Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Israel No Longer Just a Spectator

After a deadly bomb blast ripped apart a bus in Jerusalem, pro-Israel groups snapped into action today, urging their supporters to lobby Congress to maintain its support for its ally in the tumultuous Middle East.

Until now Israel has played the role of cautious observer as the Pan-Arab freedom movement began in Tunisia, toppled their ally Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and has now swept throughout Arab kingdoms and dictatorships. From conversations with Israelis, the changes all around them more often trigger fear of the unknown, rather than euphoria over the potential for democratic reforms on the Arab street.

"Historically, when the peace process stalls, terrorists are quick to fill the vacuum. Some Arab governments like Syria may also be inciting violence against Israel to distract attention away from their own corruption and unpopularity," Jennifer Lazlo Mizrahi wrote to supporters of her Washington-based organization, The Israel Project.

Mizrahi sent around pro-Israel speaking points to her group's email list, asking backers to write to their members of Congress to urge them to support the Jewish state.

But one Jewish lobbying group that advocates for peace on the Middle East, J-Street, may have a hard time selling its liberalk line in Israel, a blogger at The Boston Globe notes.

President Obama condemned the attack and offered condolences.

"I condemn in the strongest possible terms the bombing in Jerusalem today, as well as the rockets and mortars fired from Gaza in recent days. Together with the American people, I offer my deepest condolences for those injured or killed," Obama said. "There is never any possible justification for terrorism. The United States calls on the groups responsible to end these attacks at once and we underscore that Israel, like all nations, has a right to self-defense."

Obama also acknowledged the Palestinian victims of Israel's retaliatory attacks.

"We also express our deepest condolences for the deaths of Palestinian civilians in Gaza yesterday. We stress the importance of calm and urge all parties to do everything in their power to prevent further violence and civilian casualties," the President said in a statement.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was meeting with his top security advisers when the explosion ripped through the bus.

The bombing came "just hours after the southern Israeli city of Beersheva was hit by two Katyusha missiles from Palestinian militants in Gaza – the first such attack since the Gaza war ended two years ago," The Christian Science Monitor reported.

Laura Rozen, Yahoo's newly acquired Middle East maven, notes that it has been about four years since a bomb struck terror on Israeli territory.

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