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Sunday, 2 December, 2001, 17:40 GMT
Viewpoint: Ball in Arafat's court
Aftermath of the bus attack in Haifa
Forty people were injured in the Haifa attack
By Jerry Lewis, London correspondent for Israel Radio

The deaths of innocent people in bomb attacks in Jerusalem and Haifa are part of a constant campaign aimed at destabilising society.

Palestinians claim that they are fighting an "occupation", but whatever the rights and wrongs of the situation, there is no law - international or otherwise - which justifies those involved to resort to terrorism.


Any country subject to constant attack is, according to international law, entitled to defend itself
Jerry Lewis
Yasser Arafat signed up to the Oslo Accords process in 1993, and has since added his signature on three further occasions - committing the Palestinian people to resolve their grievances with Israel through negotiation.

Yet after the failure of July 2000's Camp David negotiations, when he was offered 95% of the land he was seeking from Israel, he has resorted to violence in the form of an intifada which has seen over 1,000 dead and many more injured.

Not so innocent

Tragically, most are Palestinians, but few outside the Middle East look at what they were doing when they were killed.

Most were either involved in activities which can only be described as violence, or were in areas where they knew that violence against Israelis was likely.

Yasser Arafat
Arafat rejected Israel's offer at Camp David
Since the instigation of the intifada, the Palestinian chairman has deliberately operated a policy known as "revolving doors" - releasing prisoners known to have been involved in terrorist acts against Israelis.

The Israeli Government has repeatedly given Yasser Arafat the lists of names of known terrorists and he has deliberately done nothing to secure their re-arrest.

Despite the pleas of the US and the EU, the Palestinian leader has failed to take action against those known to be actively involved.

Maintaining security

Any country subject to constant attack is, according to international law, entitled to defend itself.

Israel has two main ways of ensuring that its population's repeated calls for security are implemented - and neither is pleasant.

Closures - ie barring access to the towns known to harbour such terrorists - has proved to be effective.

The blast scene at Haifa
The weekend's attacks led to yet more deaths in the Middle East
The second method is "targeted assassinations" - the killing of known militant activists belonging to Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah.

But why not arrest them? Simply because Israel has no jurisdiction where they now live, and to try and capture them would only put Israeli soldiers lives at unnecessary risk.

Enough innocent Israelis have already lost their lives.

A vast majority of Israelis had hoped that by signing up to the peace process, most Palestinians would want to end the violence and try to live together in peace.

Willingness to negotiate

The Israeli Government has demanded that the only condition for a resumption of peace talks is a clear sign of Yasser Arafat's willingness to return to negotiations and to reject the path of violence.

That means taking effective action to stop the activities of those militants who are determined to wreck the peace process.

Despite the presence over the last week of General Zinni, representing US President George Bush, all the Israelis have seen is a continuation of terrorism, violence and instability.

Ariel Sharon
Ariel Sharon: Under popular pressure to ensure security
The constant verbal attacks on "hard line Ariel Sharon" have all been part of the Palestinians' claim that they have a case and need justice.

Mr Sharon has made clear that he will accept a Palestinian state - but it will only come about by negotiations. Its boundaries will have to be renegotiated now the 95% offer is no longer on the table.

The Palestinian leader forgot that in any negotiating process one cannot have 100% of what one wants. He lost his golden opportunity to gain most of what he wanted.

He will not be allowed to get his Palestinian state by resorting to violence and terrorism. If he wants to rejoin the peace process he must act to end the campaign of terror.

The ball is now squarely in his court. If he messes up again, he will probably end the Palestinian dream of their own state - at least in the near future - and earn himself the well-deserved reputation of being the man who never wastes an opportunity of wasting an opportunity.

And the only real sufferers, the innocent Israelis and Palestinians - most of whom take little direct part in incidents of violence - will end up either killed or injured as a result.

Click here to read a BBC News Online viewpoint article from the Palestinian side.

See also:

02 Dec 01 | Middle East
Israel faces deadly onslaught
02 Dec 01 | Middle East
Leaders condemn Israel bomb attacks
02 Dec 01 | Middle East
Eyewitness: Jerusalem bomb horror
02 Dec 01 | Middle East
In pictures: Jerusalem blasts
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