The problem: A "titanic" attitude and "ship of fools" that has characterized Israel's political leadership since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority has bolstered terrorism by rescuing thousands of terrorists from the brink of oblivion overseas, bringing them to the doorsteps of their intended victims and arming them, all in the hope that they would eradicate terror.
We gave them financial support, pressured the American Congress to moderate its stance towards them, reconciled ourselves to a balance of terror between Israel and Palestinian and Lebanese terror, we reconciled ourselves to the establishment of the PA and treated it as if it were a partner with which one could actually negotiate a peace agreement.
Despite the fact that they educate their children to eradicate Israel, they incite Arab Israelis, support terror and systematically and murderously break their promises.
Gaza and the West Bank have become the largest terror base in the world, and we have progressed from an intifada of rocks and Molotov cocktails to one of rockets and missiles and suicide bombers that threaten every person in this country.
The price: 250 Israelis were killed by Palestinian terrorists in the 15 years that preceded the establishment of the PA. Some 1,800 have died in the 12 years since.
Until the PA was created, Israeli prime ministers believed ours was a just cause and understood the role of weapons as a deterrent in the Middle East. They had confidence in our ability to withstand American pressure, to overcome the demographic threat and to eradicate Palestinian terrorism.
Since May, 1994, there has been an unprecedented erosion of faith in the justice of our cause, in our ability to use weapons in the long run and to withstand demographic, terrorist, and diplomatic pressures from Washington. And all this as terrorism has reached unprecedented levels and despite our military, economic and demographic superiority, not to mention the American war on Islamic terror.
The combination of a vigorous political option with a "low level" military one is every terrorist's wet dream – and nightmare of a democratic society. 12 years of Palestinian autonomy has proved that low-level warfare strengthens terrorism, has given terrorism stunning political and territorial gains, has eroded our strategic image and frustrated Israel's leadership.
The weakness of our leadership gives adrenalin to terrorists motivated by the dream of destroying the Jewish state. This hope must be extinguished by a determined, fierce military option, as Germany, Italy, Turkey, Peru, Egypt, Algeria, Sri Lanka and the United States did with the Baader Meinhof, the Red Brigades, PKK, Shining Path, the Tamil Tigers, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Taliban and the Ba'ath Party.
The answer: the return to "targeted killings" has sent Hamas leaders back into hiding, but the organization itself continues to gain strength. How? Because Israeli leaders have forgotten the old Texas axiom: Fertilizing and watering a poisonous, thorny plant doesn't make it friendly, and targeted pruning only strengthens it's roots and makes it more deadly. There's only one way to neutralize the poison – uprooting from the roots.
Restraint with regard to terrorists trying to destroy us is neither a moral or strategic merit. Rather, it is an expression of suicidal fatigue. There is no measured or moderate answer to a radical threat. The lesson of the past 12 years requires us to change the way we fight terror:
1. Put a stop to moral fuzziness, which gives a green light to murderous terrorism as if it were a partner to the peace process, and the elimination of the legitimization of its existence are a condition for strategic clarity and victory on the battlefield.
2. Uprooting hate education from kindergartens, elementary schools, universities, mosques and official media – education which creates the suicide bombers and are an expression of the PA's strategy - are essential if terror is to be disconnected from its oxygen source.
3. Quick, offensive, preventive war in areas breeding terror, not a war of attrition of targeted assassinations, targeted and temporary operations, defensive and reactive. Showing disproportional strength to renew our deterrent ability for the long term.
4. Definitive war to eliminate the political – ideological – fiscal infrastructure that feeds terrorism, rather than ceasefires and coexistence with terrorism.
5. Wars are not won by remote control (artillery, missiles or helicopters), but rather by controlling territory and people that breed terror.
6. Pulling the IDF and Shin Bet intelligence service out of Gaza and cities in the West Bank and granting control to the PA did much to fan the flames of terror. Bringing the army back to the cities reduced terrorism by 90 percent! Control of territory significantly reduces the terrorist's ability to incite, enlist, train, create, smuggle, plan and execute. It also strengthens Israel's ability to deter, gather intelligence, prevent attacks and respond to them.
7. The war on terror must not be placed in the hands of outside bodies such as the Quartet, Egypt, the United States, Italian inspectors or Turkish security guards). Terrorism is not something to complain about, but rather something to be destroyed, while displaying "zero tolerance" for every potential expression of terrorism.
8. We must not negotiate any more agreements with any body that systematically and murderously breaks every agreement it signs. You don't negotiate with terrorists. You eliminate terrorism.
9. The Geneva Convention says that human shields do not override the rights of self-defense. The responsibility for civilian casualties is clearly on the shoulders of terrorists who use Palestinian civilians as human shields. This is what every Western country does.
A country that allows terrorism to determine the national agenda is doomed to die.
Only a leadership that is prepared to dramatically change the Oslo-Hebron-Wye-Road Map -Disengagement menu has any hope of preventing a fatal clash of the Titanic with the iceberg.
This change may cost us politically and economically in the short term, but in the long term it will lead to security, economic, social and diplomatic improvements, as has been proven by even tougher tests we've gone through.
Yoram Ettinger is a former Israeli consul general in Texas and worked in the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C.