Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin was the Osama bin Laden of Palestinian terrorism. By assassinating Yassin, the Israelis just applied the Bush Doctrine to one of the most deadly terrorist leaders on the planet. In the winner-take-all war on terror, countries are either with us or against us. They either take decisive action–even preemptive military action–to bring terrorists to justice, or they are guilty of aiding and abetting the enemy.
Israel’s side is clear.
You’d think, therefore, that the Bush administration–fresh off of losing Spain as a major ally in the war against radical Islam–would be grateful and publicly praise our only democratic ally in the Middle East as a true partner for peace.
The Bush administration’s initial reaction to Israel’s act of self-defense has been mealy-mouthed, pathetic, and morally offensive.
White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan says all parties in the region should show “maximum restraint.” State Department spokesman Lou Fintor likewise says “the United States urges all sides to remain calm and exercise restraint.” National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice concedes “Hamas is a terrorist organization and that Sheik Yassin has himself, personally, we believe, been involved in terrorist planning.” But she’s quick to add that “it is very important that everyone step back now and try now to be calm in the region.”
Hardly a full-throated defense for an American ally under siege by a seemingly never-ending wave of 9/11-style suicide bombers. Indeed, the Bush administration suddenly sounds eerily similar to our warm-weather friends in Europe. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw says Israel’s the assassination of Sheik Yassin “unacceptable, it’s unjustified, and it’s very unlikely to achieve its objective.” French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin says Israel’s actions will “only fuel the cycle of violence.”
Israel’s move was both justified and likely to achieve its objective, if it’s followed up by an all-out war on Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the militant elements of Yasser Arafat’s murderous regime. Let’s be clear about the facts. Under Sheik Yassin’s inspiration and direction, Hamas launched 425 attacks against Israel over the past three and a half years. Among these were more than 50 suicide bombings, such as the March 2002 bombing of a Passover celebration at a seaside hotel and the June 2002 suicide bombing of a Jerusalem bus carrying children on their way to school. All told, Hamas has killed some 377 Israelis and wounded 2,076 others, a horrifyingly huge number given Israel’s relatively small population. Indeed, in proportion to our own population, that would be similar to al-Qaeda killing 16,956 Americans, and wounding another 93,420.
Can you imagine the Bush administration exercising “maximum restraint” if over 100,000 Americans had been killed or wounded at the hands of a radical Islamic terrorist network? Of course not. It’s hard to imagine even John Kerry showing such “restraint” if Americans were being slaughtered in such ghastly numbers.
Why then won’t the Bush White House proudly stand side-by-side with Israel as a strategic ally against a radical Islamic jihad? Is not Israel following President Bush’s own requests?
On September 20, 2001, the president addressed a Joint Session of Congress and told the world: “Our war on terror begins with al-Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated…. Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen. It may include dramatic strikes, visible on TV, and covert operations, secret even in success. We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place, until there is no refuge or no rest. And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.”
In his State of the Union address on January 29, 2002, President Bush said: “My hope is that all nations will heed our call, and eliminate the terrorist parasites who threaten their countries and our own. Many nations are acting forcefully. But some governments will be timid in the face of terror. And make no mistake about it: If they do not act, America will.”
In his June 1, 2002, speech at West Point, President Bush stated unequivocally: “Our security will require transforming the military you will lead–a military that must be ready to strike at a moment’s notice in any dark corner of the world. And our security will require all Americans to be forward-looking and resolute, to be ready for preemptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and to defend our lives.”
Distancing ourselves from foul-weather friends such as Israel won’t help us win the war on terror. Indeed, for the first time, Hamas–convinced the U.S. gave Israel the green light for assassinating Yassin–is now directly threatening the United States with retaliation. “All the Muslims of the world will be honored to join in on the retaliation for this crime,” says a new Hamas statement. “The Zionists didn’t carry out their operation without getting the consent of the terrorist American administration, and it must take responsibility for this crime.” Mohammed Mahdi Akef–head of an Egyptian terrorist faction known as the Muslim Brotherhood–told al-Jazeera television: “There can be no life for the Americans and Zionists in the region. We will not rest until they are expelled from the region.”
There is no point in pretending: The United States and Israel are in this war together. We’ve both been targeted by radical Islam. The only way to win is to stay united.
–Joel C. Rosenberg is the New York Times best-selling author of The Last Jihad and The Last Days, and a former senior aide to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Deputy Prime Minister Natan Sharansky.