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Who’s responsible for the Tel Aviv bombing?

Usually when a terror attack occurs, various groups claim responsibility, trying to capitalize on the ‘success.’ When it comes to terror against Israel, it is even more apparent: the three major Palestinian groups – Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Fatah’s Al-Aq’sa Martyrs Brigades – are fighting for popularity in the Palestinian street, and more than once have claimed responsibility for attacks they did not perpetrate.

In contrast, in the couple of days following the Tel Aviv bomb attack last Friday, just the opposite occurred. This time no one seemed to want the take responsibility. Both Islamic Jihad and Al-Aq’sa Martyrs Brigades are trying to clear themselves of involvement, despite previous anonymous phone-calls to news agencies in which they both took responsibility. Also stating they had no hand in the deadly attack are the Syrian regime, and the Lebanon-based terror group Hizbullah.

So what is going on? Who is responsible, and why is no one claiming responsibility?

It is clear by now that Islamic Jihad is behind the attack. The terrorist who carried out the attack was a member of Islamic Jihad, and even recorded a videotape before the attack, in which he claimed responsibility. Other Israeli intelligence information also points to this group as being responsible.

But Islamic Jihad does not operate alone. Its headquarters are situated in Syria’s capital Damascus, where it receives financial aid. Support also comes from Lebanon, from where Hizbullah is activating agents inside the Palestinian territories. To widen the web, Hizbullah itself also receives military support from Syria. And yet, no one takes responsibility. Why?

Islamic Jihad:
Islamic Jihad’s main goal since its establishment has been to destroy Israel. Temporary cease-fires are only tactical steps the group takes from time to time. Islamic Jihad knows that the popularity it receives in the Palestinian street for its fight against Israel ensures that new Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud ‘Abbas will not strike hard against it – as Israel demands. On the other hand, the movement also knows that claiming responsibility for the killing of four Israelis and wounding of 65 more in such a volatile atmosphere might cross the red line, and will put ‘Abbas in a difficult situation vis-à-vis Israel and the United States. In which case, ‘Abbas might have to – despite his obvious reluctance – initiate a hard blow against the movement, which could then lead to an internal Palestinian rift, and even to a possible civil war.

Hizbullah is constantly trying to prove that it is a regional force which has to be taken into account; and it is. With backers like Syria and Iran, Hizbullah is motivated to keep Israel and the P.A. constantly fighting. On the other hand, international pressure is increasing. The U.S. has already entered Hizbullah onto its terror-list. But the group is still not on the EU’s list, despite recent American pressure. Hizbullah wants to stay off the list, so admitting to Friday’s attack is therefore not an option.

Syria, in the past year, has called on Israel several times to resume peace talks. Israel, at the same time, has called on Syria to first stop financing and hosting terror groups. As always, Syria is playing in two separate arenas: it calls for peace, while aiding terror groups which sabotage the peace process. But unlike the terror groups it supports, publicly exposing its behind-the-scene terror activity is obviously never an option for the Syrian regime.

What the region faces now is an attack which no one wants to take responsibility for, but which plays the hands of those who oppose peace. The destructive results are already showing: Israel will not allow Islamic Jihad’s representative to join next week’s cease-fire talks between the Palestinian factions and the P.A. in Egypt; Israel will also postpone the planned transfer of security authorities in Palestinian cities to the P.A.

At the Israeli cabinet meeting on Sunday it was decided not to respond militarily to the attack. Israel wants to give Mahmoud ‘Abbas’s newly appointed government a chance to gain control over the terror groups. But the next bomb is already ticking. And if and when it explodes, Israel’s premier Ariel Sharon will find it more than difficult to maintain his current restraint.