RABIN REMARKS ON TEL AVIV BOMBING
(Communicated by the GPO)
The following is the text of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s remarks yesterday (Wednesday), 19.10.94, on Israel Television regarding the terrorist bombing in Tel Aviv:
I would first like to say that the news of the terrible attack in Tel Aviv reached me during my stay in London, and I decided to return to Israel immediately. Regarding the incident itself: I certainly cannot find the words to express the pain and outrage over this murderous attack against innocent civilians in the heart of Tel Aviv, by the HAMAS organization, which is part of the extremist Islamic element among the Palestinians, and which several years ago declared a war of destruction against Israel, Israelis, and recently against the the peace process. HAMAS, along with radical Islam, expresses a from of terrorism which is different from what we once knew about the PLO terrorist organizations; it is fanatically extremist in its Islamic faith and its readiness for self-sacrifice is of a nature that has been unknown to us among the Palestinians . We saw it in Lebanon among Hizbullah. Since HAMAS began its extremist activity against us, we have witnessed at least 12 suicide terrorist attacks, both before and after the Declaration of Principles. To the best of our knowledge, the terrible murder in the heart of Tel Aviv was carried out by a suicide bomber who carried the explosives on his body and who blew himself up, apparently at a place where he believed the greatest number of casualties would be inflicted.
There is no doubt that we are faced with a most difficult war against HAMAS. This is an organization defined as extremist, which operates with all means and in all places in order to harm us. We witnessed the attack in Jerusalem last Sunday. We witnessed the kidnapping on that same day of Nahshon Wachsman, of blessed memory, in which three of the four kidnappers were Jerusalemites carrying Israeli identification cards, and one was from Gaza. Previously, we witnessed suicide attacks in Afula and Hadera, which were carried out by Islamic terrorists from Judea and Samaria, which are under our control, and we too were unsuccessful in preventing them, despite all the efforts which we made. Our enemy today 90 percent of the terrorist attacks are carried out by radical Islamic elements, led by HAMAS and the Islamic Jihad. Their purpose is to attack Israelis, and no less important to them is preventing any chance for peace.
Today, I followed the television broadcasts and even saw the demonstration in Amman by the extremist Islamic element in Jordan, protesting against the peace between Jordan and Israel. We are witnessing Hizbullah activity, not only in the daily terrorism in southern Lebanon, but also in their positions against negotiations for peace; even by the Lebanese government, which dances to Syria’s tune. This is an enemy which faced us prior to the Declaration of Principles, prior to the initialing of the peace treaty with Jordan. This is an enemy which must be defined and it should not be made to include others not Jordan and not those Palestinians who want peace with us.
There is no doubt that the attack today is a very serious one. I do not remember an attack in which such a large number of Israelis were killed since the coastal road bus massacre in 1978. It is a terrible attack which exacerbates the problem, but the problem existed before. I think that any attempt to define the Israelis who were killed as victims of peace is a distortion of the truth. They are victims of the war being waged by the radical elements of HAMAS and the Islamic Jihad, who would surely have conducted it along with others, even if the DOP had not been achieved.
Certainly today, they are the main, and almost sole, initiators of the terrorism being conducted against us, whose purpose is to kill Israelis because they are Israelis; however, most of all, this is a war against the very existence of the State of Israel, and certainly against a peace which will more firmly establish Israel’s existence. We have acted in the past, and are acting now, against HAMAS. We have demands of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza, which should carry out activity against HAMAS in a better way than it is doing today, but I cannot tell you whether the terrorist who carried out the suicide attack on the bus in the heart of Tel Aviv today came from Gaza, or from Judea and Samaria. I would not be surprised if he came from Judea and Samaria where we are responsible. If you ask me with certainty, what allows a terrorist such as this to reach the heart of Tel Aviv. A closure was placed today on the residents of the territories in order to prevent them from reaching sovereign Israel. But, a closure if I am not mistaken (and I am sure I am not mistaken) in the reality of an intermingling of tens of thousands of Israelis and Arabs, without a clear line of demarcation, and without separation as a political element of an arrangement, will not prevent HAMAS, will not prevent the Islamic Jihad, from having the ability to carry out attacks like this.
The problem is not a technical closure for a few days. What, will the HAMAS disappear after 10 days? After 8 months? The problem is the long-term solution, which consists of two elements. First to find a Palestinian partner, even if it will be less efficient in its battle against HAMAS, yet will prevent terrorism and attempt to do so to its utmost ability, which is certainly not at our level, and prevent HAMAS from attacking. Second a political solution which will not blur demarcation lines between Jews and Israelis on one side and Palestinians on the other side. Whoever wants a Greater Land of Israel is expressing the greatest hope of HAMAS, a mingling of Jews and Arabs, of Jews and Palestinians, of Israelis and residents of the territories, in a way which will not allow a war on terrorism. Today, the IDF is confined to putting most of its forces into protecting Jewish settlements in the territories and the movements of their residents. It therefore engages less in the war on terrorism and more in protecting the settlements in the territories.
We will do our utmost to fulfill our commitment as a Government on one hand imposing a closure, and on the other working against HAMAS. I will not at this time describe our steps, but there are several things making our job more difficult. I will simply say that if we had been following to the letter, every single world of the Landau Commission in the investigation of HAMAS terrorists, we would not have located the place in Bir Naballah where Nahshon Wachsman was held.
There are those who believe it is possible to fight HAMAS with kid gloves, taking into account the demands of Israeli law against using physical force. But it is inconceivable that a HAMAS terrorist who participated in a murder would be able to bring a case to the High Court of Justice complaining that he was not given enough hours of proper sleep and win the case, because that is the law. I have nothing against the High Court of Justice. I just want to be able to order the administrative detention of HAMAS leaders in the territories under our control without complicated legal nonsense, and I do not want to have to provide any explanations that intelligence is not always able to provide for legal authorization. I believe we need to find methods so that HAMAS’ suicidal murderers will know that not only are they liable to be killed during their activities, but that their homes, the homes of their families, could be damaged.
If we want to embark on a war to the finish against HAMAS, we need to move beyond words. We, the executive branch, have to be allowed by the legislative branch to strengthen our activities, with tools giving us the ability to fight extremist terrorism like this. Today, we do not have this capability.
With all of the pain, I remain convinced that the decision I took to do everything in our power, including a military operation, to save the life of Nahshon Wachsman, who was kidnapped by HAMAS terrorists, which in the end was not successful, was correct. But we did not submit to HAMAS’ dictates, nor to their demands. Think about it today, negotiations with the HAMAS which was responsible for this terrible terrorist act. Along with that, we must ask: war with HAMAS, a closure of unlimited duration, and better tools for our security forces to enable them to fight HAMAS.
An Israeli readiness to be satisfied with Israeli labor and not be dependent upon labor from residents of the territories. After all, following every closure, who are those who are the primary complainers? The Israelis. And here I want to remind you of something: all of the Palestinian laborers from the territories during the past year and a half who received work permits, did not carry out any murderous attacks. Only those employed by Israelis, without permits and without registration, created the possibility for the entrance of heinous, murderous terrorists like this. This situation has brought about today’s reality.
The State of Israel is faced with a decision: do we want separation between ourselves and the Palestinians, not only when there is a closure for a few days, but rather as a world-view? I have heard the opinions of the opposition. I will not argue with them today. For those who want a spreading out of settlements in the territories, a blurring of areas, a reality of one intermingled with the other; it is possible to recognize the fact that this reality has enemies among the Palestinians and if this is the policy, all of the Palestinians will join it and then we will face far harsher terrorism. I never once came and argued against Begin’s (may his memory be blessed) Government that its actions in Lebanon caused the establishment of the Hizbullah. And when Israelis were attacked, I never regarded Begin as guilty, rather [I regarded] those who wounded the Israelis as guilty, and they were never from Israel. And this approach, that HAMAS, according to some Israeli commentators, is completely free of responsibility. They are not the killers. They are not the standard bearers of the opposition to the very existence of the State of Israel. They are not the ones who carry out these attacks. Then who does? The Government of Israel. As Prime Minister, I carried out a large- scale expulsion of HAMAS leaders for a limited time, on a scale which no previous Government of Israel dared; I am prepared to fight them to the finish because they are the enemies of Israel and the enemies of peace. But I must also consider, what next? What is the solution? Should it be separation between the Palestinians and Israel, or a continued blurring of the line, or continuing to create the conditions which lead to fanaticism among the Palestinians such as the people of HAMAS and the Islamic Jihad which gives them this type of capability. Without separating the two, without clear lines of demarcation, not as a short term technique, but as a political solution, not based upon the lines existing today… whoever wants to absorb two million Palestinians, eight hundred thousand from Gaza, one million from Judea and Samaria, and one hundred and fifty thousand from united Jerusalem, all of these will provide HAMAS with the greatest possible support, not merely part of the Palestinian population, but the great majority.
We are committed to the peace process. The Treaty of Peace with Jordan will be signed next week. None of the enemies of peace will prevent this. We are committed to the Declaration of Principles, as long as the Palestinian side proves its ability to fight terrorism; terrorism which is controlled from within the territories which are presently under their authority, specifically, Gaza and Jericho. I cannot demand that they be responsible when we are speaking about the territory of Judea and Samaria apart from Jericho, in which we are the military authority, and in which we are able to employ all of our facilities, and it is not easy. We are looking for one individual, among the million Palestinians in Judea and Samaria, who prepared the car bombs and explosives for the murders in Afula, Hadera, Mehola, Beit-El, and in other places, and we have not yet succeeded in finding his trail. It is we, who clearly have great motivation, and who are convinced that the Security Service, the intelligence community, and the IDF are doing their best, because after all, it is we who wish to find him. This is a difficult confrontation, but the People of Israel knows how to stand in the face of war and struggle. With all of its difficulty and pain we must maintain our struggle against this terrible enemy HAMAS and the Islamic Jihad which is part of the Islamic movement which today is spread throughout the Arab and Muslim world, and which works to overthrow moderate regimes, acts against Israel from within the territories and from Lebanon, as the foundation for international terrorism, which attacked us in London, and I saw the attack yesterday. Horrible. I have heard reports on the attack in Buenos Aires. This is all part of a single complex of the cruel wave of Khomeinism, without Khomeini, and we must understand things clearly. We must not think that if we neutralize X or Y, or that if we do not seek a solution together with those in the Arab world who wish that these things not occur: Jordan, some of the Palestinians, even if their capabilities are limited that in this way we will find an answer.
Today on television, I heard suggestions that I lift the closure on the territories, that I not lift it, because it applies only to Gaza. Many come from Judea and Samaria. Most have authorization to enter, some do not. And Israelis gladly employ them. I ask of every Israeli: do not employ Palestinians from the territories who do not have work permits, even if this saves you money. You are opening an access to this kind of terrorist. And if we know how to carry out immediate action; both to enable the security and defense services to investigate legally in a way which will produce information without using physical force, and also to arrest and to hit those who carried out, for example, the attack in Jerusalem, or the kidnapping of the late Nahshon Wachsman, so that they would know that they were not only risking their lives. That they were also risking those close to them and their homes. I believe that with these tools, together with the peace process, we can reduce the level of attacks. Whoever promises that there will be no attacks… it has already been promised that the land would be quiet for forty years [in the Bible] and it has not been quiet.
Q: Sir, besides the amendments to the law which you intend to present very soon, do you intend to take real and immediate steps in order to prevent a recurrence of attacks such as the ones we have seen in the wave of HAMAS attacks?
Rabin: We will act according to our ability within the framework of the law, in an effort to reduce these attacks. We have acted in the past. It should be recalled that HAMAS has, for several years, been in the process of becoming stronger, and that its central motif is opposition to the very existence of Israel, opposition to accepting the existence of Israel, to reaching an arrangement with Israel.
Before the DOP, they acted together with others. They were relatively less active than they are today, not in terms of the number of attacks but rather in the overall number of wounded. There is no doubt that their readiness reminds me of the readiness of Hizbullah members. We should not forget how many IDF soldiers were killed in suicide attacks carried out by Hizbullah in Lebanon. HAMAS is acting in this terrible manner, carrying out suicide attacks, just as Hizbullah did against us in Lebanon. The difference lies in the situation of a lack of separation between the Palestinians and Israelis. Palestinians from the territories are able to carry out suicide attacks by employing one person or vehicle which can reach the site of the attack. Jerusalem, as you know, also has Palestinians whom we call Israeli Arabs; the problem is who they think they are. They have Israeli identity cards evidence of this can be found in the fact that the kidnapping of Nahshon Wachsman was carried out using a rented vehicle from united Jerusalem, by a resident of united Jerusalem; three residents of united Jerusalem participated in the kidnapping.
Q: Mr. Prime Minister, you speak of ‘separation’ as a political solution. What does this mean for tomorrow morning? What does it mean for a month from now? What political solution do you intend to implement? A withdrawal by Israel from some of these areas, a solution in Judea and Samaria similar to that in Gaza?
Rabin: Immediately, this means a closure. In the second stage, a demand that the Palestinian Authority deal with HAMAS in the areas for which it is responsible. Thirdly, a continuation of the peace process. With the Palestinians as well. The permanent solution, from my standpoint, and that of the Labor Party, which announced its position before the elections and the change in the situation, is that we do not want to rule over a million Palestinians in addition to the 800 thousand who live in Gaza. We insist on a united Jerusalem. And when we reach the permanent solution we will not agree to return to the lines as they were before the 1967 Six Day War. This relates first and foremost to Judea and Samaria. And we will find a solution which will give Israel security, and which will not obligate us to be the occupier of another people.
Q: In your speech, you had serious complaints about the judicial system. As Prime Minister what can you do, or want to do, in order to change the law tomorrow morning?
Rabin: I intend to bring before the Cabinet tomorrow proposals which will enable us to take proper action in the face of cruel, brutal terrorism like that which HAMAS is carrying out.
Rabin: Everything is up for discussion, if we still want that part of the Palestinian component which is prepared to reach peace with us, which halted the terrorism and is confronting HAMAS and the Islamic Jihad. You saw the demonstrations as they occurred in Gaza, when 300 HAMAS members were detained. Do you not understand what is being tested here? From our standpoint, it is clear and we expect the Palestinian side to contend with HAMAS. Not with that part of HAMAS engaged in expressing political views, but with that part of HAMAS involved in terrorism.
Q: Today, several ministers stated that Israel does not rule out action in Gaza. Do you think that this is a possible consideration?
Rabin: I do not want to touch on operational considerations. It must be remembered that we are not in Gaza. There is Gush Katif, Netzarim, Kfar Darom, the IDF is there. The IDF secures the main roads for the residents, both to and from the Strip. The problem today, and the attack today, is that there is more emphasis on attacking targets in Israel. This is not new. After all, some very terrible things have happened to us in the past. It has been a while, but (you will) remember the car bomb in Afula which a suicide attacker detonated. And the attack on the bus in Hadera which a suicide attacker carried out. All of these were members of the extremist Islamic stream, HAMAS and the Islamic Jihad. Therefore, it is worth remembering that we are in the midst of a difficult war with this Islamic element, which is opposed to Israel. It must be eliminated, we must fight against it, not against those who want cooperation with us, but who occasionally carry out much less than we might expect of them.
Q: Mr. Prime Minister, a proposal was raised today, by Ariel Sharon, to form a national emergency government, a proposal which has been raised more than once. In light of the situation today, will you consider such a possibility? In light of the meeting which you will have tomorrow with the Labor Party, what will you say?
Rabin: This Government is the first since that of the late Menachem Begin which has advanced peace. He had the strength and courage to reach peace with Egypt, in return for a comprehensive withdrawal from the Sinai Desert and (the end) of Israel’s presence there. This is not the Likud of today. We stand firm in our determination to continue the policy to which we committed ourselves for the voters before the 1992 elections: to try and reach an arrangement with thee Palestinians. We have reach the beginning of this; it is not yet complete. The peace with Egypt is also not what we expected when we signed it. We are firm in our commitment to continue. Without the first stage, we would not have been able to reach the initialing of the peace with Jordan, and next week the peace treaty itself with Jordan. If the Likud is prepared to accept the policy, fine. We are continuing along our path. A mandate for this was given to us and we will carry it out. I undertook to to so and I will carry this out. Summing up my remarks, I would like to reiterate: this was a cruel and terrible attack. Twenty-two Israelis were killed. Ordinary Israelis, who were on their way to work, to their homes, with no malice in their hearts. Many were injured. It is very painful. It is very difficult and natural that there be outrage. I saw the behavior of the residents of Tel Aviv, led by Mayor Milo, and I want to express my admiration for the fact that, despite the outrage and the pain, they showed restraint. I want to express my condolences to the families, most of whom still do not know for certain about the loss of their loved ones. I want to wish a speedy recovery to the injured. And I want to wish all of us, as we knew how to do in the past, to overcome blows, but blows which came together with progress for peace. In light of the change in the reality, may we be strong enough to go on and see the goal of peace and security.