Bombing is a reminder that calm is artificial

jerusalem | Exactly four years ago, a few days before Yom Kippur, then-Deputy Chief of General Staff Maj.-Gen. Moshe Ya’alon appeared before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. He was asked about the outbreak of Palestinian violence.

“Is the peak behind us?” they wanted to know.

He told them it was clearly not going to be a simple or short affair. In fact, it took almost two and a half years for the violence to peak just prior to Operation Defensive Shield in April 2002. Since then, the latest round of violence has been on the decline.

But the decline is broken by tragedies like the violence on Wednesday, Sept. 22, when an 18-year-old female Palestinian suicide bomber wearing a bag of explosives on her back blew herself up near a crowded Jerusalem bus station at the city’s French Hill intersection. The bomber killed two Israeli border policemen and wounded 17 civilians.

Thanks solely to offensive operations by the Israeli security forces, life in Israel in the past six months appeared to have returned to normal. (Cynics will say this means a country with general strikes and political turmoil.)

The once-stagnant economy is now growing at about 4 percent annually, tourists have started to return and cafes are filled with people. The security calm has been so prevailing that the double-suicide bombing in Beersheva three weeks ago has been seen as more of an aberration than the norm.

But truthfully, this is the norm. With anywhere between 30 and 50 warnings a day, bombings and terrorist attacks should be commonplace. Calm and prosperity are the surreal.

This virtual reality Israelis have become accustomed to is artificial. It is the product of a relentless campaign by Shin Bet agents and soldiers manning roadblocks, by attack-helicopter pilots and special forces and others in uniform who have killed, arrested or run underground Palestinians determined not to change Israel’s policies, but to wipe Israel out of existence.

The latest Palestinian polls show that 60 percent back suicide bombings inside Israel. Terror groups are not resting and neither are our security forces. The proactive offensive is not foolproof. There are gaps in the security barrier. Jerusalem is wide open and the Shin Bet says there are plenty of East Jerusalem residents involved in aiding terrorists.

The Palestinian terrorist groups have been decimated and relentlessly hunted down. They are in distress. Terrorist organizations have turned to recruiting more women as suicide bombers, believing they have a better chance of getting past security checks. Five female bombers have been captured since the High Holy Days began. One managed to get through.

This was despite the heightened alert and beefed up forces in the Ramallah area. This was despite the closure imposed on the West Bank for the holy days.

Security sources said there were 37 warnings Wednesday, Sept. 22, of pending terrorist attacks. They admitted that the suicide bomber in Jerusalem’s French Hill was not one of them.

What this shows is that sometimes, despite great intelligence and overwhelming achievements, the success in confronting Palestinian terrorism can come down to the person known as the “strategic sergeant.” These are the young men at roadblocks or on patrol whose very simple action can have vast strategic implications.

When proactive offenses against terrorism fail, the active defense comes into play. The two border policemen who confronted the suicide bomber Sept. 22 were the last line of defense. By stopping the bomber they performed like heroes, alas at a terrible cost. But because of them, many families who could have awoken this morning with their lives shattered will instead continue with their normal lives. And that is a sign of a defeat of Palestinian terror.