Driving the cycle of violence

Every day thousands of Palestinians make their way from Gaza to Israel looking for work. The rampant corruption in the Palestinian Authority – whose chairman has become a multimillionaire while his people remain impoverished – combined with Egypt’s unwillingness to accept Palestinian workers makes Israel their only source of income. But with the stream of honest workers into Israel comes the occasional killer.

The wave of suicide bombers that has left approximately 1,000 Israelis dead has forced Israel to close its border to prevent attacks. These closures, combined with growing unemployment, are driving scores of Palestinians into the hands of terrorist organizations, which are only too happy to offer alternatives.

In the past, Israel closed its borders with the Palestinian territories, instead importing workers from Eastern Europe. Eastern European workers had the major advantage of not hiding suicide bombers in their midst. However, this policy only increased the frustration of many Palestinians who have lost their only source of income.

Israel recently decided to try a different approach.

Thousands of magnetic cards were issued to Palestinian workers, new border crossings were built and hundreds of personnel were trained, all to alleviate the economic pressure in the territories.

Less than one week since the new border crossings were opened, a female suicide bomber approached the station. She refused to pass through the metal detector, claiming she had a metal brace on her leg. The guards at the crossing could have sent her home or demanded the woman show her brace. Either way, they would still be alive today.

But the guards were trained to show proper respect for Muslim women and led the suicide bomber to a room where she would be examined by a female soldier in private. Then the Palestinian mother of three decided to detonate the explosives, taking her life and the lives of four Israelis in the compound. The Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.

There can be no mistaking the target of the attack. Rather than targeting the traditional crowd of Israeli civilians, this attack was aimed at the border crossing itself. Hamas wants

Israel to close the border so the Palestinian economy will suffer and its ranks will swell with recruits. This time, however, Israel refused to take punitive actions against the Palestinian population. In fact, although the new border crossing was destroyed in the attack, another was used in its place the next day.

Those who think the only culprits are the Palestinian terrorist organizations suffer from misplaced trust. Recently, a Palestinian police officer, on the payroll of the Palestinian Authority, crossed the border into Israel, climbed aboard a Jerusalem city bus and blew it up, killing 10 people and wounding more than 50.

This attack stresses exactly what kind of partner for peace Israel has. The Palestinian Authority, rather than taking action against Palestinian terrorist groups as it committed to do under international law, encourages and participates in attacks against Israeli civilians.

Amazingly enough, even after this horrible act of mass murder in a populated city, Israel refrained from taking punitive actions against the Palestinian population. The border crossings remain open and thousands of Palestinians are allowed to work in Israel to bring money back to their families.

Eleven years ago Israel recognized the Palestinian people’s right for self-determination in the Oslo agreements. The Palestinians were allowed to fly their national colors, Palestinian leaders were recognized worldwide and Palestinian autonomy was given to more than 50 percent of the land. Several months later, the first suicide bomber struck inside Israel.

Four years ago Israel offered the Palestinian people a land of their own, an independent Palestinian state on 96 percent of the land. Soon after, an all-out war broke out that has cost the lives of thousands of innocent civilians.

How many times is Israel expected to turn the other cheek while the Palestinian Authority refuses to take action against terrorist organizations? The Palestinian people need better leadership, one that can lead them to the freedom they deserve.

Koby Nahmias is a biomedical engineering graduate student. He welcomes comments at [email protected]