Islamic Jihad says bombing in Netanya showed support for Iraq.
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
tary campaign in Iraq could prompt a wave of
Palestinian terrorist attacks.
Solidarity with Iraq was also a prominent theme
in Sunday's Land Day demonstrations. Large
numbers of police were stationed around Arab
population centers in northern Israel but were
instructed to keep a
low profile. The
Israeli Arab leader-
ship had called for
tions, and there were
no violent incidents.
alestinian support for Iraq took on a
new dimension with a suicide bombing
in Israel that Islamic
Jihad said was aimed
at showing solidarity with
Dozens of people were
wounded, six seriously, when a
suicide bomber blew himself up
Sunday, March 30, next to a
crowded restaurant in the
coastal city of Netanya. Islamic
Jihad claimed responsibility and
identified the bomber as a resi-
dent of Tulkarm.
The group's secretary,
Ramadan Shalakh, said the
attack commemorated Land .
Day, which marks the deaths of
six Israeli Arabs during protests
in 1976 against Israeli confisca-
tion of Arab lands in the
Galilee. Shalakh also said the
Palestinians demonstrate in support of Saddam
bombing was a show of solidar- Hussein during a protest march in Bethlehem on
ity with the Iraqi people.
March 30. There is widespread support for
Israeli security officials have
Saddam throughout the West Bank and Gaza.
warned that the U.S-led mili-
full 120-member Knesset, where it must pass three
readings to become law; the first reading is expected
Sharansky said the midyear budget cuts are the deep-
est in the country's history and represent a "major
attempt to change the structure of our social life."
He said that in arguing for the restoration of the cuts
for Birthright Israel, he had to contend with the
Finance Ministry, which argued that it was "cutting
money from defense and children and that not to cut
the budget of a group that was bringing American Jews
here was not fair. I said this was the only Zionist"
enterprise "we have and that we have to do everything
to support it."
Before the Cabinet vote, the executive director of
Birthright Israel, Shimshon Shoshani, was said to be
willing to accept the same 10 percent cut proposed for
all government ministries in 2003. The Finance
Ministry had proposed cutting Birthright Israel's budg-
et by more than 25 percent this year and then elimi-
nating it entirely next year.
Instead, Sharansky convinced the Cabinet to cut
only about $2 million this year and $4 million next
year from the $14 million the government had pledged
to provide each year for five years.
The March 30 bomb-
ing was the first in
Israel since a March 5
suicide bus bombing
in Haifa that killed
17 people. The attack
came as Israel contin-
ued to closely moni-
tor the Iraq war to
determine whether to
alter the level of civil
alert in the country.
Minister Shaul Mofaz
told the Cabinet that
The government of Israel is one of three equal part-
ners of Birthright Israel. The others are the United
Jewish Communities; the umbrella organization for
189 Jewish federations in North America, and a group
of 13 individual philanthropists plus Hadassah, each of
which pledged to contribute $5 million over five years.
The founders of thq project are philanthropists
Charles Bronfman and Michael Steinhardt. Bronfman
said through a spokesman that he hoped to see the cuts
restored by the Knesset and had "great confidence that
we will prevail."
Steinhardt, chairman of Jewish Renaissance Media,
parent company of the Detroit Jewish News, said that
although the cuts were "certainly far less Draconian"
than had been proposed, he, too, was hopeful the
money would be restored by the Knesset.
"Before this comes out of the Knesset, there will be a
lot more discussion and debate and I hope the cuts will
be restored or diminished," he said. "I think there is a
recognition that Birthright is a program that, however
dire the Israel budget, it is not in the interest of Israel
or the diaspora to eliminate."
He said the program has served as the "spark" that
has given the "typical diaspora young person who had a
lack of interest" in Israel "an excitement and an inter-
the army would begin to reduce the number of
reserve soldiers who had been mobilized. Mofaz
said this included reducing the number of
reservists stationed at gas mask distribution cen-
ters, because most Israelis had already refreshed or
replaced their kits.
At the same time, Mofaz said an Iraqi attack on
Israel was still possible, and Israelis should contin-
ue to carry their gas masks with them and main-
tain sealed rooms.
For Israelis wondering about when the civil
alert for Iraq may be lowered, the March 30
attack in Netanya was a reminder of the ongoing
security threats close to home. The attack
occurred around 1 p.m., when a suicide bomber
blew himself up on a pedestrian mall near the
entrance to a restaurant that was crowded with
The terrorist was prevented from entering the
Cafe London by a group of soldiers who were
assigned to security detail in the area. One of the
soldiers who approached the bomber was seriously
wounded in the explosion.
One witness, Amos Harel, said he glanced at
the terrorist before the explosion, but there was
nothing that raised his concern. "I saw the terror-
IRAQ LINK on page 20
est" in the country.
Post said that for every $1 the State of Israel invests in
the project, it gets $2 in return. In its first three years,
all three partners contributed $42 million and the proj-
ect has brought $67 million to the country. "Israel gets
double its money back, so it's not losing money" on
this program, she said.
"We employ so many people — those who provide
security, medics, the buses, food; hotels — and 95 per-
cent of everybody who came went on El Al and they
bought gifts and souvenirs."
Post noted also that Birthright Israel provided the
"largest source of Jewish tourism to Israel" during 30
months of Palestinian violence. "The tourism industry
is decimated and will not turn around overnight, and it
was Birthright that_maintained what was going on in
Israel in terms of tourism," she said.
Sharansky said that although he restored some of the
proposed government allocation, the reduction that
was made is still "a very serious cut. But in the begin-
ning, the proposed cut would have been enough to
close down the project."