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On the face of it, Monday's suicide bombing near Tel Aviv's defunct central bus terminal wasn't very different from numerous previous terrorist outrages. Indeed the very eatery targeted had been hit before, only a few months ago.
But there are differences, perhaps not fundamental but hardly inconsequential.
This was the first suicide bombing carried out under the aegis of the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, the terrorist PA. When previous atrocities were perpetrated, the PA - from whose bailiwick the mass-murderers set out, where they were brainwashed and trained and where the infrastructure for their operations flourished - issued obligatory wan denunciations of the deeds. This was done despite, or perhaps precisely because, power was held by Fatah, whose own members - particularly those in the Tanzim and the Aksa Martyrs Brigades - carried out some of the worst onslaughts on Israelis non-combatants.
To be sure, Fatah leaders didn't act to ensure a halt to the wanton and cruel taking of innocent lives. They merely paid internationally required lip-service, vaguely asserting that the carnage didn't "serve the interests of the Palestinian people." Those who until recently held sway in the PA generally weren't "good cops," but they at least pretended to be for the sake of overseas opinion.
The PA's current governing power, Hamas, doesn't even try to keep up appearances. Hamas leaders unanimously and demonstratively refused to condemn the latest slaughter, an action of the sort, of course, that Hamas itself perfected. While some in the international community seek extenuating circumstances for the Hamas regime and amplify every syllable that could remotely be interpreted as moderate, Hamas is refusing to expediently play along as the ostensible "good cop." Its behavior further vindicates the consensus in the West that this is a government that must moderate or fall, and that must not be financially sustained in the interim.
The PA's highest echelons cannot and must not be absolved of responsibility for this latest massacre, even if it is Islamic Jihad's handiwork. Not only does the Hamas establishment not dissociate itself from the deadly attack on civilians, its own creed is also identical with that of Islamic Jihad.
Hamas's charter declares that "the liberation of Palestine" - a euphemism for eradicating the Jewish state - "is the individual duty for every Muslim wherever he may beâ€¦ Israel will exist only until Islam obliterates it." This is the mind-set that now governs the PA; this is the vicious message it seeks to spread to its people.
Let no one engage in arcane analyses to vindicate Hamas from the bloodshed in Tel Aviv on a bright holiday afternoon. The shattered human bodies aren't collateral damage. They are the primary objective of the terrorists who are safeguarded by Hamas.
This isn't just the goal of the indoctrinated youths dispatched by their leadership to blow themselves up. Each crew firing a Kassam missile hopes for the same results. What happened in Tel Aviv is an inseparable component of the overall war against Israel, which includes shelling from Gaza, the importation of firepower via Egypt, Hizbullah saber-rattling on the northern border and, above all, the Iranian nuclear threat.
The latest butchery is also part of the context that amalgamates such past bloody incidents. The victims of Monday's outrage are links in the same chain of more than 1,000 Israelis murdered before them in the course of this terror war.
Years ago when the Palestinians introduced airplane-hijacking to the world, many countries treated this as a scourge that would afflict Israel alone, since its very existence was deemed controversial. Then-premier Golda Meir warned prophetically that "sooner or later this will not only be Israel's problem." The same has transpired with suicide bombings, the ultimate callous weapon of unconscionable masterminds. Israel may be particularly vulnerable, but this has long since ceased to be an exclusively Israeli problem. Homicide-by-suicide has been adopted by Islamic terror-mongers throughout the globe. Strikingly and appallingly, we have yet to see any serious, widespread and effective opposition to the practice instituted by moderate Muslims.
In the meanwhile, Israelis and other Westerners must exercise the inherent right of self-preservation - and seek, savvily and resolutely, to thwart the murderous ambitions of the bombers, the Kassam cells, the PA government that champions them... and the ambitions, too, of the Iranian regime that helps inspire and fund them.
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