No Free Lunch in the Middle East!

, August 23, 2001

President Bush stated, on August 2, 1990 upon Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, that he would not drag the American People to war against Saddam.  The cheerful reaction in Baghdad dissipated when the President altered his position, following a meeting - on that day - with Prime Minister Thatcher.  The Iron Lady made plain her conviction that restrain in face of violence tends to add fuel to the fire of terrorism, and that non-escalation of a response to belligerency plays into the hands of the aggressor. And, indeed, President Bush launched a war on Saddam, in spite of his own intelligence estimates that the US might lose 20,000-30,000 soldiers.


President Bush realized - as have Turkey, Egypt and Germany in their battle against Kurdish, Islamic and Bader Meinhoff terrorism - that there are no compromises with non-compromising terror.  President Bush was not dragged into a war.  He understood that leadership required tough decisions, which sometimes entailed the loss of human lives.  He was aware that in the world at large, and in the unpredictably violent Mideast in particular, THERE WAS NO FREE LUNCH.


Prime Minister Ben-Gurion was cognizant of that fact, in 1948, when he declared independence in defiance of George Marshall's assessment that declaration would trigger a regional war, which could result in a second Jewish Holocaust in less than ten years.  Prime Minister Eshkol acted in a similar manner, in 1967, in spite of pessimist assessments made by Israel's own military intelligence, which called for the conversion of major parks in Israel to mass burial grounds for thousands of war fatalities.  So did Prime Minister Golda Meir, in 1972, refusing to release scores of Palestinian terrorists in exchange for the eleven Israeli athletes in Munich, lest it would transform Jews all over the world into potential hostages in the hands of Palestinian terrorists. And, so did Prime Minister Begin, in 1981, when deciding to bomb Iraq's nuclear reactor, although the chiefs of the Mossad and Israel's military intelligence presented him with a gloom appraisal of success, warning that all pilots may be lost, with severe punishment expected from the US, Europe and the UN.


The aforementioned tough decisions involved the actual and potential loss of life, and a painful price - politically and economically - for the short run.  But, they have yielded generations of enhanced national security for the Jewish State, with tangible significant benefits to the interests of the US.  Such decisions are undertaken by leaders, who comprehend that THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS FREE LUNCH.


On the other hand, delaying the INEVITABLE all-out war on PLO's infrastructure of terrorism, has dealt Israel a severe blow morally, strategically, economically and diplomatically.  The world does not respect nations, which whine and prefer concessions and ostensible convenience over principled-tenacity and defiance of terrorism.


Israel has been dragged into a war of attrition, whose scope and timetable have been determined, so far, by Arafat.  Just like his traditional allies, Saddam and other ruthless dictators, Arafat has been adrenalized by daily dose of bloodshed.  While each day has increased the flow of blood, it has also substantially expanded the flow of military supplies reaching the PLO, via smuggling and own production.  Thus, the delay of the inevitable war on the PLO has contributed to the military potential of the PLO, magnifying the toll of the eventual war.  Also, the larger the  firepower of a PLO-Israel war, the higher the potential (which is currently slim) for Egypt and Syria to join the war.  Moreover, the longer the delay, the closer are Iran and Iraq to the development of more sophisticated ballistic and non-conventional military capabilities, which could further inflame the war, while bolstering Arab pressure on Europe and the US. 


In order to reverse the current proclivity, in order to limit the scope of the war and to minimize the bloodshed, and in light of Arafat's and the PLO's treacherous track record since the signing of the Oslo Accord in 1993 (and in fact since 1959!), one has to resurrect the leadership legacy exhibited by all Israeli prime ministers until the signing of the Oslo, Wye and Camp David-2 Accords.  They fathomed a critical principle in personal and collective lives: NO FREE LUNCH!