Yes, expel them, said the minister, who was echoed by the prime minister, and the legislators approved - expel out of the country anyone who is believed to be a security risk and every suspected terrorist, as defined by the law dealing with the execution, preparation or encouragement of terrorist attacks: a member of a terrorist organization or belonging to such, or affiliated with a terrorist group. They can be expelled or held in administrative detention until their expulsion, based solely on suspicions stemming from intelligence information.
Shocking, draconian, a violation of international norms? The British didn't think so, when they refused, following September 11, to make do with energizing their security operations on the basis of existing law, and pressed parliament to approve "The Law against terror, crime and security 2001" - an odd syntax with determined intentions. Tony Blair's government didn't hesitate to go further and hint that it was ready to announce it would forgo its international commitments, as is its right, in an emergency. This is a center-left government, but on security matters, blocking illegal immigration and expelling risks, its interpretation of the needs of a democracy defending itself is similar to the right-wing governments in Washington and Paris.
The only two limits on deporting terrorists out of Britain deal with citizenship (British citizens cannot be deported) and the destinations for the deportees (they cannot be deported to countries where they might be tortured or otherwise harassed). Everying else is permissible, based only on intelligence assessments; before the first suicide attack in the United Kingdom and before any actualization of the suspicion that Britain is the next target for the Qaeda terrorist network. That's the same "international" terror operating against Israel - the Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, and Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. There is nothing in the British law about immunity for people suspected of knowing about terrorist crimes and not preventing them only because they happen to be members of the terrorist's family - for example, spouses being freed of the requirement to incriminate their spouses.
The problem in Israel is much worse than what Blair reacted to with the British anti-terror legislation, and the government has weaker tools at its disposal. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the Defense Ministry and Justice Ministry laxity is responsible for not initiating some creative legislation that would translate into Hebrew the legislative measures taken by those same governments criticizing Israel.
As in the case of the death penalty, which is routinely used in the United States but frozen in Israel, using legal measures must be subject in each case to their cost efficiency. If expelling Palestinians who are accomplices to terrorism will double attacks, it should not be used. If there is reason to believe that it will reduce the mass carnage in Israel, then expulsion should be welcomed. That's also an internal Palestinian calculation: in their argument over continuing the conflict, in general, and the use of suicide bombers in particular, the moderates need to prove their case. The price Israel makes the Palestinians pay, in occupation, expulsions and assassinations, harms the extremists both physically and in their consciousness.
That's how the assassination of Salah Shehadeh should be examined, considering that compared to him, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin is a moderate. The old considerations, from the days of Yihiyeh "the engineer" Ayash, about whether the assassination ignited a cycle of provocation and reaction, may still be true in principle, but have lost their practical meaning. Last week in Washington, former Shin Bet chief Yaakov Perry said that Ayash - most of whose attacks were committed during Perry's stint - needed three months to recruit and prepare a suicide bomber, operationally and ideologically. Now it takes hours. Mohammed Dahlan, reacting by phone from Ramallah, said that in the past, the people who send the suicide bombers into action had to look for bombers. Now the bombers are looking for people to send them.
By chance, Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer was in London when just before he boarded the flight home, he added his approval for the plan to strike at Shehadeh to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's authorization. On Saturday night, the operation was canceled for fear of harming civilians. Yesterday, the intelligence officers mistakenly assessed the chances for civilian casualties as being low. A regrettable mistake, with difficult results, though much less so than those expected from alternatives to an air strike, such as a massive ground operation to go after the wanted men of Gaza.
Israel must help those who would send the bombers, the would-be bombers and all of Palestinian society reach the conclusion that the cost efficiency of suicide bombing is negative. The determination to strike at the murderers and their accomplices, despite the tragic harm done to the children this week, should be considered as that kind of help.
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