JERUSALEM (Oct. 31)
A 35-year-old Israel Defense Force reservist was wounded Wednesday in an ambush in the Gaza Strip, and a 19-year-old suspected Palestinian terrorist was fatally shot by Israeli security forces at the Tulkarm refugee camp in the West Bank.
The disturbances, involving the IDF and intifada activists, were not directly related to the random attacks by Arabs on Jews that have occurred in Israel during the last two weeks.
But both manifestations of violence seem to be in reaction to the Temple Mount riots of Oct. 8, when Israeli police killed at least 17 Arab rock-throwers.
The latest unrest in the Gaza Strip was especially unsettling to Israelis, because live ammunition was used in the ambush of an IDF patrol. It was not the first time bullets have been fired by intifada activists, but security sources consider it an escalation nevertheless.
Authorities had hoped the reopening of the administered territories, which were sealed off last week from Israel proper, would reduce tensions. But many Palestinian workers have chosen this week to stay away from their jobs in Israel.
Some apparently feared retaliatory attacks from Jews angered by the series of attacks last week against Israeli civilians. Other workers discovered that during their enforced absence last week, their jobs had been taken by Jews.
The labor situation has been further complicated by strike calls. The intifada leadership has ordered a two-day strike of Palestinian workers this weekend and a three-day strike next week.
Defense Minister Moshe Arens, whose re-opening of the territories Sunday was criticized by many of his Cabinet colleagues as premature, is said to be seriously concerned about the situation in the long term.
POTENTIALLY EXPLOSIVE SITUATION
He told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday that Israel should brace for another “uneasy period in the territories.”
For the first time, he raised troubling doubts about the continuation of a situation in which more than 100,000 Arabs from the territories come to work in Israel every day.
They take menial jobs that Israelis refuse. “This does not fit the Zionist ethos and causes both economic damage and security risks to Israeli society,” Arens said.
He noted that every Israeli government up to the present has believed in providing Palestinians with employment out of “short-term economic considerations.”
But the Palestinians should not be “hewers of wood and drawers of water,” the defense minister said.
Arens hinted that better efforts should be made to develop employment opportunities for them inside the territories, while the number of Palestinians employed in Israel should be reduced gradually.
He warned, however, that permanently denying Palestinians the right to work in Israel could create a dangerously explosive situation in the territories.
Security sources hope tighter regulations imposed this week will keep potential trouble makers out of Israel while allowing the vast majority of Palestinians to retain their jobs.
About 20,000 Palestinians with criminal or security offense records will be permanently barred from entering Israel proper. They have been issued green identity cards. In addition, there will be closer surveillance of Palestinians living in Israel proper without permits.