The Palestinians regard bombing terror attacks as strategic terror. This terror is meant to achieve diplomatic goals within a short period of time by using “shock therapy” on Israeli public opinion.
The Palestinian terror organizations want to achieve the same goal as the ballistic missiles fired by Saddam Hussein on Israel in the Gulf War and as the Katyusha rockets Hizbullah fired on the Galilee: by means of massacring civilian population and wreaking havoc deep inside the State of Israel, the Palestinians hope to spur the frightened public in Israel to pressure the government and the political establishment into taking steps that they, the Palestinians, consider desirable. At times their goal is to deter Israel from taking painful and powerful military action. At other times their goal is to stop the peace process. That was the case in 1995-1996 when Hamas blew up buses on the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and toppled the government. At this juncture in time the Palestinian terror attacks are meant to achieve two strategic goals.
The first goal is to escalate the war of attrition being waged against the Israeli public so that it begin to hold the settlers responsible for the situation and that it begin to demand that the government put an end to the warfare that is underway “because of them.” The second goal is to drag the Israeli government into retaliating in such a lethal manner that it will isolate Israel internationally and may even force the Arab world and the international community into intervening forcibly in order to “protect the Palestinians.”
Under the current circumstances, the Israeli government and the IDF must not play into Arafat, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad’s hand. A large-scale reprisal that leaves innocent Palestinians dead and escalates the warfare even further would be detrimental to the Israeli interest.
But Israel does not have to remain impassive. It will be able to produce far better results by increasing the pressure on the Palestinians by less flashy military means: stopping Palestinian radio and television broadcasts, for example, can serve as a good punitive measure that will also help stop the incitement; tightening the closure on the territories and blocking all movement into Israel will be far more effective in preventing future car bomb attacks than the bombing of a few buildings owned by the Palestinian security services in the heart of Judea and Samaria or Gaza will. Above all, enlisting leaders in the U.S. and in Europe to apply pressure on Arafat. Barak has already begun enlisting the support of these leaders and the public has to give this diplomatic effort a chance to succeed if it wants to win the overall campaign in which we are currently engaged with the Palestinians.
The present battle will not be won from the air but rather by means of intensive diplomatic pressure coupled with a variety of IDF actions on the ground. And we must not forget revenge. Israel must seek vengeance from the initiators, perpetrators and planners of the car bomb attack, not only in response to base needs but also for the sake of deterrence. “Revenge is something that one eats cold,” Stalin said, and justly so. Intelligence information needs to be gathered, an operation needs to be planned and then, when the time is right, the blow needs to be dealt. This blow needs to serve the Israeli interest and not the Palestinian.
Appeared in Yediot Aharonot on November 23rd