Israel Says It Has a Moral Obligation to Defend Its Citizens

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:14 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Israel has a moral obligation to do whatever it takes to defend its citizens, a senior advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said on Wednesday.

His comments came one day after twin suicide bombings that killed 15 people and ahead of the tenth anniversary on September 13 of the Israeli-Palestinian Oslo peace accords.

Sharon cut short an important state visit to India on Wednesday to deal with the deteriorating security situation.

The prime minister reportedly will convene an emergency meeting of top ministers to discuss Israel's response to the two attacks - one at a crowded bus stop outside an army base near Tel Aviv and a second five hours later at a popular Jerusalem cafe.

It's not yet clear what Israel's response would be, but Sharon was quoted by the Israeli daily Ha'artez website as saying that Israel "will do what needs to be done. We will make every effort to put an end to terror.""

Newly nominated Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala) said he believed both sides should "put emotion aside" and think about the interests of the people. He said security would be a top priority of his yet-to-be-formed government.

Sharon advisor Dr. Dore Gold said that although Israel accepted the U.S.-sponsored peace plan known as the "road map," it would not wait any longer for the PA to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure.

"While Israel accepted the road map, no one is holding their breath [waiting for] Abu Ala or any successor [to] dismantle the vast [terrorist] infrastructure in the Gaza Strip and West Bank," Gold said in a telephone interview.

The road map calls for a complete halt to terrorism as a first step toward returning Israel and the Palestinians to the negotiating table.

Former PA Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas pledged Palestinian support for the road map and vowed to stop terrorism and violence. But Israeli leaders and analysts charged that PA Chairman Yasser Arafat was preventing Abbas from taking full charge.

Abbas resigned his post after four months following the collapse of an agreement between the PA and other militant groups, in which Hamas and other terrorist organizations agreed at the end of June to a temporary halt to terrorist attacks.

While the number of warnings and attacks dropped dramatically at first, Israel and the U.S. were uneasy about the truce ( hudna in Arabic). Israel said the relative calm was giving terror groups the leisure to rearm and regroup.

That false sense of calm disintegrated in August when terrorist groups launched a series of suicide bombings and other attacks, including a bus bombing in Jerusalem that killed 22 people, including a number of children.

The terrorist leaders blamed Israel for the failure of the truce. They said Israel - by arresting and targeting Hamas members who were planning to carry out terror attacks - was provoking the Palestinians.

Talk of expelling PA Chairman Yasser Arafat, whom Israel charges is behind the trouble, revived after Abbas' sudden resignation last weekend.

Gold declined to speculate on what actions Israel might take in retaliation for the double suicide bombings, particularly concerning the future of Arafat, but he said it was clear that as long as Arafat "pulls the strings on the Palestinian side" there wouldn't be any progress on the diplomatic front.

"It is right [for Israel] to do what is necessary to defend its citizens," Gold said.

Gold pointed to the upcoming tenth anniversary on Saturday of the signing of the Oslo Accords and the many steps Israel has taken as a sign of its desire to move toward peace with the Palestinians.

"There is probably not another nation on earth that has taken more risks for peace," Gold said about Israel.

"Israel took an organization dedicated to the destruction of Israel - the PLO - [and] helped arm it," Gold said.

The Oslo Accords, named for the city in which the top-secret pact was negotiated between Israel and officials of the Palestine Liberation Organization, was signed on the White House lawn. Arafat and the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Oslo architect Shimon Peres signed the document in the presence of former President Bill Clinton.

Five days before the accords were signed, Arafat sent a letter to Rabin recognizing Israel's right to exist in peace and security, committing the Palestinians to a peaceful resolution of the decades old conflict, renouncing the use of terrorism and violence and assuming responsibility over all factions in the PLO, ensuring their compliance and punishing violators, according to an Israeli government publication.

In return, Israel agreed to recognize the PLO as the sole representative of the Palestinian people in peace negotiations.

Since then, the Palestinian Authority was created and Israel transferred all major Palestinian population centers to the PA and Arafat's rule. Last year, Israel seized the authority over those areas again following a surge of terror attacks that left more than 130 people dead in one month.

Israel has come under enormous international pressure to make what it considers tangible concessions to the Palestinians during recent years in exchange for promises of peace from the PA, which never materialize.

Some critics have complained that Washington has applied a double standard to Israel since the September 11 attacks on the U.S. - going after Osama bin Laden and deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein with full force, while urging Israel to exercise restraint and make dangerous compromises with the Palestinians.

"Ten years after Oslo, it's a moment to pause and see what Israel has done," Gold said.

"Israel took unprecedented risks for peace and got bombs in its cities. Israel has the full moral right to do what is necessary to defend its civilians."