The brazen murder of eight yeshiva students, mostly teenagers, in a landmark mainstream Orthodox institution in Jerusalem, has convulsed Israel in sadness and outrage. That this has occurred within a week of the massive operation in the Gaza Strip, killing about 120 Palestinians, is no accident. About half, if not more, of this latter toll were of fighters of the terrorist factions, but dozens were non-combatant civilians, including children.
The intent of the attackers was not the same in these two cases. Israel was attempting to end the ongoing rocket attacks on southern Israel; it did not target civilian victims. The lone terrorist in Jerusalem did exactly that.
Still, there is a “cycle of violence,” a term that offends many supporters of Israel because it seems to imply a moral equivalence between acts of terror and efforts to end them. We make no such argument. Israel’s intentions to defend itself are justified, but the carnage exacted upon Palestinians is much greater, generally by a large order of magnitude. Clearly, these tactics do not work; violence begets violence.
The only way out is through a ceasefire on the ground and a renewed effort to negotiate a peaceful end to the conflict, a viable two-state solution. President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority has offered to broker a truce between Israel and Hamas; Egypt’s good offices might also facilitate an indirect negotiation for such a result.
We implore that Israel not allow the terrorists to win by vetoing the possibility of peace. We commend Prime Minister Olmert’s announced intention to continue the peace talks with the Palestinian Authority and urge every effort toward a breakthrough.