The Jerusalem Post, August 11, 2002
THE FOLLY OF WAITING
By David M. Weinberg
Israel's laggard battle against Palestinian terrorism reminds me of geriatric care. By the time a senior citizen or his family accepts the fact that he needs help, the situation usually has deteriorated to the point at which the patient needs twice as much treatment.
The Sharon government is afflicted with the same syndrome. Whatever action it takes against the terrorists almost always is pitifully insufficient and comes much too late.
Israel is continuously a year or two behind in taking adequate action against the terrorists. Had action been taken a year ago against Yasser Arafat's henchmen with the force now being applied, we would never have reached today's distressing lows.
Consider this absurdity: After last Sunday's bus bombing in Meron, the cabinet convened an emergency marathon session to debate and decide what "new" steps could be taken to ratchet-up Israel's counter-terror war.
In fact, the cabinet has held over 100 such sessions since September 2000 meeting after each terror attack as if it were surprised by the newest terrorist escalation; as if, this time it was going order the IDF to take sufficient action to "win" or "end" the war.
Alas, each time, the cabinet disappoints. It resolves, as if by rote, to take yet another tiny step or two forward in responding to the terrorist threat; much-too-carefully modulated strides that ever-so-slightly expand the use of IDF force against terrorists.
The latest mini-steps are the decisions to expel family members of terrorists and to annul the citizenship of some Israeli Arab terrorist collaborators. However, such Lilliputian measures are unlikely to deter the determined Palestinian terrorist machine.
The terrorists, you see, are way ahead of us. They're busy planning
mega-escalations in the violence. When we're hit by the mega-terror, we'll undoubtedly express surprise; and sadly, we'll respond once again with too little force, too late.
I ASK: Wouldn't it be wiser to do now what we'll inevitably have to do six months down the road knock the PA out of existence and Arafat out of the Mideast and thus save many Israeli lives? Do we always have to play a costly game of catch-up with the terrorists? Only after more than 500 Israelis were killed by Palestinian attackers over an eight-year period and another 100 were killed in one month (March) including 25 Jews at a seder in Netanya did the government draft some army reserves and invade the six major Palestinian cities to search for terrorists and arms. Then it pulled our forces back.
Only when the suicide bombings continued into the early summer did we move to impose an indefinite and complete curfew on the entire West Bank, encircling every major town with troops. We began to launch nightly raids on suspected terrorist hideouts, and resumed the demolition of homes belonging to terrorists.
Now it appears that only when the next, really big bomb goes off killing, say, 100 Israelis at once and injuring hundreds more will the government take the long-overdue decision to permanently expel Arafat and company from the territories.
I'm afraid that only when Palestinian terrorism reaches mega proportions with an attack that kills hundreds of Israelis will the government really get serious about winning this war by declaring the Palestinian Authority kaput; calling-up 100,000 reservists to re-impose military Israeli rule in all of Judea and Samaria; and expelling large numbers of the terrorist rank and file. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon held a special session in his office last week, planning for just such a ghastly eventuality.
And only when a Hamas, Islamic Jihad or Tanzim bomber obliterates the Pi Glilot gas- and fuel-storage depot or another major installation, killing thousands of Israelis only then would Jerusalem decision-makers belatedly be ready to change the Mideast landscape for the better with dramatic, resolute action.
Jerusalem would announce a general conscription; move to transfer tens of thousands of Palestinians out of areas important to our security; raze neighborhoods harboring terrorists; annex the Jordan Valley, the Ariel bloc and Greater Jerusalem; seal off Gaza, with no more food, water or electricity supplies from Israel; and hand it over to the UN, lock, stock, and barrel.
Now, since all this is so terribly predictable, why wait until it happens? Shouldn't we take sufficiently forceful action to win this war now, given that we're going to be dragged into taking such action very soon anyway?
Does not the government have a responsibility to look ahead and forestall the loss of many, many Israeli lives? Israel's paradigm for defeating the scourge of a run-amok Palestinian terrorist state ought to be laser surgery quick, piercing and definitive not geriatric medicine. The time is long overdue for the government to take the initiative and act to force an ultimate outcome to this horrible, needless and very costly war of attrition.
The writer is director of public affairs at Bar-Ilan University's Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.