Assassination, but Only After a Hearing

Does the idea that targeted-killings will now only be carried out with the approval of the Attorney General strike anyone as absurd?

The security cabinet's decisions certainly give cause for pride, and even for happiness. After all, the cabinet issued an order to prepare a large-scale operation in Gaza, and also established a committee to discuss the execution of individuals. Tanks will rumble through the alleys, and airplanes will aim their missiles precisely at anyone whom the committee decides has lived long enough. And from now on, it will all be done legally. There is, of course, no point in wondering whether a large-scale operation might fail to bring about the deaths of those wanted men, or whether on the contrary, the killing of those wanted men might make a large-scale operation unnecessary. The solution is both - or in other words, to do nothing.

Particularly enthralling was the decision on executing senior militants. According to Haaretz (November 23), "They will be assassinated only subject to an opinion by Attorney General Menachem Mazuz." This comes in contrast to ordinary targeted killings, which are aimed at people directly involved in committing attacks and in manufacturing or launching Qassam rockets. The attorney general cannot intervene in their assassinations. From this, one sees the enormous difference between the immediate assailants, who can be assassinated, and senior members of the organizations, who "merit" a hearing - albeit in absentia - with the attorney general.

This is also the reason for the difference in terminology I hereby propose: Liquidation in the first case, and execution in the second. And what if a senior member of an organization is also a bomb-maker? Logically, he should be granted the privilege of rank - that is, a "hearing" with Mazuz, who may decide he does not deserve a death sentence. But he will nevertheless be liquidated, because he makes bombs.

And another tiny question or two: Will the attorney general's opinion be binding, or is it just expert advice? Will someone from the Shin Bet security service tell Mazuz: "We have a customer here who needs execution, since he is a senior member of a terrorist organization and is involved in terrorist activity"; to which Mazuz will respond: "Leave the file here, I'll be free to discuss it in another few days, when I finish filling in the details of the president's case"? And the Shin Bet officer will reply: "But the senior official is already in our sights; it is possible to execute him right now, in another three minutes." And Mazuz will answer: "Is it possible to demote him and define him as a Qassam manufacturer?" And then the Shin Bet officer will have to decide between the immediate liquidation of a junior wanted man and the execution of a senior member of a terrorist organization - because for the former, there is no need for the attorney general's opinion. But what about prestige?

Does this sound absurd? You will have to ask the geniuses in the security cabinet. And while you are at it, you might also request an opinion on killing Hamas leaders who are already in jail, thereby saving on precious hours of flight time as well as payments to informers and, of course, maintenance costs.

But it seems I have gotten carried away: Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin explicitly said that Palestinian leaders should not be liquidated, since, in his words, "How has that helped us in the past?" What is this supposed to mean? How many senior wanted men have we liquidated, how many junior men have we liquidated, how many houses have we destroyed, how many people have we deported and how many have we imprisoned, with or without trial, and how many times have we conducted operations such as Autumn Clouds and Winter Watermelons and Spring Pumpkins? Since when has the sentence "how has that helped us?" been a basis for policy or military tactics?

No state comptroller could insult these decision-makers more than the decisions they make already do. But the issue is not insult or anger over the fact that these decisions rest on an abnormally high level of public stupidity. The issue is fear over the fact that even the appearance of wisdom attributed to these decision-makers appears to be dissolving. Because they are truly starting to believe they can circumvent the only solution that can lead to calm - that is, talking with the terrorists, agreeing to an immediate bilateral cease-fire, releasing prisoners and finally understanding that what cannot be achieved by force also cannot be achieved by more force. But what can you do? They are in the cabinet, so they surely know better.