So what does a terrorist, who is willing to die to kill Israelis, actually want? For the head of the federation of local authorities to issue a public call to reinforce protection at kindergartens, so that hundreds of thousands of parents assume that he knows something and can’t sleep at night? Throughout all the horrible attacks of the second intifada, no terrorist attacked a kindergarten. But despite the lack of any intelligence warning, local authorities chairman Haim Bibas knows that no price is paid for setting off alarm bells.
Local governments shut down infrastructure projects within their boundaries so that Arabs wouldn’t come to work, and the media is broadcasting on loop, replete with information about another terrorist who wasn’t apprehended and is running around free. Everyone is making sure to say that the Shin Bet has failed, the security forces were caught sleeping, unprepared, and other such nonsense, for lack of a better way to fill the airtime.
Is every terror attack a Shin Bet failure? Sure, it’s all about the "bottom line," as every child around here learns to mutter, as though they are CEOs of multinational corporations. Even the Shin Bet itself commits this sin of hubris sometimes: “Every terror attack is a failure of ours.” As though there is a security agency in the world that is supposed to prevent 100 percent of attacks. As though anyone can stop a lone terrorist who takes a gun and goes shooting in the streets.
The IDF is currently celebrating 20 years since Operation Defensive Shield. The chief of staff is handing out interviews like candy, and the narrative gains force: There was a wave of terror attacks, the IDF mustered the courage, the political echelon gave the order, we went, we charged, we won: No more terrorism. The myth is overwrought, at times ludicrous. It is also highly damaging. Once again we learn that there is only one way to beat terrorism: Force, force and more force. Well, here’s a little reminder:
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In 2002, after Operation Defensive Shield, the suicide attacks continued. Hundreds of Israelis were murdered, which dragged the IDF into two more major operations: Determined Path in June 2002, and the siege of Yasser Arafat’s Muqata’a in September of that year. In 2003, 214 Israelis were murdered in terror attacks. Much fewer than in 2002, but Defensive Shield was at best only one factor in the decline in casualties. Another dramatic component – as determined by the Shin Bet in its review – was the deployment of the separation barrier.
Today it is inconvenient to recall that the results of Defensive Shield were quite pathetic. Massive IDF forces charged terrorist gangs. It entailed considerable courage as they entered the refugee camps, but the major and most wanted figures vanished, and there was hardly any fighting. The amount of munitions captured was insignificant, and the operation’s main achievement was the breaking of the psychological barrier. It’s a bit ridiculous to wax nostalgically, 20 years later, about an operation whose main achievement was Aviv Kochavi touring houses whose walls were sawed off. Not quite the Six-Day War.
When the events leading to the second intifada broke out, Shaul Mofaz’s IDF reacted with unprecedented aggression. Within days the Palestinian death toll climbed into the dozens. The same hysteria as we are currently experiencing led the way. The result: What could probably have been doused in a few weeks turned into a multi-year intifada with over a thousand Israelis killed.
When the events leading up to the “lone-wolf intifada” began, Gadi Eisenkot reacted the opposite way: there was no collective punishment, Palestinian laborers were able to enter Israel, and he opposed lockdowns and sieges. In Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet, some of the ministers threw a fit. To no avail. Netanyahu went with the chief of staff and then-Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, and the fire was put out. One can only hope that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett doesn’t follow the recommendations of Minister Bennett in previous crises.