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A Jolt To The System

A Jolt To The System

Tel Aviv: Ronen Nimni had hoped to cash in on the hudna. The owner of the Tel Aviv coffeehouse chain Cafe Cafe decided to double the number of branches this summer with the expectation that Israelis would return to restaurants because of the road map peace initiative and a Palestinian cease-fire, known in Arabic as the hudna.
With shiny black ultra-modern bar stools and a soft glow from the spherical orange lampshades, a Cafe Cafe branch that opened this month just two blocks from Dizengoff Square is a cross between a cafe and a lounge. But now, with would-be patrons expressing more interest in security than decor, Nimni has promised to post a security guard at the entrance beginning next week.
"We thought we were in a period of hudna," he explained. "Now that we’re in the process of opening, everything has changed."
Two Palestinian terrorist organizations, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, ended their six-week cease-fire last week after Israeli missiles killed a senior Hamas leader following a Jerusalem bus bombing that killed 21 and injured more than 130.
"We had an excellent month starting in mid-July," Nimni said. "But now activity has dropped."
Still, Nimni has no plans to call off the expansion, betting there will be enough java seekers for him to survive.
"People will either return to the routine or get used to the routine," he said.
Israelis are becoming resigned (yet again) to living under the constant threat of terrorist attacks. They’re more alert on public buses and tuning in to the news more often to keep abreast of events that ebb and flow with every moment.
One Jerusalem resident, Gerald Steinberg, a professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University, said Wednesday that he had just returned from a Jerusalem shopping center and found it packed.
"There is uncertainty about whether last week’s bombing will be a one-time event because [Hamas and Islamic Jihad’s] capabilities have been reduced or whether this will be the beginning of another wave of attacks," he said. "We just don’t know yet."
Palestinian President Yasir Arafat called on all Palestinian groups Wednesday to reinstate the cease-fire and promised to deal with terrorists. But he said he would only act if Israel ended its campaign of targeted killings and if his actions would not lead to a Palestinian civil war.
Deputy Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert dismissed Arafat’s comments, saying he is expressing fear of a civil war only to "raise opposition" to a crackdown on terrorists.
In an interview Wednesday during a brief visit to New York, Olmert pointed out that "Hamas and Islamic Jihad are already waging a civil war against their own government. They have to be stopped and someone has to do it: better the government of the Palestinian people should do it."
Regarding opinion polls and media calls for Arafat’s expulsion, Olmert said he did not see a "big advantage" to such action.
"We’re not certain at this point that we want Yasir Arafat to be expelled because if he is alive, then he might be equally effective in his manipulations to trigger terror even when he is outside of the territories," Olmert explained. "There would be enough countries giving him prominent receptions and exposing him to microphones and television cameras and … that might help him to enhance terror."
Arafat’s call for a new cease-fire came after Israeli Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon succinctly spelled out Israel’s new policy in response to the bus bombing: "Every member of Hamas is a potential target for liquidation."
As of Wednesday afternoon, Israel had launched three separate missile strikes in Gaza on both Hamas political and military leaders in keeping with its view that there is no distinction between the two. Five Hamas leaders were killed in the first two attacks. The third attack missed its targets and reportedly killed instead a 70-year-old bystander and injured several others.
In the West Bank, Israeli forces continued to raid Palestinian terrorist hideouts, reportedly arresting 29 Tuesday night on charges of planning new terror attacks. Earlier in the day, undercover forces snatched two Palestinians from a hospital ward in Nablus. The men had been wounded in a shootout with Israeli forces last week.
In an effort to avoid detection and Israeli missiles, leaders of Hamas have reportedly turned off their cell phones, shaved their beards, slipped into women’s clothing and taken other measures to conceal themselves.
"The new Israeli policy is to remove the Hamas leadership as much as possible, and there is no political restraint from the U.S.," said Steinberg.
Olmert said that unlike Israel and the U.S., Europe continues to make a distinction between the political and military branches of Hamas.
"Unfortunately Europe doesnít seem to be as forthcoming as it should in battling this terrible organization," he said. "This is nonsense, obviously, because the political branch is trying to assist the military branch, so how can you distinguish?"
Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas Tuesday criticized the Israeli military campaign, saying his security efforts were being undermined by what he called Israel’s "brutal" policy that would "only take us back to the vicious circle of violence."
Abbas is also calling for a vote of confidence next week from the Palestinian parliament. He is said to be seething over attempts by Arafat to push aside Abbas’ security chief, Mohammad Dahlan.
Olmert said he hopes Abbas survives the vote and is then "strong enough to crack down on terrorists. I don’t know if he will.
"There were fears from the beginning that he might not be strong enough to deal with terrorists and he has not shown he is capable or willing to do it," Olmert observed.
Asked if the internationally supported road map for peace is now dead, Olmert said: "I don’t want to assume that it is dead, but I think there is only one way to make progress on this and that is to first stop terror."
Despite the terrorist threat, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his delegation found the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall in Jerusalem crowded when he visited Tuesday.
And in Tel Aviv, the chef at Bar Gurion, an outdoor gourmet sandwich and salad shop, shrugged off worries about the crowd at his eatery.
"So it’s scary," he said. "You either die from starvation or die on a full stomach. What would you choose?"
As she treated her two daughters to lunch, Yael Levy said Israelis had no choice but to keep on living their lives despite the threat of attacks. "It hurts that we’re not at peace," she said. "I sometimes think that God is forgetting us. But we’re continuing to live."
Joshua Mitnick is an Israel correspondent and Stewart Ain is a staff writer.

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