The Jerusalem Post, July 30, 2003

HAPPY HUDNA!

By Michael Freund

Today marks the one-month anniversary of the Palestinian terrorist organizations' decision to declare a temporary hudna, or ceasefire, in their ongoing campaign of murder and mayhem against Israel. Reading the press, it would be easy to conclude that this is a date almost worthy of national celebration. Take, for example, a July 17 Associated Press dispatch, which asserted that, "A temporary ceasefire declared by Palestinian militants on June 29 has brought a dramatic drop in violence." And then there was Monday's issue of the UK Guardian, which declared that there has been "a sharp decline in violence since the end of June". Dramatic drop in violence, sharp decline in terror - it almost makes you want to fling open your windows, sweep your arms through the air, and declare to the world: Happy Hudna!

But the reality, of course, is that there is very little to celebrate. For, despite the media's predictable attempts to cheerlead on behalf of the Palestinians, the fact is that anti-Israel terror has far from petered out. According to statistics compiled by the IDF, there have been a total of 167 Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israel in the four weeks since the hudna went into effect. That averages out to about 6 Palestinian attacks per day, every day, over the past month. 167 attacks. Think about that number for a second. 167 individual, separate attempts over a 30-day period to murder as many Jews as possible using knives, bullets, bombs and stones. Is this really something to cheer about? After all, a ceasefire means that the Palestinians are supposed to cease the firing (hence the name).

Does it really matter if instead of trying to kill Jews 300 times per month they have decided to temporarily "cut back" to just 167? Others have cited the "relatively" low Israeli death toll in July as proof that the ceasefire is working, since "only" 3 Israelis and one foreign worker have been killed since the hudna went into effect. Aside from the immoral nature of such a statement, which necessarily devalues the lives that were lost and the families that were destroyed, such an assertion is also patently false.

It mistakenly assumes that the ceasefire is the primary reason why there has been a drop in the number of Israeli fatalities, ignoring the role played by the army's efforts to prevent attacks. Thus, for example, in the second week of July, the IDF captured three would-be suicide bombers in Hebron before they were able to carry out their attacks. On July 21, soldiers operating near Shechem (Nablus) found and dismantled a suicide belt containing 10 to 15 kilograms of explosives, while the day before a Palestinian near Jenin was killed when a bomb he was carrying exploded prematurely. In other words - it is not that the Palestinians haven't been trying to kill Jews of late, it is just that they haven't been succeeding.

If any one of the dozens of attacks thwarted by the army over the past month had not been stopped, the death toll for July might very well have been 40 instead of "just" 4. Hence, to give the Palestinians even a measure of credit in this regard is simply absurd. Indeed, Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Mazen has made plain that he has no intention of disarming or disbanding the terrorist groups, who are now reportedly using the hudna to build over 1,000 Kassam rockets with a range of up to 20 kilometers for use against major Israeli cities (Jerusalem Post, July 22). And so, even with the ceasefire in place, the violence continues and the Palestinian terrorist build-up proceeds apace. In effect, then, the only thing that has really changed during the past month is the level of gullibility demonstrated by our leaders, who are quick to forget that the country is still under attack.

The first step toward emerging from this crisis is to return to our senses. Israel must remain firm in demanding "zero tolerance" for terror. And "zero tolerance" means zero attacks. Period. Making excuses for the Palestinian leadership's failure to quash terror, or minimizing the extent of the violence itself, is merely a recipe for further bloodshed and carnage. For by doing so, we come perilously close to accustoming ourselves to terrorism and even accepting it as part of our daily lives. And that is something which no nation in the world should ever have to tolerate. Only by dismantling the Palestinian terrorist regime that has arisen alongside Israel, and removing the terrorist threat once and for all, can we possibly hope to enjoy true peace and security. And only once Abu Mazen and his Hamas and Islamic Jihad accomplices are removed from the scene, will we truly be able to say, with feeling and even a measure of joy: happy hudna to all, and to all a good night.

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The writer served as Deputy Director of Communications & Policy Planning in the Prime Minister's Office under Benjamin Netanyahu.

(c) The Jerusalem Post



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