By Yigal Walt
Palestinian terror groups viewed the major suicide bombings of the past two decades as great military success stories. However, the Palestinians eventually realized they were paying a heavy price for this “success.”
The deadly terror waves on Israel’s streets eventually prompted the IDF to embark on Operation Defensive Shield in 2002, retaking the West Bank and gradually minimizing the terror infrastructure in Judea and Samaria since then. Moreover, images of bloody buses and rows of body bags in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem turned global public opinion and international leaders against the Palestinians.
The recent string of terror attacks against Israel may indicate that the Palestinians learned the lesson, and may be engaging in a more sophisticated – yet no less dangerous – terror campaign against the Jewish state.
The murder in Itamar, as shocking as it was, as well as Wednesday’s bombing in Jerusalem were not perceived by the world (and for the time being by Israel too) as “equivalent” to the suicide bombings of the 1990s and 2000s that left dozens of fatalities. As such, the response to them, both in the global media and by the IDF, was limited as well.
This quickly became apparent following the Itamar massacre, with global media largely downplaying the attack. Despite some coverage and international condemnations, the tone and ferocity were far weaker than the response to previous “major” attacks. A similar pattern followed the Jerusalem bombing, with many media outlets burying the story while focusing on other issues, such the Libya campaign or Elizabeth Taylor’s death.
Moreover, Israel itself responded to the attacks – as well as to the ongoing rocket and mortar fire from Gaza as of late – in a rather limited fashion; some strikes in Gaza, the customary tough talk by politicians, but not much beyond that.
Israel must act, soon
The pattern we are seeing in recent days may develop into a highly dangerous reality for Israel, especially if the Palestinians are indeed drawing lessons from the past and currently focusing on “smaller scale” attacks. In this respect it should be noted that the Jerusalem bomb was a medium-sized explosive device, weighing roughly 2-4 pounds. As opposed to larger bombs carried by suicide bombers into crowded buses, this explosive charge was meant to produce more limited damage.
In order to counter this pattern, Israel must prepare to take action, and soon. Falling into a routine where “minor” attacks prompt minor responses would lead to escalation of this so-called “limited” terror campaign, whose impact on the country and its citizens may be just as grave as that of suicide bombings and multi-fatality attacks.
Lack of global sympathy in the face of such attacks may aggravate the situation further, limiting the IDF’s freedom in responding to terror later. This coming on top of the ongoing de-legitimization campaign against Israel, another seemingly “softer” tactic, may ultimately prove disastrous for the Jewish state.
While Israel cannot “force” journalists to offer prominent coverage of terror attacks, officials must keep working to get the stories out to the global media. At the same time, as Jerusalem has full control over its own actions, our government and military leaders must make it clear to the Palestinians that even limited terror attacks will be met with a tough, aggressive and disproportionate response and will not be tolerated.
Once Israel clearly indicates that it will not sit by idly as the Arabs kill our people in “small doses,” the world would be more likely to adopt a similar approach. Yet until this happens, we shouldn’t expect the international community to be overly shocked by “limited attacks,” when our own actions serve to downplay such violence.
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