The two organizations that claimed responsibility for the attack clearly noted in their announcements that it was meant, among other things, to remind Palestinian factions that the real battle should be conducted against Israel. The message is clear: Hamas and Fatah must put their political battles and clashes aside and join forces with radical Islam's armed groups in a merciless and uncompromising war against the real enemy.
It doesn't really matter which organization is directly responsible for the Eilat bombing. Based on past experience, it is likely that several Gaza organizations and groups cooperated here. In any case, it's clear that those who initiated the attack sought to distinguish themselves within Palestinian public opinion from the large factions currently engaged in a civil war.
The murderous suicide bombing allows them to demonstrate that currently they are the ones who lead the fighting against Israel and serve as an example to large, institutionalized organizations. This enables them to score some prestige points, recruit more members, and enhances the aid they receive from outside supporters such as Hizbullah, Iran, Syria and al-Qaeda.
The Islamic Jihad and al-Aqsa Brigades have another reason for carrying out a murderous, grandiose terror attack: In the past year, and in recent weeks, dozens of suicide attacks initiated by these groups were thwarted in Judea and Samaria. Thousands of their activists were detained and dozens of the most senior ones were killed.
Every time, Gaza group leaders swore to avenge the blows sustained by their comrades in the West Bank, yet besides Qassam rockets launched at the Western Negev, which caused relatively few losses and little damage, they failed to carry out any meaningful act of revenge.
This fact not only frustrated terror chiefs in Iran and Lebanon, but also decreased support for them in the Territories. As a result, the motivation to carry out a West Bank-based or Gaza-based suicide bombing is increasingly rising.
Terror attacks have a clear benefit for Palestinian organizations: A large number of Israeli casualties in one operation, which resonates across the globe. Last year there were several dozen attempts to carry out such attacks. In the West Bank, the IDF and Shin Bet were able to thwart most of them at the preparation stage. In Gaza, preparing an attack is simpler and safer, but it's difficult to transfer the terrorist to a crowded location inside Israel.
We can assume that Eilat was selected as the target because of the relative ease with which one can infiltrate its environs through the Egyptian border in Sinai and through the Arava region on the Jordanian border. Another reason is Eilat's status as a magnet for international and local tourism, with attacks there receiving global media attention and harming Israel's economy. As a rule, terrorists prefer to operate in an area where resistance and alertness are low, while the likelihood of inflicting causalities and receiving media attention is high.
Monday's attack illustrates that the Intifada, despite being restrained, still exists and is dangerous. The Palestinian motivation to target Israel and Israelis has not decreased in light of the economic and international pressure exerted on the Hamas government and the intra-Palestinian clashes; the opposite is true.
Moreover, even if a Palestinian national unity government is formed and a compromise is reached on the release of abducted IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, there would still be powerful elements on the Palestinian street that would continue to target Israel with outside encouragement.
In conclusion, Israel's government and citizens must prepare for a situation where we have to defend ourselves over a long period of time against radical Palestinian and Islamic terrorism, without a substantial chance to minimize the threat in the foreseeable future.
This situation requires Israelis to display constant alertness and calls for the defense establishment to develop, as quickly as possible, technological means as well as defensive and offensive tactics that would minimize the terrorists' ability to inflict losses and cause damages.