More terror in the Holy Land Hamas resumption: Making peace is both sides' responsibility.

March 27, 1997

THE HAPPY FESTIVAL of Purim was marred in Israel by two atrocities that are all too familiar. They do not justify a relaxation in the search for peace. Nor do they vindicate construction of an Israeli housing development at Har Homa, extending Jerusalem. They do serve to remind the world of attacks that Israelis have had to endure.

President Clinton rightly responded by sending Middle East envoy Dennis Ross back to rescue an accord he had only recently cobbled back together. He may not succeed, but the potential loss is too great not to make the effort.

On March 13, a Jordanian soldier opened fire on an Israeli school trip to a border island, killing seven girls before colleagues subdued him. This was an aberration by a deranged man, not policy or a political act.

The bombing in Tel Aviv March 21, taking the lives of three Israelis and the terrorist, was different. It was a resumption by the organization Hamas of terror, which it had suspended in the interest of not undermining Palestinian autonomy in parts of the West Bank and Gaza.

This terror was not unanticipated in Israel. It has discouraged Christians from Easter pilgrimages to holy sites this year. Both Israel and the U.S. government have charged Yasser Arafat and his Palestinian Authority with not taking sufficient steps to suppress an extremist movement that will never destroy Israel but may undo him.

For his part, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went ahead with Har Homa against world opprobrium. While this is no excuse for terrorism, his decision violates the spirit of the Oslo and White House accords.

There is synergy between Mr. Arafat's wink at terrorism and Mr. Netanyahu's appeasement of intransigent hawks, each fueling the other. Completing the accommodation between rival nationalisms in a crowded land is so important and has made so much progress that no excuse remains for either party to pretend it is the obligation solely of the other.

Accommodation is the responsibility of both. And mediation is the unceasing task of the U.S. with Dennis Ross as honest broker.

Pub Date: 3/27/97

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