March 24, 1997 in Nation/World

‘Nothing Justifies The Savagery’

Associated Press

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recalled the image of a wounded baby girl, her hair splattered with blood, scooped up from the rubble after her mother was killed in the bombing of a Tel Aviv cafe.

“Nothing justifies the savagery,” Netanyahu said Sunday in an interview with The Associated Press, rejecting Palestinian claims that Israel’s actions led to the bombing that killed three Israelis

on Friday.

“Do I send my people to blow up babies like that? Deliberately? Nothing justifies it. There cannot be peace if this goes on.”

Palestinian leaders said Israel provoked the new violence with a series of decisions that outraged Palestinians, including the start of a Jewish housing project in the Arab-claimed sector of east Jerusalem.

“The man is carrying out a plan that is torpedoing the peace process,” said Saeb Erekat, a senior Palestinian peace negotiator.

During a break in a Cabinet meeting, Netanyahu delivered a stern warning to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to arrest and disarm Palestinian militants or the peace process would come to a halt.

“They have to do a lot more than just rounding up the usual suspects, and then releasing them after a few days or weeks. There must be, for the sake of peace, a crackdown on terrorism by the Palestinian Authority.”

“We have no doubt that he can rein in the terrorism, and the men of violence, if he wants to,” said Netanyahu.

Israeli officials had indicated earlier in the day that the Cabinet might issue a statement formally suspending contacts at the political level with the Palestinians. Such a move would have made reconciliation even harder.

In the end, the Cabinet issued a muted statement that said an essential step in ending the current impasse was fighting terrorism.

Netanyahu said the initiative he announced last week for speeding up negotiations on so-called final status issues was still alive.

His proposal, greeted with wide-spread skepticism from Palestinians, called for an all-out effort to reach agreement on the future of Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, Jewish settlements, the Palestinian demand for statehood and final borders in six months.

© Copyright 1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email