Vicious circle of violence has to be broken

Israelis as well as Palestinians should decide once and for all what it is they want. If it is peaceful coexistence, then both sides will have to understand that the continuing spiral of violence will never achieve this goal.

Monday’s attack on Sheik Ahmed Yassin, killing the respected leader of the Palestinian community, illustrated this quite clearly.

By Tuesday, Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi had already stepped up as replacement. Israeli Public Security Minister Tzachi Hanegbi said, “Everyone is in our sights,” declaring that any Hamas member is a valid target, including Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. It is clear that al-Rantissi understands he is declaring himself a target, but believes in his causes so much that he is willing to take that risk.

President George W. Bush chastised Israel during a press event held during a cabinet meeting. While he acknowledged that all countries should be allowed to fight terrorism, he also said, “Israel has the right to protect (itself) from terror. But if they do so, I hope they will understand the consequences.”

It was unclear if he meant embargoes or other countermeasures imposed by the United States against Israel, or retaliatory measures by Palestinians — who have already vowed that such a response will occur.

Any assassination will have the effect of strengthening the unity among Palestinian ranks. Israel should ask itself if that is really what they want to happen.

A negotiated solution seems the only logical way out of the stalemate. Both sides have to realize that killing people on the opposing side will never lead to peace, especially since they will have to live together in an area slightly smaller than New Jersey afterward.

Palestinians will only come to a table to discuss a peaceful solution if they not only feel respected, but also see an honest chance for a solution that they can accept. For this to occur, Israelis have to extend a hand toward them.

It goes without saying that, in order for such talks to take place, an effort should be made to stop the violence. But since previous truces have been broken by hardliners within both sides, even violence should not be a deterrent to keeping the dialogue going.