After attack, Israeli Jews fear for security - East Valley Tribune: Nation / World

After attack, Israeli Jews fear for security

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Posted: Thursday, July 3, 2008 8:55 pm | Updated: 9:20 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

JERUSALEM - A day after a Palestinian construction worker's deadly rampage in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Thursday called for reviving the practice of demolishing the homes of attackers' families, and his chief deputy proposed cutting some Arab neighborhoods off from the rest of the city.

Israeli Jews expressed anxiety about security, and Palestinians wondered what the violence will mean for their already tenuous position in society.

A day earlier, a Palestinian drove a huge earth-moving vehicle over cars and into buses, killing three Israelis and leaving a swath of wreckage on a main Jerusalem street before security forces shot him to death.

The attacker, Hussam Dwayat, 30, of east Jerusalem, had no problem moving around the Jewish part of Jerusalem. After Israel captured the Arab section of the city in the 1967 war, it gave residency and Israeli ID cards to the Arabs who lived there, giving them freedom of movement around Israel.

The attack brought calls to reconsider at least some of the benefits the 250,000 Palestinian residents of Jerusalem receive from the Israeli government.

"I think we have to be tougher in part of the measures that we take against terrorists, especially terrorists who are part of our internal fabric of life," Olmert told an economic conference at the Red Sea resort of Eilat. "If we have to demolish houses, we will demolish houses. If we have to revoke social rights, we will revoke social rights. It's inconceivable that we are slaughtered and they will have all the privileges that our society grants our citizens."

Israel had in 2005 stopped the practice of demolishing the homes of Palestinian attackers after the military determined that it did not work as a deterrent.

Olmert's dovish vice premier, Haim Ramon, proposed cutting off the attackers' home village and others in east Jerusalem, where about 50,000 Arabs live, by rerouting the West Bank separation barrier to put the villages outside Jerusalem's boundaries. It was a rare call by a senior Israeli official to effectively redivide Jerusalem, reflecting concern that preventing attacks by Jerusalem's Palestinians is virtually impossible.

Four months ago, a Palestinian from a neighboring village shot and killed eight young students at a rabbinical school in Jerusalem.

On Thursday, police forbade Dwayat's family from setting up a mourning tent at his home in the village of Sur Baher.

A group of men sitting under a eucalyptus tree said some of Dwayat's relatives had been questioned by police. Dwayat's widow, Jamileh, sat on a sofa, wearing a long black dress and head scarf, biting her fingernails and greeting well-wishers with dark, sad eyes. Her two children had been sent to a cousin's house.

"He was a martyr," said one female visitor as she kissed Jamileh Dwayat on the cheeks in reference to the honorary title given to Muslims killed in attacks on Israelis. The attacker's father, Taysir, had earlier forced mourners to stop shouting "martyr" at the home, insisting to Israeli reporters that his son was under the influence of drugs during the rampage, was not motivated by hate, and that the family supported coexistence.

Police said the attacker apparently acted alone. He had a criminal record, police said, and had been ordered to demolish his home in 2005 because it was built illegally.

Residents of Sur Baher expressed concern about their jobs.

"I have always worked in Israel and I have great relations with my boss," said a man who would give only his first name, Moussa, for fear his Jewish employer at a west Jerusalem hotel would disapprove.

Meron Benvenisti, deputy mayor of Jerusalem from 1967 to 1979, said the vast majority of Palestinians in the city value the benefits linked to Jerusalem residency.

"The majority cherish their status. They would not try this (such an attack)," he said. "There is no way you can generalize, but the majority of east Jerusalemites would like the status quo to continue."

Many Jews in Jerusalem said all Arab residents of the city should be kept out of the Jewish side.

Boaz Ariel, 43, a Jewish teacher at a theater school, said he was steering clear of construction vehicles.

"It's not nice to say, but Israel is soft after these attacks," Ariel said as a bulldozer with sand passed next to him at a construction site for a light railway, the location of Wednesday's attack. "We shouldn't let them work here as long as there are attacks. ... We have to throw them out."

But one Jewish contractor said his company would go under if he couldn't employ Arabs from east Jerusalem. Foreign workers from China and Thailand are too expensive, he said. He gave only his first name, Dror, because he said his company bans employees from talking politics.

If Israel prevents Arabs from entering the Jewish side of Jerusalem, "at restaurants the dishes will all be dirty, and at hotels all the sheets won't be changed, and all construction work will stop because there won't be any workers," he said. "They keep our economy stable. We can never separate."

In another development, Palestinian militants fired a rocket at Israel, violating a June 19 truce, the military said. No one was hurt, but Israel's Defense Ministry decided to close Gaza crossings Friday in response, cutting off vital supplies. The Hamas government in Gaza called the closure a breach of the cease-fire.

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