Terrorism is a game. Either you win or you lose.
There are no other choices.
The first choice comes from the right. The third choice comes from the left. The second choice is what politicians choose when they don’t want to make a decision that will change the status quo.
Despite all the explosions in Gaza, Israel is still stuck on the second choice. The air strikes aren’t meant to destroy Hamas. They are being carried out to degrade its military capabilities which will buy a year or two of relative peace. And that will be followed by more of the same in the summer of 2016 when Hamas will have deadlier Iranian and Syrian weapons that will terrorize more of the country.
That doesn’t sound like much of a deal, but these kinds of wars have bought more peace than the peace process ever did. The peace process led to wars. The wars lead to a temporary peace.
This status quo became the mainstream choice ever since Israelis figured out that the peace process wasn’t going to work and that their leaders weren’t about to defy the UN, the US, the UK and all the other U’s by actually destroying the terrorists.
When Netanyahu first ran against Peres, the difference between the center-right and the center-left was that he campaigned on security first and appeasement second, while Peres campaigned on appeasement first and security second. The center-right has dominated Israeli politics because most Israelis accepted Likud’s security first as a more reasonable position than Labor’s appeasement first.
Living with terrorism was a viable choice in the 80s. It stopped being a viable choice after Israel allowed terrorist states to be set up under the peace process. It’s one thing to manage terrorism in territories that you control. It’s another thing to deal with entire terrorist states inside your borders. Even physical separation isn’t enough. Not when terrorist groups can shell all your major cities.
Israel responds to that threat with light air strikes which damage Hamas’ military capabilities. Hamas loses a few commanders, fighters and rockets, but scores a PR victory. Israel buys two years of peace while encouraging its enemies to attack it as a bunch of racist baby killers. Then Hamas replaces the rockets and fighters and launches a new operation and the whole thing begins again.
The left’s argument, framed by Washington Post pundits, Israeli leftists, Obama, assorted diplomats, retired security chiefs, activist busybodies funded by radical billionaires and the entire gang of foreign and domestic enemies, is that Israel has no choice except to default back to choice three; appeasement.
Israel has to gamble on appeasement because its situation is constantly worsening, they argue. What they neglect to mention is that the situation is worsening as part of their pressure on Israel to appease terrorists even though the current problems exist because of earlier appeasement.
“Drink this poison,” the doctors of diplomacy say. “It’ll cure you of all the aches and pains you’re suffering from the last time we told you to drink poison.”
“If you don’t drink more poison, you’ll get sicker and die,” they say. And if you do get sicker after drinking more poison, they’ll say it’s your own fault for not drinking enough poison. If only you had given away all of Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, the terrorists wouldn’t be attacking you again.
Israel has been caught between choices two and three, either live with terrorism or make concessions to terrorists, and it has been bouncing between these choices.
People and politicians choose the option that causes the least pain at any given time. Israel chooses appeasement in response to international pressure. And when appeasement leads to terrorism, it does enough damage to Hamas to serve as a temporary deterrent, without leading to too much international outrage, again choosing the least painful option.
This is the true cycle that Israel is caught in. It’s not a cycle of violence. It’s a cycle of expediency.
The first choice, destroying the terrorists, is the most painful option in the short term, but the least painful option in the long term. The third choice, appeasing the terrorists, causes the least pain in the short term, but the most pain in the long term and the medium term. The second choice, living with terrorism, is slightly more painful in the short term, less painful in the medium term, but still quite painful in the long term.
Israelis have accepted short term and long term pain in exchange for a certain amount of relief in the immediate future. The occasional terrorist attack and the more ominous escalating conflict, an example of which we are seeing now, is accepted in exchange for a year or two of relative quiet.
It’s easy to criticize Israel for not finishing off Hamas, but let’s look at what is really standing in its way.
Israeli Prime Minister Rabin deported 400 Hamas terrorists, including many Hamas leaders. In a Knesset speech he warned that, “We call on all nations and all people to devote their attention to the great danger inherent in Islamic fundamentalism. That is the real and serious danger which threatens the peace of the world in the forthcoming years.”
Instead the international community decided that the peace of the world was threatened by deporting Hamas terrorists. The media spent months covering the “suffering” of the deported Hamas terrorists. The United States voted for a UN resolution condemning Israel and ordering it to “insure the safe and immediate return of all those deported.”
The United States Ambassador to the United Nations said that deporting Hamas terrorists does "not contribute to current efforts for peace."
In 1988, Israel had deported a handful of Hamas and PLO terrorists.
One of them, Jibril Mahmoud Rajub, vowed that if Israel didn’t let them back in that they would “infiltrate in as human bombs with explosives belted around our waists.”
Deputy Secretary of State John C. Whitehead warned Israel that if it didn't reconsider the deportations "damage to our bilateral relations will occur."
If that was the reaction by the Reagan and Bush administrations to deporting a few terrorists, imagine the reaction by Obama and the EU to a comprehensive effort to force Hamas and the PLO out of Israel.
And yet the inevitable can’t be postponed forever.
If Israel had not folded in the peace process, it might have been able to maintain the status quo of the intifada. But the second choice is no longer a viable long term option. The attacks have long since passed the point of mere terrorism and are taking place on a military scale.
Tolerating terrorism has ceased to be a long term strategy. That is something that both the left and the right agree on. The attacks are pushing Israel into choosing either large scale conflict or large scale appeasement. Appeasing terrorists has failed every time. Only destroying them can work.
Israel has a left that is eager to embrace the destructive policies of appeasement without regard to the consequences. It needs a right that is equally heedless of consequences when it comes to war to overcome that pain threshold which prevents it from doing the right thing and reclaiming the future.
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