Gene Zitver, a former resident of Israel, remarks on Harry's blog:
If anyone needs a reminder of why Israelis overwhelmingly support construction of the West Bank security barrier, and want it completed as soon as possible, consider today's terrorist attacks in the southern city of Be'er Sheva.
A salutary reminder, indeed. Gene notes that these are the first significant terrorist attacks in Israel since March, but also cites a report from the Jerusalem Post:
Even before the dust from the twin Be'er Sheva bombings settled, local leaders and security experts pointed an accusatory finger at Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government for failing to construct the southern route of Israel's security barrier in time for a bombing that most had long expected. Barely 15km from Be'er Sheva, the South Hebron Hills, as the rugged region between the city of Hebron and the Green Line border is known, spill southward into open plains farmed by a few thousand semi-nomadic Palestinians. Only a few kilometers of dusty grasslands and rocky mesas separate the Hebron Area hills from cities like Be'er Sheva and Arad.
In a mid-July interview with the Jerusalem Post, Pini Badash, head of the Omer Regional Council, a Be'er Sheva suburb fretted that "my community is just waiting for the next bombing, and we all know where it will come from [the Hebron Hills]." Few sections of the barrer's southern route near are planned, and Badush then feared, it now seems correctly, that terrorists blocked from entering Israel in the northern parts of the West Bank, will "be funneled towards us in the Be'er Sheva area."
The reports of today's carnage are of course horrifying, and I am conscious of the incongruity of making judgements when I don't face the risks that Israeli civilians do. Nonetheless, even with the gaps in her security barrier that enabled these atrocities to be committed, Israel is winning her war against terrorism. This is evident partly in the drastic reduction in suicide terrorism over the last couple of years. Today's bombings are respectively the fourth and fifth major suicide-terrorist attacks in Israel this year; in total, these five attacks have claimed 44 lives. This is about half the number of attacks and fatalities that Israel suffered in a single month at the height of the Intifada (March 2002; total Israeli civilians fatalities from terrorist attacks that year were 390). But a more important indicator is the number of suicide-terror attacks that are being interdicted by the Israelis - at least 60 this year. The Israeli Defence Forces are intercepting almost everything - not quite everything, unfortunately - that's being thrown at Israel's civilians.
I argued last week that there were two main reasons for Israel's success in curtailing the number of terrorist attacks: the security fence (known by anti-Israel campaigners, with a customary disregard for literalness, as a wall) and the assassination of terrorist leaders. The fence is not a political boundary, and it does not prejudge the outcome of negotiations for a territorial settlement with the Palestinian Authority; it is a demonstrably necessary measure of self-defence. The direct assault on the leadership of Hamas, much-criticised by western diplomats and politicians, seems to me ethically unexceptionable if it makes terrorist attacks more difficult to carry out: the Palestinian Authority either cannot or will not meet its treaty obligations to crack down on terrorism; Israel is entitled to protect her own citizens by literally taking the fight to those who direct a campaign of terror.
On this subject, there is a predictable source of limp verbiage, according to a BBC report:
Palestinian cabinet minister Saeb Erekat said: "The Palestinian Authority condemns any attacks that target civilians, whether Israelis or Palestinian."
But of course the assassinations of Hamas's leadership are not "attacks that target civilians" at all: they are attacks that very specifically target those known to be directing terrorist violence. Israel's critics will be impressed with Hamas's claim that today's atrocities are retaliation for those assassinations; it would be more accurate to say that Hamas is finding it increasingly difficult to realise their goal of forcing Israel into submission. At a minimum, a terrorist leadership that is constantly having to avoid Israeli detection and attack has a problem of command and control. The defeat of that terrorist leadership - which is not the same thing as the total eradication of terrorist activity, an outcome that is immeasurably desirable but unlikely to come about - would enable the emergence of a sovereign Palestine alongside a secure Israel in boundaries approximating the pre-1967 armistice line. I doubt that this will happen soon, but I am confident it will happen.