Photo: Yaron Brenner
Site of the Netanya blast
Photo: Yaron Brenner
Photo: Ilan Klein
'There's nothing like a terror attack during an election campiagn'
Photo: Ilan Klein

Responding to Netanya

There's nothing like a suicide bomb in the midst of an election campaign

When the bomber exploded, the security establishment knew immediately what had happened. There were no surprises. The warnings were there. All that's left now is to investigate how it could be that the bombers deadly package escaped ears and eyes, all the way to Netanya.


This is the best time of potential and impotent defense ministers, prime ministers and former, current and future ministers. Ah, there's nothing like a terror attack during an election campaign.


There are reasoned calls to "deal with" the Palestinian Authority, all the way to "take care of them, and their mothers, too." Hit 'em hard, win a few more votes.


This is the supreme test for the security elite: To stand up to the temptation, to repel the adrenaline rush, to maintain sanity.


Because in the current situation, collective punishment of the Palestinians is a sure way to win seats – for Hamas, in next months Palestinian elections.


Closure gene


For instance: why is there a general closure on the territories? Even the public knows that this is a kind of conditioned response. It's like a gene, passed from defense minister to defense minister, but never accomplishes anything.


This is especially true now, when the Palestinian street in the West Bank is more focused on social issues and standard of living improvements than terrorism.


Even the army now talks about the need to separate between the Palestinian civilian population and terrorism. Give the populace a bit of hope, goes the argument, and they'll stop cooperating with the terrorists. This is the ABC of fighting terror.


No room for error


The attack in Netanya is part of an intensive campaign against the Islamic Jihad in the northern West Bank, a campaign that has lasted several weeks. The organization tried to establish a "Jihadistan" autonomous region in the Jenin-Nablus-Tul Karem region, and failed.


Its area of operations is limited, its membership well known. So why punish the entire population? This will only give terror another seat in the Palestinian parliament.


In the past two months, Islamic Jihad has lost more than 110 members in the northern West Bank: Ten have been killed, 28 injured, and the rest are now in Israeli custody.


The organization also lost two senior leaders: Louie Sa'adi was killed and Iad Abou al-Rob was arrested. Bombers, helpers, financiers, and couriers have been arrested, but the groups life-line has not been broken: hundreds of thousands of dollars continue to arrive monthly from Damascus.


The organization has scaled back, but new leaders have replaced the lost ones, and the fight continues. It is essentially a war of the intelligence minds, who at one end of the scale there are special units waging brutal, demanding warfare, far from the roadblocks but just several kilometers from home.


There is no depth to this war. The slightest drop in awareness, the smallest easing up of the campaign against them, missing the smallest signal – and they are already here.


'Hot' warning didn't help


Monday's attack had been ticking loudly for almost two weeks. After al-Rob was arrested and the explosives laboratory exposed in Jenin, it became clear that one bag of explosives managed to make its way out of Jenin to Tul Karem and to the hands of Louie Saadi's successors, and eventually to the bomber.


Red lights went off in every branch of the intelligence community. It was a "hot" warning, even if the timing or location were unknown. The search for the missing bag was in high gear. But something went wrong.


There are two sides to this intelligence war of the minds. In this instance, the Jihad managed to avoid its pursuers.


Long way around


Seems that the bomber from Hadera a couple of months ago, who was connected to the same terror cell, left Tul Karem for Kalandia, made it to Jerusalem and from there took Highway 6 to Hadera.


It is very probable that Monday's bomber also chose to take the long way around, moving freely with a forged ID card in the weaker Jerusalem area, rather than risk the heavy security between Tul Karem and Netanya.


Security officials believe the Islamic Jihad organization in the northern West Bank today consists mainly of a few small, compartmentalized cells. But the smaller and more compartmentalized the group is, the harder it will be to crack.


Monday, traffic from the northern West Bank southward was halted. The IDF in the area will receive additional forces (who interrupted training exercises), and field cells will be closed.


If the army isn't pushed into making populist decisions – there is a good chance this operation could yield positive results.


פרסום ראשון: 12.06.05, 12:36
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