The war of terror waged by the Palestinians against Israel has already passed its third year, the number of Israelis killed is approaching 900, and damage to the Israeli economy has been great. The Palestinians have suffered more; their economy is in shambles, but those running the terrorist network could not care less - their only measuring rod is the number of Israelis killed. With the suicide bombers, they believe they have found the secret weapon that can defeat Israel, regardless of the number of aircraft, tanks, and submarines in the Israel Defense Forces inventory. The war is not being waged in the air, at sea, or on the battlefield - it is waged in the streets of Israel's cities, towns, and villages.
All wars involve a learning process. The IDF's mode of operation has improved over the years. It may be painful to say after the latest terrorist outrages in Jerusalem and Haifa, but statistically the number of Israeli victims of terrorist attacks is on the decline as a direct result of the IDF's operations. But all of us would agree that this is far from enough. We are learning, but not fast enough.
We must keep our eye on the target. That means realizing that, in the final analysis, the only important measure in this war against Palestinian terror is the number of Israelis murdered on our streets, and the only important means of victory is the prevention of these murders. Everything else is of marginal importance. Therefore, every proposal for an IDF action should be measured by this criterion: Is it likely to decrease the number of Israelis killed by acts of terror? If the answer is negative - forget it! It is true that we have almost unlimited military resources and there are many things the IDF can do, which may all be justified. But the response of the United States and the Europeans is important in establishing constraints, be they virtual or real, on our military activity. In dealing with them, it is essential that we have a convincing case that each action has a direct life-saving impact, and not just an indirect justification. Success in bringing down the number of terror acts will convince them. This is equally important for the Israeli public. So let's keep our eye on the target.
Where is the target? It is in Judea and Samaria and, to some extent, in East Jerusalem. It is not in Gaza, Syria or Lebanon. Of course, there are legitimate targets in Gaza, Syria and Lebanon. Gaza contains some of the most important leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Their faces on television give us heartburn. But they and their followers are fenced in. There is no need for the IDF to conquer Gaza. The problem of rockets and mortar shells from Gaza against Israeli settlement in Gush Katif and against towns and kibbutzim in the Negev can be dealt with on a local basis.
Many of the terrorist organizations have their headquarters (or "information offices," as Bashar Assad calls them) in Damascus and training centers in Syria. They may issue orders, send money, and train terrorists, but the terrorists who murder Israel's citizens come from Judea and Samaria. Lebanon is crawling with terrorists, but the terrorists who murder Israel's citizens come from Judea and Samaria. The obvious conclusion is that Palestinian terrorism will be defeated only by IDF operations in Judea and Samaria. Such operations must, of course, include plugging the holes in the billion dollar fence, which came to light after the recent terror attack in Haifa.
The terrorists and their accomplices who come from East Jerusalem and Israel itself are a separate problem. For far too long, Israeli governments have ignored this population, allowing them to be drawn into the circles of Palestinian radicals and Islamic fanatics in increasing numbers. The talk of a united Jerusalem is empty rhetoric as long as Jerusalem's Arab residents are second-class citizens and as long as we cannot bring them to participate in the Jerusalem municipal elections. As for Israel's Arab citizens, a policy of year-long neglect, of pampering the extremists among them, and of ignoring the Bedouin population has created a problem that, at best, will take years to correct. But, if the IDF is successful in the battle against Palestinian terror, they will get the message, as well.
Yasser Arafat, who started this war, is now of secondary importance. Although he is not irrelevant, as our government decided, the Palestinian war of terror has assumed its own momentum. Even if Arafat were to disappear tomorrow, the effect on Palestinian terror would probably be minimal. It is true that we will never reach a peaceful resolution of the conflict as long as Arafat is around, but that will become relevant only after we have defeated Palestinian terror. So leave him to sulk for the time being, and stop talking about him. It only adds to his prestige in the eyes of the Palestinians.
In the business world, these recommendations would be called "the need to focus." This is exactly what Israel needs at this critical time. Let's keep our eye on the target.
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