March 13, 2008
Can Israel negotiate peace with the Palestinians—or must they be defeated?
Dear Friend of FLAME:
An uncharacteristic article on the front page of the New York Times on Tuesday by the left-leaning correspondent Steven Erlanger spells out with striking clarity why it’s futile to negotiate peace with the Palestinians. While Erlanger focuses on Hamas, which is the Palestinians’ strongest, “democratically” elected ruling party, there’s little evidence that the opposition Fatah party in the West Bank offers any more hope. Erlanger documents the hate of Islamic imams in Hamas-controlled Gaza for Christians (“Crusaders), the Danes (for printing cartoons of Mohammed) and of course Jews (“the brothers of apes and pigs”) in brutal detail. Surely we haven’t seen hate so virulent and shockingly blunt since the Nazis.
In the West Bank, the hate is almost as strident. The cold-blooded murderer of eight young Yeshiva students in Jerusalem last month was celebrated on the front page of the official Fatah newspaper as a Shahid---“Holy Islamic Martyr.” Fatah’s Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade called the attack a “blessed martyrdom operation in occupied Jerusalem” (even though the attack took place in a part of Jerusalem that has been part of Israel since 1948). Armed would-be suicide bombers are still caught by Israel’s army almost daily trying to infiltrate Israel. Despite minimal recent improvements in West Bank textbooks, Palestinian children are still taught that every inch of Israel belongs to them and that there can be no peace until the Jews are killed or thrown out.
In the face of this cold, stark and blindingly obvious reality, the Western world, led by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, continues to make conspicuous noises about brokering a peace between Israel and the Palestinians. It’s hard to believe that either party takes these efforts seriously. Mahmoud Abbas, head of the misnomered Palestinian Authority, certainly knows he has no power to negotiate, let alone enforce a peace. Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert must have trouble keeping a straight face as he holds somber discussions with Rice---they both know that he also lacks the authority within the Israeli parliament to negotiate a peace, even if he wanted to (which is highly doubtful). Indeed, why should Israel hurry to enter peace talks with the dysfunctional Palestinians, most of whom advocate holy war with Israel and a substantial number of whom daily wage it?
While Israel has been reasonably successful at stopping suicide bombers---by sealing off both the West Bank and Gaza---rockets continue to fly from Gaza into Israel. Recently, instead of raining explosives only on the small town of Sderot, close to the border of Gaza, Hamas terrorists have acquired longer-range missiles and are targeting them to the more distant and populous Israeli city of Ashkelon. These attacks, launched from dense civilian areas in Gaza, are mounted by Hamas, which takes open credit for them.
attacks are tantamount to war, yet when Israel retaliates, U.N. Secretary
General Ban Ki-moon criticizes the response as “disproportionate.”
The mind boggles at the hypocrisy, the double standard. How long would
Britain, Germany, China or the U.S. restrain themselves in the face
of rocket attacks from just over their borders?
Has Shown Time and Again That Military Confrontation Does Work: Confronting
Israel’s No-Win Strategy
The massacre of rabbinical students Thursday at a Jerusalem seminary highlights the failure of the powerful Israeli military to stop the assaults of Palestinian terrorists. It also reveals serious deficiencies in Israel's strategy and tactics.
These have cost Israel dearly. They also harm the world-wide war on terror, of which Israel is on the forefront.
You can't stop every suicide bomber of course. But for seven years now, Hamas terrorists have been rocketing southern Israeli towns from Gaza. Israeli governments headed by Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert have all vowed to put an end to the attacks. Despite Israel's overwhelming military superiority, its governments have failed to do so.
has scored some impressive victories in its fight against terrorism,
especially from attacks originating in the West Bank. Numerous attempts
by Fatah and Hamas to dispatch bombers into Israel were frustrated by
a combination of excellent intelligence, daring special operations,
and the ability of the army to enter Palestinian-ruled areas in hot
pursuit or for preemptive strikes. Not so in Gaza.
Governments here -- behemoths whose budgets consume about a half the nation's $160 billion GDP -- are generally dysfunctional. They are hamstrung by constant internal squabbles and Byzantine bureaucracies. As became evident as early as the 1973 Yom Kippur War, their dysfunction has infected the Israeli defense establishment. In that year, a totally surprised Israeli cabinet and military leadership reacted with confusion and ineptness that almost led to the country's ruin. The recent Winograd Commission of Inquiry report on the Second Lebanon War indicates that these faults are endemic to the over-centralized yet disorganized Israeli system of governance.
More than in most countries, Israeli politicians are preoccupied with political machinations designed to buy support from powerful interest groups by distributing government largesse. This causes not only the factionalization of politics and growing corruption, but consumes time and energy that leadership should use to address life and death issues. As the Winograd Commission attested, Mr. Olmert's government initiated the Second Lebanon War without proper discussion or preparation. During the relatively long war government and military leaders failed to define their objectives. They issued vague and contradictory directives, causing repeated failures and unnecessary loss of life. Only the exceptional bravery and tenacity of Israel's soldiers and field commanders and of the rocketed Israeli population saved the day.
Israeli governments have done little to stop the massive rearmament of Hamas in Gaza with Iranian weapons, bought with Saudi money and transported into Gaza with the connivance of Egypt. Israel did not even press its great ally, the U.S., to lean on Egypt and put an end to this flagrant violation of its peace agreement with Israel -- a peace agreement for which Egypt is rewarded by billions in U.S. aid.
But the worst failures stem from adoption of a no-win strategy. Many in Israel's top political and military echelons have convinced themselves that terrorism cannot be defeated by force, that to stop it one must compromise and accept some of its demands. But how do you "compromise" with a terrorist organization sworn to destroy you?
The Israeli leadership's lack of determination to win, and its chronic political weakness, have prevented it from resisting pressure from Europe and certain American circles (mostly the State Department and the CIA) to accommodate Hamas and strengthen the allegedly peace-loving Palestinian Authority. Amazingly, Israel keeps supplying Hamas, for "humanitarian reasons," with subsidized electricity and materiel including the steel and chemicals needed to produce the rockets that attack it. It keeps providing money and weapons to prop up the hopelessly corrupt Palestinian Authority.
So what is the one strategy that can win? History has shown time and again that military confrontation does work. Israel could achieve military victory by eliminating or incarcerating Hamas's leadership, not two or three a month (so that they are replaceable) but a few hundred at once. By breaking its command structure and its logistical apparatus, Hamas can be rendered inoperative.
But for this to happen, Israel and Western democracies must treat the terrorists' mortal challenge as a war for survival, not as a series of skirmishes. And in war, you must fight to win, by all traditional means.