The suicide bomber struck again killing five people and injuring scores of passers-by. Unfortunately, for us living in Israel this has become part of our lives. We all live in uncertainty as to when and where the suicide bomber will strike again. We all know that this will not be the last time. My daughter, Ilanit, was in the Netanya Shopping Mall at the time of the blast and escaped injury by shear luck. She managed to phone my wife when it occurred to reassure her that that she was safe but horribly shaken and tearful. The mobile phone network crashed soon afterwards. I was in a state of uncertainty not knowing whether she was injured or not.
I witnessed the arrival of ambulances conveying the injured one after the other to Laniado Hospital. There were many family members of the injured in a state of anxiety and some were hysterical and panicking. The scenario was horrendous!
Once again, the ball is in the court of the Palestinian Authority. Mahmoud Abbas condemned the bombing because “it does not serve Palestinian interests”. There has been no message of condolences from the Palestinian leadership towards those who lost their lives. It does not take much effort to realize that if the bombing were to serve Palestinian interests then the leadership would not condemn it. This means that violence and bloodshed is an integral part of the Palestinian leadership psyche. Mahmoud Abbas has made the “correct cosmetic noises” in a weak attempt to sell out a sop to Israel that he will do all in his power to arrest those responsible. We are all aware that he will do nothing, as is his wont after every terrorist attack. At the same time, they shiver in their boots at the thought of Israeli retaliation. They made a crying appeal to the world to pressurize Israel not to retaliate. It is logical that the only way to fight terror on the Palestinian side is by disarming and arresting the members of Islamic Jihad and their ilk. Mahmoud Abbas will not do that. He said that if he were to take action against these terror groups there would be civil war, which he wants to avoid. This means that he is a weak leader and ineffectual! He has once again proved his inability to be a true partner for peace negotiations and help to end the Israeli- Palestinian conflict.
There is another very serious problem amongst the Moslem clergy. They have not been forthright enough in their condemnation of suicide bombings. Imams of high standing have not issued a fatwa against suicide bombings that is convincing. Does this mean that Islam condones violence of this nature? I hope that that is not the case! Where are the forthright condemnations coming from Moslem religious leaders? All we seem to hear is rabble-rousing anti-Jewish and anti-Western rhetoric. There is also Al-Qaeda and Iranian provocations to jihad and wiping Israel off the face of the earth.
Israel and Palestine are on the threshold of elections. The suicide bombings will cause many Israelis to vote for a right wing government. This will cause the Israeli side to become less compromising towards the Palestinians in future negotiations. While there was relative calm, the focus was more on social issues such as poverty, economics, health issues and education. Security was becoming less of an issue for the elections. Amir Peretz, the newly elected Labour leader was showing signs of making electoral gains according to the polls. Now, after the suicide bombing in Netanya, the electorate will be returning to security mode rather than seeing the situation in a broader aspect.
People view Amir Peretz as a potential prime ministerial candidate without any security experience and this could harm his chances of an electoral victory. How many serving prime ministers in democracies have any experience in the military? There are not very many. However, all prime ministers do have their capable military advisors when making defense and security policy decisions. Decent and good government cannot be measured by military capability alone.
When one decides on which party to support, many different factors should be considered before making one’s final decision. The Likud and its offshoot, Kadima, under PM Ariel Sharon have failed the test on clean government. Many have left the Likud for Kadima tainted with criminal charges. A case in point is the latest addition to Kadima, Tzachi Hanegbi. He is awaiting criminal charges for illegal appointments to the Ministry of Environment when he was Minister of Environment. Even Ariel Sharon’s son, Omri, is about to lose his immunity as a member of the Knesset in order to face charges of illegal financing his father’s electoral campaign in 1999. He should resign until his name is cleared assuming that he is found not guilty.
When an election is run over security issues alone, there is bound to be dissatisfaction afterwards. This does not guarantee good government on other issues already mentioned. Since the intifada years, there has been much neglect. Any future government must address the increases in violence amongst the youth coupled with poverty. The Likud coalition has neglected these issues. Bibi Netanyahu, the finance minister at the time, had introduced draconian salary and pension cuts resulting in increased poverty. Remember that Ariel Sharon was a partner to these cuts as well! Kadima under Ariel Sharon have paid lip service to these issues but it is doubtful if they will address these issues after the elections assuming that his party wins the elections.
It would be very short sighted indeed, if the electorate returns the same leaders into power. They have not proved themselves except in one sphere – corruption - that is rife amongst the members of the ruling government. We deserve better than that! After all, the old motto – new brooms sweep clean – is applicable in the up coming election campaign. We have nothing to lose.