Weakness of power, power of weakness
Summing up Operation Defensive Shield now that it's officially over is a tough proposition. If the goal was to halt terror, and not just take revenge on the Palestinians, we have not achieved our goal. Power of deterrence is a valuable asset as long as no one puts it to the test.
Summing up Operation Defensive Shield now that it's officially over is a tough proposition. Since no clear objective was ever established, it's hard to say exactly what constitutes a victory. So we destroyed X amount of infrastructure and caught X number of wanted men. So we showed them who they were stupid enough to mess with. So we taught them a lesson. Maybe so, but is this the victory we prayed for?
Fuad Ben-Eliezer says the significance of the operation is that now we know how much power the Palestinians had amassed to maim and kill. True, we have demolished infrastructure and delivered a mighty blow to their leadership and their "engineers," but the minister of defense believes we are not done with terror yet - "Infrastructure has been smashed, but the problem of suicide bombers remains. We can bask in our achievements, but the reds lights are still flashing. Their desire for revenge has not subsided, and may have grown even stronger."
To put it another way, if the goal was to halt terror, and not just take revenge on the Palestinians, we have not achieved our goal.
Operation Defensive Shield, the largest military operation ever launched against the Palestinian Authority, has demonstrated the weakness of Israel's power and the power of the Palestinians' weakness. Within days of entering the cities of West Bank with an oversized force of tanks, helicopters and elite combat units, the whole world rose up against us with a ferocity we didn't expect. This time we got it all - threats of economic sanctions, orders to pull back immediately, a torrent of spontaneous and organized anti-Israeli demonstrations.
The public soon forgot the gruesome sights of the Seder night massacre and the other fatal attacks on Israeli citizens. All they saw was the suffering of the Palestinians. From the moment the IDF entered the refugee camps, the script was clear - Israel would be accused of a massacre (that never happened) and an international "investigation committee" would be established to prove our guilt. Because of the wreckage, the stench of death and the testimony of old people, women, and children mixing fact and fiction, but mainly because "they are weak" and "we are strong."
And over all of this hovers Sharon's colossal blunder of isolating Arafat. Instead of trapping Arafat, the state has set a trap for itself, turning Arafat into the stuff of myth, a holy martyr whom the whole world defends and feels compassion for.
Power of deterrence is a valuable asset as long as no one puts it to the test. In breaking that Ben-Gurionesque rule, we have shot ourselves in the foot. We have inflicted a blow on the offices of the Palestinian Authority and its terrorist capabilities, but we have not made so much as a dent in Palestinian motivation, except maybe to increase it.
The main lesson to be learned from this operation is that if terror returns, which is not unlikely, a war of this size is out of the question. Because the world (which is to say, America) will not let us finish it. The international community will impose sanctions with some very sharp claws, and that includes the U.S. administration, which will never forgive us if we ruin its plans to knock off Saddam Hussein.
Fortunately for Israel, the September 11 attacks on America were not linked to Israel. In time, however, with the unrest in the Arab world, Iraq's manipulations and European incitement, the blame for any further attacks on American targets may fall on us. Israel's commitment to world Jewry also obligates it to avoid strong-arm tactics that could intensify the current wave of anti-Semitism now spreading like wildfire. The Palestinians have turned their weakness into a destructive force, whereas our overuse of power has solved nothing and left the problem in our lap.
The Palestinian Authority, as the initiator of terror attacks, came by Operation Defensive Shield honestly. But even the minister of defense says that terror is a pus-filled abscess that cannot be cured by military action or by building a fence to hide behind. The only solution is political. As long as Sharon chooses force, and lacks the courage to dismantle two or three isolated settlements that hang around our necks like deadweight, in order to demonstrate to ourselves and the other side that there is an alternative to violence, we have not won, and will never win.