Lethal Restraint

Ynet, July 18, 2001

In 1981, Shimon Peres failed in his attempts to coax Prime Minister Begin into restraint in face of the Iraqi nuclear threat, to refrain from a drastic military offensive and to be preoccupied with the diplomatic option.  Peres contended - backed by the heads of the Mossad and Israel's military intelligence - that success was not guaranteed, that a military operation would cause a rift with the US, economic and diplomatic sanctions, a regional war uniting the Moslem World against Israel and a deadly blow to Begin's problematic image.  Overruling grave personal risks, Prime Minister Begin decided against restraint, and in favor of a dramatic military action, in defiance of domestic and external pressure, in spite of unprecedented operational complications, but in light of the imminent survival threat to Israel.  Twenty years later, in 2001, Foreign Minister Peres attempts once again to convince another Israeli prime minister to chose restraint over a decisive military option, in face of a survival threat.

 

In 1990, Colin Powell made a major effort to convince President Bush to avoid a war against Saddam, and limit the US reaction to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait to economic and diplomatic sanctions.  The President was inclined to endorse Powell's recommendation, until he met - on the same evening - Margaret Thatcher.  The British Prime Minister indicated to the US President that restraint would add fuel to Saddam's fire of terror, would undermine the strategic and deterrence postures of the US and would distance moderate Arabs from the US, eroding regional and global stability and critical Western interests.  In response, President Bush ordered Powell to deploy the largest military force since the Korean War, to launch a major war against Saddam, thus coercing Iraq into submission, freeing Kuwait and relieving Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Sheikdoms from a survival threat.  Ten years later, in 2001, Secretary of State Powell pressures Israel into sustaining the option of restraint, in striking contrast to the world view of the British Iron Lady, which played a key role in defeating Saddam.

 

Israel's policy of restraint has been entrenched, by Peres, since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, ignoring PLO' systematic violation of agreements, PLO's vicious anti-Jewish incitement, PLO's sustained call for the destruction of the Jewish State, and PLO's unprecedented campaign of terror.  Peres'-inspired restraint has been conceived to salvage the Oslo Accords, thus facilitating an unprecedented wave of anti-Israel terrorism and a critical erosion of personal and national security as well as Israel's posture of deterrence. The policy of restraint has been rejected by strong democracies facing major threats, and by all Israeli prime ministers until 1993.  In 1991, Prime Minister Shamir "restrained" himself in face of a NON-survival threat, precisely because the US attacked the origin of the threat (Iraq) with some 8,000 tons of bombs on a daily basis.  Shamir's "restraint" would have been similar to the current restraint, if the US air force and navy would have devastated PLO and Hamas bases.  On the other hand, in October 1973, Prime Minister Golda Meir employed restraint of the last minute, contrary to her track record.  She wanted to demonstrate to the US Administration Israel's peaceful intentions.  The outcome was disastrous: almost 3,000 Israelis killed (some 150,000 in US terms!), a deep psychological crisis which still haunts Israel, and a severe deterioration of Israel's global standing.

 

Senator Sam Brownback, the former Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on the Near East and South Asia, told the Congressional Weekly (Nov. 28, 1998): People understand strength and resolve.  When you start showing weakness and duplicity, you start getting pushed around."  Would Prime Minister Sharon TURN THE CLOCK FORWARD, obliterating Peres' policy of restraint, and adopting the world view of Brownback and Thatcher?!