Palestinians Absolved Themselves of Need to Fight Terror, Israel Says

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:18 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - The Palestinians have absolved themselves of the need to fight terrorism, an Israeli official said on Wednesday, one day after Israeli security forces thwarted what could have been a huge terror attack.

The foiled bombing comes just two days after U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in a three-way meeting in Jerusalem.

Rice and Abbas were in Berlin on Wednesday for separate talks with world leaders on the deal that Abbas cut with Hamas on forming a national unity government.

The guidelines of the government have not been finalized, but so far, Hamas has refused to submit to international demands that it recognize Israel, end violence and terrorism, and keep past Israeli-Palestinian accords.

The deal has cast a shadow over U.S. (and Israeli) attempts to bolster Abbas (Abu Mazen) and those loyal to him as a "moderate" force against extremist Hamas, which is on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations.

"The agreements between Hamas and Abu Mazen disappoint all who supported separating the extremists from the moderates and creating an alternative government in the Palestinian Authority," Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said on Tuesday.

Olmert's spokeswoman, Miri Eisen, said that Olmert would continue to deal with Abbas because he was elected in separate elections to head the P.A. two years ago and not at the same time that Hamas won a stunning victory in parliamentary elections last year.

But those dealings will be limited to alleviating the suffering of the Palestinians and the fight against terrorism, Eisen said by telephone. Olmert believes that the Palestinian people should not be punished because of a lack of leadership, she said.

Meanwhile, undercover Israeli troops killed a wanted terrorist, who was a leader of the Islamic Jihad, in the West Bank city of Jenin on Wednesday. The army said Mahmoud Abu Abait was traveling in his car, pointed a gun at troops and was then shot.

Abait, 24, was responsible for planning what could have been a huge terror attack at the central bus station in Tel Aviv, Israel's commercial center, and giving the would-be bomber his explosives.

Police apprehended the would-be suicide bomber and three others in an apartment in the south Tel Aviv suburb of Bat Yam on Tuesday, narrowly averting the attack.

The bomber identified in reports as Omar Ahmed Abu al-Rob, 24, said he had arrived in Rishon LeZion outside of Tel Aviv with a backpack filled with explosives. For reasons that are as yet unclear, he ditched the backpack in a dumpster there and later led police to it.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that the authorities were still checking how al-Rob managed to cross from a Jenin-area village into Israel on Tuesday.

The suicide bomber left from Jenin, and everyone thinks that's Israel's problem, said Eisen. The Palestinians are doing nothing against terrorism. They have totally absolved themselves of any responsibility in that regard, she said.

During 2006, more than 1,000 Palestinian Islamic Jihad activists were arrested, 96 of whom were potential suicide bombers, said Eisen. PIJ is headquartered in Syria and supported by Iran, she said.

"It shows the continuous involvement of the country of Iran in supporting the most extreme terrorist elements in Judea and Samaria [West Bank] and Gaza," Eisen said by telephone. This is the same country that wants nuclear weapons, she said.

Altogether in 2006, 279 potential suicide bombers were arrested -- 30 of them from Hamas and 126 from Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction or groups that broke away from Fatah, including one splinter group that considers itself to be the "new Fatah" and is funded by Hizballah and Iran, Eisen said.

Already in 2007, a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up in a bakery in the southern Israeli city of Eilat, killing three people. Islamic Jihad, a Fatah faction and a third little-known group claimed joint responsibility for the attack.

In related news, the Israeli website YNET quoted unnamed security sources on Wednesday saying that there are "constant attempts" to perpetrate terror attacks and that the current calm is deceiving.

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