On April 8, in a front-page article entitled "Victory in Israel-Palestinian war is determined by the other side's mistakes," by military correspondent Amos Harel, Haaretz brought some much-needed good news to its readers. Based on an interview with Brigadier General Eli Yaffe, who has completed a 2.5-year stint as head of the General Staff's Operations Branch in the Israel Defense Forces, the article presents facts and figures on the number of acts of Palestinian terrorism directed against Israeli targets during the past three and a half years, since Arafat initiated the latest war against Israel.
The article refers to the number of attacks each calendar quarter against targets within the "green line," i.e. directed against Israel's population centers, usually causing the largest number of victims. There were 40 such attacks during the first three months of 2002, culminating in the suicide bombing of the seder in Netanya's Park Hotel two years ago. Since then, the number of attacks has steadily and dramatically decreased, saving the lives of hundreds of Israelis. One does not have to look far for the cause of this reduction in terrorist attacks - Operation "Defensive Shield," which brought the IDF into Palestinian towns and villages, and the erection during the past 12 months of the security fence bordering Samaria. One can only wonder why the IDF was put into action in the Palestinian towns and villages only after a year and a half of acts of terrorist outrages, while government spokesmen defended inaction by vacuously declaring that "restraint is strength."
Another set of data in Harel's article is even more impressive, showing the number of Palestinian suicide attacks that were carried out, as well as those that were prevented, month by month. March 2002 stands out like a sore thumb, with 17 suicide attacks carried out and another eight prevented. From there, things get steadily better, as the IDF goes to work and the security fence gets built. Two years later, in March 2004, there were two suicide attacks carried out, and 10 such attempted attacks were prevented. Not only has the number of suicide terror attacks come down drastically, but the number of attempted suicide attacks that have been prevented has been cut in half in recent months.
What does all this mean, over and above that the IDF and the security services have been successful in saving the lives of many Israelis during the past two years? What conclusions can be drawn about Israel's ability to contend with and defeat Palestinian terrorism? To those who refuse to be confused by the facts because their mind is made up, these facts and figures are irrelevant. They include the proponents of the "Geneva Accords," as well as the opponents of the security fence on the right and on the left of the political spectrum. But to those who are prepared to look at this data with an open mind, there is much food for thought.
First, Israeli offensive and defensive action against Palestinian terror seems to be far more effective than the opening of "political horizons" called for by politicians on the left. The perpetrators of acts of terror and their supporters seem to be quite unimpressed by the kind of "political horizons" Israelis of all political persuasions are prepared to present.
Second, the measure of success for the Palestinians in the war of terror they have been waging against Israel these past three and a half years is the number of Israeli casualties, and by this measure they are clearly losing the war.
Is the myth that there is no way of defeating terrorism in the process of being destroyed? Can Israel win this war, and further bring down the number of terror attacks and the number of Israeli casualties? At this point, that certainly seems to be the case. Unilateral withdrawals at this time are probably not the way to do it.
And to those who recognize that Palestinian terror is the major obstacle to any progress toward a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and that no Palestinian interlocutors are likely to come forward until their fear of assassination by terrorists is laid to rest, Amos Harel's article is really good news.
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