“A cardinal rule in US football: Keep the other team as far as possible from your End Zone. The closer they are to their End Zone, the slimmer the chance that they will score a touchdown”, taught me Jim Schoff, a fan of the Cleveland Browns. The rule applies to soccer as well: A team which foregoes the winning option and vies for a tie, adopts defense and relies on sporadic and limited offense, waives initiative. Such a tactic erodes the confidence of its own players, bolsters the boldness of the rival team, improves the maneuverability of the rival team, which seizes initiative, scores goals and could win the game.
Israel’s response to the 2000-2001 Palestinian sniping at the Gilo neighborhood in Jerusalem – by sealing windows with sand sacks and erecting a series of protective walls – did not stop the sniping. In fact, it energized Palestinian terrorists and enabled them to upgrade their shooting capabilities. The sniping was totally aborted – and overall Palestinian terrorism was curtailed by 90% – when Israel’s military took over the Palestinian “End Zone” in Beit Jallah, Bethlehem, Hebron, Ramallah, Jenin, Nablus and other major towns in Judea & Samaria. Israeli military re-engagement with these areas – rather than the fence or the wall – reasserted Israel’s initiative in the battle against Palestinian terrorism.
Upgrading the defensive features of bus stops, restaurants, coffee shops and residential areas in the Kassam-plagued Sderot, Ashqelon and the neighboring Kibbutzim – and tomorrow maybe in Ashdod, Kfar Saba, Hadera and Ben Gurion Airport – provides a short term false sense of security, which plays into the hands of terrorists.
The focus on defense and on “Realignment-Convergence-Retreat” toward Israel’s “End Zone” – as a key tactic in the war against Palestinian terrorism – has signaled Israel’s abandonment of the victory option. Rather than destroying the infrastructure and capabilities of Palestinian terrorism, the defensive/Realignment tactic has reflected co-existence with terrorism. The addiction to defense, the belief that “Restrain is strength”, and the subordination of the war on terrorism to international public opinion, have been a by-product of the false assumptions that “we’ve tried everything” and “There’s no military solution to terrorism”. Such assumptions mirror battle fatigue, which is non-existent among countries, who fight terrorism: India, Thailand, Egypt and Algeria against Islamic terrorism, Turkey – PKK, Germany – “Baader Meinhoff”, Italy – “Red Brigades”, France – “Action Directe”, Sri Lanka – “Tigers”, Peru – “Shining Path”, etc.
A proper examination (due-diligence) of the defensive option – which has been re-entrenched since the signing of the 1993 Oslo Accord – demonstrates that the higher the reliance on defense the more daring and expansive terrorism gets. The primacy of defense and of “There’s no military solution to terrorism” have undermined Israel’s posture of deterrence, have enhanced the effectiveness of terrorism and have advanced its stage-by-stage goals:
1. Weakening the trust of Israelis in their government’s capability to safeguard personal/national security;
2. Transforming terrorism into an integral cost of living in Israel;
3. Establishing war of attrition – the “wet dream” of terrorists and the nightmare of western democracies – as the mode of Israeli-Palestinian relations;
4. Undermining Israel’s conviction in its cause, and accepting – by Israelis – the elements of “moral equivalence” and shared-responsibility for the “cycle of violence”;
5. Exacerbating Israeli weariness, yielding sweeping concessions, which fuel Palestinian terrorism driven by hope for further concessions;
6. Producing the collapse and abandonment of the Jewish State.
Thirteen years of unprecedented terrorism – since Oslo – have made it clear that there is no political solution to Palestinian terrorism, that international public opinion is never saturated with Israeli concessions, that Israel should change its counter-terrorist tactics and that Israel should take charge of the Palestinian “End Zone”, striving for a decisive victory. Instead of relying on defense, deterrence, retaliation and on surgical, sporadic and limited offensive initiatives, Israel should adopt the tactic of pre-emption, prevention and comprehensive/sustained offense, aimed at uprooting terrorist (ideological, logistic and operational) infrastructure and capabilities. Rather than converging and withdrawing into Israel’s own “End Zone”, Israel should take charge of the breeding ground and the home-base of terrorism, which would enhance Israel’s deterrence and human-intelligence and interception capabilities. It would reduce – by 90% – Palestinian capabilities to conduct hate-education, to incite, to recruit, to train, to manufacture and smuggle terrorist and military hardware, to plan, to maneuver and to carryout terrorist activities.
Rather than defend against Palestinian terrorists, Israel should destroy the potential and actual capabilities of Palestinian terrorists.
Will the current Israeli military operation in Gaza remain a limited offensive, retreating shortly to Israel’s “End Zone”, or does it spearhead a takeover of the Palestinian “End Zone”?! The latter would enable Israel to regain and maintain the initiative, to stop the erosion of Israel’s own confidence in its own cause and capabilities, and to achieve a conclusive military victory, which would eliminate Palestinian terrorists – the Palestinian Authority and Hamas – from future participation in any competition.