Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi is founder and president of The Israel Project, a Washington-based pro-Israel group that seeks to provide accurate information about the Middle East to the media. She spoke to Jewish Week Associate Editor Jonathan Mark about today’s bombing near the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem, the first bombing in Jerusalem in four years.
JW: There’s been a recent escalation and frequency to anti-Israeli violence, with rockets, stabbings and bombings, and in every section of the country, from Itamar to Jerusalem to Beersheba and Ashdod; the rockets from Gaza, the stabbings and bombing presumably by Palestinians.
JLM: Sadly, many Palestinians have decided to use terrorism instead of negotiations. In the absence of ongoing peace talks, we are seeing more violence. The Palestinians are not sitting at the peace table, and therefore there’s a lack of hope.
Additionally, and this is incredibly important, there is an ongoing problem with incitement — where [the Palestinian Authority is naming] public squares and places after terrorists — that inspires [other] terrorists to do terrible things.
JW: It’s beginning to feel like a new intifada.
JLM: I’ll tell you something positive. Palestinian [Prime Minister Salam] Fayyad did condemn [the Jerusalem bombing], and there is some ongoing security cooperation. What’s also different today from 2004, the last time you had an ongoing spate of bombings and attacks inside Israel, is that there is a security fence which makes it a lot harder for Palestinian terrorists to attack.
JW: The fence can’t stop rockets from Gaza.
JLM: Back [in the intifada] when there were all those terrorist attacks, Israel was told repeatedly by the world community that Israel should make a “bold move for peace,” and terrorism would stop. So in 2005, Israel withdrew [and removed all settlements] from Gaza, and of course, that hasn’t worked.
JW: So what should Israel’s response be to these attacks?
JLM: There’s a whole bunch of different players that need to have a response. We’re hoping that the world community will strongly condemn [the Jerusalem bombing]. I have not seen a statement from the White House yet [a White House statement strongly condemning the attacks came shortly after this interview], and it’s been a fair amount of time that’s gone by since the attack. … So far, we do not hear the condemnation of the attack that we hoped to hear. Part of it may be that President Obama is in transit, back from Latin America.
JW: You mentioned that the Palestinian absence from the peace talks has contributed to the frustration that leads to violence. Has Israel done anything to contribute to the violence? What should Israel’s response be? The response, at least to the rockets, has been a military move against rocket launchers in Gaza.
JLM: Look, the Israelis have said they want to have peace talks. The only violence on the Israeli side has come from trying to stop the violence aimed at Israelis. It’s not like Israel is attacking civilians. They’re not. Yesterday was a terrible tragedy. Rockets were being fired at Israel. Israel tried to stop the rocket [launchers] and, of course, the rocket launchers were in civilian areas [in Gaza], and innocent Palestinians died. So I’m not just upset that an Israeli woman died today in a terrorist attack. I’m also extremely upset that innocent Palestinians died as a result of Palestinian terrorists using civilian shields. This is not just catastrophic for the Israeli side.
The Jerusalem bombing was not a suicide terrorist; it was a bomb next to a bus, not a bomber on a bus. But what happened in Gaza was a suicide strategy by the Palestinians — shooting rockets from civilian areas, [creating a situation] causing Palestinian civilians to die.