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Friday, 20 September, 2002, 13:53 GMT 14:53 UK
Israeli press ponders bombings
Interior of wrecked bus in Tel Aviv
Thursday's suicide bombing killed six people
Newspapers in Israel have been responding with a mixture of war-weariness and tough talk to the resumption of suicide bomb attacks this week.

"Phoney lull" is how one paper describes six weeks of apparent calm before the latest eruption.


The (Palestinian) man in the street continues to support terror attacks

Haaretz

Left-of-centre Haaretz says it was only a relative peace, because during the period seven Israelis were killed.

And all along, Palestinian groups "bubbled beneath the surface" with plans to strike Israel's home front.

The paper points to failures on both sides. "Israel did not offer any real hope to the Palestinians". But nor did the Palestinians take any "concrete steps against terrorist groups".

As to what next, "terror must not be allowed to drag Israel into action it does not want", the paper warns, adding that the "real key" is the creation of new political channels.

No truce

There is gloom over Palestinian reaction to the attacks, with a Haaretz editorial claiming that "one could discern a sense of satisfaction" among ordinary people.

"The (Palestinian) man in the street continues to support terror attacks that will cause Israel as much pain as possible. In such an atmosphere it is difficult to talk of a truce," the editorial concludes.

Another article in the same paper argues that Israel's "only possible response" is to get tough.

"Thus the screws of military occupation in the territories will apparently be tightened further," it says. All other options such as talks or plans "appear academic".


It's time Gaza is dealt a blow

Yedi'ot Aharonot

So Israel must continue the arrests, hit Palestinian groups, track down the families of the bombers and even perhaps revisit the "old idea of expelling Arafat".

But, the paper warns, there should be a limit. A situation where Israel "sets the territories on fire" must be avoided.

"A major upheaval in the territories would serve Iraq's interests," it says.

The English-language Jerusalem Post takes a particularly hard line.

'Bring them to their knees'

It says there was no lull in the violence anyway, with as many as 393 Palestinian "terror attacks" in August alone. Hence Sharon's "softening over the past several weeks has proved demonstrably unsuccessful".


The US offensive against Iraq is casting a giant shadow on politicians' reasoning processes, including Sharon's

Ma'ariv

This leaves just one choice, the paper suggests: a military campaign to force the Palestinians to surrender unconditionally.

"No negotiations, no talk of partial ceasefires... All that has been tried, and it has failed," the paper says.

"Israel must now do what it has thus far refrained from doing. It must, once and for all, bring Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority to their knees."

The centrist mass-circulation Yedi'ot Aharonot likewise focuses on the role - or rather what it sees as the irrelevance - of the Palestinian leader.

"The president is in a coma, kept alive by oxygen and fluid tubes. He has no impact on anything that goes on around him," the paper says.

Ariel Sharon
Press wants Sharon to "nip terror in bud"
It suggests he could not stop Hamas militants even if he wanted to.

Any Israeli decision to oust him or harm him would play into Hamas' hands.

"Therefore, Israel should put pressure on Hamas headquarters in the Gaza Strip, and not on Arafat. It's time Gaza is dealt a blow."

Only option

Comment in the mass circulation Ma'ariv shares the view that the impending US campaign against Iraq is bound to curtail Sharon's military options.


The Israel Defence Force can no longer remain silent

Hatzofe

"The US offensive against Iraq is casting a giant shadow on politicians' reasoning processes, including Sharon's," it says.

Despite US solidarity with Israel, right now Washington does not need any dramatic moves that would "stir up the Arab world against Israel and the United States".

Sharon will nevertheless make every effort in the coming days to "nip the rising wave of terrorism in the bud", the paper adds, without saying how.

However, the right-of-centre Hatzofe has no doubts as to what Israel should do next.

Headlined "Three bombings and a bombing", the paper's editorial says the only reaction to the attacks should be a military strike.

"Israel cannot sit idly by while events such as those of the past days take place," the paper says.

"The Israel Defence Force can no longer remain silent."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.


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19 Sep 02 | Middle East
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