Carnage born out of Israel's policy of rejection set scene for attack: Jerusalem bombing

Netanyahu's dilemma

It was a contradictory policy, always likely to provoke a crisis. From the moment he became prime minister of Israel last year Benjamin Netanyahu demanded total co-operation over security from Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader. But he rejected all other aspects of partnership with the Palestinians. This included an end to Israel's occupation of most of the West Bank, as agreed by the previous Israeli government in 1995. Mr Netanyahu has hinted he plans to pull out of just 40 per cent of the West Bank, not 90 per cent, as Mr Arafat expected.

The outcome was inevitable. The only surprise about the bombs on Wednesday was that they were so long coming. For months Shin Bet, the Israeli internal security force, predicted violence. But Mr Netanyahu seemed to feel that by starting to build a settlement in Jerusalem at Abu Ghneim, called Har Homa by Israel, he had called Mr Arafat's bluff.

The price of his miscalculation was paid by traders and shoppers killed and maimed in Mahane Yehuda market. Mr Netanyahu always said he viewed such attacks as terrorism, which can be switched on and off by Mr Arafat. But all that is needed for a suicide bomb attack are explosives (obtained from old landmines), a bag of nails and a Palestinian willing to die in order to kill Israelis. Mr Netanyahu has ensured that such Palestinians are in plentiful supply.

The reason for the violence is obvious to half the Israeli population, all Palestinians and most foreign governments. The surprise is that Mr Netanyahu does not see it himself; perhaps he does. One theory is that he is at heart an ideologue who wants to reverse the Oslo accords. By blocking implementation he knows there will be violent Palestinian reaction, which would allow him to reoccupy Palestinian enclaves.

A simpler explanation is that he thinks he can have his cake and eat it. By putting maximum pressure on Mr Arafat and the Palestinians he can force them to accept a Carthaginian peace, in which there will be no Palestinian state but a strange entity whose powers Mr Netanyahu once compared to those of Andorra. But this Palestinian Andorra will somehow have a ferocious security force capable of rounding up all potential suicide bombers.

It has not happened, nor is it likely to. Mr Arafat is dictatorial but he does not act in a vacuum. The West Bank and Gaza Palestinians are among the most politically aware people in the world: no Palestinian political leader could round up thousands of militants, which means imprisonment without trial and torture, without a measure of public support.

The key to Mr Netanyahu's policy is that not only does he refuse to recognise the Palestinian right to self-determination, but that he does not see them as human beings who behave much like Israelis would in similar circumstances.

His books and speeches display a colonial mentality, full of ethnic stereotypes. His explanations of how Palestinians will come to heel, if dealt with sternly, sound like excerpts from Kipling or John Buchan. The Oslo accords, agreed by Israel and the Palestinians in 1993, were not the result of the milk of human kindness suddenly flowing through the Middle East: the negotiators recognised a certain balance of power, much in favour of Israel, but one in which the Palestinians were not wholly impotent.

Mr Netanyahu does not see it that way. For him Yitzhak Rabin, the assassinated prime minister, gave away far more than was necessary. To be fair, it is a view widely shared by the Israeli electorate. Often forgotten is the fact that in May last year they gave a large majority to parties effectively opposed to Oslo; in other words, the maximum they would offer was far less than the minimum the Palestinians would accept.

It is this which makes the situation so lethal. Mr Netanyahu is a man of great ingenuity, but not of great political intelligence. He has little idea of how Palestinian politics work and probably feels he does not have to. He is much better informed about the US and appears to calculate that Washington may put little pressure on him. This has proved true in recent months. But Mr Netanyahu won the election by promising peace and security - and the bombs in Mahane Yehuda shows he can deliver neither.

Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
world cup 2014
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice