The series of coordinated and deadly attacks that killed seven Israelis and wounded at least 40 on the road between Eilat and the Egyptian border brought swift condemnation in Washington, but some used the occasion to send messages to Cairo and to the United Nations.
The White House condemned the "brutal terrorist attacks" and reiterated its unity with Israel "against terror" and called for swift justice. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged the Egyptian government to work harder to deal with security problems in the Sinai. It is believed the terrorists were from Gaza but had infiltrated through the Sinai, where security has been relaxed in the wake of the overthrow of the Hosni Mubarak government.
On the left, pro-peace groups resisted using the incident to advance their agendas by declaring that the killings emphasize the need for peace. J Street said it was "horrified" by the attacks and Americans for Peace Now urged “all parties to the conflict to do their utmost to curb violence and to prevent further escalation.”
At the other end of the spectrum, however, the Jewish Policy Center, affiliated with the Republican Jewish Coalition, didn’t even try to be subtle. It suggested the attacks are harbingers of things to come if Palestinians get their own state. "Today’s attack serves as a brutal reminder of the dangers that will come with creating one more failed, terrorist state in the Middle East," the group declared.
In a similar vein, Rep. Elliot Engel (D-NY) said that before U.N. members vote on the Palestinian application for membership they "should remember" that "until Palestinians cease using terrorism" there can be neither peace nor a Palestinian state.
Several Members of Congress echoed the concerns of Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak about the Egyptian commitment to security in the Sinai and combating Islamic extremism.
"The incident underscores the weak Egyptian hold on Sinai and the broadening of the activities of terrorists. The real source of the terror is in Gaza, and we will act against them with full force and determination," he said as Israeli forces struck back at those he said were responsible.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) called on the Egyptian government to "address security concerns in the Sinai and to remain committed to respecting and implementing the peace agreement with Israel."
"Efforts by the Palestinian Authority and Egypt to improve ties with terrorist groups like Hamas…remind us that trying to make peace with murderous terrorists only leads to more death and suffering — especially for Israel," Rep. Steve Rothman (D-NJ) said.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said the fact that the attacks came from Gaza via the Egyptian border suggested to him that recent events in that country and its opening its border with Gaza "will open the way for further attacks."
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the only Jewish Republican in the 112th Congress, was in Israel leading a delegation of GOP lawmakers at the time of the attacks; none was anywhere nearby. He had no immediate comment at press time.
Rep. Howard Berman, the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, saw a wider implication. The “heinous” attacks demonstrate the threat of Hamas, which he noted had this week shut down protests against the brutal crackdown by its patron in Syria, Bashar Assad. "The Syria-Hamas-Iran partnership of murder must be held accountable for their crimes," he said.
Rep. Robert Dold (R-IL) said the attacks “lay bare the tragic reality” that Israel is “surrounded by hostile neighbors" and “cannot be tolerated.”
Democratic leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said, "Americans stand together in condemning these terror attacks" and "to ensure Israel’s strength and to work toward an enduring peace."