Passover Massacre

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In the long series of extremists' attacks perpetrated by Palestinian murderers against Israelis, the terrorist action at the Park Hotel in Netanya at the start of the Passover Seder was one of the most abominable. In this despicable act, the terrorist, from Hamas, a movement which purports to act in the name of an important religion, purposely targeted a place where hundreds gathered for a religious ceremony.

The terrorist and those who dispatched him were insensible to the meaning of this act of infamy for Jews and Israelis: on a holiday, at the height of the ceremony, Jews who gathered around a table for the Seder found themselves once again to be powerless against those who had

risen to kill them. The crazed hatred of Israel which motivated Abdel-Basset Odeh to end the lives of 20 human beings and to injure 130 others is inexplicable, and no reason in the world can justify it.

Anyone who describes the fatal suicide attack as just another violent manifestation of the Palestinian uprising misses the way it is perceived in Israel: The timing and site of the attack was the start of the celebration of a holiday that has been marked by the Jewish people for thousands of years - including in time of persecution, oppression and slavery.

The violent undertaking by a Palestinian activist against those who came to sit around the table in Netanya has been etched in the collective Jewish memory so deeply that it will be difficult to eradicate. The public's faith in the possibility of dialogue with the Palestinians and of reaching any kind of coexistence with them has been hit very hard. This is a big day for pessimists, for skeptics and rejectionists.

It is not surprising that the voices within the cabinet calling for all-out war against the Palestinians are getting louder.

The sense of agitation that has flooded the nation and infused the political arena since Passover eve comes has as its background the character of the Arab League summit in Beirut and the difficulties U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni encountered on his mission to the region. The Saudi initiative, on which many Israelis had pinned their hopes, lost much of its newness, and the Palestinian response to Zinni's proposal has not augured well.

Under these circumstances, the speech of Yasser Arafat aimed at the summit participants seemed like an embarrassing announcement, and in reality, all his statements are meaningless in light of such an attack. Even those who believed that Arafat should have been allowed to move about freely and to give his speech in person from the podium of the Arab summit rather than by television broadcast now wonder what would have been the value of having Arafat in Beirut if such a murderous action occurs moments after he finishes his speech.

The actions of the leader of the Palestinians has prompted a sense of deep despair among peace advocates in Israel: Arafat is not interested in stopping the terror (the terrorist in Netanya was on the list of wanted persons that Israel has demanded the Palestinian Authority arrest, but which roused no response from the PA), and Arafat has been obstructing the U.S. attempt to broker a cease-fire. It increasingly appears that the actions of the past two days represent a further escalation.