JERUSALEM (Jan. 14)
A terrorist ambush Tuesday evening on an Israeli passenger bus in the West Bank has prompted demands from settlers that the government immediately recall its negotiating team from peace talks with the Arabs in Washington.
But in Washington, the head of the Israeli delegation negotiating with the Palestinians said the incident would not prompt an Israeli walkout from the bilateral peace talks.
“We will not be deterred in our quest for peace,” said Elyakim Rubinstein. But he stressed that Israel would “also not tolerate either the terrorism itself nor the double-talk of some people supporting peace on one hand and encouraging terrorism on the other.”
Six Israeli settlers were wounded in the incident, which occurred shortly after 6 p.m. local time near Ein Sinya village in the Ramallah district, about 13 miles north of Jerusalem.
The bus was en route from Jerusalem to Shiloh, a settlement in the Samaria district of the West Bank.
The victims were hospitalized with wounds ranging from moderate to serious. One of the more seriously injured was a boy said to be about 7 years old.
The Israel Defense Force immediately sealed off the area in order to search for the gunmen, Israel Radio reported.
SPEAKING FROM BOTH SIDES OF MOUTH
The attack was the latest in a series of shootings that has taken the lives of four Jews in the administered territories since October.
The first occurred on the eve of the peace conference that opened in Madrid on Oct. 30. Israeli authorities blame Palestinian radicals opposed to the peace process, which has been endorsed by the mainstream factions of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
The last occurred Jan. 1, when a Jewish settler was fatally shot in the Gaza Strip. A day later, Defense Minister Moshe Arens ordered the deportation of 12 Palestinian activists. Their appeals of the order are presently being heard by a military tribunal.
The deportation order was seen as an attempt to mollify Jewish settlers in the territories, who have long demanded tougher measures against Palestinians who perpetrate violence.
Uri Ariel, chairman of the Council of Settlements in Judea and Samaria, said Tuesday that a truly nationalist government would have broken off the peace talks by now.
According to Ariel, a Jew is attacked every time the “so-called peace talks” reach a new phase. Each time, innocent Israeli civilians were hurt, he said.
In Washington, Israeli negotiators accused their Palestinian counterparts of condemning the attacks while in Washington and then supporting violence while in the territories.
Yosef Ben-Aharon, head of the Israeli delegation for talks with Syria, said that Hanan Ashrawi, the Palestinian delegation’s spokeswoman, was speaking out of “both sides of the mouth” when she condemned Tuesday’s attack.
Ashrawi said she condemned all violence against innocent civilians.
But Ben-Aharon said the Palestinians were saying one thing aimed at the U.S. audience while supporting violence when speaking to their people in Arabic at home.
He also pointed out that Israel would continue its negotiations, unlike the Arabs, who had postponed coming to Washington for a week to protest the planned deportation of 12 Palestinians.
(JTA correspondent David Friedman in Washington contributed to this report.)