Israeli-Palestinian Gap Widens Amid Strife
Rabin urges citizen groups to patrol sensitive areas rather than take up arms, but public mood is vengeful
AN Israeli settler killed a Palestinian, and two Israelis were wounded by Palestinian gunmen March 23 in part of a rising spiral of violence that seems to have escaped the control of both Israeli and Palestinian authorities.
Jalad Hoshia, 19, was shot dead after allegedly stabbing a member of a vigilante group that had apprehended him outside the West Bank settlement of Sussiya. The settler who killed him said he had seen a grenade in Mr. Hoshia's belt, although eyewitnesses disputed the claim.
The killing followed a number of calls by right-wing Israeli politicians for the summary executions of Palestinians who attack Jews. Twelve Israelis have been killed in the past three months and the public mood has grown vengeful.
"When a murderer brandishes a knife, those who catch him should make sure he does not get away alive, even before he surrenders," opposition Likud Knesset (parliament) member Uzi Landau said March 23. "Everyone who intends to use a knife to kill Jews should know that he will be killed."
As attacks on Israelis have mounted in recent days, officials such as police chief Yaacov Terner have urged all Israelis with a license to carry a gun.
Such suggestions, however, have raised fears of even greater violence, and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin has preferred to urge citizens to join the volunteer Civil Guard, which mounts organized patrols in sensitive areas.
The Cabinet decided March 21 to add 2,000 men to the police force in a bid to increase security, but Mr. Rabin warned the public that "there are no magic solutions to terror. It is a continuous war, a lengthy war, and the side which has most endurance will win."
Palestinian leaders, meanwhile, point out that it is their people who have borne the brunt of the current spate of violence, as the Army has sought to quell protests, especially in the volatile Gaza Strip.
Sixty-seven Palestinians have been killed by Army gunfire since Israel deported 415 Palestinians to South Lebanon last December, according to Saeb Erakat, a member of the Palestinian negotiating team at the Middle East peace talks. Hundreds more have been wounded.
"This prompts a reaction," Mr. Erakat says. "People have the right to self-defense."
That desire for vengeance, and a sense of personal or political frustration, appears to motivate most of the individual Palestinians - many armed with kitchen knives - who have attacked Jews inside Israel.
The most recent incident occurred March 22 in Jerusalem, when a young Palestinian burst into a vocational school and stabbed five students and a teacher.
In response to the attacks, the government has urged Israeli employers not to hire Palestinian workers. Around 110,000 Palestinians from the Israeli-occupied territories come into Israel every day to work.
"Over the next few weeks and months the number of Palestinians who will be able to find work in Israel will decline considerably," said Gen. Danny Rothschild, government coordinator of the occupied territories. "Even if the government does not stop the employment of Palestinians in Israel, it will happen automatically, because you cannot ask an Israeli to employ a Palestinian when there are stabbings going on in the streets."
Israeli Army patrols in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have increasingly come under fire from Palestinian gunmen staging organized ambushes.
Some of these attacks have been claimed by Hamas, the Islamic group opposed to the peace process, while others appear to be the work of militants belonging to Fatah, the mainstream Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) group.
With several Cabinet ministers calling publicly for a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, regardless of the peace negotiations, "this has given a signal to the West Bank that if you want to force Israel to withdraw, you have to do like they do in Gaza," where violent resistance to the occupation is strongest, says Zakaria al-Qaq, an analyst with the Israel-Palestine Center for Research and Information.
This attempt to side-step the talks, which the PLO is conducting through local Palestinian leaders, clearly undermines the Palestinians' political leadership, Dr. Daq argues.
"Day by day the PLO loses more control of the situation," he says. "The ones in control are the ones who decide the activities of the day. The violence is not just an Israeli problem; it is an official Palestinian problem, too."