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Sunday, 20 May, 2001, 12:58 GMT 13:58 UK
Israeli press criticises air raids
Hamas protest in Nablus
Palestinians were angry at Israeli raids
The Israeli press has been largely critical of Friday and Saturday's air raids on Palestinian towns.

The daily Yedioth Ahronot called the raids "stupid" in an editorial.

"They were worthless. Does anyone believe that two F-16s over the West Bank can deter Islamic bombers and those who send them?"

The military commentator Alex Fishman wrote in the paper that the attacks looked like a "basic revenge operation - an eye for an eye. But revenge as policy indicates weakness and frustration".

'The Netanya Reflex'

Ma'ariv newspaper's political commentator Chemi Shalev said the attacks were a "serious political and strategic mistake", and expressed the hope that they had been prompted by "only a momentary loss of control at the top".

What happens if 20 people are killed in an attack? Do we drop an atomic bomb on Ramallah?

Doron Rosenblum
in Ha'aretz
Doron Rosenblum in the leftwing Ha'aretz was harsher in his judgement on the Sharon government.

"Sending in F-16s... for a failed revenge strike against a few Kalashnikov-bearing gunmen in Nablus, almost at the end of the aircrafts' runway, symbolises... the political and military bankruptcy reached by the Sharon government," he wrote.

He expressed the fear that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was blindly dragging the country into another long conflict, like that over Lebanon.

"We never stop wondering what Arafat hopes to achieve ... but - as in every war - we don't stop to figure out what our own aims are."

Ha'aretz commentator Amir Oren said Israel had fallen into the trap of "the Netanya reflex" by responding with overwhelming force to the suicide bombing of the coastal resort on Friday.

"Israel's guiding principle will be ruined if the world registers a parallel between the Hamas suicide-bombers in Israeli cities and the air force bombings of Nablus and Ramallah."
Anti-Palestinian poster
Many Israelis distrust Mr Arafat

Mr Oren said senior Israelis want Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to be held responsible for attacks against Israel.

The commentator said Mr Arafat "is meant to be the target of a negative campaign as the father of the fathers of all terrorism, until he runs off to Tunisia and is included on the US list of terrorists."

Without Mr Arafat as the "super-glue" holding disparate Palestinian groups together, Mr Oren wrote, different chieftains will fight each other, allowing Israel the upper hand.

Raids make Israel look bad

The rightwing Jerusalem Post pinned the blame for the Hamas bombings firmly on Mr Arafat, but acknowledged that the Israeli air raids had distracted attention from the suicide attacks.

"The danger is that this point - and the actual reason behind it - has been overshadowed by the world's response to Israel's use of fighter jets."

The Post said that the raids made Israel look brutal and had little effect on the Palestinians' capacity to fight.

"Israel should do what it takes to erode the Palestinian military capabilities, and worry less about sending signals of seriousness in response to particular terrorist acts."

The PLO is a terrorist gang. They must be eradicated. This can only be done through military force. The sooner, the better

Boris Shusteff
in Arutz-7
The most vigorous support for the air raids came in Arutz-7 newspaper, in a commentary by Boris Shusteff called "Taking off the Gloves".

He called for the re-occupation of Palestinian-controlled land on the grounds that Mr Arafat had never taken the Oslo peace process seriously and was still committed to the destruction of Israel.

"The truth must be spoken to the world. Arafat is a terrorist. The PLO is a terrorist gang. They must be eradicated. This can only be done through military force. The sooner, the better."

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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20 May 01 | Middle East
Israeli PM defiant over air raids
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