Israel too has right to fight terrorism

March 19, 2002|By Aron U. Raskas

THE OFFICIAL U.S. counter-terrorism policy, implemented by the State Department and enforced by our military, is strikingly simple:

"First, make no concessions to terrorists and strike no deals. Second, bring terrorists to justice for their crimes. Third, isolate and apply pressure on states that sponsor terrorism to force them to change their behavior. ..."

The State Department catalogs in its latest Human Rights Report "at least 1,970 terror attacks directed against Israelis during the [past] year, including drive-by shootings, ambushes, firing of mortars or anti-tank missiles, use of grenades, and stabbings," not to mention the suicide bombings and machine gun attacks in public streets, catering halls and restaurants.

According to the State Department, "members of Palestinian security services and [Yasser] Arafat's Fatah faction are widely believed to have participated in [these] violent attacks."

More than 300 Israelis were killed and thousands maimed in this carnage.

No country in the world would have tolerated such attacks on its citizens.

When Israel finally responded forcefully to these attacks, it was morally repugnant for the State Department to noxiously call for Israeli restraint and substantive negotiations with the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Israel entered into negotiations with the PA when it renounced "the use of terrorism and other acts of violence" and assumed "responsibility over all PLO elements and personnel in order to assure their compliance, prevent violations and discipline violators."

The PA, however, recast itself as Israel's enemy in this war when it effectively renounced negotiations.

Mr. Arafat and the PA have bet that they can get through terrorism that which they couldn't achieve through negotiations.

They support, encourage, finance and carry out terrorist attacks with the goal of coercing the Israelis to make concessions that they cannot strategically afford.

The PA has long abetted the now-routine massacres of Israeli citizens by proxy terrorist organizations.

When out of the range of CNN cameras, Mr. Arafat encourages this terrorism with calls for "jihad" and praise for "martyrs."

Meanwhile, the PA smuggles in weapons outlawed by the Oslo accords, such as the 50 tons of explosives, mortars and other heavy munitions seized from the Karine-A ship, bought and piloted by PA officials.

Now the State Department belatedly corroborates that which has been evident for months: Mr. Arafat's own personnel routinely perpetrate terror attacks on Israeli citizens.

Mr. Arafat can purport to condemn these acts all he wants for Western ears, but ultimately he must answer for his own forces and factions.

One of these is the Fatah faction, named in the State Department report, which still commits itself to the "complete liberation of Palestine, and eradication of Zionist economic, political, military and cultural existence" through "armed" revolution.

The latest mantra fashionably and mindlessly repeated by bureaucrats addressing the Middle East is that "there can be no military solution."

But if the past eight years have demonstrated anything, it is that there can be no "negotiated solution" with those who seek the annihilation of Israel.

Indeed, the case can readily be made that it was Israel's long-practiced policy of military deterrence that persuaded its enemies that Israel would not be vanquished and that brought them to the negotiating table in the first place.

Perhaps this war is necessary to persuade them once again.

Israel faces grim circumstances that require difficult choices.

It has chosen not to negotiate substantively with these terrorists and to pursue them militarily.

It pressured their leadership by isolating Mr. Arafat in Ramallah. Reasonable people can disagree whether this is the proper course of action. It is perplexing that the United States disagreed.

Israel did not ask for this war, nor does it desire to pursue it.

But the case for waging it is as clear as our own counter-terrorism policy.

Aron U. Raskas, a Baltimore attorney, is a member of the Public Policy Committee of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America.

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