Treating Israelis Like Rational People, Not Pawns

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It is a sad element of Middle East reality that the more the international community has in common with Israel—at least from the perspective of security—the more it means they have failed to learn the lessons from Israel’s many battles with Islamic terrorism.

Almost every allied head of state has said it at one time or another: “Israel is on the front lines.” Here in the U.S., senators, congressmen, and even governors travel to Israel, stand near a playground, school, or police station in Sderot, and proclaim it.

But how often do Americans, let alone Europeans, truly attempt to understand what Israel is facing and the lessons to learn from its many successes and its smattering of failures?

It was this dynamic that led Daniel Byman, Brookings Institution fellow and professor at Georgetown University, to begin research for his new book, A High Price: The Triumphs and Failures of Israeli Counterterrorism, released this month. Byman and Lt. Gen. (ret.) Gabi Ashkenazi, former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, discussed the book’s conclusions and implications at the Brookings Institution June 22.

Byman began by noting the general progression of security challenges, such as airplane hijackings and suicide bombings: “These were seen as Israeli problems, and then they became global problems.”

“During the second intifada,” he added, “it was hard for Americans to understand the scale and the regularity of the violence.” He suggested the audience remember how disruptive the “Beltway Sniper” was to Washington, D.C.’s routine in 2002, yet at its height the intifada gave Israel an average of one successful suicide bombing per week.

Byman began studying Israel’s responses to the attacks, and learned some things he expected to find—such as the fact that “many of the most effective [counterterrorism measures] are also the most disruptive”—as well as some things he admitted he didn’t want to learn. The book itself is comprehensive, measured, thorough, and well worth a full read. But I’d like to concentrate on Byman’s remarks concerning the lessons he didn’t want to learn, and his recommendations based on those same lessons.

Byman’s prescriptions—and one suspects he knows this—do not match the evidence he provides for them. It’s a distant cousin of the battle over hearts and minds—the battle between heart and mind. It is the struggle to reconcile the facts with where you’d like them to lead you.

Peace, Byman said, is the most effective form of counterterrorism; a country’s external security mechanisms will never be as effective “as a country’s ability to protect itself.” That is why, he said, the occupation of the West Bank must end, and the Palestinians must be called on to police their own population. But he also said that “Gaza is better governed than it has been in its entire history.”

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  • emmess

    Mussolini made the trains run on time.

    • gray man

      you're point?

      • intrcptr2

        Sad attempt to equate Israeli self-defense with fascism, by pointing out that Italians liked Il Duce for the good things he did while ignoring the bad things (Invading Ethiopia, befriending Hitler, invading Greece…).

    • Terry

      I'm sure that Netanyahu will remember that if Israeli trains start running late.

  • adamjw2

    Stand with Israel on 8/24. The Restoring Courage event.

  • AL__

    Stand with Israel for ever.

  • LindaRivera

    Islam fully intends to perpetrate a Second Holocaust of Jews. Surrendering Jewish land is an act of national suicide.

  • Asher

    I Stand with Israel, committed and relentless against Islamic Terrorists!

  • Henach

    If I am not for myself, who will be? If that doesn't include the right to life, what does it include?

  • steven l

    The West believes that throwing the Jews to the dogs will solve their problems.
    That is why Jews better realize that they are on their own.
    Up to 1948, the Jews were powerless!
    That goes for the Muslims, many Christians, seculars, liberal’s, crypto-communists and fascists from all sides.

    • nocal

      Yeah Steve, sadly there are people who CALL themselves christians who do not stand with Israel. Their postion is NOT biblical. Israel and the Jewish people are the apple of Gods eye and His Elect per scripture. Its really no different than those who call themselves JEWS and side with the palistinians or believe that jews have no special right to the Land in which they now reside. They are sadly misguided . The point is don't lump all christians into the same pot based on the errant actions and statements of a few. Most Bible believing Christians stand with Israel and the Jewish people.

      • intrcptr2

        I would rather suggest that blessing or cursing Israel is the litmus test of faith in Elohei Avraham, Elohei Yitzkak, Elohei Yacov. If anyone claims Jesus, he will obey his words, and that most assuredly means standing for Israel.

        Steven is right, "The West" will live or die on this issue.

  • WilliamJamesWard

    If Israel would stop trying to treat it's enemies as though they were some
    group of poor misguided mental patients it would not have them at the
    gates like hungry vampires thirsting for blood. Leftists have taken the
    kick out of punch and the IDF must recognize that the next war can not
    be waged as a medical experiment. The one aspect of wanting life, liberty,
    the pursuit of happiness and a loving life, you must be alive to appreciate it.
    Long live Israel and it's people, pray for peace while cleaning your guns.
    Israel does have friends and as a friend of Israel I implore you to destroy
    the threats to you no matter where they are for once and for all…………William

  • Terry

    If Israel listened to the un, eu, ngo's and successive US administrations, it wouldn't have survived. Israel must do what Israel must do. If assorted leftists and islamofascists don't like that, tough. If they die trying to test Israel's resolve. Tough.

    Am Yisroel Chai.

  • ObamaYoMoma

    The reality with respect to the Jewish infidel unbelievers in Israel is that the jihad of conquest being waged against it by the Islamic world primarily through its proxies – the so-called Palestinians – is permanent and will continue to be waged perpetually against the Jewish infidel unbelievers in Israel as long as Israel continues to exist and regardless of any and all fake peace processes used to weaken Israel and to dupe gullible useful idiots.

    In addition, the permanent jihad of conquest being waged against the Jewish infidel unbelievers in Israel is no different from the permanent jihads of conquest also being waged against the Hindu infidel unbelievers in Kashmir and Jammu, the Buddhist infidel unbelievers in Thailand, the Christian infidel unbelievers in the Philippines, the atheist and Orthodox Christian infidel unbelievers in Chechnya and Russia, the animist and Christian infidel unbelievers in Sudan, the Ivory Coast, and Nigeria, the Christian Serb unbelievers in Bosnia and Kosovo, and on and on ad nauseum.

    The fact of the matter is the Islamic world is at war with all unbelievers around the world and until we realize this reality, then the USA will continue giving 2 billion dollars a year to Islamic countries like Pakistan to fund the jihad it is waging against the USA, while also increasing its nuclear arsenal in anticipation of Iran rendering the NPT not worth the paper it is signed on and on it becoming the nuclear supermarket for the Sunni Islamic world.

    The fact of the matter is when we pretend that certain Islamic countries are our friends and allies while others are not, we are in fact deluding ourselves. The reality is the entire Islamic world is at war with unbelievers as the subjugation of the world into a very draconian form of Islamic totalitarianism via the imposition of Sharia is the fundamental sole purpose and main goal of Islam.

    • LindaRivera

      Excellent comment!

      America should not be giving one single dollar to any Islamic country. Islam intends to conquer ALL nations. For 1,400 years, Islam shows NO mercy. To give money to an Islamic country or Muslim organization, PLO/Palestinian Authority, Hamas, etc. is TREASON. Because of US/Western pro-Islam leaders, we are in great danger of losing our human rights and freedom.