According to Israel’s Ma’ariv, Wednesday’s incident at Megiddo, when a car packed with explosives was detonated by the driver as the vehicle pulled alongside a moving bus, killing 17 passengers, was the first time a car bomb has been used in the Palestinian intifada. A story by the paper’s defense analyst said that Israeli security forces fear that, as in Lebanon in the 1980s, “the next stage will be attempts to use car bombs to bring down tall buildings.” (Translation from the Lebanon Daily Star’s “Israeli Press Review.”) Britain’s Guardian said it marked “an alarming new escalation. Israeli security forces and alert civilians have recently managed to prevent several other suicide attacks but explosive-laden vehicles on the move are even harder to spot than suspicious individuals.”
For Ma’ariv, the bombing proved that it’s time to expel Yasser Arafat: “The outrage at Megiddo can only bring us closer to a decision to rid this region of Arafat’s presence. … No Israeli statesman can feel that there is anything to talk about with him or his Authority, and the public has lost any vestige of confidence in their goodwill. Even on the left, Arafat is the object of disgust and aversion and only a small and negligible core of inveterate idiots still believe any good can come of him.” A commentary in Yediot Ahronot opposed the expulsion of Arafat, which, it said, “would only enhance his status, without restricting his ability to direct terror operations.” It also warned against establishing a permanent presence in West Bank towns, which would “make Israeli troops easy, static targets and exact a high price in lives, as well as in economic terms, as many more reservists will have to be mobilized.”
An editorial in Hatzofeh said that if Israel was swayed by U.S. and European pressure to exercise restraint, “Jewish blood will continue to be spilled in such a way as to cause large portions of the public to consider leaving the country. … It will be intolerable if Prime Minister Ariel Sharon does not now allow an appropriate response to the ‘mega-attack’ at Megiddo junction because of his upcoming meeting with the U.S. president.”
The prime minister’s efforts, it seems, are devoted to delaying and rebuffing the various political initiatives that come up, and blaming Arafat and his regime. In that context, Israel’s own role in the ongoing crisis cannot be ignored, leading to the conclusion that as long as the prime minister continues with his empty policies, the terrorist organizations will continue dictating the agenda for the entire region.