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When Katz ended his presentation to take questions, the recent Shalit swap was in the forefront of the audience’s collective mind; many wanted to know, quite simply, why? Why did Israel release over a thousand terrorists to gain Shalit’s release? Katz deplored the message that it sends – that terrorism and abductions are successful strategies – and said it’s time for Israel to establish a definitive policy about responses to such kidnappings, which are now sure to escalate. As to why, Katz reiterated what he suggested in his article cited above, about timing being the principal reason for the negotiation. Israel had to make the deal for Shalit before upcoming elections in Egypt bring to power an even more anti-Israel government: “By reaching a deal now, Netanyahu clears his desk and is able to focus on Israel’s true strategic predicaments.”
An audience member asked if Israel could put forward a tougher image by adopting the death penalty for convicted terrorists. But Katz noted that studies show, unsurprisingly, that capital punishment is no deterrent to Palestinian suicide bombers. As the terrorists often remind us, they love death more than we love life. The Palestinians, by the way, are definitely not partners in the peace process, Katz noted. They have one goal only: to delegitimize and isolate Israel until the Palestinians get everything they want.
Responding to a question about dealing with the threat of Syria, Katz explained that Israel would naturally like to see the antagonistic Assad regime fall, but throughout history, power vacuums in the Middle East are never filled by moderate elements. And so it could go with Syria, where a regime change could lead to a situation as in Egypt, where the Islamists are positioning themselves for control. So there is a debate within the Israeli defense establishment as to whether the Syrian devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.
“The coming year will be critical for Israel,” says Katz. In 1948 David Ben-Gurion pondered the question, “How will Israel survive amid its many enemies?” That same question is relevant today, and in partial answer, Katz claims that there is one characteristic the Israelis can be particularly proud of: resilience. Resilience is what enabled Israel to defeat its enemies in 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982, the Palestinian Intifadas, the wars in Lebanon. “That same resilience,” Katz is confident, “will continue to ensure the greatest miracle of modern times” – Israel’s existence and future.
But will it? Is resilience enough? As Steven Plaut puts it, the endless war in the Middle East will only end when Israel pursues “peace through victory,” “when Israel returns to its determination to end the terror through military victory and force of arms.”
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