4/18/2016 Bus Bombing in Jerusalem

By last week there was a sense that the current wave of Palestinian violence may have played itself out. While security personal were quick to point out that it could be a false calm, stabbings were way down and the combined efforts of the Israeli and Palestinian security personnel seemed to be working. That all changed in Jerusalem late this afternoon in when a bomb caused an explosion on a bus. That bus and a second bus behind it immediately caught fire. The bomb was apparently small, injuring 21 people while totally destroying the buses. The bus containing the bomb was almost completely empty. To Israelis, the image of a bus bombing immediately conjures up memories of the worse of the Second Intifadah (2001-2004), when a single terror attack sometimes took 30 or more lives at a time.

The hope, of course, is that this is an isolated incident, but hope spring eternal, and most Israelis know that things are likely to get worse in the coming weeks and months and not better. As Dahlia Scheindlin, a colleague in Tel Aviv, just stated if this continues “this place will become all out hell”.

This evening's news comes on the heals of what can only be called mixed news from earlier in the day about the area around Gaza. The army censor approved publication this morning that last week using newly developed technology, the Israel Defense Forces had discovered a Hamas attack tunnel that had been dug from the Gaza Strip into Israel proper. The discovery was confirmation of what most people, especially those who lived along the Gaza, believed that Hamas had never given up there quest to build tunnels into Israel. The success of the new technology in discovery the location of the tunnel could be a game changer and deprive Hamas one of their few successful weapons - the ability to make a surprise attack into Israel. The current concern is that Hamas may be tempted to launch an attack in the coming days before all of their tunnels are discovered under the theory of 'use it or lose it'. The next few weeks could be especially tense. Of course today’s bus bombing might have been Hamas response to the discovery of the tunnel - but it's still too early to tell.

In the meantime, the Israeli cabinet held its first ever cabinet meeting on the Golan Heights, which was captured from Syria in 1967. The Heights were officially annexed to Israel in 1981 and the meeting was held to underscore the fact that Israel has no intention of ever ceding sovereignty of the Heights. While negotiations had taken place over the years about returning it, the Syrian Civil War had prove to many Israelis how dangerous that could be. Meanwhile not far from the meeting close to the area in the Southern Golan where Israel, Jordan, and Syria meet, heavy fighting has been going on between ISIS and the other opposition forces as ISIS attempts to gain control of the area. On Thursday as President Obama is meeting in Saudi Arabia the leaders of Gulf Cooperative League, Prime Minister Netanyahu will be in Moscow conferring with Soviet President Putin on Israeli concerns in Syria.

For a few days it looked like Israel might have the luxury to turn and deal with some pressing domestic issues, but it seems that external events continue to set the agenda.