This is war
by Jonathan Rosenblum
August 17, 2001
Fifteen dead, six of them children, five members of one family, another her parents' only child and herself pregnant with her first child; 130 injured, dozens seriously. Yet, says the world, even if Israel could have identified last Thursday's suicide bomber or his handlers in advance, it had no right to act preemptively.
Imagine that the FBI learned that Mexico was harboring 20 Timothy McVeighs. Would the US stay its hand out of respect for Mexican sovereignty?
Israel finds itself in precisely that situation today. Islamic Jihad and Hamas boast of hundreds of would-be "martyrs" waiting in line, all given sanctuary within the Palestinian Authority.
Since January 1, nearly 50 Israelis have been killed and more than 400 injured in suicide bombings within Israel's 1967 borders. Two more suicide bombers were foiled the week of August 4 by alert bus drivers as they attempted to board crowded buses; another blew himself up prematurely last week.
Those bombings are planned and the bombers equipped in the territory under the quasi-sovereignty of the PA. That sovereignty - the irreversible outcome of the Oslo process - is universally recognized, including de facto by Israel, but its implications are too little understood.
Treatment of the PA as quasi-sovereign over areas in which nearly all the Palestinian population lives explains the harsh American criticism of Israel for its brief foray into Gaza in April after mortar attacks on Sderot. It also explains Israel's reluctance to enter Beit Jala, despite 10 months of unremitting shooting directed at Gilo from there, or to seize control of areas from which Israelis have been killed by snipers, or land near roads which have been the scene of drive-by killings or roadside ambushes.
Sovereignty makes PA Chairman Yasser Arafat the accountable party for terrorist activity emanating from PA territory. Israel has no ability to arrest terrorists there or to try them in its courts, and Arafat has refused all Israeli extradition requests.
Worse, Arafat has refused to control terrorist activity, even when provided with detailed information on its sources by Israeli intelligence. He flung open the doors of the PA's notoriously porous jails at the outset of the current violence to all Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists then in custody, effectively giving a green light to renewed terrorist attacks on Israel.
Even in the wake of the US-brokered "cease-fire" in June, Arafat pointedly refused to arrest a single terrorist identified by Israel.
SOVEREIGN states can engage in war. Israel and the PA have been at war for more than 10 months. Israelis have been subjected to an average of 22 attacks a day in violence deliberately instigated by the PA. Members of the official Palestinian security forces have murdered at least 57 Israeli civilians during that period, often with arms provided by Israel.
Nor were these the first Palestinian acts of war. In September 1996, in rioting after the extension of tunnels adjacent to the Western Wall, Palestinian security forces fired on Israeli soldiers and civilians, killing 14. Again, in May 2000, members of the official Palestinian security apparatus opened fire on Israeli forces.
To describe Israel's targeting of those involved in terrorist attacks as "executions without trial" is absurd. In war, there are no judicial proceedings. The aim is to kill enemy soldiers, and with far fewer restrictions than Israel has imposed on itself.
In war, it is irrelevant whether an enemy soldier has previously killed one's own soldiers or is actively firing at that moment. Yet Israel has confined itself to targeting those actively involved in the planning and execution of terrorist attacks, and to doing so at a time and place designed to ensure minimal risk of civilian casualties.
Saleh Darwazeh, killed by Israeli tank fire on July 25, learned his trade under "the Engineer," Yihye Ayyash, and planned the March and May suicide bombings in Netanya in which a total of eight Israelis lost their lives.
Jamal Mansour and Jamal Salim, killed in the July 31 attack on Hamas headquarters in Nablus, were vocal advocates of suicide bombing, repeatedly calling in public for killing as many Israeli civilians as possible, and promising to make Israelis "cry over your dead ones." Both were involved in decades of terrorist activity and planned a number of previous suicide bombings.
On several recent occasions, Israel has even managed to strike at terrorists while they were transporting bombs for use against Israel. Amer Hassan Madiri, who was killed by guided missiles from two Apache helicopters in his car in Tulkarm last Sunday, falls into this category.
The terrorist threat facing Israel is unparalleled anywhere, yet Israel is being told to fight with both hands tied behind its back or face international opprobrium. The only course allowed us is to permit suicide bombers to be rigged and sent on their way and pray for a miracle.
Yet, as Louis Rene Beres, a professor of international law, notes, "International law is not a suicide pact." No country - certainly not the United States - would allow its citizens to become sitting ducks in such a fashion, the territorial integrity of other states be damned. After two GIs were killed in a West Berlin disco bombing, believed to be the work of Libyan agents, US fighters bombed Muammar Gaddafi's palace, seeking, in then-president Ronald Reagan's words, to "cut off the head of the snake."
President Bill Clinton ordered 75 cruise missiles fired at Osama Bin-Laden's training bases and weapons factories in Sudan and Afghanistan, after the bombing of the US Embassy in Nairobi in August 1998. Sudan and Afghanistan were treated as responsible for the terrorists to which they provided a safe haven.
Israeli parents have the right to put their children on a bus or send them to a pizza parlor without wondering if they will ever see them again. And their government has no less right or duty to ensure that they can do so than the US has to protect its citizens from new Timothy McVeighs.
Related Topics: Peace Process
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