After ten months of Palestinian violence - the last five during the tenure of Ariel Sharon's government - it is time to reappraise the tactics of the security forces. While there have been localized successes, the violence continues with no end in sight. The lives of Israel's citizens are in constant danger and some of the settlements and urban neighborhoods that are the preferred targets of Palestinian militias are by now in dire straits.
Calls for endurance and patience are no substitute for an effective strategy to put and end to the killing.
Palestinian violence has taken the form of two different threats against Israeli targets: There is small-arms fire directed against vehicles on the road and against settlements and urban neighborhoods, and there are explosive charges set off in Israel's cities by Palestinians who have succeeded in infiltrating Israel.
Neutralizing these threats and protecting the lives of Israel's citizens are now the foremost tasks of the government. These should take precedence over all other considerations of a longer-term nature. Unless the killing is stopped, the long-range plans - whether the fruit of Peres' or Sharon's thinking, will in any case become irrelevant.
As for the killing on the roads of Judea and Samaria, it is often suggested that it is impossible to protect vehicles moving along more than a thousand kilometers of roads. In fact it is only on certain stretches of these roads - far less than a thousand kilometers - that travelers are endangered.
Identifying these critical stretches, taking control of key commanding positions even if they happen to be in zone A, and preventing the exit of Palestinian gunmen from villages in their immediate vicinity is most likely to bring about a drastic improvement.
Normal travel on the Jordan Valley highway, a main artery of north-south communication and a lifeline for the settlements there, can be secured by occupying the Jericho-Oudja enclave. And most important, the mission of securing each critical road segment should be assigned to the commander of the military unit deployed in the area, and it must be made clear to him that it is his responsibility to accomplish the mission assigned to him.
After such an assignment of direct responsibility, many new ways of making the roads safe will quickly surface from the initiatives taken by local commanders, while some local commanders who are not up to the task will have to be replaced.
Among the urban neighborhoods that have suffered almost nightly attacks are the Jewish Quarter of Hebron and Jerusalem's Gilo neighborhood. There is no way of preventing the firing into the Jewish Quarter of Hebron unless the IDF seizes two commanding heights used by the attackers.
In the case of Gilo, which is being attacked by groups of gunmen from Bethlehem who enter the Christian town of Beit Jala, IDF control over the roads leading from Bethlehem into Beit Jala should put a stop to the suffering of the residents of Gilo. Here too assignment of responsibility to the local commander is likely to bring quick results.
In all cases, the policy limiting the IDF to the maintenance of a unilateral cease-fire and response to Palestinian attacks will have to be abandoned. To combat the acts of terrorism in our cities an end must be put to the presence of over a hundred thousand Palestinians from Judea, Samaria, Gaza, and Jordan in Israel.
The Israeli consulate in Amman must cease giving visas to Palestinians who are embarking on one-way journeys to Israel, and heavy penalties should be imposed on Israeli employers of Palestinian laborers and on Israelis who permit Palestinians to to take up residence on their property.
This will make the terrorists attempting to infiltrate into Israel's cities far more "visible" and easier to apprehend. Combined with the present policy of targeting the planners, organizers, and trainers of suicide bombers and car-bomb drivers, the danger of terrorist outrages will be reduced.
Obviously, not all of our military officers have been uniformly successful in dealing with the Palestinian violence during the past ten months. But one has yet to hear of an officer being replaced because he failed to carry out the mission assigned to him.
One is reminded of President Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War who replaced generals until he found one - Ulysses Grant - who brought him victory. It is victory over Palestinian violence that Israel urgently needs at this hour.
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