The Jerusalem Post, November 19, 2002

15,000 AND COUNTING ...

BY MICHAEL FREUND

Though hardly anyone seems to have noticed, Israel recently set a new world record. It is unclear when precisely it occurred, or what the exact circumstances were. But at some point earlier this month, Israel became the first country to endure its 15,000th terrorist attack in just over a two-year period.

That's right, you read that correctly. According to statistics compiled by the IDF, as of November 17, 2002, there was a total of 15,298 Palestinian terror attacks against Israel since the intifada began in September 2000.

That works out, on average, to nearly one terror attack every hour of every day over 25 consecutive months.

But that is not what qualifies Israel for a place in the record books.

After all, many countries have experienced periods of civil unrest, subversive violence and lethal terrorism, albeit not nearly as intense or as prolonged as that which Israel has known of late.

What truly puts the Jewish state in a category all its own, however, is its willingness to tolerate this ongoing terror campaign, which should have been defeated long ago.

Everyone, it seems, knows what the answer is to the current predicament. Everyone, that is, except for the government, which has neither the courage nor the vision to move into Judea, Samaria and Gaza and topple the Palestinian Authority once and for all.

Instead, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon prefers to play ping-pong with the terrorists, sending in the army only to withdraw it a few days later, bouncing back and forth with no long-term plan and certainly no clear-cut strategy.

INDEED, MUCH of the military activity undertaken by the army seems purely reactive in nature, coming only after Jews have been killed, rather than before.

Take, for example, the recent IDF response to the terror attack on Kibbutz Metzer, in which a member of Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction murdered five Israelis.

Two hours later, Israeli helicopters fired four rockets into a car-repair shop in Gaza City that was being used as a clandestine weapons factory. Army spokesmen said that terrorists were using it to manufacture explosive devices and mortar shells.

If Israel knew that the place was a death factory, one in which the terrorists were actively producing tools to murder the innocent, then why did we wait until after the Metzer attack to knock it out? The minute the intelligence information regarding the garage's true nature was confirmed, why wasn't it taken out of commission forthwith?

Similarly, after last Friday's massacre in Hebron, when terrorists killed 12 Israelis near the Tomb of the Patriarchs, the IDF re-entered Palestinian-controlled portions of the city which it had evacuated just three weeks earlier, on October 25. According to a statement issued by the IDF Spokesman's Office, the purpose behind retaking the city was "to continue the determined action against the Palestinian terror infrastructure."

That sounds good, except for one nagging question: if Hebron's terrorist infrastructure was still in place, why did the army withdraw last month? Why did it leave the job only half-finished? Israel's critics at home and abroad suggest that the government's response to Palestinian terror is immoral because it results in the needless deaths of innocent Arabs. Frankly, I think they have it all wrong. If the government's policy qualifies as immoral, it is because it results in the needless deaths of innocent Jews.

For, by allowing the intifada to continue, and by refraining from taking the necessary steps to dismantle the PA and defeat the terror organizations, the government has undermined Israel's security and that of its citizens, leaving the terrorist threat in place to regroup and fight another day.

But we, the public, must also acknowledge our share of the blame for the current situation. We have been too silent in expressing our outrage over Palestinian terror and the government's feeble response. There have been no demonstrations in the streets, no hunger strikes, no prayer vigils, no mass awakening of indignation or fury.

Histadrut workers went on strike recently over a 2.1% cost-of-living increase, which amounts to just NIS 70 per month, but many people are unwilling to protest when it comes to the 73 Israelis who have been killed by terrorists over the past three months.

It is incumbent upon us to wake up from this nightmare. With elections approaching, we have an opportunity to use all the democratic and legal tools at our disposal, and to send a clear signal to those running for office. We must let them know that the people of Israel have had enough, and that we will no longer tolerate a continuation of the current policy, which amounts to little more than a series of tired and half-hearted measures.

The time has come for Israel to sweep into the territories, reassert control, and eliminate the terrorist infrastructure and those who sponsor it. Arafat should be led away in handcuffs and put on trial, along with the rest of the Palestinian leadership. We must stop being afraid of what the world might say, and start being more concerned about what the terrorists are doing to us, day in and day out.

Israel has already passed the 15,000 mark when it comes to Palestinian terror. If the current trend continues, we will hit the "milestone" of 20,000 some time early next summer. That is one record we cannot afford to break.

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The writer served as deputy director of communications & policy planning in the Prime Minister's Office from 1996 to 1999.

(c) The Jerusalem Post



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