The Corner

The High Cost of Talk in Israel

First, watch this short, powerful film about the reality of daily life in parts of Israel since the withdrawal from Gaza, under a government that blew its one military action (in Lebanon), and which doesn’t seem willing to muster the force to stop the Gazans from sending missiles to kill its citizens in Sderot as often as they like. 

Now, please consider the very powerful argument made in this op-ed, by Moshe Arens, who was perhaps the smartest, toughest-minded Defense Minister (3X) in Israel’s short history. American-raised and MIT-educated, he reasons from evidence – not wishful thinking – about what makes a policy fly.  In this piece, he marshals the recent history of Israel’s various strategies for quelling terror against its citizens.  He concludes that the strategy of the current Israeli government to talk to its main enemy, Hamas, is a poor one.

How to fight terror became the subject of endless discussions… As long as Israel seemed unable to find an effective answer to Palestinian terror, the defeatists in our ranks claimed that terror could not be defeated by force, while the more cautious argued that terror could not be defeated by the use of force alone. The implication was that Israel had no choice but to concede to at least some of the terrorists’ demands – that they must be given a “political horizon.”

Arens calls the espousers of the ”force never works” doctrine, ”defeatists.” I suppose that would be as offensive as “appeasers” to Barak Obama, who, among other things, recently told David Brooks that he does not think force will work in Lebanon.

[Obama] said the U.S. should help the Lebanese government deliver better services to the Shiites “to peel support away from Hezbollah” and encourage the local populace to “view them as an oppressive force.” The U.S. should “find a mechanism whereby the disaffected have an effective outlet for their grievances, which assures them they are getting social services.”

The U.S. needs a foreign policy that “looks at the root causes of problems and dangers.” So, we are to look to root causes — a welfare state mantra that never even worked on domestic crime.

But I digress. Arens spells out the lessons learned in Israel:  

But once the Israel Defense Forces and the security services began to seriously tackle Palestinian terror… in the spring of 2002, it quickly became clear that terror could be defeated by force. As a matter of fact, it could be defeated only by the use of force. The terrorists view any hints of Israeli willingness to give in to a portion of their essentially limitless demands as a sign of weakness, which only serves to encourage further acts of terror.

Israel’s victory over Palestinian terror, which put an end to the daily bouts of suicide bombings, also induced amnesia in the minds of some of Israel’s leaders. The lesson was quickly forgotten.

The Olmert government, he says, is currently conducting …”talks on a cease-firewith Hamas in Gaza. Abandoning the strategy of defeating terrorism, they are now offering Hamas terrorists a respite so they can rearm, train, and prepare for the next round of attacks against Israel, with the help of the Iranians. ”

Finally, Arens notes, acidly,

Now the Olmert government is placing its hopes on proposing a cease-fire to the terrorists. A truce with the terrorists, meaning that Israel would cease its attacks against organizations in Gaza whose leaderships are pledged to Israel’s destruction, is ludicrous and self-defeating. It has not worked with Hezbollah, it will not work with Iran, and it won’t work with Hamas. Until such time as Israel adopts the only strategy that works in the war against terror – attacking the terrorists until they are soundly defeated – Israel will continue to be weakened, and its citizens will continue to be casualties of terrorist acts.

Now it may be that Obama, who has no experience in foreign or defense policy, is right about the value of talking. But I’d rather have Arens in charge of my family’s safety.  Perhaps Obama could read Aren’s op-ed as part of his preparation for tea with Ahmadinejad.

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