Rage unites a long-divided Israel Peaceful co-existence with any Palestinian is a lost cause for now

March 06, 1996|By Doug Struck | Doug Struck,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

JERUSALEM -- Israel is usually a divided society, for 29 years torn over the question of what to do about Palestinians.

No longer.

The unprecedented succession of bombings that killed 60 people in nine days has brought a rare unanimity of public opinion.

Attack them. Crush them. Kill the extremists and lock the others out, Israelis say.

The anger is palpable in conversations in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. There are no more moderates. No peaceniks. The idea of living in accommodation with Palestinians has been swept away with the broken glass from the bomb blasts.

"We shouldn't let them in here at all," said Gideon Tsalamero, 40, a bus driver in Jerusalem. "We want peace. We gave them territory. Now let them stay in their territory. I don't want to go to see them and I don't want to see them here."

"The best thing to do is go over and frighten them until they stay there [in the West Bank and Gaza Strip]," said Zim Ruth, waiting in a Tel Aviv hospital as casualties arrived Monday. "I'm for peace, but they should all be treated as a group of terrorists."

"Israel will have to do something with the army. The Israeli people can't take this any longer," said Avraham Rosenboum, 51, surveying the shattered windows of his appliance store after the bomb in Tel Aviv. "The Arabs know only one language -- force."

Tempers will cool and debate eventually will resume over the wisdom of a hard-line policy.

The peace process, now clearly in critical condition, may even survive if the blows being planned by Israel give some satisfaction here but keep Yasser Arafat's leadership intact -- a difficult balance.

But for today, there are vengeful cheers in Israel for whatever steps Prime Minister Shimon Peres may take against the Palestinians -- the tougher the better.

"This is a war, and we have to reply with war. This is the only way they know," said Efi Geva, whose daughter was injured in Monday's Tel Aviv blast. "I was for peace. I have Arabs working for me. But now I'm changing my mind." "We should go into the Palestinian areas and search for terrorist cells," said bank manager Amihi Baruch, as he looked over documents in his shattered bank spattered with blood from Monday's bomb.

"Instead of the government spending its resources for defense, we must turn it the opposite way. We should go on the offense. To make peace, you don't have to put your hands up."

"Israel will have to go back inside the territories, Gaza and other places," said pharmacist Joseph Shor, 75. "It looks very grim."

With so many bombs in such a small country, many of the victims really are family. It is as if four terrorist bombs exploded in Maryland, about the same size and population as Israel.

"We are all close here. It hurts us," said Yora Batat, 60, riding bus route No. 18 in Jerusalem the day after it was hit by the second bomb in two weeks. She was carrying a memorial candle to light at the site of Sunday's blast.

"The Arabs can just not come in," she said. "Overall separation -- Jews alone, and Arabs alone. We don't need to have them here."

"It should be like Jordan -- nobody can come in without a pass," agreed Shlomo Szkai, 59, sitting in an opposite seat. He was going on the bus to pay condolence calls to the families of two soldiers killed in the Feb. 25 blast. In another seat on the bus, Ahuva Fhima, 27, clutched a briefcase. "I have a gun with me. I'm not afraid to use it," she said, as though in explanation for riding the ill-fated bus route.

"The solution is we have to attack the places the terrorists come from. I'm not thinking to depend on Yasser Arafat to do the job," she said.

In Israel today, there are virtually no public reservations about whatever action Israel takes: no talk about whether collective punishment is moral, or about taking care not to hurt the wrong people, or about whether it is unjust to strike back at 2 million Palestinians.

The radio talk shows are filled with shrill voices. Hand-written signs calling for punishment of the Arabs are posted along streets and left undisturbed.

At the makeshift memorial of candles on the sidewalk near Sunday's bus bombing in Jerusalem, a small crowd boiled over into arguments about how to hit back at the Palestinians. Black-hatted ultra-orthodox men began to shout "Death to the Arabs." No one objected.

"A romantic peace is good for a kindergarten of naive people' concluded Israeli author Sami Michael, writing in the newspaper Yediot Ahronot. "We need an armored peace with a fixed border, with passports, with visas.

"Maybe in 20 years we will begin to wave at each other over the armed border, and begin to think then -- and only then -- about commerce and tourism and even hugs," he wrote. "Today, hugging is dangerous, because the hug may be a bomb."

Pub Date: 3/06/96

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