For the second time in five months, a Palestinian suicide bomber yesterday struck the Israeli coastal city of Netanya, killing five and wounding at least 55. This latest tragedy offers an opportunity to reflect on the grisly Palestinian strategy that sees cities like Netanya as mere targets in the larger war against the Jewish state.
At the end of November 2000, I delivered a lecture at a retirement home in Netanya. In it, I discussed the PLO demand that all Arabs who have wallowed in UN refugee camps for the past 50 years have the "right to return" to villages that they left in 1948.
I showed them the map of a "future Palestinian state" which the PLO Orient House headquarters provides in Jerusalem, which marks the 531 Arab villages that are slated for return, all of which had been overrun in 1948.
One of those villages was Umm Khalid, which, according to the PLO, had been illegally absorbed by Netanya.
The PLO therefore defines Netanya as one of Israel's "illegal settlements," under the terms of the Fourth Geneva Convention, enacted in 1949, which forbids a conquering nation from moving its citizens into a conquered area.
The implications: the PLO will justify any attack on any such settlement that it views as "illegal" under international law. The head of the PLO Refugee Department, Daoud Barakat, confirms this.
In January 1995, following Hamas terror bombs that killed 21 people at a bus stop at the Beit Lid/Netanya junction, the PLO secretary general Marwan Barghouti, now in prison for the first degree murders of 13 people, calmly told MBC Saudi television why the PLO would justify an attack on Netanya: "This is an area that we have yet to liberate." The video is readily available.
Meanwhile, the December 1995 PLO-Hamas accord, signed in Cairo by both Palestinian factions, allows Hamas to carry out operations in areas within Israel proper that have "not yet been liberated".
The Palestinian spin on the "right of return" plays out in many ways that have escaped public attention:
Over the past seven years, the PLO has developed a computer data base which helps Arab refugees locate their homes from before 1948.
This is to enable their imminent right of return to places like Umm Khalid - by force, if necessary.
The above presentation five years ago made retirees at the Netanya nursing home very nervous. They could not believe what they were hearing, that their city was considered to be a target.
They became quite emotional, and some of the retirees actually screamed that "all the Palestinians want is the West bank and Gaza."
It was clear that the message that the PLO demanded the "right of return" to Netanya was a hard one for these senior citizens to swallow.
Yet there was one man who made it easy to listen: An Arab male nurse present asked to say something at the end of the lecture.
He approached the podium He stared at the map and turned to speak to the retirees. "This is what we want. The right of return. That would bring peace," said the nurse. I asked him if that meant that Israel would have to withdraw from Umm Khalid.
The nurse, in a soft voice, said "yes".
I then said to the nurse that this would mean that half of the Jews would have to leave their homes in Netanya. The nurse said, "Well, that would be the price of peace."
The retirees were stunned. The Arab nurse at the Netanya nursing home had conveyed my message -- with greater credibility.
Since that talk in Netanya, more than a dozen Arab terror bombs have exploded in the center of Netanya.
From the PLO point of view, these bombings occur because Netanya -- or Um Khalid -- has not yet been "liberated from occupation."
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