Jewish World Review Jan. 10, 2003 / 7 Shevat, 5763
Israeli restraint makes terrorism more likely
Even by the grim standards of recent years, the suicide bombings in
Tel Aviv this week were horrific.
The terrorists, members of the Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade (a wing of
Yasser Arafat's Fatah organization), positioned themselves at opposite
ends of a busy street and blew themselves up 30 seconds apart. That was
to guarantee the maximum number of casualties -- as terrified
pedestrians fled the first explosion, many ran directly toward the
bomber waiting to set off the second. The attack murdered 22 civilians
and wounded more than 100, many of whom will be maimed for life: The
bombs were packed with nails and metal shards so that shrapnel would
shred skin and muscle, leaving survivors with agonizing internal
injuries or grotesquely disfigured.
It was the third worst terror attack in Israel in the past
quarter-century, and the Palestinian Authority's initial reaction was to
arrest the Al Jazeera correspondent who first reported that Fatah was
involved. Then Arafat's spokesman issued a statement in English
expressing "total condemnation of these terrorist attacks against
But at about the same time, the Fatah web site posted another
statement -- in Arabic -- celebrating the attacks:
"With faith in the calling of holy jihad," it said, "two suicide
attackers . . . succeeded this evening to infiltrate the Zionist
roadblocks and to enter the heart of . . . Tel Aviv and carried out two
consecutive suicide attacks. . . . These suicide attacks caused a large
number of fatalities and casualties in the center of the Zionist
occupation of our land. We swear before our people that additional
suicide operations will occur."
Note the description of Tel Aviv, a city founded by Jews in 1909 and
laid out on the empty sand dunes north of Jaffa: "the center of the
Zionist occupation." To Fatah -- which is to say, to Arafat and the
Palestinian leadership -- the borders of the "occupation" are not those
of Gaza or the West Bank. They are the borders of Israel.
That is a view with which much of Arab opinion concurs.
ArabicNews.com, for example, datelined its story on the Tel Aviv attack
"Palestine-Israel," and reported that the bombings had killed "23
Israeli settlers." This despite the fact that none of the dead were
residents of the settlements. Nearly one-third, in fact, weren't
Israeli at all; they were non-Jewish guest workers from Europe, China,
Israel reacted to Sunday's slaughter not with a devastating military
assault on Palestinian positions but with mere gestures: Combat
helicopters fired on a weapons factory in Gaza, Palestinian delegates
were barred from traveling to a conference in London, and some West Bank
colleges were temporarily closed.
But mere gestures are not going to wipe out terrorism, nor are they
going to turn Palestinian hearts and minds against the terrorists. Mere
gestures can only feed Palestinian contempt for Israeli weakness, and
reinforce the conviction that violence pays.
And for years now, violence has paid. In the 1970s, the PLO's
hijackings and mass-murders won it international recognition and
attention. The mayhem of the first intifada yielded the Oslo agreement,
which legitimized the PLO and gave Arafat and his lieutenants a
dictatorship in Gaza and the West Bank. The stepped-up terrorism of the
Oslo years -- the years of the grossly misnamed "peace process" --
culminated in former Prime Minister Ehud Barak's astonishing offer of
full sovereignty, dismantled settlements, and shared control of
Jerusalem. The bloodshed inflicted by Hezbollah led to Israel's
unilateral retreat from southern Lebanon.
It is no wonder that so many Palestinians believe that terror and
violence will eventually lead to the end of Israel and the creation of a
23d Arab state. The wonder is that Israel doesn't use its tremendous
military power to disabuse them of that belief once and for all.
In fairness it must be said that Israel is not entirely free to act
in its own best interest. It is under intense pressure from the US
government to do nothing that might roil the Arab world in advance of
the American invasion of Iraq. But why shouldn't Israel be permitted to
deal with Palestinian terrorism as the United States is dealing with Al
Qaeda? Why should Washington's plan to oust Saddam Hussein and
transform Iraq into a democracy prevent Israel from ousting Arafat and
working a similar transformation of Palestinian society?
After all, President Bush himself stressed last June that just such
a sea change is a prerequisite for Arab-Israeli peace. Nothing is more
crucial, he said, than replacing the cruel Arafat-Hamas regime with "a
new and different Palestinian leadership," one "not compromised by
terror." Only when Palestinians can sustain, in Bush's words, "a
practicing democracy based on tolerance and liberty" will it make sense
to demand even more concessions from Israel, or to talk about
To demand "restraint" of Israel now, to insist that it voluntarily
suppress its right to self-defense, is to make bloody atrocities like
Sunday's not less likely, but more so. Like the Taliban in Afghanistan,
the Palestinian Authority and the murderers it supports must be crushed.
That is the plain meaning of the Bush Doctrine, and the essential first
step to peace.
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Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe columnist. Comment by clicking here.
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