Leading Article: Peace challenged by a bomb

Click to follow
A BOMB blast that can be heard eight miles away and which throws a plume of smoke and debris 100ft high comes from a powerful device. Habituated though Britain as a whole, and London in particular, has become to bomb attacks, one of such magnitude creates its own deep sense of shock - even if, almost miraculously, nobody was killed.

Generally, the perpetrators have been working on behalf of the IRA. The last place one would expect such an outrage to take place is in the environs of the Israeli embassy: in few London locations are precautions against terrorism so rigorously enforced. In geopolitical terms, however, the spot had its own grim logic. On Monday, the Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, and King Hussein of Jordan signed a declaration in Washington bringing to a formal end the state of war that had existed between the two countries for 46 years.

All such agreements between Muslim Arab states and Israel are anathema to a wide range of fundamentalist extremists, whether they call themselves Hizbollah, Islamic Jihad, or by some freshly minted nom de guerre. Mr Rabin voiced a widespread assumption yesterday when he attributed the bomb to an unspecified Islamic terrorist movement bent on undermining the Arab-Israeli peace process. No less widespread was the suspicion, voiced by a spokesman for the Jewish Board of Deputies, of a link with the bombing nine days ago of a Jewish centre in Buenos Aires that killed almost 100 people. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for an earlier bomb in the Argentinian capital, which in March 1992 blew up the Israeli embassy, killing 29 people and injuring 242.

The motivation for such outrages against civilians is not necessarily to demonstrate the strength and reach of the organisation responsible. It may also be driven by revenge for Israeli attacks on suspected terrorist redoubts in Lebanon. One such attack on a Hizbollah youth training camp in central Lebanon last month killed 50 people. Each Arab response tends to produce a further act of 'punishment' from the Israelis.

There is, sadly, little likelihood that even the conclusion of successful peace agreements between Israel and all its neighbours will bring this deadly cycle of revenge killing to an end. The 'rejectionists' will continue to seek to sow the seeds of Islamic insurrection, as they have done in Egypt. The best hope must be that peace will convince Arab peoples that their interests are better served by rising living standards and great-

er freedom than by Islamic revolution.