Wye Implementation Delayed After Terror Attack in Jerusalem

Terror is exacting its cost on the Wye agreement. That cost was reflected in a delay Monday, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the timetable for implementing the agreement would be postponed until the Palestinian Authority proves that it is fighting terrorism.

He said last Friday’s suicide-bombing in Jerusalem was proof that terrorist infrastructures continue to operate within the Palestinian self-rule areas.

Netanyahu’s announcement came after U.S. officials urged Israel and the Palestinian Authority to move ahead with the Wye agreement, despite two terror attacks launched on Israeli targets since the accord was signed last month at the White House.

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright telephoned Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat last Friday, after the suicide bombing at Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market wounded at least 21 Israelis. The two suicide bombers were the only fatalities.

Albright reportedly appealed to them not to let the enemies of peace derail implementation of the Wye accord, which calls for Israel to transfer 13 percent of the West Bank to the Palestinians in exchange for concrete actions against terrorism.

The Israeli Cabinet, which was in session last Friday when the suicide bombers struck, immediately suspended its deliberations on the accord. The Cabinet later issued a statement that it would ratify the agreement only after the Palestinian Authority fulfills its security obligations under the accord.

At a weekend rally, Netanyahu announced that Israel would continue to build in Jerusalem, including Har Homa. The start of infrastructure work in March 1997 at the controversial site in southeastern Jerusalem prompted a deadlock in the negotiations with the Palestinians that lasted 18 months.

While it remains unclear when the Cabinet will take up the ratification process, right-wing opponents of the accord are taking actions of their own.

Jewish settlers have set up at least five new encampments in the West Bank since the signing of the Wye agreement, the Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported.

The moves came as part of an effort to establish footholds in the West Bank before Israel embarks on any further redeployments from the area. The report said most of the encampments were set up on state-owned lands within the boundaries of existing settlements.

Meanwhile, Israeli right-wingers were planning to meet this week to discuss the creation of a new political bloc opposed to making any territorial concessions to the Palestinian Authority.

Legislators from the Likud Party, National Religious Party, Tsomet, Moledet and non-parliamentary right-wing groups were among those slated to attend the meetings.

After Arafat denounced last Friday’s bombing, the Palestinian Authority launched a roundup of activists from Islamic Jihad, which claimed responsibility for the attack.

But their commitment to the roundup came into question Monday, when a Hamas official said a senior member of the group had been released from a Palestinian prison along with several suspected militants.

Palestinian security officials said Sunday that the two bombers in the attack, identified as Yousuf Zageyeh, 22, and Suleiman Tahaineh, 23, were members of an Islamic Jihad cell from the Jenin area.

The two, who were brothers-in-law, lived in West Bank villages under overall Israeli security responsibility and had served time in Israeli prisons for security offenses.

The two were driving past the Mahane Yehuda market — which was crowded with pre-Sabbath shoppers — when explosions went off, setting the car on fire. Israeli security officials investigating the attack said it appeared that the bombs had exploded prematurely, and that this had prevented any Israeli fatalities.

Two Israeli border police who heard the first explosion and ordered people away from the car were honored Sunday for averting a far greater disaster.

The Mahane Yehuda attack came a week after a car bombing in the Gaza Strip narrowly missed a school bus filled with children, but killed one Israeli soldier in a jeep that was escorting the bus.

Mahane Yehuda was the site of an even bloodier attack in July 1997, when two suicide bombers claimed 16 victims and wounded 170 others.

NEXT STORY