(July 22) - The killing of three Palestinians in a drive-by shooting near Hebron last Thursday night was a cowardly act of depravity, the likes of which have become all too common in recent months on roads throughout Judea and Samaria. In a manner reminiscent of the modus operandi employed by Palestinian terror groups, the perpetrators overtook a car carrying seven Palestinians and then opened fire before fleeing from the scene. Among those killed was a three-month-old child, and four other passengers were wounded. It remains unclear who perpetrated this vicious attack, though a Jewish group calling itself the Committee for Road Safety immediately claimed responsibility.
It is highly unfortunate that some in the media were quick to pin the blame on "the settlers" for the killings, especially since no suspects have yet been arrested. It should not be forgotten that there have been instances in which Palestinian terrorists have fired on Israeli vehicles and wounded Arabs, mistakenly thinking their victims were Jews. Moreover, it is worth recalling that the group which claimed responsibility, the Committee for Road Safety, was last heard from several years back, when it counted among its leaders the agent-provocateur Avishai Raviv.
But if the attack does prove to have been the work of Israeli Jews, it will signify a potentially dangerous escalation in the situation on the ground. Israel is a state of law, and no one has the right to take matters into his own hands and engage in vigilante-style justice. The cold-blooded murder of innocent human beings is immoral and antithetical to fundamental Jewish values, and anyone who would perpetrate such evil poses a threat to society as a whole. The security forces have begun a massive manhunt to arrest those behind the killings, and it is to be hoped that they will be brought to justice as quickly as possible.
Unsurprisingly, the Palestinian Authority and others wasted little time in seizing upon the incident as a means of scoring propaganda points against Israel. Coming shortly after the call by the G-8 summit to send international observers to monitor the proposed cease-fire, Thursday's killings seemed initially to strengthen the hand of those calling for such monitors to be sent. But the aftermath of the killings is instructive, for it demonstrates precisely why there is in fact no need for such observers.
International monitors can be a useful tool when anarchy prevails and the parties to a conflict are unable to restore order. But, as Israel's swift response to the attack clearly demonstrated, that is simply not the case here. Indeed, the reaction of Israeli officials to news of the attack was swift and unambiguous.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon strongly condemned it, with a statement issued by his office saying, "We will spare no effort to bring the perpetrators to justice." President Moshe Katsav, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yisrael Lau, and other prominent Israelis all deplored it, as did the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip. The police are actively working on the case, and the Israeli media is replete with talk regarding the shocking and despicable nature of the crime. Israeli society as a whole expressed its outrage and revulsion, and its governing institutions have acted promptly and responsibly in the aftermath of the shooting.
The only anarchy prevailing in the region is on the Palestinian side, but even that is a form of calculated chaos. Yasser Arafat prefers to create a semblance of disorder, if only because it serves as a useful smoke screen behind which he can attempt to conceal his responsibility for the ongoing violence and terror.
Unlike Israel, the Palestinians continue to glorify terrorism and hail its practitioners as heroes and martyrs. They have done virtually nothing to thwart attacks against Israel, they have failed to disarm and disband terror groups, and they refuse to arrest, try, and imprison those who carry out acts of violence.
Israel's determined response to Thursday's outrage demonstrates quite definitively that there is no need for international observers in the region, and Sharon was correct to reject the G-8's proposal. If the nations of the world are truly concerned by the festering bloodshed in the region, they would be better advised to turn up the pressure on Arafat, the man responsible for the collapse of the Oslo process. Thursday's attack notwithstanding, the burden of guilt continues to lie with the Palestinian leader.
©2001 - Jerusalem Post