Published in The Kansas City Jewish Chronicle
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – If, in the near future, Israel is attacked overtly by Iraq, the Jewish state should respond in a decisive and devastating manner, unlike it did during the first Gulf War. This will be necessary in order for Israel to be allowed to win, at last, the war with the Palestinians and to regain the deterrent power it lost through a series of strategic mistakes, including the signing of the Oslo agreement in 1993 and the humiliating withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000.
However, the chain of errors dates back to the Persian Gulf War in 1991. Then Iraq lobbed 39 Scud missiles at Israeli cities over a six-week period. But Israel, under intense pressure from President Bush Senior, was not allowed to strike back. It was the first time Israel relied on another nation to defend it against an enemy.
The people of a nation built on the memory of the Holocaust and the promise of “Never again” were forced for six long weeks to hunker in sealed rooms wearing gas masks, wondering whether each missile carried biological or chemical weapons. This experience psychologically devastated the Israeli people and caused them to feel for the first time since the Holocaust and the establishment of a sovereign Jewish state helpless, isolated and dependent on the outside world to save them.
Israel’s repeated requests to defend itself and eliminate the Scud threat were denied by the U.S. to appease its Arab coalition partners. President Bush even refused to provide Israel with intelligence on Iraqi troop movements or missile-launcher sites. It was later learned that U.S. troops had failed to destroy even a single mobile Scud launcher.
Israel’s restraint didn’t even buy political good- will from the Bush I administration. On the contrary, it encouraged that administration to press the demands of its anti-Iraq Arab coalition even more by exacting further concessions from then Prime Minister Shamir’s government. Many will remember the infamous remark by then-Secretary of State James Baker as his administration sought an Israeli freeze on West Bank settlements in return for $10 billion in loan guarantees to help absorb the wave of immigrants from the collapsed Soviet Union. Consequently, the Israeli people, fearing isolation and dependence on the U.S., voted out Shamir and elected Yitzhak Rabin. Feeling the desperation of the people for peace and their need to be part of the international community, Rabin signed the Oslo agreement in September 1993. Over 70 percent of the people supported it, despite the fact that the man who was supposed to be a partner for peace and fight terrorism was personally responsible for ordering the murder of hundreds of Israelis through the use of terror for over 25 years.
For the first seven years after the Oslo agreement, the various Israeli governments clung to the “peace process” by giving up more and more land, despite the repeated violations by Arafat and his unwillingness to fight terrorism. These governments continued to ignore Arafat’s doubletalk and his continuing incitement of his people toward hatred and violence against Israel. As a result, 300 Israelis were murdered by Palestinian terrorists from 1993 to 2000.
In May 2000, the Israeli army, facing strong public pressure, withdrew unilaterally and in a humiliating way from southern Lebanon after repeated terrorist attacks by Hezbollah killed many Israeli soldiers. It was the first time in history that Israel withdrew unilaterally from Arab or disputed land without a peace agreement or cease-fire. The lesson Israel’s enemies took from this retreat was that the Achilles’ heel of the Jewish state is its inability to tolerate sustained loss of life. Soon after, Arafat, with this perceived weakness in mind, rejected the generous concessions offered at Camp David and Taba by Prime Minister Barak, including the creation of a Palestinian state in almost all the territories with a capital in Jerusalem. Arafat never even made a counteroffer. Rather, he orchestrated a vicious war of attrition in obvious imitation of Hezbollah, seeking to force Israeli withdrawal.
Untie Israel’s hands
As long as Iraq is not dealt with, Israel’s hands will continue to be tied in its effort to implement the only solution to the continuous Palestinian violence, which is the dismantling of the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terrorist groups by destroying their infrastructure. Arafat and all other Palestinian leaders tainted by terrorism must be expelled.
More than 635 Israelis have been murdered in the last two years by Arab terrorists. Another 4,500 have been injured, 40 percent of whom now have a permanent disability. Unfortunately, Israel has been forced by the U.S. to show restraint in order to appease a nascent Arab coalition in its war against terrorism and through the preparations for an attack on Iraq. Israel has been allowed to diminish terrorism, but never to destroy it. Numerous suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks are being thwarted every week.
Clearly Israel cannot wait much longer. The nation’s economy is in shambles. There
is 10.6 percent unemployment. There has been economic shrinkage, for the first time since 1953, of .6 percent last year, with another 1.5 percent predicted this year. There has been a drop of more than 80 percent in tourism, and the high-tech industry is on the verge of collapse. One in five Israeli citizens lived under the poverty line in 2001. With the current stalemate in place, no one can foresee hope for improvement.
Israel needs to dismantle the PA before Israel can be pressured again to appease the Arabs and agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state under existing conditions. Just recently, the U.S., together with the UN, European Union and Russia, introduced Israel to a “road map” in which a Palestinian state would be set up within temporary borders by the end of 2003. This would supposedly follow the withdrawal of the IDF from the PA-controlled areas, the election of new Parliament in the territories and the institution of administrative and security reforms by the Palestinians. The plan then calls for negotiators to reach a final agreement by 2005.
However, as long as Arafat and the Palestinian Authority exist in the territories, the terror will never end, PA reforms will be merely cosmetic and any new leadership that wishes to coexist with Israel will have no chance to emerge.
Just as the world dealt with another evil regime after World War II, the reoccupation of the territories and the “De-Nazification” of the PA must take place by purging all elements associated with terrorism from public life, including civil servants, teachers, educators, legal officials, religious leaders and the media. This should be followed by autonomy, a new education system devoid of hatred, an economic Marshall plan, the creation of new political parties and democratization. These conditions must be a prerequisite to any final peace agreement.
Instead of pressuring Israel after defeating Iraq, President Bush should focus on dismantling the nuclear and missile programs of Iran and Libya. Furthermore, the U.S. should not try to retain the feigned stability in the region but should try to bring about internal change in the Arab and Muslim world by first implementing democracy in post-Saddam Iraq and through the U.S. deterrence power eliminate other countries’ willingness to further finance terrorism. Only such actions in the next two years will bring a chance for a true peace in Israel and the Middle East.