Uri Dromi: Only the Palestinians will be weakened by this attack

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A distant blast, ambulance sirens, frantic telephone calls, breaking news on television. What déjà vu. All Israelis have some kind of encounter with terror.

In 1994 my daughter was walking in Tel Aviv's Dizengoff Square when a bus exploded next to her, killing 22 people. Then in 2001 my son walked few steps away from a Sbarro restaurant in central Jerusalem when a suicide bomber blew himself up, killing 15 people. As we all hope that it will never happen again, we are not entirely surprised when it does.

For few precious years we enjoyed a relative period of calm. We earned it the hard way. After the Passover Massacre of 2002, the IDF launched Operation Defensive Shield, which broke the bone of Palestinian terrorism in the West Bank. Since then, an effective co-operation between Israeli and Palestinian security systems produced an environment that benefited both sides.

But people here have never deluded themselves that terror was over. It lies low, hides among civilians and hits precisely when you're least expecting it. The surprise, then, is not about the terror attack itself, but about its timing. Why now?

To blame it on the lack of progress in the peace process is wrong. I wish the failed negotiations would have been jump-started, but paradoxically, Palestinian terror always thrived during peaks of the peace process. When Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres launched the Oslo Process, Hamas and Islamic Jihad worked hard to derail it.

It was Mr Rabin who said then that, "we have to fight terror as if there were no peace process, and pursue peace as it there were no terror". That's easier said than done, because in 1996 Palestinian terror brought down the Peres government and derailed Oslo. The words of the Israeli leader, who paid with his life are still valid.

Unlike the Oslo period, we are today in a different situation. Instead of Yasser Arafat, who played with terror and diplomacy simultaneously, speaking from both sides of his mouth, we have a solid Palestinian Authority in the West Bank that is invested in nation-building and is counting the days until September, when the UN accepts the Palestinians as having a sovereign state. The last thing they need is such a terror attack, which will make the world wonder again if they can really pull their act together.

Gaza is a different story. Denied of the option to send suicide bombers to Israel, Gaza is now terrorising the south of Israel with Kassam rockets. Again, here we are in a situation different than before. Hamas, by claiming responsibility for Gaza, denied itself of the No 1 advantage of a terrorist: elusiveness. With an address in Gaza for the current terror, Israel will know how to defend itself, and it will.

Uri Dromi was the spokesman for the Rabin and Peres governments, from 1992 to 1996

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