Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert summed up the situation succinctly this week when he noted that Monday's Palestinian suicide bombing in Eilat shattered an "illusion of quiet" that had prevailed in recent months. The atrocity in Israel's sun-filled southern resort, which left three young Jewish men in a bakery dead, was the first suicide bombing in nine months.
But those who believe that this has been a period during which the Palestinian terror groups had held their fire are dead wrong. Israeli security forces have stopped dozens of previous suicide bombing attacks during these months. The decision to attempt to bomb Eilat reflects the fact that Israel's measures of self-defense, such as the security fence and checkpoints for Palestinian travellers, have made it very difficult for anyone to attack the rest of Israel. If it was the heretofore peaceful tourist haven's turn to witness horror, it's only because it is much harder for Palestinian groups to kill Jews elsewhere.
The question of whether or not this event should change the Israel's government policy of "restraint" in their attitude toward the terrorists and their supporters is one we can leave to political and military leaders of the Jewish state. But friends of Israel should not let this moment pass without noting the way the mainstream of Palestinian opinion viewed it.
No matter whether the attack was carried out by Islamic Jihad or the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade — which is a faction of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah Party — the support for such actions seems to be universal in Palestinian culture. Indeed, the allegedly moderate Abbas issued a call a few weeks ago for rival Palestinian factions to stop trying to kill each other and unite to fight Israel.
The Eilat murders seemed to have just that effect; another attempt at a truce between Fatah and Hamas was announced only a few hours after the attack. If such is the price of Palestinian unity, then it appears that the calm many thought would lead to renewed peace talks was every bit the illusion Olmert thinks it was.