- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 27, 2002

JERUSALEM Seven Israeli Arabs have been arrested as suspected accomplices in a suicide bombing, police said yesterday, heightening concern of a growing alliance between members of the community and Palestinian militants.
The announcement came as Israel's army chief of staff said Palestinian militants pose an existential, "cancerlike" threat to Israel and must be defeated at all costs to restore the deterrence it lost when it withdrew from Lebanon in 2000.
The comments by Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon brought sharp criticism from dovish politicians, who said he was overstepping his bounds as a military officer. One commentator called the remarks an attempt to derail an agreement that envisions Israeli withdrawals from parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in exchange for Palestinian steps against terrorism.
The seven Israeli Arabs, all members of the same family, were accused of involvement in an Aug. 4 suicide bombing on a bus at the Meron junction in Israel. The blast killed nine persons.
Police said the suspects helped store explosives in a nursery school, dressed the assailant as a tourist and then scouted a target a bus filled with Israeli soldiers and civilians.
Last week, police arrested four Arab residents of Jerusalem on suspicion of carrying out several bombings, including a July 31 blast at a Hebrew University cafeteria that killed nine persons, five of them Americans.
The arrests increased concerns that Arabs with Israeli identity cards might use their status to carry out terror attacks.
Israeli Arabs, who number about 1 million of Israel's population of 6 million citizens, have freedom of movement not afforded to residents of the West Bank, who have been barred from Israel in the 23 months of fighting. Jerusalem's 200,000 Palestinians, who have Israeli ID cards but are not full citizens, also enjoy such freedom of movement.
Raanan Gissin, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's spokesman, called the latest arrests an "ominous development" and said that Palestinian militants "are [trying] to recruit Israeli Arabs to participate actively in terrorist activity."
Mr. Gissin and Israeli Arab leaders noted that the vast majority of Israeli Arab citizens are not engaged in terrorism. Several have been killed and many more have been wounded in Palestinian bomb attacks.
Speaking before a rabbinical assembly on Sunday, Gen. Yaalon blamed Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority for stoking violence against Israelis, saying: "The current Palestinian leadership is not prepared to recognize Israel's right to exist as an independent Jewish state."

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