozen as is, the terrorists win.

If failure of the PLO to progress toward statehood brings its downfall, the terrorists win. If Israelis are provoked to vote in on May 29 a government that will end the peace process, the terrorists win.

At first blush, it may be tempting to blame the nine-day rampage of suicide bombings in Israel on whoever (presumably Israeli intelligence) assassinated the Hamas master bomb-maker, Yehiya Ayyash, in Gaza on Jan. 5. To accept that is to believe these bombings would not have occurred otherwise. Doubtful. More likely, whoever would do these things was going to do them, to tamper with Israel's head and heart before the May 29 elections.

Mr. Ayyash murdered indiscriminately. Whoever killed him made that point, but was playing by his rules, not those of civil society. A reprisal in kind by his Hamas comrades would have been directed at someone high in counter-terrorism. Instead, scores of innocent people have died and hundreds have been wounded in four suicide bombings in nine days. The dead were ordinary Israelis, students and tourists, non-combatants, shoppers, children. While this is the most concentrated terror rampage Israel has endured, it does not threaten that country. Israel has never been stronger, more self-reliant, more secure than now. Russian emigration has enriched its population; peace with the PLO opened much of the world to its commerce. These bombings threaten only Palestine. If Israelis react as the bombers wish, the Palestine contemplated in peace agreements will never come to be.

That is the reason for believing Palestine President Yasser Arafat's pledge, yesterday, "to work with the Israelis to destroy [terrorists'] infrastructure and to uproot terrorism." He must be encouraged and held to that.

Prime Minister Shimon Peres' response to the bombings was to vow separation of Palestinians from Israelis, to flood Jerusalem with security forces and to suspend the Wye Plantation talks with Syria. Better for Israel to adopt these wrong but emotionally compelling measures temporarily before the election than to adopt thm as permanent policies afterward.

These bombings come as Israel prepares to try the Israeli assassin of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. The common cause of terrorists -- be they Jewish or Palestinian -- should escape no one. If peace stops, they win.

Pub Date: 3/05/96

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