Analysis / The Mystery of 'Responsibility'

The terror attacks of the past days show the Palestinian organizations work with tenders: They try to hit the Israeli home front without dividing the labor between the Tanzim and Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and the Popular Fronts.

The terror attacks of the past days show the Palestinian organizations work with tenders: They try to hit the Israeli home front without dividing the labor between the Tanzim and Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and the Popular Fronts. Strike where you can, and if you can, congratulations no matter who you are.

There's no certainty about who was responsible for what. Unlike in the past, there is no way to presume there's any credibility to the announcements by various organizations that take pride in their claims of responsibility for the attacks. It's more convenient for one group to remain silent, while another, for its own reasons, does the opposite, claiming to be responsible. The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades was quick to claim Wednesday's bombing, saying it was revenge for the assassination of their leader Muhamed Titi, but the security services have information that contradicts the claim.

The two attacks in Rishon Letzion are still cloaked in mystery. The Shin Bet has put together a transdepartmental team, what the police call a "Special Investigation Team," which is trying to put together a clear intelligence picture about the Rishon Letzion bombings. The team, which reports directly to the highest levels in the Shin Bet, believes Hamas was responsible for the first bombing and the Tanzim branch in Bethlehem for the second. But that's only an assessment awaiting final confirmation, and the IDF has its doubts. A similar mystery surrounds the bombing attempt at Pi Glilot.

Despite the immediate assessments after the first Rishon Letzion bombing, the focus is not on Gaza. So far, not a single suicide bomber has succeeded to get out of Gaza. Maybe - Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer has hinted as much - the suicide bomber at the Sheffield Club pool hall, was born in Gaza, but he lived in Ramallah, and came from there on his last mission. Those skeptical of the Tanzim-Bethlehem version in the second attack, nonetheless are attributing the attacker to the West Bank.

Two weeks after Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz issued an order of the day to the soldiers about to enter Gaza, and then was forced to shelve the plan for which it was written, there are no signs of renewed plans for a largescale raid in Gaza. Ben-Eliezer is opposed, for now at least, and does not regard it as an operation looking for an opportunity, but as a need that may not yet have come.

According to IDF data, the number of terror attacks in the last seven weeks has dropped by 85 to 95 percent compared to the previous seven weeks. The watershed was April 3, the day the IDF went into the last city on its Operation Defensive Shield list, Nablus. An entire layer of the terror groups' leadership was eliminated and there was a dramatic drop in the quality of the explosives remaining in their hands. That can be seen in the explosions killing the Palestinians on their own, whether in the Ta'anach region or the territories.

The IDF still enjoys complete freedom to conduct brief local incursions, and many of them are considered effective, but there is mounting pressure in general headquarters to lengthen the troops' stay in the operations, for more thorough searches. During Operation Defensive Shield, there was a complete correlation between a presence in the territories - temporary occupation - and the reduction of the number of attacks.

The renewed attacks are explained by the difficulty in preventing a lone suicide attacker from reaching a city, sometimes, apparently, aided by an Israeli Arab. The security chief for the Transportation Ministry, Danny Shenar, warned months ago that there are 1,000 Arab truck drivers carrying hazardous materials, a dangerous profession to say the least. A few, he said, might end up taking part in attacks, whether knowingly or otherwise.

Yasser Arafat's position has been badly weakened. He wanted an international force to impose a deal on Israel and instead found it imposed on him, which lowered his prestige in the Palestinian public. The PA isn't interested in attacks right now, but isn't taking substantive action to stop them. The Tanzim is growing stronger, as its leader, Marwan Barghouti, under arrest in Israel, shows up second in popularity among Palestinians, after Arafat, but ahead of Sheikh Yassin. Meanwhile, Arafat has forbade the Tanzim in Hebron from entering the PA offices in the city. And in Gaza, there are reports of talks between Muhamed Dahlan's Preventive Security services and the local Fatah leaders in Rafah and Gaza City, in which Dahlan's people insist on obedience to Dahlan's directive - no attacks.