At the beginning of the month, Muhammad Mansi passed through the Erez checkpoint. He had on underwear in which plastic explosives had been sewn. On his wrist was a watch, the innards of which had been removed and replaced with a detonator. The terrorist passed through all the checkpoints and was about to blow himself up in the midst of a group of Israelis. Something about his behavior aroused the suspicion of Sergeant Michal Eliyahu. She called for help and Muhammad Mansi was caught before he carried out the suicide attack he had planned.
The alertness and dedication of Israeli soldiers and police cannot always overcome the cunning and the determination of Palestinian terrorists. At the end of the week, Israel received a painful reminder of this: in the terror attack at French Hill in Jerusalem and in the terrorists' infiltration into Morag. This teaches us that all the declarations about the victory over terror were, at best, premature.
Toward the beginning of the new Jewish year, the media were full of summations that announced a significant decrease in the number of terror attacks and cited knowledgeable security sources who attributed this to the deep intelligence penetration by the Shin Bet security service of the Palestinian terror organizations, the building of the fence, and the pressure of the Israel Defense Forces' presence in the West Bank. There were spokesmen, and also journalists, who did not hesitate to define the situation as an Israeli "victory" over Palestinian terror and to laud the heads of the security branches, first and foremost Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, for the success. This was not the first time during the four years of the hostilities when people holding senior positions, among them journalists, ran to tell the guys about the achievement: We can remember, for example, the statements by Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon on July 2003 ("We've won"), or the prime minister's announcement that the way had been found to deal with terror.
The need to declare victory is a familiar and also forgivable human characteristic, but in running the affairs of the state it often disrupts the line. Generals and political leaders need laurel wreaths in order survive in their jobs and to justify their decisions. Take, for example, the childish competition that was conducted last week between Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Histadrut labor federation chairman MK Amir Peretz (One Nation): The one celebrated the moment at a bombastic event, accompanied by the blowing of ram's horn trumpets, as if he had just been anointed king, and the other ran to the television studios, with an arrogant expression and a crooked smile on his face, to reveal to the viewers that there was no real substance to his rival's rejoicing. In the age of news flashes, leaders believe they are measured by the transient headlines they generate and the fast-paced message they instill in the mind.
As long as there are terrorists like Muhammad Mansi, as long as suicide terrorists are found like Zeinab Abu Salem, who knowingly strode to her death at French Hill, as long as young Palestinians volunteer to attack defended IDF posts, taking into account that they will not return from the battle - Israel will not vanquish terror. Experience teaches that the curves that show decreases in the number of terror attacks are temporary, and in any case they do not tell of the end of the hostilities. The past four years have proven that there is a cyclical pattern in the Israeli-Palestinian sparring and that declarations of victory express wishes more than the reality. In this respect, the subtitle of the new book by Amos Harel and Avi Isacharoff ("The Seventh War: How We Won and Why We Lost the War with the Palestinians," Yedioth Ahronoth Press) reflects the truth of the situation. Moreover: It is worth thinking about the influence that the trumpeting of the Israeli victory has on the feeling of humiliation on the Palestinian side and on the fighting spirit and the desire for revenge that derive from it.
Moshe Dayan went to the jungles of Vietnam, as a foreign correspondent, in order to observe the war from up close. When he returned, he predicted that the United States would lose. He came to this insight when he saw the spirit of sacrifice among the North Vietnamese and their operational resourcefulness, which found a way to deal, using simple means, with the sophisticated American technology. The comparison is not absolute, of course, but as long as Israel does not eliminate the reason for the Palestinian revolt, the reality will defy its declaration of victory.
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