By Christopher Barder
This is a topic which just never appears to be mentioned in statements from Israeli officials and government members with the prominence it deserves. It was once a defence and security cornerstone which motivated many a policy decision. Ariel Sharon is more aware, one assumes, of Unit 101, the thinking behind it, and the subsequent history of punishing to deter, than most.
Analysts like Aharon Levran and Gal Luft are certainly cognizant of the degree to which Israel has lost this emphasis, and no doubt their published work on the matter has reached many ears, perhaps those of Uzi Landau. But the fact remains that the Oslo process has itself surrendered the principle insofar as it was a gamble on good will where there was no evidence except obscure talking among obscure figures (for example, the Israeli security establishment had little knowledge of Abu Ala) that any such good will existed towards Israel. But also, insofar as it rested on Arafat and his cohorts not leading but destroying the infrastructure and raison d'etre of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and so on, instead of Israel doing so - an improbable and irrational intention as time has proven and did so definitively within two years of the implementation of 'Gaza and Jericho first'.
The price paid for murder as afar as the PA areas go is less than for perhaps any other autonomous area under close scrutiny from the Western democratic powers. That is to say, parts of Africa and south and central America are accountably held to virtually no standard whatsoever; along with them and other Islamic countries, despite its massive EU financial sponsorship, nor is the PA. On any rational set of figures for punishments fitting the crime and on detection and cooperation with neighbours, this autonomous entity's reputation should be so low as to make it a regime whose existence is opposed by the West. It is a pariah and rogue entity and state in the making, a harbourer of terrorist organizations and is itself comprised of them.
Granted that its existence is a moral affront, then its murderous resolves must be confronted by a force sufficient to deter them. Such actions are enshrined affirmatively in international law and also remain the only means, as in the defeat of any aggressor, of bringing its evil ways to book and to an end of war-based policy options. The recognized failure of, for example, inter war appeasement of Hitler, the treaty agreements which have resulted from past conflicts won in battle, such as those against Napoleon, all bear testimony to these historical and international relations realities. There is no issue here of 'cycle of violence' - there is rather the failure to institute effective deterrence. The assault on pre-evacuated buildings results only in pay-offs to the building firms in hoc to the PA.
Therefore, arguing, as do so many, that there is 'no military solution' is a dishonest non sequitur. The fact is that until deterrence is made effective, there is no peace solution which, as time and ill-will in their media and school books have made abundantly clear, the PA will implement and accept. The reiteration of the 'Phased Plan' in Arabic is proof positive of this. So, in simplistic terms of deterrent possibility, the punishment (force) must fit the crime (constant murder and terror) such that the punishment is too great for anyone, however ideologically committed, seriously to consider paying the price.
In the academic writing on proposed solutions for suicide bombing, there is a somewhat left-leaning propensity to want to change Islamic society. This, whilst quite understandable, is flawed. Firstly, the solution needs to be posited now not in a future utopia, and secondly, the issue is not that: it lies in forcing accountability through deterrence and making the authorities under whose supposed auspices, such bombers are incubated, fear the tolerance of Islamic teaching and institutions which foster them. These approximate to military targets. Either the relevant PA closes them or the IDF does so. And that means there has to be clandestine not cultural inculcation of them, with punishment for the security forces which permit them to flourished or preached positively on Fridays from the mosques. No-one would accept terror institutions or the government which produced them as morally beyond the reach of their target's military in any other sphere than the Palestinian-Israeli one.
80% of Palestinians polled, regularly support violence against Israelis although 'the occupation' is a myth with 98% of Arabs under Arab (albeit mis-) rule. Therefore, loss of water, electricity, media and electronic communications might provide social and collective disincentive to violence, where peace offers and talks have not. If not, then the next phase is the arrest of all the heads of media and paramilitary organizations, who would stand trial for their crimes. It is no good removing the Israeli tanks and being seen to be half hearted and it is now all too far gone to offer the carrot of a Palestinian state. There is no worth or capability on record in 9 years by which to justify another rogue and pariah entity ruled by totalitarian and kleptocratic oligarchs. It must be brought to heal by deterrence that demonstrates that its entire ethos and behaviour cannot be and will not tolerated.
This kind of reasoning lies behind the US 'war on terror' but not behind the European and French appeasement of the PA. Israel is in no position to indulge in patta-cake ambivalence towards the murderers on its door step. It needs a hasbara effort to make all this plain. But it needs also to demonstrate resolve. While it fails to do so it advertises a will to be deflected. It does not look like it intends to deal effectively with the evil at its door. It is hard for its supporters abroad to argue the established case for self-defence while Israel fails to implement it. It is also hard to negotiate from a position which accepts amnesia as its starting point: a week of quiet is an insult to those families who have lost loved ones and undermines the horror in real life aspect of the low intensity conflict waged by the PA.
Sadly, this failure is a betrayal of government responsibility, damages political culture and means that it does not matter what happens so long as the dream marches on. Even to mention unlocking Arafat from Ramallah because three hoodlums are 'arrested' in the revolving door policy of the PA betrays a lack of willingness to grasp the nettle. This is: responsible and responsive government in the autonomy area or Israel actions to deter. The choice then lies with the Palestinian public - a prerequisite for democratic development, whose perverted and stunted Fatah fore-runner all the world, especially President Clinton, connived at in the corrupt 'elections' to the Palestinian 'assembly'. Since it is clear that proper government cannot be installed readily and has not been, then Israel must ensure a deterrent posture that makes violence a thing to be feared. Pronouncing Arafat 'irrelevant' is a feint. It needs punishment to fit the crime and it needs submission to 1967 through enforcement.
Submission to 1967? Israel won a defensive and just war, as Professor Walzer, a world expert on the subject, has pointed out. That means the Palestinians have enforced on them what they have refused to enforce on themselves: restraint, respect and fear of committing murder. If Israel does not teach them all this, since no-one else will, there is the danger they will never learn it - because they have never had to.
Christopher Barder is a scholar at Pembroke College in Cambridge and a member of the advisory committee of the Freeman Center For Strategic Studies.