Terrorist Raid Is Unlikely to Boost Israeli Hard-Liners Violence May Be Too Commonplace to Influence Election

Article excerpt

SATURDAY'S raid by Palestinian gunmen on an Israeli tourist beach, just three weeks before general elections, might have been expected to focus the electorate's mind on security issues and boost the chances of the hard-line Likud government.

Especially when Yosef Shirazi, killed by one of the attackers, became the third Israeli civilian to die in one week of unusually heavy Palestinian violence.

But politicians on both sides of the electoral divide, and independent observers, believe that last week's events will have little effect on the outcome of the vote June 23.

The impact is likely to be short-lived in a country where, as Zeev Chafets, a columnist for the Jerusalem Report magazine, puts it, "this kind of thing happens all the time."

For those Israeli voters looking to the opposition Labor Party for a quick settlement with the Palestinians "these things just reinforce the need for a solution," says Hebrew University political science professor Peter Medding. "For others, they are evidence of the need for more intensive security measures."

Shirazi was killed when two Palestinian commandos swam ashore at the Israeli Red Sea resort of Eilat early on Saturday morning, carrying Kalashnikov machine guns, grenades, and an anti-tank missile launcher.

One was killed and the other wounded by Israeli security forces. Two other Palestinians are believed to have drowned on their eight-mile swim from Jordan.

The attack followed Wednesday's knifing of Rabbi Shimon Biran, a settler in the Gaza Strip, who died of wounds inflicted by a Muslim fundamentalist activist belonging to the Hamas movement.

Another Hamas militant from Gaza had stabbed 15-year-old Helena Rapp to death three days earlier, while she was on her way to school in the Tel Aviv suburb of Bat Yam.

That assault triggered five nights of violent protests by Bat Yam residents, organized by the extreme right wing Kach movement, followers of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, who smashed shop windows, burned cars, and attacked the police, shouting "death to the Arabs. …