The Jerusalem Post, January 27, 2004

AN ETHICAL FOREIGN POLICY

By David Shalom

The agreement announced on Sunday, January 25, between Israel and the Hezbollah terrorist organisation is a further nail in the coffin of Israel's deterrent power.

The deal includes the release of 435 Arab terrorists from Israel for the corpses of three kidnapped soldiers and the handover of kidnapped Israeli businessman Elchanan Tannenbaum. The arrangement is of course disproportionate in terms of numbers traded, but this is not the major mistake. The real mistake is that any deal whatsoever has been done with such a terrorist organisation. It is time for Israel to initiate an ethical foreign policy that will forbid any dealings with illegitimate entities, such as terrorist organisations or any of the dictatorial regimes that rule the Arab world today.

The Hezbollah should be treated as a criminal organisation and Israel's main objective must be the organisation's elimination. It must not be traded with and afforded the dignity of a sovereign state. It should not be wooed or threatened, it should be crippled, undermined and destroyed. A priority must be the capture of its leader Hassan Nasrallah, who should be brought to trial in Jerusalem. Likewise, if Israel is to regain some of its lost deterrent power, or at least to stop its further erosion, the death penalty for terrorists must be instated.

In the context of the current deal, Israel considered releasing the terrorist Samir Kuntar. Kuntar was found guilty of murdering three members of the Haran family in their Nahariya home in 1979, as well as the murder of a policeman. In the future, anyone found guilty of mass murder (killing more than two people) should be given the death penalty. If Kuntar had been executed, the message that crime doesn't pay and that Israel will defend her citizens properly would have ringed throughout the Arab world. Instead, we have come to the situation today where this poor excuse of a human being was almost freed and allowed to be paraded as a hero through the streets of Beirut.

The deal also includes the freeing of hundreds of terrorists into the PLO-controlled regions of Judea, Samaria and Gaza. This policy is simply insane. These terrorists will be free to attack us from within, to plant more bombs, to shoot, to maim, to return to their old "jobs".

America's recent resolve to eliminate Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan serves as an example of a successful policy. It demonstrates the need to defeat terrorists and not negotiate with them. Dealing with the terrorists only strengthens their hand in the future and gives them legitimacy in the eyes of the Arab public, as well as in the wider world. By refusing to deal with Hezbollah, and actively, through military or other means, pursuing a policy of eliminating Hezbollah, Israel would prevent further kidnappings and murder in the future. The primary targets should be the Hezbollah leaders themselves, but ultimately, a policy is needed to directly undermine their Syrian and Iranian taskmasters.

The decision by Ariel Sharon to free the terrorists is an own-goal for Israeli deterrence and the perception of Israeli capabilities. Unfortunately, it seems that the agreement will only increase the popularity of the terrorist organisation. While the government should do its best to bring our MIAs home, this cannot be done at the expense of national security.

Similarly, if Israel is interested in a genuine peace with Syria, she must not conduct any negotiations with the Assad dictatorship. The recent suggestions of signing treaties with the dictator in Damascus are dangerous dreams, in need of a sudden and rude awakening. At a very minimum, before any negotiation, the Israeli government must call for an end to the 20-year-long illegal occupation of Lebanon. The government must call for democratic reform from within Syria. Israel must learn to internalise that deals with tyrants are both immoral and dangerous. It needs to realise that these treaties are utterly futile and are not worth the paper they are written on. The major examples being the Camp David agreements signed with the Egyptian regime and the Oslo Accords signed with the PLO.

At Camp David, Israel was forced to relinquish all of the Sinai Peninsula in return for a peace treaty that has never been adhered to properly and for a peace that has still not materialised 20 years later. Israel lost the strategic depth that Sinai provided (it is larger than all of Israel today), as well as the large oil reserves that Israel discovered there. In fact, there is enough oil in Sinai to provide all of Israel's energy needs and provide Israel with $2 billion dollars annual export revenue. The country also lost the $1 billion dollars worth of tourist revenue from the handover of the town of Ofira. The result was a cold peace - that existed before the accords anyway - which allowed the Egyptian regime to regain American support and international legitimacy. In fact, any cold peace that exists today is only due to Egypt's collapse on the battlefield during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

Since Camp David, the Egyptians were able to regroup and rearm using American funds and arms. As a result of the surrender of Sinai, Egypt celebrates each year its "victory" in the "October War". The Egyptians continue to officially indoctrinate their population towards hatred of Israel. Egypt continues to allow "Palestinian" Arab terrorists to smuggle weapons into Israel through tunnels at the Rafah border, and their military continues to arm itself to the teeth in anticipation of future battles with Israel. A recent massive Egyptian military exercise in Sinai was dedicated to defeating "an enemy to Egypt's northeast".

Indeed, at every international forum, the Egyptian government spares no effort in condemning Israel and challenging its very right to exist. This can be witnessed daily at the UN or at conferences such as last year's Durban anti-Israel-fest. Such Egyptian performances will no doubt be repeated at the impending kangaroo court session we can expect at The Hague.

The Egyptians have not had an ambassador in Israel for over three years, and it is fair to say that peace with Egypt, or more exactly the peace treaty, is as about as real as last year's Egyptian general election, when the dictator secured 99% of the votes, though he was the only candidate. As a minimum gesture to restore some of Israel's lost credibility, the government should return Israel's ambassador from Cairo back home.

The Olso Accords, like Camp David, revitalised an Arab tyrant after a great defeat. Immediately before Oslo, Yasser Arafat was persona non grata in the US, having supported Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War. In fact, some thought at the time that the PLO was on the verge of self-destruction. Yet, the Left brought him back to life and gave him a base in the heart of the country. To this day, Israelis continue to suffer as a result of the disastrous capitulation by the Labour government to the terrorists.

Time and time again, we have seen treaties that only serve to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. They serve to embolden the Arabs and encourage the false hope of Israel's ultimate destruction. They grant legitimacy to despots and only harm Israel's long-term interests, forcing her to make concession after concession.

The current deal with the Hezbollah is a similar, albeit smaller, capitulation to terrorists. It will also strengthen Syria's image at a time when the regime is at a low point and voices in Washington are calling for tough measures against it. Regime change in Damascus must be seen as the only true ethical foreign policy objective. Any plans to resuscitate the dictator in Damascus today would be a huge mistake, only equaled by the stupidity of resuscitating the terrorist from Tunis.