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Why Fight

Why Fight

Historically, most conflicts are either settled, or decisively altered, by test of arms.


There is no military solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. So says -- to take an almost random sample -- The Post (March 26), Sandy Berger (March 29), George Mitchell (April 1), Colin Powell and Kofi Annan (April 10), Colin Powell again (April 21).

This conventional wisdom is universally accepted, but odd. Historically, most conflicts are either settled, or decisively altered, by test of arms. I would not be writing from a city called Washington had this not been true for these United States. Moreover, Yasser Arafat would not have been conducting this 20-month guerrilla war if he thought it could not decisively alter the balance of forces on the ground and allow him to dictate terms to the Israelis.

The Israelis, in particular, are repeatedly advised about the futility of fighting terrorism by military means. This is again odd coming from the United States, which is doing precisely that in Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Philippines, Yemen and other places we have yet to learn about. Nonetheless, regarding Israel, it is a staple of received opinion.

It is wrong.

After the Passover massacre, Israel launched its offensive into Palestinian territory. The most dramatic effect has been a reduction in terrorism. It is no accident that while Israel suffered seven suicide bombings in the seven days of Passover, there has been but one successful suicide bombing in the past month. There will surely be others. But the frenzied wave of terror that pushed Israel over the edge has been stopped.

Why is the level of terror down? Because terror does have an infrastructure, and attacking and degrading it makes it harder for terrorists to operate, as the United States proved in Afghanistan. During Israel's offensive, hundreds of bomb makers, gunmen and trainers were captured. Others are on the run. Huge caches of illegal weapons and explosives were seized or destroyed. Can they be replaced? Perhaps, but it will take time. It took Arafat eight years to build this arsenal. He will not be able to replace it in a day.

More important, Arafat's forces were everywhere defeated. As the only functioning military authority on the West Bank today, the Israeli army can now make lightning raids, relatively unmolested, to prevent terrorist operations. For eight years, Palestinian terrorism had the protection (and, in many cases, the active assistance) of Arafat's Palestinian Authority. That sanctuary is no longer.

The change on the ground has led to a change in psychology. Some Palestinians are beginning to ask where Arafat's war is leading them. This is new. Fueling this war for the past 20 months has been Palestinian triumphalism. They were winning. War was working. They saw Israel succumbing to fear, demoralization and paralysis. They assumed they could fight without serious challenge until economic ruin, emigration and sheer despair led Israel to capitulate to maximal Palestinian demands.

Arafat assumed that Israel was losing the will to fight back with anything more than pinpricks -- and more important, that even if Israel did strike back, the world (i.e., the United States) would stop it.

He was wrong. He has now suffered a serious defeat.

Just days ago, it was conventional wisdom that the Israeli operation had backfired because it had dramatically boosted Arafat's popularity. This was nonsense from the beginning, the usual mistaking of victimhood for power. In fact, Arafat was practically scorned by his people when he ventured out for what he thought would be his triumphal post-Ramallah tour. The crowds were sparse, the people indifferent and he did not even venture into the Jenin camp, knowing that he would be heckled, jeered and possibly worse.

Why? Because he lost. His security services have been shattered. He can no longer protect the terrorist shock troops. He is shorn and he knows it.

Why do you think the United States is now talking about "reforming" Arafat out of the leadership of the Palestinian Authority? Why are Arab leaders privately endorsing such reform? A sudden conversion to constitutionalism? Operation Defensive Shield left Arafat gravely weakened. Arab leaders are not sentimental.

The fire will cease in the Middle East not when a piece of parchment is signed (remember Oslo?) but when the Palestinians conclude that they are no longer winning, that the Israelis are not going to give up and go away, as they did from Lebanon. Israel's offensive has begun to restore the deterrent that Israel forfeited with its unceasing concessions under Oslo and its precipitous withdrawal from Lebanon.

Palestinians will now have to recalibrate their thinking about Israeli will, rethink the impunity they imagined the "international community" would provide them, recalculate the efficacy of terror. Looking at the ruin -- moral and material -- that terror has brought them, some Palestinians might begin thinking that the road to Palestine lies through an option they rejected at Camp David 22 months ago: peace.


May 18, 2002

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Visitor Comments: 5

(5) tameem ibrahim, May 25, 2002 12:00 AM

iam an egyptian muslim and i have been exploring this site for over a week ,i think its well organized and it has allot ,i loved the 48 ways but everything that is said is mentioned in the quran ,be fare that should be (way 49)

(4) Michael Mollat, May 24, 2002 12:00 AM

Solution to Palestinian Issue: War

Frankly, I don't care about Sandy Berger or Colin Powell; much for the opinions of Kofi Annan or George Mitchell. The proof of recent outcomes of Israeli incursions into the Palestinian strongholds in defense of its own people should be evidence enough. Did it escape everyone's notice that during the time that Israel was hammering terrorist nests in different cities of the West Bank that there were no homocide bombings?

And I am so nauseated by worn out and tired statements and milquetoste arguments put forth by liberals to the contrary of its obvious success who are acting as little more than Jew hating idiots who are themselves Jewish!

Oh, we don't want military conflict. That's a last resort! It's okay to have a few Jewish body parts being blown to here and there - but as soon as Ariel Sharon stands up against the murderous thugs aligned with Arafat, Hamas, Hezbolla, etc., suddenly the remainder of the world finds it necessary to do something about reigning in Israel.

If one more Jew is murdered by these groups, war should be engaged. If there is any action against my family, way of life, if any group is out to kill my family, wife and children I will do anything I can to destroy them first before they destroy others.

The situation makes me sick and to see Jews in this country not standing up for Israel as much as the "Christians" WHO VOTE REPUBLICAN and are conservative shows how traitorous we can be to our very roots of existence.

(3) Anonymous, May 21, 2002 12:00 AM

Excellent article

Why does the Israeli point of view (i.e.the truth)virtually never get heard
in the European media? For the past 20
years, the media has incessantly peddled the view that Israeli=bad and
Palestinian=good. The news is censored,
distorted and/or invented so as to perpetuate this lie. Shalom.

(2) Shira Levin, May 21, 2002 12:00 AM

Effective military operations can bring about rethinking .

The West doesn't fully understand the complexities of Arab terrorist thinking.
Nor the radicalism of Arab terriorists.
Israel must do what is the best way to
deal with such terrorism.

(1) Anonymous, May 19, 2002 12:00 AM

On target AGAIN!

As always, Mr. Krauthammer says as is!
Thank You!

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