The horrific bombing of a bus in Bulgaria killing at least 7 Israelis is terrible no matter how you look at it. All terrorism against civilians whether perpetrated by non-state actors or governments is criminal and indefensible. That refers both to this attack in Bulgaria and Israel’s attacks on Iranian scientists. Although at this point no one knows if there is a connection between the two, the point remains. Violence breeds violence and terror breeds terror. Of course, that is obvious.
One has to wonder if Prime Minister Netanyahu will use the killing of Israeli innocents as a pretext for war with Iran, whether Iran was behind the attack or not. Netanyahu and his cutouts here are hungry for war and this horrific act might serve their purposes fine.
In 1982, Israel was as eager for war with the PLO, then based in Lebanon, as it is for war with Iran now.
But it needed a pretext, something PLO leader Yasir Arafat had no intention of providing. But then fortune intervened. The PLO’s enemy, the crazy violent Abu Nidal group, attempted to kill Israel’s ambassador to the United Kingdom. He was shot in the head by an assassin.
The Israelis knew the act was the work of Abu Nidal, not the PLO. But, figuring the world would not know the difference between one Palestinian group and another, it invaded Lebanon. The monstrous aftermath included the Sabra and Shatila massacres, the occupation of Lebanon until 2000, thousands of dead, the creation of Hizbullah, and essentially the destruction of a country (now finally rebuilt, more or less).
Shlomo Argov, Israel’s former ambassador to Britain, has died from wounds he received nearly 21 years ago in the London terrorist attack that triggered Israel’s invasion of Lebanon. He was 73.
On June 3 1982, Argov was getting into his car after a banquet at the Dorchester hotel in Park lane when three gunmen from the Abu Nidal group appeared from nowhere; one of them, Hussein Ghassan Said, fired a single bullet straight through his head. The ambassador fell into a three-month coma, and somehow survived, but was paralysed and required constant medical attention for the rest of his life.
Not since the slaying of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914 has a hit team made war such a likely outcome. At last, the then Israeli defence minister Ariel Sharon had a pretext for his long-planned campaign to eliminate the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and its headquarters in the Lebanese capital, Beirut. In his memoirs, Sharon admits that the Dorchester ambush was “merely the spark that lit the fuse”.
The next day, Israeli forces bombed PLO arms depots in Lebanon, Palestinian forces retaliated with cross-border Katyusha rocket salvos, and, barely 48 hours later, Israel launched its ill-fated Operation Peace For Galilee. At first, the invasion routed the enemy. But before long, Israelis were fighting in the streets of Beirut itself; and, as civilian casualties mounted, international opprobrium grew.
To make matters worse, within a year Israel faced an additional new foe on its northern border, the indigenous Shi’ite militia Hizbollah. Ultimately, Israeli troops found themselves mired in a foreign country for 18 years.
Precisely what motivated the Dorchester shooting remains a mystery. Far from being PLO agents, it appears that the Palestinian gunmen, eventually convicted, were next planning to kill Nabil Ramlawi, the PLO representative in London.
The terrorist organiser Abu Nidal (obituary, August 20 2002) was clearly behind the attack – one of the assailants still incarcerated in Britain was his cousin, Marwan al-Banna. By targeting Argov, wrote the author Samuel Katz, Abu Nidal wanted to “provoke an Israeli assault on Arafat’s fortress, and thereby weaken his two most bitter enemies”. But the terrorists’ Iraqi paymasters – the third of Argov’s would-be assassins, Nawaf al-Rosan, was a Baghdad intelligence colonel – also sought to embroil Israel in a war with Syria that would divert attention from their own reversals in the Iran-Iraq conflict.
Will Netanyahu use the Bulgarian horror the way Ariel Sharon used the shooting of Ambassador Argov? Would anyone be surprised?