Officially, we are told that the fact that quite a few Islamic Jihad terrorists were killed in the past weeks is a coincidence and not the result of some kind of change in policy. Nobody decided to go back to the policy of executions, and nobody decided to abandon this policy earlier. Besides, we are not executioners. We just carry out targeted eliminations at the right time and place, based on operational considerations.
It is unclear who this little bluff is meant for – maybe for the High Court of Justice, or for human rights groups. In any case, it is good thing that Islamic Jihad leaders had enough sense not to believe them. They went underground, turned off their cellular phones, and stayed away from their comrades’ funerals. And that’s good.
Those who lead the messianic despair line, the ones who say there is nothing to do vis-à-vis terror aside from rushing into a diplomatic solution and bringing the peace messiah now, have already uttered their usual warnings: This won’t help, it will only boost the terrorists’ motivation, five new terror leaders will emerge in place of every one we kill, etc.
Yet the peace messiahs always say that nothing will help, even after that same thing has been tried and proven to be effective. The policy of targeted eliminations has already proven itself in the war against Hamas terror, and that’s good.
Those who wanted fresh proof got it now. Islamic Jihad members are currently hiding in caves and other hideouts, and refrain from showing their faces even at funerals. Meanwhile, Hamas leaders are walking around openly, convening huge rallies, peacefully sleeping in their beds, and making phone calls openly.
Yet after all, four years ago they were the ones being pursued. The IDF engaged in a manhunt day and night, while showing perseverance, patience, and mercilessness, ultimately reaching the organization’s top echelon with the elimination of Rantissi and Yassin. The bottom line was a drastic decline in Hamas terrorism that almost brought it to zero, and eventually led to an unwritten ceasefire agreement.
There too, at first we saw boosted terror motivation, a series of acts of revenge, and the emergence of a new generation of commanders. Yet very quickly the moment arrived where reality is stronger than fury. People who must hide all the time, who cannot sleep two nights in one place, who cannot speak on the phone, are unable to run a terror group or plan terror attacks. Their motivation may be growing, yet the tools at their disposal are increasingly declining.
Does this imply that a determined and persistent targeted elimination policy could also bring the Islamic Jihad to a breaking point and eliminate the threat on Sderot? The answer is yes and no. Theoretically speaking, yes, because as opposed to common clichés, fighting terrorism is amongst the easiest wars out there: Any war effort, if it is determined and persistent and committed to the targets without compromise, would eventually bring significant results.
However, terrorism is premised on the assumption that we are unable to engage in a determined, persistent, and uncompromising war. We have the High Court of Justice and human rights groups and mothers of soldiers, as well as a leftist opposition and self-righteous Haaretz editorials, and various Condoleezzas who call the prime minister because the Saudis asked them to do so.
This accumulation of elements that complain about the vicious cycle of attack-response-revenge is what in fact creates this vicious cycle, because it always serves to stop our actions a bit after they become effective and much before we reach the knock-out phase. And that’s bad.