The recent surge in Palestinian terrorism behooves Israel to revisit the fundamentals of counter-terrorism.
For example, the most effective defense against terrorism – operationally, financially and morally – is not retaliation and a limited, surgical offensive, but a comprehensive, decisive, sustained and disproportionate preemptive ground offensive, which aims to obliterate terror infrastructures and capabilities, and bring the enemy to submission. A decisive defeat of terrorism requires a victory over – and not coexistence or ceasefire agreements with – terrorism; uprooting – and not just stopping – terrorism.
Any response to terrorism which is short of devastating the ideological, political, financial, logistic and operational terrorist infrastructures, reassures terrorists that they are immune to annihilation. Moreover, it nurtures their hope-driven terrorism: the hope to whack Israel’s psyche of defiance, wreck Israel’s steadfastness, and sustain the 1993-2011 trend of sweeping Israeli ideological and territorial retreats.
Furthermore, a limited response to terrorism exacerbates wars of attrition – the dream of terrorists and nightmare of democratic societies. The limited-retaliation response to terrorism adds fuel to the fire of terrorism, feeds the self-defeating assumption that, supposedly, there is no military solution to terrorism, hence significantly eroding Israel’s posture of deterrence.
Contrary to that self-defeating assumption, Palestinian terrorism was curtailed by 90% – when, in 2002, Israel’s military took over the Palestinian breeding ground of terrorism 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.
The more defensive and retaliation-driven the Israeli response to terrorism, the more emboldened are Palestinian terrorists, the less confident are Israelis in their government’s capability to safeguard personal and national security, the more taxing is mental fatigue, and the less convinced are Israelis in their cause.
The addiction to defense, and to limited response, has been embraced by Israel since signing the 1993 Oslo Accord, in order to resuscitate the “peace” process, which has triggered dramatically more hate-education, terrorism and non-compliance than the pre-Oslo reality. 250 Israelis were murdered by Palestinian terrorism in the 15 years prior to Oslo, but over 2,000 have been murdered in the 18 years since Oslo.
Limited response has also been implemented, in order to soothe international public opinion – which is never satisfied with Israeli concessions – thus recklessly subordinating national security to public diplomacy considerations. Sometimes it yields false sense of security and enhances short-term tactical popularity. However, limited response always undermines long-term strategic interests and international respect towards Israel, generating more pressure on Israel, radicalizing Palestinian terrorism and distancing the area from peace.
Will Israel’s response to the current wave of Palestinian terrorism perpetuate the terrorist-preferred war of attrition? Or, will it be a milestone on the road to reclaiming the pre-Oslo Israeli posture as the role-model of deterrence, defiance of odds, determination and gumption in the battle against terrorism, which paved the road to the 1948 Declaration of Independence, the 1967 Six Day War, the 1970 deterrence of the Syrian invasion of Jordan, the 1976 Entebbe Jonathan Operation and the 1981 bombing of Saddam’s nuclear reactor?
Rather than retreating toward the pre-1967 ceasefire lines, Israel should take charge of the breeding ground of terrorism, which would enhance Israel’s power of deterrence, human-intelligence and interception capabilities. It would reduce the Palestinian capability to conduct hate-education, to incite, to recruit, to train, to manufacture and smuggle terrorist and military hardware, to plan, to maneuver and to perpetrate terrorist activities. It would reduce Palestinian terrorism by 90%!