More than a week after the deadliest suicide bombing here in three years and the first such attack since Hamas officially took charge of the Palestinian government, Interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has not ordered any major anti-terror operation, prompting concerns from some in the defense establishment that the new Israeli government will be perceived as weak on terror.
A senior IDF official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to the media on matters of policy, said, “This bombing was Olmert’s major test to see how he would respond. Basically, there was no response. Now what the Hamas government will learn is that Israel under Ehud Olmert is not tough against terrorism.”
Olmert announced that while he holds the Hamas government responsible for the Tel Aviv attack that killed 9 Israelis, he would not retaliate against Hamas institutions. Olmert also publicly ruled out any large-scale military operation, explaining that what he called his “measured response” is designed to prevent further “escalation of violence” and will help maintain international pressure on Hamas.
The IDF fired missiles at an empty metal workshop in Gaza City last week in a stated response to the Tel Aviv bombing. Also, about 10 military vehicles reportedly entered the city of Nablus, where the top leadership of the Al Aksa Brigades is located. So far, no arrests of any senior terror leaders have taken place. IDF sources say no major ground operation is planned for Nablus, which contains the largest Al Aksa Brigades infrastructure in the West Bank.
Abu Abir, one of the suspected Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades planners of the suicide bombing, boasted to WorldNetDaily that he feels he is not under any threat from the Israeli army.
Eight months after the Jewish state evacuated its forces and communities from the Gaza Strip, Israeli troops have been training over the last few weeks for a large-scale incursion and occupation of Gaza in the event it is called for.
Critics of the Gaza evacuation had long warned the retreat would prompt an onslaught of terrorism requiring the IDF to re-enter the territory.
While military leaders have said Israeli forces could occupy Gaza if the new Hamas-led government does not halt the almost daily rocket fire coming from the area, top members of Olmert’s office call the incursion option unlikely, claiming Israel is “scoring points” for its restraint.
Also, government sources say Olmert would not approve the occupation of Gaza while he is trying to push through an Israeli withdrawal from most of the West Bank, which is within rocket-firing range of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the country’s international airport.
They say a Gaza operation would label Israel’s evacuation last summer as a failure, and that could damage the prospects for the planned West Bank withdrawal.
A senior IDF official told WND, “The only way Israel can stop the rockets [coming out of Gaza] is by occupying Gaza. It is elementary. The leadership knows it.”
The leadership of Klkiliya, a West Bank Palestinian city now controlled by Hamas, has warned a local Young Men’s Christian Association to close its offices and leave town or face likely Muslim violence. The move highlighted long-standing fears Hamas would use its win in last January’s Palestinian parliamentary elections to impose an anti-Christian, anti-Jewish hard-line Islamist regime in the West Bank and Gaza.
Major Muslim organizations in Kalkiliya in conjunction with local mosques, the city’s Hamas Mufti and Hamas municipal leaders sent a petition to the new Hamas government stating: “We the preachers of the mosques and representatives of major families in Qalqiliya ask you to close the offices of the YMCA because the population of Qalqiliya doesn’t need such offices, especially since there are not many Christians in our city.”
Tens of thousands flocked to the biblical town of Hebron last week to celebrate Passover festivities alongside the Tomb of the Patriarchs – the second holiest site to Judaism – amid fears the area would be soon evacuated as part of Olmert’s planned withdrawal from most of the West Bank.
“All of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) is on the chopping block. Every neighborhood is now under the threat of eviction as part of Olmert’s plan. We are very worried,” said Hebron spokesperson and longtime resident David Wilder.
Hebron is home to the oldest Jewish community in the world. Over 20,000 people attended an annual Passover party where they browsed information and souvenir booths, crowded hot dog and hamburger stands and danced on a large field as music from a central performing stage reverberated off the adjacent, large tomb building that has long been central to life in the town.
Most sections of the tomb building are open year-round, with the exception of the tombs of Isaac and Rebecca, which are only accessible to Jewish worshipers on Passover and other high holidays in acquiescence to the demands of local Muslims, who maintain a praying area at Isaac’s tomb.
When Olmert officials previously listed some West Bank Jewish communities slated for withdrawal, Hebron was not on the list. But senior members of Olmert’s Kadima party stated last week that the acting prime minister plans to evacuate all Jewish communities that fall outside Israel’s separation barrier, amounting to nearly 95 percent of the West Bank, including Hebron.
Aaron Klein is Jerusalem bureau chief for WorldNetDaily.com. He is a co-host of ABC Radio’s nationally syndicated John Batchelor Show and can be heard regularly on American radio.