Brute force will not work
The harder the prime minister strikes, the more terror we get in return. More Israelis have been killed under Ariel Sharon than in the days of any other prime minister. True, we've written about this before, but it's a fact, and it boils down to this: Sharon has no military solution for the intifada.
The prime minister must have taken an overdose of vitamins when he was laid up with the flu. What other explanation could there be for his vigorous pronouncement that "Israel is going to win this war with the Palestinians," which is nothing but a bunch of hot air? Come off it. Has anyone noticed Sharon sitting around this past year with his hands folded? From his first day in office, he's done nothing but fight Palestinian terror and violence. The harder he strikes, the more terror we get in return. More Israelis have been killed under Sharon than in the days of any other prime minister. True, we've written about this before, but it's a fact, and it boils down to this: Sharon has no military solution for the intifada.
We've come a long way since the slingshots and gravel-throwing machines of the first intifada. Nowadays, F-16s fly over Gaza, dropping bombs that weigh a ton - as much as four Iraqi Scuds. The chief of staff's motto that every clash with the Palestinians must end in a "win" for Israel has failed miserably. The grim events of this past week are proof that winning is no longer an option that belongs exclusively to us. They also know how to inflict pain and suffering. The targeted killings have become a double-edged sword. Every killing brings with it a series of fatal attacks that prompt Israel to retaliate with strategic weapons designed for bigger wars and more distant targets.
The IDF is considered one of the strongest armies in the world, but we have grown cumbersome. We have lost the copyright over smart, slick operations. Now they have begun to surprise us with "high-quality" attacks, as the TV reports call them. While we prepare for a bomber with a belt of explosives, a terrorist sprays death at an urban mall with a semi-automatic M-16.
The Palestinians' secret weapon is the suicide bomber, and volunteers are no longer limited to a handful of religious fanatics. The "shahids" now come from the ranks of Fatah, laden with burning hatred for Israel and despair. As the public is inundated with warnings of impending attacks, life is interrupted and morale suffers.
And if that were not enough, Israeli leaders at every echelon employ frightening rhetoric that sows panic from within. Just this week, the defense minister declared that we are "moving toward non-conventional terrorism - anthrax, for example - for which we have no answer." As if we have an answer for all the rest.
From the hype of our leaders, one would think that the primitive Kassem-2, less accurate than a Katyusha rocket or a mortar, and certainly less deadly than a suicide bomber who infiltrates an Israeli settlement, presents a mortal threat to the nation. And while we prattle on about this silly missile, they blow up the most fortified tank in the world, the Merkava 3. As in Lebanon, sticking to routine, plying the same roads, relying on heavy armor in civilian population centers, have done us in. The deeper we go into Palestinian Authority territory, the more we pursue our plan of dicing up the West Bank into towns and districts, the worse off we will be.
So when Sharon says we will win in the war against the Palestinians, what does he mean? Toppling Arafat and replacing him with someone else? Is that realistic? Will the replacement be any better? Meanwhile, Arafat is the one who has managed to topple three prime ministers, and Sharon himself could be next in line.
If Sharon means victory in the military sense, i.e. reoccupation of the territories, not only will the whole world, headed by America, jump down our throats, but it will be sheer madness. Forget Lebanon. It will be our Vietnam. This is the moment to look at things soberly and ask if the current rules of the game fit in with our basic desire to reach some kind of agreement with the Palestinians.
Does Sharon still believe that "we have found a way to fight terror"? What he should be doing now is experimenting with political initiatives, say, evacuating Netzarim. And not only as a diplomatic gesture, but also for our own sake, to halt the escalation of violence and change azimuth. Because brute force has not worked and it never will.