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The Ghost of Oslo Returns

August 20, 2003 - At least 20 people died and more than 100 were wounded yesterday in what was quite possibly the worst bus bombing in the terrorist war against Israel.

It happened in Jerusalem, on the Number 2 bus on its way from the Western Wall. Many of the injured were children.

Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad took credit for the attack, in what seemed a macabre competition.

An Israeli woman receives first aid after being injured in the explosion.  
An Israeli woman receives first aid after being injured in the explosion. (Reuters)

Survivors, some of them with limbs missing, were in shock. Children, their faces stained with blood, were crying. Two paramedics helped an elderly woman with blood streaming from her face. A two-year-old child reached the hospital but died there. Altogether six children died in the attack. And the attacker was present; he knew that they were on board.

Israeli authorities called this the biggest bus explosion in the past three years. About 120 wounded were taken to hospitals, according to the latest count.

The bomber was identified as a member of Hamas. His wife said she has no regrets: "God gave Raed something he always dreamed of. All of his life he dreamed of being a martyr." He had two children, ages two and three, now fatherless, the two Arab victims of the suicide attack.

Fireworks lit the sky over Hebron as Palestinians celebrated.

In compliance with the Roadmap, Israel agreed last week to withdraw from four Palestinian towns. Jericho and Qalqilya would be first, followed by Ramallah and Tulkarem. All this is now in jeopardy.

  A wounded Israeli baby cries at a Jerusalem hospital.
A wounded Israeli baby cries at a Jerusalem hospital. (Agence France-Presse)

Wasn't there supposed to be a cease-fire (hudna)? What was the excuse this time?

Islamic Jihad claimed that the attack was in retaliation for the killing of Muhammad Sidr, one of its senior operatives. Once again the terrorists were "evening the score."

What really happened?

Muhammad Sidr was the Hebron leader of Islamic Jihad. Under his direction members of his group killed 19 Israelis over the past two years. And so he was one of the wanted men whom the Palestinian Authority was supposed to arrest.

They did arrest him. But they freed him last February when demonstrators stormed the prison in Hebron where he was being held.

But on August 14 Israeli soldiers found him hiding in a carpentry workshop in Hebron. They tried to arrest him - even though it was Mahmoud Abbas' job, the job he has steadfastly refused to do - but were answered with gunfire and a grenade. The soldiers returned the fire and killed him.

So once more the lethal Catch-22: Palestinian terrorists may kill Israeli citizens at will, and the Palestinian Authority does nothing to stop them. But when Israel steps in to do the job, it is considered an excuse for further terrorism. The terrorists always want to even the score, but they always start keeping score right after they kill scores of Israelis.

And so according to the terrorist calculus, the life of one terrorist leader and bomb maker is worth 20 Jewish lives and 120 casualties, including elderly and children.

What is behind all of this? It is difficult to imagine that the terrorists would be executing these attacks if they did not have the green light from Yasser Arafat. The Nobel Peace Prize winner certainly has given them no red light. When Arafat wants them to do something, they do it, as when they released the Governor of Jenin. Mahmoud Abbas now looks more impotent and irrelevant than ever, which suits Arafat's purposes beautifully.

A baby doll and two strollers lay strewn at the site of the explosion.  
A baby doll and two strollers lay strewn at the site of the explosion. (Associated Press)

Over all these events hovers the specter of Oslo. Oslo failed because Palestinian promises to end terror and incitement were not monitored and never kept - and because Palestinians used the "peace" process to build their terrorist network. Oslo failed because the Palestinians never had any intention of keeping those promises.

In 1998, in an Arabic-language TV interview, Arafat compared Oslo to the "Khudaibiya Agreement." Most Westerners have never heard of this, but in Arab culture it is legendary.

In the year 628, Muhammad found himself losing his battle with the rival Quraish tribe. So he made an agreement with them: a ten-year truce. But in less than two years, after he had consolidated his forces, he attacked and defeated the Quraish and conquered the city of Mecca.

What was this "truce"? It was a hudna, a "cease-fire."

This is what hudna really means. It is not an instrument of peace but a tactic for continuing the war.

It applied to Oslo, and it applies today.

George Santayana: "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it."


Bennett, James. "Bombing Kills 18 and Hurts Scores on Jerusalem Bus." New York Times, August 20, 2003.

Israeli Embassy Staff. "When They Say 'Hudna' What Do They Really Mean?" June 27, 2002. "Hudna with Hamas." June 23, 2003.

Jerusalem Post Internet Staff. "Twenty dead, including 3 children, in Jerusalem terror bus bomb." Jerusalem Post, August 20, 2003.

Moore, Molly. "Israelis Kill Militant Leader, Sparking Vows of Revenge." Washington Post, August 15, 2003.

Moore, Molly. "In Jerusalem, A Scene 'Like a Horror Movie.'" Washington Post, August 20, 2003.

Sukhtian, Lara. "Israel Agrees to Hand Over Four West Bank Towns.'" Washington Post, August 15, 2003.

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