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Hedera - Lessons not learned: The violence is back


The Palestinian Islamic Jihad suicide bombing in Hedera that killed 5 people may mark the beginning in earnest of renewed Palestinian violence. It should surprise nobody. In truth the violence had never stopped. Qassam rockets rained on Sderot, the IDF retaliated. More rockets rained on Sderot, more IDF retaliations followed.

To be sure, the IDF usually confines itself to hunting down actual terrorists, while the Palestinian violence is indiscriminately directed at civilians. However, the occupation produces permanent ongoing misery for the Palestinians, quiet misery that doesn't make headlines like assassination of terrorists or suicide bombings.

This suicide bombing is apparently very educational. Almost everyone is "drawing lessons" or rather teaching lessons based on the suicide bombing. The Israeli right insists that the suicide bombing is the result of the Gaza disengagement. If so, there should have been no suicide bombings while Israel occupied Gaza, but if I am not mistaken, there were quite a few of them. The Islamic Jihad claimed the bombing was retaliation for the Israeli killing of Luay Sa'adi, the Islamic Jihad chief in northern Samaria. Presumably if Israel stopped killing terrorists, there would be no terrorism, according to Islamic Jihad. On the other hand I seem to remember that there were quite a few terror attacks before Israel adopted the "targeted killings" policy. Israel did not start picking off "activists" at random and without cause. The targeted killings, as well as the security fence, are reactions to terror.

Sa'adi renewed his career in "activism" after being released in that deplorable "prisoner exchange" deals. Israel got in exchange some dead bodies and the degenerate Elhanan Tanenbaum. Perhaps there is a lesson in that too.

Danny Rubenstein points out that both Israel and the Islamic Jihad exaggerated the importance of Sa'adi. The Israelis exaggerated his importance in order to justify the assassination, write Rubenstien, and that may well be true. However, Rubenstein lost me when he wrote:

All spokesmen for terror groups in the territories, including Islamic Jihad, need arguments to justify to their followers the attacks they conduct in Israel. They know that the leadership, headed by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, like much of the public in the territories, does not agree with them.

Danny Rubenstein is supposed to be a veteran Arab affairs correspondent for the most respected newspaper in Israel. He should know that followers of the Islamic Jihad don't need any excuse to kill Jews. He should also have understood that the reason that Islamic Jihad carried out the attack was because Mahmoud Abbas is opposed to such attacks and they embarrass him. Every attack that is caried out is a big gain for groups like Islamic Jihad in all ways.

  • Their masters in Damascus in Teheran are happy to disrupt the American hosted "peace process."

  • Abbas is shown up as a weak leader who cannot deliver on his promises.

  • Abbas is "taught the lesson" that he can't govern without Islamic Jihad.

  • Attacks garner the support of the not-inconsiderable segment of the Palestinian public that do not support the peace process

Islamic Jihad doesn't need any excuses for attacks. On the contrary, if Sa'adi was a civilian, perhaps a woman or a child, there would be a lot more justification for retaliation. Advertising that Sa'adi was a dangerous terrorist does not justify revenge for killing him. That must be true by any sane logic. Killing civilians is a war crime. Killing people like Sa'adi is self-defense. At least, that is true anywhere except the Middle East. Perhaps Rubenstein is such a veteran correspondent that he has begun to think Middle-East thought instead of logic.

Nahum Barnea pointed out quite a few lessons as well. According to Barnea, the current Israeli reaction, an operation to rid the West Bank of Islamic Jihad, will cause the number of terror incidents to rise in the short run, as the terror organizations exact reprisals. Indeed, Hamas has already declared that the calm is at an end and fired two Qassam rockets into Sderot. It is hard to see how this is different from the period of "calm" immediately preceding, when Hamas fired 40 or so Qassam rockets into Sderot.

In the medium term, Barnea writes, the IDF operation will decrease the terror operations as it removes troops and leaders from the organizations. However, in the long run, Barnea writes, a new generation of terrorists will replace assassinated ones, no less murderous than its predecessors. In the long run we're all dead, as John Maynard Keynes remarked, and that may be precisely the problem. On the other hand, it is not clear what else Israel can do. Negotiating a peace agreement with Mahmoud Abbas's Palestine Authority is clearly a desirable and important policy goal. Like withdrawal from Gaza, it should be done because it is the right thing to do. However, nobody should delude themselves into thinking that groups like Islamic Jihad or Hamas would honor any such agreement. Abbas for his part, has demonstrated that he is unwilling or unable to make a decision to do anything about stopping terror beyond talking about it. This fatal indecision, pointed out in these pages before the attack by Rod Davies, was bound to invite a terror attack sooner or later.

Barnea also points out that the security fence is porous because crossings must be kept open for settlers. Settlers were supposed to get ID cards that would allow closing of the open crossings and identity checks, but the settlers objected.

Barnea also blames the attacks on the influence of foreign countries. In particular, he fingers Iran, which funds Islamic Jihad. He wrote:

Iran is quickly becoming Israel's number one problem. But Iran is not a problem we can tackle alone. We need America's strong hand, but America's hands are currently tied up in Iraq.

Barnea apparently didn't learn any lesson from the American invasion of Iraq, but America did. Even George Bush could not be that dumb. Since we are all being so educational, Barnea should learn a bit about our neighbors in the Middle East - Iran has about three times the population and land area of Iraq. The current Iraq debacle is a bit like the American fiasco in Vietnam. An armed intervention in Iran might be more like Napoleon's attempt to conquer Russia.

Nonetheless, the role of other Middle Eastern countries in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must not neglected. We should remember that the PLO and the Fatah were themselves initially viewed by Syria and Egypt as tools of their own pan-Arab policies and ways to further their own ambitions. Iran funds the Islamic Jihad and apparently the Hamas as well. Israeli officials may have been a bit "imaginative" in claiming that the orders for this attack came from Damascus. However, as Lee Smith points out, Syria is likely to use violence against its neighbors to try to bully its way out of the crisis caused by the Mehlis report.

Syria has been pouring armed Palestinians belonging to groups that it controls into Lebanon. This development has gone almost unnoticed outside the Middle East. It doesn't seem to have provoked much reaction from Washington. From Syria's point of view, this influx serves several purposes. First, it gives them a method of controlling or at least pressuring the Lebanese government, in place of the Syrian army that so lately occupied Lebanon. Second, it gives Syria the means, when the time is right, of rekindling a Lebanese civil war, sparked by the presence of armed Palestinians, just like the last civil war. The Palestinians will bully the Christians and fire on Israel. Israel will retaliate and come to the aid of the beleaguered Christians. Sister Syria will intervene to "protect" sister Lebanon. Deja vu all over again. Lebanese troops are already confronting Palestinians near the Syrian border. Third, the diaspora Palestinians constitute another means of pressuring Mahmoud Abbas and the PA not to make peace with Israel unless Israel makes peace with Syria, on Syria's terms. That, and control of Palestine, which Damascus considers to be "Southern Syria," have always been major goals of Syrian foreign policy.

"You live and you learn," or in some cases, you don't live and you don't learn. Almost everybody found the suicide bombing to be most educational. They claim they learned lessons and taught lessons based on this bombing. There were a few exceptions. The people who were killed didn't learn any lessons. The Israeli government as usual, showed that it has learned nothing and forgotten nothing. It is going ahead with a bigger and better retaliatory raid, or more precisely, an ongoing operation that will probably stop only when the Americans make it stop. Already, Israel killed an Islamic Jihad leader and seven others in Gaza, prompting further threats of retaliation. Politically, the government had no choice but to retaliate, since at the very same time, they are destroying illegal outposts set up by the settlers.

We ought to be able to learn something from the fact that the terror hit originated in the northern West Bank (Samaria) while the retaliation until now has been mostly in Gaza, but it is not clear what we can learn. Intelligence is supposedly better in Gaza, and it is easier to find targets. Perhaps Israel is looking for the coin where the light is shining, rather than where it was dropped. More likely the Israeli government does not want to be accused of running a harsh occupation. Gaza is supposedly "not occupied" and therefore Israel does not have the obligations of an occupying power there. Either that, or the real goal of the strikes is to weaken support for Islamist groups in Gaza. Or perhaps the action will widen to include the West Bank shortly.

Mahmud Abbas seems to have learned nothing - he is still talking about stopping terror and doing nothing. The US government learned nothing - they are still talking about stopping terror and doing nothing to ensure that it stops either.

Ami Isseroff

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000401.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

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