Since February, there has been a formal cease-fire in the war initiated by the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat more than four years ago. Nevertheless, the terror war against Israel continues. This situation cannot be understood without looking at it from the point of view of those who find terrorism so politically rewarding and acceptable in terms of Palestinian politics.
Any would-be Palestinian terrorist can take the following for granted:
• His attack will be encouraged by the official Palestinian media and by Palestinian Authority-appointed and paid clerics in their sermons.
• He will not be stopped by P.A. forces.
• If he succeeds in killing Israelis, he will be praised by P.A. institutions, the ruling Fatah group, and the Palestinian media.
• If he is captured or arrested by Israel, the P.A. will demand his release.
• After an attack, he will be placed under house arrest and soon allowed to "escape."
• If he is killed, the P.A. will make him an honored martyr.
• If he is a member of the ruling Fatah group, it will not criticize, expel or punish him.
• Whatever he does, including the brutal murder of Israeli civilians, he will still be welcome to join the P.A. payroll as a security man. If as a member of the security services, he commits a terror attack, he will not be fired.
Given all these factors, it''s not surprising that Palestinians - including members of Fatah and the P.A. security services - continue to plan and carry out terrorist attacks on Israel.
During the five months between the Feb. 8 cease-fire decision by the Palestinians and July 8, Palestinians carried out 812 attacks on Israeli targets. In thousands more cases, attacks were disrupted by Israeli arrests, security efforts or defensive operations.
Some attacks take place in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Others are aimed at Israel itself, though a higher proportion of these are blocked. The types of attacks include shootings at Israeli civilians in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, the firing of mortars and rockets, and assaults on homes, economic targets and the Israeli forces organizing the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
What makes the situation even more ironic is that the main factor reducing the number and effectiveness of attacks inside Israel has been the security fence so strongly opposed by the P.A. If the fence did not exist, casualties would be much higher.
As a result, while Palestinians succeeded in carrying out 21 suicide bombing attacks in 2001, 40 in 2002 and 16 in 2003, in 2004 they succeeded in perpetrating only six. Correspondingly, Israeli casualties dropped from 453 killed during 2002 to 118 killed in 2004.
Remarkably, nearly half (47 percent) of the attacks since the cease-fire have been claimed by Fatah, the ruling group in the P.A., into whose hands the international community now proposes to place $3 billion in aid. To date, no Fatah official, member or security force employee has been punished, expelled or fired for involvement in some 400 attacks.
This spring, 21 Palestinian children under age 18 were caught at Israeli checkpoints trying to smuggle bombs, guns or ammunition into Israel.
Without understanding all of this, Israeli actions are robbed of their motivation and necessity, making Israel seem to be acting irrationally, arbitrarily and purely out of cruelty.
• Israeli roadblocks are necessary because of ongoing attempts to smuggle in explosives and arms to kill Israelis. The use of children and women for these purposes requires careful searching of these people. This is the cause of delays or blockages that Palestinians must suffer. If there were no attacks, there would be no roadblocks.
• Continuing casualties on the Palestinian side are due to the continuing war conducted by Palestinian political groups. If attacks stopped, Israel would not conduct any retaliatory operations.
While Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has major domestic difficulties in trying to halt terror, the real problem is his political strategy of refusing to try.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center.