Israel, on the Edge, Remains Committed to Peace

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JERUSALEM: "It always happens after an incident like Sunday's suicide bombing that bus ridership goes way down," reports Jerusalem bureau chief Lisa Beyer a day after Hamas claimed responsibility for two suicide bombers who killed themselves and 27 others in separate attacks on a bus in Jerusalem and in the coastal town of Ashkelon. "People are even staying away from busses in traffic. The city is totally on edge right now." Tensions ratcheted even higher Monday as an Arab-American smashed his car into a bus stop, killing one woman before two bystanders shot and killed him. It's not known whether police will charge the two men who opened fire on the driver, who apparently had lost control of his car and tried to brake. Despite the bombings, Beyer notes that the majority of Israelis support a continuation of the peace process: "According to a new poll released Monday, two thirds of Israelis supported the Oslo peace agreement a couple of weeks ago. Today, 55 percent are for the agreement and 45 against. That this is still a majority when emotions are running high a day after the attack seems to show that Israelis, at least for now, remain committed to the process." For an increasingly embattled Prime Minister Shimon Peres, the task will be to keep that support in the face of electoral challenges from hard-liner Benjamin Netanyahu. The Likud Party leader, who opposes the transfer of land to the Palestinians, is gaining on Peres in the polls as Israel approaches elections scheduled for May 29. "The conventional wisdom today is that if Sunday's bombing attacks are all that happens between now and when the elections are held, Israelis will continue to support the peace," Beyer says. "But that could of course change if Hamas successfully carries out more bombings."