by Yoram Ettinger
The recent surge in Palestinian terrorism forces Israel to revisit the fundamentals of counter-terrorism.
For example, the most effective defense against terrorism – operationally, financially and morally – is not retaliation and a limited, surgical offensive, but a comprehensive, decisive, sustained, disproportionate and preemptive ground offensive, which aims to obliterate terror infrastructures and capabilities, bringing the enemy to submission. A decisive defeat of terrorism requires a victory over – and not coexistence or ceasefire agreements with – terrorism. We need to uproot – not just stop – terrorism.
Any response to terrorism that falls short of devastating the ideological, political, financial, logistic and operational terrorist infrastructures only serves to reassure terrorists that they are immune to annihilation. Moreover, it nurtures their hope-driven terrorism. They hope to destroy Israel’s defiance, wreck Israel’s steadfastness, and sustain the momentum of sweeping Israeli ideological and territorial retreats between the years 1993-2011.
Furthermore, a limited response to terrorism exacerbates wars of attrition – the terrorists' dream and the nightmare of democratic societies. The limited-retaliation response to terrorism adds fuel to the fire of terrorism, feeding the self-defeating assumption that there is no military solution to terrorism, thus eroding Israel’s deterrence.
Contrary to that self-defeating assumption, Palestinian terrorism was curtailed by 90 percent when, in 2002, Israel's military took over the Palestinian breeding grounds of terrorism in Beit Jallah, Bethlehem, Hebron, Ramallah, Jenin, Nablus and other major towns in Judea and Samaria. Israeli military re-engagement with these areas – rather than the security fence or wall – reasserted Israel's steadfastness in the battle against Palestinian terrorism.
The more defensive and retaliation-driven the Israeli response to terrorism, the more emboldened Palestinian terrorists become, and the less confidence Israelis have in their government’s ability to safeguard personal and national security. As a result, the country's mental fatigue becomes more taxing, and Israelis become less convinced of their cause.
The addiction to a defensive posture and limited response has been embraced by Israel since the signing of the 1993 Oslo Accord, in an effort to resuscitate the “peace” process, which has triggered far more hate-education, terrorism and non-compliance than the pre-Oslo reality. Two-hundred and fifty Israelis were murdered by Palestinian terrorism in the 15 years prior to Oslo, but over 2,000 have been murdered in the 18 years since.
Limited response has also been implemented in order to soothe international public opinion - which is never satisfied with Israeli concessions - thus recklessly subordinating national security to public diplomacy considerations. Sometimes it yields a false sense of security and enhances short-term tactical popularity. However, limited response always undermines long-term strategic interests and international respect towards Israel, unleashing more pressure on Israel, radicalizing Palestinian terrorism and distancing the region from peace.
Will Israel’s response to the current wave of Palestinian terrorism perpetuate the terrorist-preferred war of attrition? Or will it be a milestone on the road to reclaiming the pre-Oslo Israeli status as a role-model of deterrence, defiance of the odds, determination and gumption in the battle against terrorism, which paved the road to the 1948 Declaration of Independence, the 1967 Six Day War, the 1970 deterrence of the Syrian invasion of Jordan, the 1976 Entebbe Operation and the 1981 bombing of Saddam’s nuclear reactor?
Rather than retreating toward the pre-1967 ceasefire lines, Israel should take charge of the breeding ground of terrorism, which would enhance Israel's power of deterrence, human-intelligence and interception capabilities. It would reduce the Palestinian ability to conduct hate-education, to incite, to recruit, train, manufacture and smuggle terrorist and military hardware, to plan, maneuver and perpetrate terrorist activities. It would reduce Palestinian terrorism by 90%!
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